A weed cloud dense enough to snuff out every mosquito in the Boondall Wetlands and the plethora of ’19 Crimes’ adverts behind the bars are sure indicators of things to come: tonight’s gig is going to get loose.
Here for his rescheduled ‘I Wanna Thank Me’ tour and performing in Australia for the first time since 2014, the rap legend promised a show that will be “all about the music”. So how did Snoop Dogg’s triumphant return go down?
First up were multiple support acts, beginning with DJ Malo, who, despite the early start, plays to an already half-full arena and does so with style.
Next were Irish rappers Versatile, who have “come all the way from Dublin, Ireland to buzz in Australia tonight” on their first visit here. Settling into the local ‘culture’, Casper and Eskimo Supreme volunteer to do shoeys upon footwear being hurled to the stage (you didn’t have to do it, lads). That aside, the group get a big response from a pumped audience and will most likely be back under their own steam soon.
DJ Invisible is next and, having been a master of his craft for decades, sets about upping the class and style of the evening’s proceedings with a masterclass in turntabling. Ripping off his shirt to reveal a t-shirt adorning the Aboriginal flag and receiving a huge cheer as a result was a nice moment.
A short time later the veteran DJ was joined by D12’s Kuniva and Swifty McVeigh. Despite the ability to get an entire arena of people to raise their pistol fingers to the air, their set is ultimately one of good vibes and a whole lotta love; especially for ex-bandmate Proof. ‘Nasty Mind’ goes over particularly well, as does a brief appearance onstage by Quaden Bayles.
When it comes time for the man himself, the audience is just about ready to unleash an unstoppable tidal wave of adulation and joy. Snoop strolls onto the stage, surrounded by dancing girls, gesticulating dancers in monkey suits, and perhaps the loudest and most enthusiastic audience the Entertainment Centre has hosted for some time. ‘The Next Episode’, ‘Boyz-n-the-Hood’, and ‘Nuthin’ but a “G” Thang’ are a dynamite start, and the reverberations of love and joy between rapper and audience only increase in intensity when he asks/demands, “So, y’all wanna get fucked up with the Dogg tonight?” to rapturous response, before ‘Gin and Juice’ cranks the dial even higher. Kudos to the security staff at this point for doing a stellar and almost impossible job of policing the smoking laws inside the arena. ‘Beautiful’ follows shortly, which is dedicated to “all the beautiful women Down Under”, while ‘(Smile) Living My Best Life’ and ‘Snoop’s Upside Ya Head’ keep the flow going, and ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ features late on as expected.
Covers feature throughout, including Katy Perry’s ‘California Gurls’ (complete with an excerpt of the Beach Boys’ similarly named banger), and tracks from House of Pain and DJ Khaled. But it’s the eclectic mix of Snoop Dogg’s own tracks and the fact he doesn’t actually need pole-dancers and bouncing monkeys to put on a rap show of the highest level in 2023 that are testament to the longevity, diversity, and quality of the 51-year-old Californian’s career and certified place among rap royalty.
It’s been over 30 years since the release of their debut album, 24 since the release of their most recent, and 13 years since their last shows in Australia. So how is Pavement’s return to Brisbane going to go down on a Tuesday evening in Fortitude Valley?
First up is Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever. They are a seriously bloody good band, and are having a “good Tuesday”, says singer-guitarist Tom Russo, having been plucked out of their Melbourne hometown to play warmer climes up north.
The quintet’s eight-song set is a gloriously sunny collection of Australian indie-rock of the highest order, with highlights ‘Mainland’ and ‘Talking Straight’ sounding perfect for a balmy mid-week evening and closer ‘French Press’ finishing in a long and stylish jam not unlike something you might hear at a War on Drugs gig.
With almost no fanfare from band or audience, almost as if they are unsure of what to make of each other after so long apart, Pavement take to the stage and begin what turns out to be a somewhat sprawling, at times chaotic, and at times discordant set from across the Californian quintet’s relatively short recording career – and they do it while seemingly enjoying each other’s company at the same time.
‘Spit on a Stranger’ passes by without any real reaction from the as-yet unsure audience, unlike ‘Harness Your Hopes’. “We first played here in ’93. It’s good to be back. This song is from that era,” is the introduction to ‘Angel Carer Blues/Mellow Jazz Docent’, but it’s during ‘Stereo’ that it truly feels like singer-guitarist Stephen Malkmus and his crowd are relaxing into the evening, and each other, although there is an ominous feeling that the set may have peaked with less than 15 minutes gone.
