As an avid music lover and a Brisbane local BIGSOUND has quickly become one of my favourite yearly events. Every September the bars and venues across Fortitude Valley get overloaded by music industry personnel, media and passionate music lovers to watch some of the best upcoming Australian and global acts. These thirty minute showcases allow emerging and established artists to preview new material and play to some of the most influential names in the industry.
Extending to a three day format for the first time allowed more acts to perform and others to perform multiple times. But there was a lot of hype surrounding the Thursday line up which saw me running through the valley to see 10 acts in 4 hours.
Thandi Phoenix is no stranger to performing live and spreading her euphoric RNB meets pop blend after touring Australia with the likes of Jhene Aiko, Tinashe, Rudimental and Vera Blue. Opening her set with the experimental “Tell Me With The Lovers Have Gone” and launching straight into fellow singles “Come Around” and “Standing Too Close” she quickly proved she is a force to be reckoned with. Her vocals are soulful and commanding and with the incorporation of live synths she was very engaging to watch. However the highlights in her set came from the intimate ballad “Hold On” and the African influenced (and absolute banger) “Oh My My”. Easily one of the most fun sets and performers to watch.
Electronic duo SUPER CRUEL had a difficult task ahead of them. I find Bigsound a hard event for producers to perform at because of the slightly more professional vibe and the lack of production value compared to a normal club gig. But they commanded the audiences attention by playing some boppy remixes including the freshly released remix of Major Lazer’s “Know No Better”. They also performed their smash single “November” and premiered a new single with Jess Kent which is a HUGE tune.
Running over to Oh Hello I thought I would be able to catch the second half of Ruby Fields set but apparently so did the rest of festival. Barely fitting into the packed club the Sydney songstress belted out mostly unreleased material as well as a fiery cover of Garbage’s “Cherry Lips”. She was one of the most anticipated and hyped artists of the week and from the energetic moments I saw it really comes as no surprise.
Aurelia’s two performances were clouded by mystery. Who was she? What would she sound like? The Grammy nominated songwriter had her first ever live performances at the festival and premiered her soulful RNB meets adult pop with an intimate acoustic set. Joined by just a guitarist the songstress gave an impressive vocal delivery accompanied by some noticeable nerves. The songs are in very rough form but with the addition of some production she will become a bit more captivating. The highlight of her set was her magical debut single “Are We Losing” with the hook and dreamy lyrics transporting you to a different world.
One of the acts I was most excited about seeing this year was Ariela Jacobs. The Melbourne based songstress has had a couple viral singles over the past year and has just dropped the title track from her forthcoming third EP “Say So”. Her set was short, intimate but sweet. She first performed a couple of older favourites on her guitar before switching it up and playing the keyboard for the new single as well as an unreleased track from the new EP. For some unknown reason she was cut short from her thirty minute set after only performing for 20 minutes and I really would’ve enjoyed seeing her deliver smooth tracks for another 10 minutes.
It’s been three years since her last record and four years since her last BIGSOUND appearance so it was about time Washington made a return. There was a lot of questioning surrounding what her new music would sound like with a symphony tour kicking off at the end of month. The indie-pop favourite took to the stage solely along with her keyboard and thanked everyone for turning up to watch her perform. She warned the crowd that this set was only going to be new music from her unreleased album and if you came to see the hits then to “fuck off”. Getting to hear these songs for the first ever time acoustically offered a raw insight into the creation process because keys and ballads have always been a fundamental aspect to her music. “Achilles Heart” instantly had me falling in love with the storytelling whilst a brief cover of Roy Orbinson’s “Anything You Want” was a welcoming alternative. The most impressive of the new songs was the catchy and politically relevant “American Spirit”. She introduced the track as a “love song for Donald Trump” and instantly had everyone relating to just how fucked up our world was at the moment. The intimate set was a perfect re-introduction to Megan Washington and already has me wanting (and needing) to hear studio versions of these new songs.
Running back over to Oh Hello to catch the end of Alex The Astronaut’s set I happened to enter at the most perfect timing. The packed club was singing along to her newest single “Not Worth Hiding” which was a euphoric and genuine moment of unity that is much needed with the current postal plebiscite creating an uncertainty around the future of equality. With only two more songs left she had the crowd eating out of her palm and excitingly raving about her as they exited the club.
Festival circuit favourites MansionAir closed out BIGSOUND for 2017 with an energetic set of mostly new material. The Woolly Mammoth crowd was hesitant at first but quickly started grooving along with their singles “Speak Easy” and “Hold Me Down” recieving the biggest reaction. Their new material shifted towards a more experimental dance direction whilst still holding onto their indie roots.
One thing that has been missing from the Australian music festival scene is a strong female presence. Our line ups always have dozens of male acts but the inclusion of females is quite scarce. It’s something that has been commented on over and over again but no change has been made. What was promising about this years BIGSOUND showcases was that there was A LOT of female acts. I had to seriously stop and think about many male acts I saw and it was a really nice change. Hopefully it will encourage the festival organisers and talent scouts in attendance to take note that Australia does have some INCREDIBLE female talent who just need the platform.
And yet again all of these acts reminded me why I love attending BIGSOUND every year.