Thankfully ‘Gold Soundz’ provides another predictable peak a few songs later, as does the reverberating melancholy of the chorus of ‘Range Life’. ‘Conduit for Sale!’, ‘Major Leagues’ and ‘Cut Your Hair’ also feature late-on in a 25-song set that bounces around like an off-kilter pinball.
Among the handful of highlights, the evening threatens to fall apart at any moment, set to the sound of unintelligible drivel backed by a band of the standard of your average high school talent show act thrashing at their respective instruments while simultaneously and somewhat pathetically rooting around in a skip bin filled with metal cans.
Is a Pavement show in 2023 the sound of a band being intentionally oblique? Possibly. Is the wonkiness still a major part of the appeal? Probably. Is it at times painfully tedious? Absolutely.
On their first Australian headline tour in 18 years and with more than 40 million albums under their belt, punk-rock stalwarts the Offspring have both nothing to prove and everything to prove on a balmy Brisbane school night at a sold-out Riverstage. So how did the much-lauded Californians’ set go down?
First up was Sum 41; the Canadian pop-punk quintet wasted no time getting boneheaded with a series of their greatest ‘hits’ mixed in with some clinical annihilations of classic rock standards and painfully contrived and contradictory audience requests ranging from “Let’s get crazy motherfuckers!” and “Let’s get a circle pit going!” to “Let’s look after each other tonight and make sure nobody gets hurt!” courtesy of dufus frontman Deryck Whibley.
Early-career lowlights ‘Motivation’, ‘The Hell Song’ and ‘Over my Head’ kicked off proceedings; the latter during which Whibley attempted to get the aforementioned circle pit happening (which wasn’t quite getting past first gear on a hot South-East Queensland evening), before the singer urged the audience to get their phone torches out for dirgy ballad ‘Walking Disaster’.
‘All Killer No Filler’ singles ‘In Too Deep’ and ‘Fat Lip’ had the capacity audience breaking (even more of) a sweat, but perhaps the most drippy moment came when Whibley & Co. showed their only flicker of a sense of humour for the evening with excerpts of ‘Smoke on the Water’ and ‘Seven Nation Army’, and the execution of a crime against musical majesty with a brutal demolition of Queen’s ‘We Will Rock You’.
The headliners are, thankfully, immediately classy from the off; it was clear the Offspring were here to play like the seasoned musicians they are, but not take themselves too seriously and be smart enough not to try to be too smart, despite the assorted PhDs and tertiary qualifications famously sported by various band members.
Early setlist highlights included ‘Come Out and Play’, ‘Want You Bad’, and the Trump-baiting recent single ‘Let the Bad Times Roll’, which fitted among earlier career tracks particularly well. ‘Original Prankster’ felt like it had been thrown away early at only 8:50pm but went down a storm before the silly mid-show ‘Noodle Plays With Himself’ section saw guitarist Noodles thrash through an entertaining medley of excerpts of ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’, ‘Back in Black’, ‘The Trooper’, and Edvard Greig’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’. It was all deeply silly and infectiously good fun; just like the guitarist himself, who claimed “It’s hard to tell where Jimi Hendrix ends and I begin”, with tongue firmly in cheek.
The fun continued with an appropriately high-octane cover of ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ (excellent choice), and career classics ‘Why Don’t You Get a Job?’ and ‘Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)’ caused all phones in the vicinity to be held firmly aloft, and ‘The Kids Aren’t Alright’ provided the big finish before the band exited stage right to a Riverstage reverberating with appreciation.
With the venue’s infamous council-enforced 10pm cut-off time looming, there was no time to waste, and the Californians return to complete a deserved encore including ‘You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid’ in a big finish.
To bastardise a soccer metaphor, it was a gig of two halves with one side ultimately coming away with the plaudits, just like 9,000-odd Queenslanders likely came away sweaty and satisfied.
It’s been an age between drinks for Tame Impala and Brisbane, and with a sold-out Entertainment Centre clamouring to greet Kevin Parker and the boys, what couldn’t go perfectly right?
First up was local legend-in-the-making Sycco who looked born to do it on a stage this big and received a huge response from an already half-full Entertainment Centre for her efforts, most especially on final track ‘Dribble’.
Next came Genesis Owusu and a lesson in owning a stage by sheer presence and force of personality alongside an energetic vocal performance and some killer lyrics. It’s hard to nail down just one thing that makes the Ghanaian-Australian such a powerful act when he seems to have it all; recent track ‘GTFO’ went down particularly well and lyrically could be Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name’ for a new generation. There’s absolutely no stopping this guy based on this performance.
The members of Tame Impala saunter onto the stage amid a retina-searing light display, dense dry ice, and reverberating screams of appreciation from a heaving Entertainment Centre, with Parker looking entirely unfazed by the circumstances in which he found himself. This is a band that has grown from its relatively humble WA psych-rock roots to be the international festival headliner it now is, so it’s easy to see why this experience is all in a day’s work for the multi-instrumentalist master. His show takes a simple approach: give the audience what it wants, do it in style, and do it BIG.
This is the ‘Slow Rush’ tour, so that album’s songs feature heavily at all the big moments, including opener ‘One More Year’ and early tracks ‘Borderline’ and ‘Breathe Deeper’. However, having been around for over 14 years and with a back catalogue that most bands would die for, Parker and the gang can pull from all corners of their varied career and strike a chord with anything they pull out of the bag, as with ‘Nangs’, ‘Apocalypse Dreams’, and ‘Elephant’, before which Parker enquires of the crowd’s willingness to “get a little wild” – which it does in spades.
It was during an extended ‘Let it Happen’ that one of the band’s trademark moments comes with the launch of the confetti cannons at the drop, before a chilled-out ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ provided a cool counterpoint. This left only the need for a big finish to top off the show, which came in the form of ‘The Less I Know the Better’ and ‘One More Hour’.
It was all a truly mind-melting visual experience; the lighting was simultaneously mesmerising, trippy, and, at times, almost difficult not to turn away from. But in terms of Australian music, this band’s live experience is up with there with the very best. It definitely wasn’t slow; it definitely WAS a rush.
It promises to be a party over 20 years in the making when Irish pop royalty The Corrs return to Australia for the first time since 2001 later this month.
The family quartet and touring band will perform at an exclusive one-night affair at Hope Estate in the Hunter Valley on 26th November, with their only other Australian appearance being a 250-person-capacity Q&A session at Sydney’s Carriageworks the evening prior.
Drummer Caroline Corr speaks of the band’s eagerness to return to one of the first countries outside of its own that took the Dundalk band to its heart from its early days.
“What was brilliant about Australia was it was the first territory where our first record sold and that people actually knew who we were,” she says. “We were still kind of obscure, but, bizarrely, ‘Forgiven, Not Forgotten’ did really well and so when we arrived there, we were wondering how so many people recognised us. Unbeknownst to ourselves, the record had been selling and it was a great feeling, and we had some amazing shows there. It was just so new and great. We’ve always talked about going back to Australia and finally we have an opportunity to go back.”
The multi-platinum selling band has sold over 40 million albums since their 1995 debut but last released an album in 2017, so does the Australian show announcement feel like a comeback?
“I suppose it does,” Corr says. “Although it depends how long we come back for. Maybe there’ll be many comebacks [laughs]. We seem to do a record and a tour, take a long break, then come back together and do something. The pandemic was obviously devastating for the music industry, and we probably postponed about three tours as it was impossible to go anywhere. Once the pandemic was over, we could figure out how to come back together. We’re talking about more touring and it’s just getting the right tour in place. For me, it’s how it feels to do it again. It’s nice to go to places where people haven’t seen us in a long time; it’s new for them and it’s new for us. That’s why Australia feels so nice for us.”
As a family affair the band has a unique musical understanding but that doesn’t mean they don’t still have to work at it.
“When we come back together it clicks, because it has to click,” Corr says. “We all have our own personalities and our little quirks, but we know each other so well. We’ve all obviously grown together and, as family, it wasn’t always easy being on the road together and it wasn’t always easy working together, but we’ve become much better at listening to each other and talking things through. Of course, there’s going to be things that piss you off, but you just move on.”
With 20 years between drinks, the band has set its sights on giving Australian fans – and undoubtedly a multitude of Irish ex-pats – exactly what they want.
“For Australia we are going to play what people really like and what people really know,” Corr says. “Australia has so many Irish ex-pats who have lived there for long periods of time, and it’s nice to connect with your country of origin and hear some Irish music, and we will be playing Irish music, of course. There were also certain songs that were released that did really well in Australia. We’re working on the setlist in our rehearsals in Dublin. Obviously, we’ll be doing ‘Dreams’. We’ll do ‘Breathless’. We’ll do some Irish music. I think it’ll be a good show.”
It’s night three of BIGSOUND 2022 – hands up if you can still feel your legs. No, me neither. What else is to be done but get right into it?
The string of Rage Against the Machine tracks that played over the house system at the Loft gave some indication of what’s to follow when The Riot took to the stage. The Gold Coast quartet is made up of four very different musicians stylistically, but when it all comes together it works beautifully and provides the perfect start to another night of outstanding music.
Over at the Outpost, Selve laid down some catchy grooves and upbeat vibes before a hugely appreciate audience with the levels of throwaway fun right on the money. Led by Jabbirr Jabbirr man Loki Liddle, the band provided one of the highlights of the evening early on; all killer synths and even more killer basslines, joined by much-loved Auslan interpreter Mikey Webb. A finale of Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You’ lifted hearts and spirits – these guys deserve a lot of attention from all the best people.
In the mall, Blute’s was once again packed to sardine levels as Platonic Sex took to the stage. The buzz around the Brisbane alt-rock four-piece was palpable, and early track ‘Devil’s Advocate’; all about letting go of the ball and chain of toxic masculinity showed why.
Wooly Mammoth Mane Stage was similarly rammed for an assured performance from Beckah Amani, who played a clutch of songs from her recently released EP, including the excellent ‘Smoke and Mirrors’, highlighting the singer-songwriter’s passion for ethical fashion choices and tackling climate change. The towering ‘Standards’ elicited enthusiastic audience participation Radio Ga Ga-style as Amani repeated “For a black woman like me / I’m standing up for my needs” alongside some deft guitar licks.
At O’Skulligans, up-and-coming folkie Sam Windley performed songs that appear soft and lovely on first listen but are laced with confusion and pain through the lyrics, while over at BLVD, Brisbane’s Yb grinned from ear to ear amid a smooth set of genre-bending indie/pop gems and tight musicianship.
Dallas Woods promised he was “gonna take you all home to the East Kimberley” amid several audience interactions sprinkled through the Noongar rapper’s set at Summa House. Early track ‘Colorblind’ from the recent ‘Julie’s Boy’ EP hit home hard, and when joined by both members of Fly Boy Jack (who impressively upped the swear count immediately), the set kicked up several gears towards an epic finish.
At Sound Garden, bass player turned produced Tentendo described his BIGSOUND experience as “full-on, as I’m pretty introvert”, while producing an instantly classy, instantly catchy, instantly danceable, and instantly generally bloody impressive set of dance tracks alongside his keyboard player and drummer. What a find.
At the Loft, Jerome Farah set about unleashing something particularly special – even among so much bright talent over the past three days. From the second the Melburnian opened his lungs it was a show-stopper; the former dancer moved from smooth soul to soaring strength to rap and back again with ludicrous ease. “When my hair isn’t in braids, it’s in a huge afro,” he explains, mocking the constant requests from people wanting to touch it before ‘Afro’ kicks in. The lyric line “Why you gotta go and do that for? Please, white boy, don’t touch my afro” is delivered with humour and power, and the audience reacted with appreciation in spades. This was one of the best performances of the festival, and the perfect point to call it a day for this reviewer.
Now it’s time for that sweet, sweet sleep. Thank you and good night.
It’s BIGSOUND night two of three – are you all hanging in there?
First up at Tomcat was Ok Hotel, who, despite being at only 75% capacity due to the loss of guitarist Lucy to illness (“She’s alive and well – we promise!”), delivered a powerful set of grunge-rock-vibed goodness mixed with some sweet melodies and a ramshackle charm. Their final track ‘Life is Crazy (Like That)’ hit home hard and reassured an appreciative audience that BIGSOUND was alive and kicking for a second night.
Over at Summa House Old Mervs delivered a more laid-back, easy-and-breezy vibe, while, at the Zoo, the Andrew Gurruwiwi Band got into some seriously funky jams; proving themselves to be an early highlight of the second night of the festival. The seven-piece Arnhem Land collective took a large and appreciative audience on a winding journey through a set of depth, heart and top-notch musicality; and they only got better as they went on. The maestro Gurruwiwi himself, looking effortlessly cool seated at the front of the stage in dark sunglasses, led the way through a captivating collection of tracks sung in Yolngu Matha.
At Wooly Mammoth Mane Stage, Teenage Dads gathered quite the crowd and set about immediately going down a storm; all hip-wiggling, fist-pumping cringe in only the best ways possible. “It’s just a name. Don’t ask that question. It’s getting stale”, advises singer Jordan, pre-empting the very thought most likely on everyone’s minds.
At EC Venue, Flyboy Jack was spitting rhymes to a bouncing audience in what felt like one of those BIGSOUND moments you’ll tell people about in years to come. The quartet operated in perfect harmony, delivering cutting lyrics with a vibe that only drew a bigger crowd the longer the set lasted.
The ebb and flow nature of movement between BIGSOUND venues means you can’t always get where you want as crowds gather and melt away, and the influx of people towards Teenage Joans unfortunately made the Loft unattainable for this reviewer. Based on the fervour for the band they must be doing something special.
Back at the Wooly Mammoth Mane Stage, the Rions seemed to have added even more people to an already heaving crowd left over from Teenage Dads; there was barely enough room to turn around in the cosy upstairs venue. The impossibly-young-looking but musically adept triple j Unearthed High winners delivered a slick set of indie-rock richness and marked themselves as ones to watch – with impressive ’70s-style moustaches to boot.
At Prince Consort, Selfish Sons set about treating the pub gig setup almost like a stadium rock affair; all “Hey BIGSOUND, how we feeling?” and “Get your hands in the air, BIGSOUND!” call-outs, and, having already supported acts of the stature of The Kid Laroi, it’s probably clear why. The Brisbane trio worked hard and had a blast and, as a result, the audience had a blast too.
At Summa House, it was time for a big night two finale, and it came in the form of an epic performance from Butchulla rapper Birdz, accompanied by Fred Leone on vocals and didgeridoo. Opener ‘Aussie Aussie’ hit harder than anything on show so far, as did mid-set highlight ‘Fly’, before an all-conquering ‘Bagi-la-m Bargan’ closed out a punch-to-the-guts set of power, pride, and truth-telling in a BIGSOUND moment up there with the best.
One more day to go: let’s keep the BIGSOUND train a-rollin’ for another 24 hours.
Back in the flesh for the first time since 2019 and celebrating its 21st birthday this year, BIGSOUND is back with a bang and then some in 2022.
With 300 performances over three nights to choose from, it’s impossible to be across all the up-and-coming talent on offer, but when there are so many unknown gems to uncover, the only way to do it is to dive right in.
First up was Brisbane-based Talk Heavy at Wooly Mammoth Mane Stage. The quartet opened with a warmly received Acknowledgement of Country before launching into an unholy racket of pop-punk goodness; all catchy, sardonic, and fun. Despite guitarist Pat jokingly exclaiming, “All our songs are about Bret Hart”, a collection of tracks from their upcoming EP, including ‘I Wanna Skate Again’ prove otherwise in a fine start to the evening.
Over at the Prince Consort, Sydney’s Enclave produced an altogether more ominous mood that probably would feel at home in the Road House in Twin Peaks on Halloween. With a darkly engaging frontman whose style and delivery sits somewhere between an intensely brooding Mick Jagger and Brandon Lee’s character in ‘The Crow’, the band is well worth checking out. Single ‘Bloodletting’ is a good entry point for this unique act.
“Hello, BIGSOUND, we’re Future Static,” is the call at Ric’s Backyard as a flurry of high-octane, high-energy heavy rock is let loose on a captivated audience. The likely destruction of dozens of sets of eardrums aside, the Melbourne five-piece’s barrage of noise goes down a storm as singer Amariah Cook proved to be one of the most impressive of the night. Third song of the set and new single ‘Venenosa’ was a highlight.
At the Zoo, Queen P wasn’t blasting the crowd with noise, but winning them over with charm, humour, and confidence, and proving herself to be a star in the making, if she isn’t one already. The diminutive rapper still managed to cajole the audience to get onboard with lines like, “This is BIGSOUND, not small sound!” and the audience responded in spades; most especially during a fun cover of Missy Elliott’s ‘Work It’.
An absolutely rammed Blute’s Bar was the setting for Jem Cassar-Daley’s stylish blend of indie-pop, with the large, buzzing crowd including dad Troy. Opening with ‘Letting Go’ and moving into ‘Like It More’, the singer-songwriter and recent Queensland Music Award winner showed exactly why there’s been so much attention coming her way in recent times.
At Ivory Tusk, the call, “We’re Greatest Hits and we’re here to play them” opens the best performance of the evening based on a vibe of sheer throwaway fun and weirdness alone. The Gold Coast trio blend genres and styles effortlessly, with a sound akin to a synth-drenched sonic scream that puts the hook in you early and doesn’t let go. The vibe of simply wanting to have fun above anything else is a welcome approach at an industry festival, and the discipline of keeping up the schtick for a full 30 minutes is worthy of praise alone. ‘Palm Springs’, a song about “us never going to Palm Springs”, went over particularly nicely. Well played, Greatest Hits.
Around the corner at The Loft, Brisbane’s Hallie pulled off a slick pop masterclass with a set of cleverly crafted songs delivered with a powerful voice alongside a stage presence that belied their youth. Based on this performance, it’s easy to see how their fanbase could go from big to massive in no time at all.
Back at Ivory Tusk, WILSN delivered arguably the most soulful set of the evening. The Melburnian’s bio opener, ‘Possessing the kind of voice that stops you in your tracks’ couldn’t be more on the money; her vocals provided a genuine ‘wow’ moment towards the end of an already talent-filled night of music.
Back at The Loft, the crowd swelled for Noah Dillon, and the Fremantle singer-guitarist delivered in fine style to cap off BIGSOUND night one, with even one or two of the BIGSOUND staff getting side-tracked from their door duties to come in and join in or film the fun. Dillon doesn’t build slowly; opener ‘Alive and Kicking’ got the audience bouncing from the off, following it with ‘Drip Dry’ from the ‘Kill the Dove’ album to keep the party going.
Let’s see what the nights two and three have in store.
A large and enthusiastic school-night audience filled QPAC’s concert hall for an evening of musical hope and healing to raise funds for HEAL (Home of Expressive Arts and Learning); a program that provides creative arts therapy to young people of refugee backgrounds.
Hosted by lawyer, CEO, human rights advocate, and refugee of the Soviet-Afghanistan conflict, Mariam Veiszadeh, the evening provided an eclectic and affecting mix of music to inspire collective belief and soothe the weary soul.
When it can feel like the walls are closing in, connecting through stories and songs has a way of breaking them down, and, following a Welcome to Country and self-written lullaby courtesy of Gudja Kerry, the hope and healing began with the QPAC Chamber Choir performing a sprightly version of Bill Withers’ ‘Lovely Day’.
Next was the first of two appearances from the outstanding headliner Mahalia Barnes; her powerful blues-rock vocals lifting the audience to another plane with a rendition of Helen Reddy’s ‘I Am Woman’, followed by a long and luscious ‘Ain’t Nobody Else’.
The most unique and captivating performance of the evening followed from JADE; a Brisbane-based ensemble featuring Japanese koto master Takako Haggarty Nishibori, Nepalese tabla virtuoso Dheeraj Shrestha, Australian guitarist Dr Anthony Garcia, and Wakka Wakka didgeridoo and keyboard player David Williams. The quartet played the subtle and stylish ‘Ancient Waters’ and ‘Fishbowl’, with Garcia relating the story of the latter track being written deep in the bowels of QPAC itself in an artist area known as the ‘fishbowl’ to the audience’s appreciation.
Next came Irish band Sásta (meaning ‘happy’ in Gaelic), who are warming up for an upcoming tour of France and Ireland, with the instrumental ‘Ron’s Time’ followed by ‘She Said’, which allowed singer-guitarist Mick Hughes’s deft vocals to come to the fore, before the QPAC Chamber Choir seized the opportunity to promote their upcoming ‘ABBA Evolution’ concert in August with their version of the Swedish legends’ recently released ‘Don’t Shut Me Down’.
Deline Briscoe changed the pace and injected a more direct storytelling approach with her songs ‘Sweet Frangipani’ and ‘Big Law’; the Yalanji woman relating tales of her grandfather’s youth on Palm Island, the sounds and smells of the place and time, and the injustice experienced by her family in a skewed justice system. Soft and mellow the telling of her stories may have began, but when the Cairns-based singer let her voice soar, strength and courage reverberated around the hall.
The expansive stage was quickly filled by roughly 20 members of Matt Hsu’s Obscure Orchestra; the recent Queensland Music Award winners taking the audience on a whimsical journey through a three-track set including highlight ‘Welcome to the Neighbourhood’. One of Hsu’s trademark instruments, the $27.95 Mitre 10 saw, appeared as part of a fitting finale to the set of surely one of Brisbane’s most innovative groups.
And so, for the grand finale to send gig-goers home feeling healed and hopeful. Mahalia Barnes once again took to the stage to blow the roof off QPAC, performing mighty versions of ‘Three Times and I’m Gone’, ‘Little Light’, which she proudly dedicated to her 13-year-old daughter, and ‘You Are My Sunshine’, which saw the Obscure Orchestra return to the stage. The curtain came down after a final dose of thunder with ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, on which all performers from the evening collaborated to form the ultimate Australian super group (for one unique performance only).
On a chilly Tuesday evening, hope and healing never sounded so good.
Nic Griffiths may have been playing music for decades, but he’s never been as excited by a line-up than the one he’s part of now.
The singer-songwriter fronts Brisbane-Gold Coast heavy rock quartet My Kind of Chaos, and despite a few pandemic-related hurdles of late, Griffiths is as keen as ever to get out on the road and rock.
“We were rehearsing, and everything was going great,” he says. “And then the pandemic hit. We spent a lot of money on film clips and getting the album ready, and everything just fell apart. I nearly gave up, but I thought, ‘You know, I’m not gonna’. I kept going and managed to find the band we have now.”
The solidification of the line-up resulted in the completion of debut album ‘The Monster Stirs’; an eight-track collection of hard-driving rock.
“It started with myself and my friend who I’ve been playing music with for 30-odd years,” Griffith says. “We decided to write an album, and when it was finished, we would put a band together. We had this great drummer who brought his mate Mick [Norris], a bass player, and he came and played one song on the album. From there, Mick said ‘I’m in; I wanna be in the band’, so he stuck with us through thick and thin. Unfortunately, the drummer didn’t quite make it. Then, we found Cameron [Appleton-Seymour], our guitarist.”
The completion of the line-up by drummer Rick Zammit was the icing on the cake for Griffiths, taking the band’s musical chops up several notches.
“Only two months ago we found Rick, who just came off tour and was gig-ready,” he says. “He learnt the songs in four hours. When he came in to audition, it was about halfway through the first song that we realised we weren’t auditioning him anymore, he’s auditioning us. We’re happy to say we passed the test. During our rehearsals, I actually forget to sing because I’m admiring his drumrolls so much. The band that I have now is the band I’ve dreamt about my whole life; they are amazing, incredible musicians.”
With the line-up locked in the band’s manager started booking gigs and now the pandemic pains are in the past for Griffiths.
“We get a second crack at it,” he says. “We did pretty good overseas and that, but now we get to tour the album. The response so far has been amazing. It’s such a solid album as it was produced by double-ARIA-award-winner Anton Hagop. He did a fantastic job. We’re going to be touring all next year, for all those who’ve had their double jab.”
Having reached a level of contentment not experienced in recent times, you’d be forgiven for thinking a punk veteran might have mellowed. Not so; Griffith says there’s always something to be peeved about.
“I’ve come from a traditional punk background,” he says. “I was one of those teenage, pissed-off punks from back in the ‘90s. There’s always a bee in my bonnet about something. A lot of my songs are about life experiences. There’s a song on the album called ‘Making Zombies’, which is about the ice epidemic, which is everywhere. There’s a song on there called ‘Stop Running’, which is about me chasing success. There’s a song on there called ‘Euthanasia’, which is self-explanatory. I try not to write empty lyrics; there’s always a message in there. I think it was one of the things that attracted the other guys.”
Despite restrictions being eased and a new album unleashed into the world, Griffiths is not content to sit still just yet.
“We’ve released the first single off the second album already,” he says. “It’s called ‘Calm Down Karen’. I had a run-in with a ‘Karen’ in a store in Pacific Fair. It was ridiculous. She was just screaming, and I came home and wrote that song in two-and-a-half hours. The lyrics just wrote themselves. In hindsight it turned out really well.”
An upcoming run of shows will see the new line-up and material being simultaneously road-tested.
“We’ve got King Lear’s Throne on 28th November,” Griffith says. “Vinnies on the 10th of December, 13th January we’re at the Zoo, and we’ve just picked up our first festival at Jimna Rocks in April. Everything’s just exploded for us.”
Hayden Thorpe isn’t one for pondering the simple things in life.
The 35-year-old Englishman, formerly of the now—defunct Kendal indie darlings Wild Beasts, is much more of a big-picture kind of guy.
As keen to explore the wonders of the minutest chemical reactions in the inner wirings of the mind as he is societal-level shifts in thinking and action, and the vast and unknown wonders of the universe and beyond, the multi-instrumentalist is nothing if not intriguing.
Second album Moondust for My Diamond, a smoothly enchanting 12-track collection of cerebral and propulsive pop featuring production by Nathan Jenkins – aka Bullion – is clear evidence of this. Thorpe’s interests, from science, religion, humanity, the cosmos, sex, temptation, and contemplation of the end of days drip from every pore, filling the record with big questions and the wonder and anxiety of the possibilities of the things we don’t know, poised just out of reach.
It’s enough to make one contemplate several aspects of life and existence, albeit set to a slick soundtrack that builds on the sonic palettes of 2019 debut album Diviner and last year’s Aerial Songs EP.
The tunes are charming and understated but it’s Thorpe’s lyrical themes that prove most beguiling. In Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “Everyone now knows how to find the meaning of life within himself”, and Thorpe seems to have been on a grand Vonnegutian journey during the making of these songs. In fact, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine him locking himself away in a dank library for months on end, devouring all manner of obscure texts on philosophy, science and theology, before channelling it all into something he can set his countertenor vocals to.
“I’m an obsessive person but I’m also a person who has fads,” he says. “So, if you combine those two things, you get obsessive fads, into which I entirely immerse myself in practice, writing or theory. It becomes almost carnivorous; I need to imbibe it, put it in myself, become it for a while. I think most of the richness of the words come from there. I’m speaking like it’s quite a brutal process, but it is if you go quite deeply.”
Take lead single ‘The Universe is Always Right’. Probably never before or ever again will references to genies escaping bottles, Excalibur being pulled from stone and ‘cosmic arrows’ be made in a pop song. And certainly not one on an album that sounds as necessary as this. It’s clear from almost the get-go that Thorpe’s influences are many and varied, and he has used them to make surely one of the best albums of 2021.
“For this record, I got interested in Eastern mysticism, yoga and alternative practices,” he says. “My other hobby is science and I realised there are a lot of overlaps between the ways Eastern mysticism sees the universe and how science sees the universe. The difference is science medicalises the body and our emotions, but Eastern mysticism doesn’t; it actually incorporates the body, the mind, and the sense of the universe. Perhaps that is what is lacking in our terminology and our language; this sense of something beyond and how to incorporate the beyond into our very being. What goes on in those language spaces are spells; people are casting spells, and I say that in a very functional way. Casting spells is just an alignment of words; it’s just placing things in order. If you put certain words in a certain order, it elicits a chemical response in the body. It’s a very extraordinary thing. I wonder why all our songs are about love and spirit. Well, actually, it’s that invisible matter that stitches everything together; we can’t quantify it, we just know how we build our reality.”
It was exploring this meeting point between science and religion that led Thorpe to investigate the phenomenon of psychedelic therapy and a pioneering project integrating music and psychedelic drugs; an experience which has found its way most clearly into tracks ‘Suspended Animation’ and ‘Metafeeling’.
“Therapists are using this software while someone is in an induced psychedelic state; probably through psilocybin,” he says. “Basically, musicians contributed to a soundscape that the patient is listening to. I sang and contributed vocals and got really interested in both the practice of how I sing for somebody in that state and what would I do and how to contribute. It made me reflect on what singing is and what making music is. I got interested in it through a seminal book by Michael Pollan, ‘How to Change Your Mind’. It’s so interesting because I think you should always judge a civilisation by its drugs. Capitalism is very much the cocaine society, which is really about enlarging the ego. Whereas, in past civilisations the mushroom or other psychedelics have been the central theme of their civilisation. It’s inverse; actually shrinking the ego or dismantling the sense of self. Maybe we’re at a frontier now; we’re realising we’re all going around being encouraged to be warriors in our own way, going forth and it’s a dog-eat-dog-type world. But it’s clear that is creating so much damage, and it’s not sustainable. Secondly, it fucks the natural world when you do that too. Paul Stamets is one of my hero mycologists and he always states that the earth has already provided the operating manual for how we understand the natural world, and he says it’s psilocybin. We think the human point of view is the ultimate point of view, but I really don’t think that’s the case, personally.”
While a cocktail of energies ooze from Moondust for My Diamond, ensuring it sounds like a record put together by an artist with a simple love for the craft of songwriting on one hand, the flip side of Thorpe’s expansive thinking means he’s never far away from tackling the next big topic.
“We’re living through a reckoning,” he says. “There is a grand narrative of our time, where growth, success and aspiration are somehow virtuous qualities, and that is failing us. That is not working, and I’m so excited about what the music sounds like on the other side of that. If you think about it, music has always been co-opted by power; hymns and church music has always been the property of the church and therefore they have the spiritual ownership over peoples’ lives. Now, when big business owns most of music and hedge fund managers are buying up Bob Dylan songs and all the rest of it, you have to ask what is the spiritual value of songs now? I’m so interested in what is the other side of this; what language and what ways can we speak of the world beyond our own inner story. The legend of our time is absolutely our own inner world. We’re all encouraged to broadcast our every emotion. Songwriters especially, we’re meant to wave the flag of our emotions so boldly, and that’s supposed to be our currency. After a while of doing this, I’m thinking I’m getting more interested in the flagpole than the flag. There’s something beyond that’s worth getting it.”
While Thorpe contents himself with pondering many of the existential questions in life, he’s also a realist, and understands that being able to find the time and headspace to write and record new music, never mind release an album, during a global pandemic and in the uncertainty of post-Brexit Britain, is an achievement in itself.
“I think this moment does feel like one of the more extreme frontiers of record-releasing, bearing everything in mind,” he says. “The sheer manpower and force of will to bring music out now is significant, so I’m really proud that the work has emerged as it has. I’m surprised by the album; it’s unlikely. It’s emerged in unexpected ways and brought me unforeseen adventures, and for that I’m grateful. In the UK there’s definitely a kind of crosshair going on with the Brexit situation for musicians and the pandemic; but also, just the cultural landscape; the value system in which music works now. It’s been transformed. The metrics by which people judge value means that it’s nothing other than bold and chaotic to follow your music into that black hole. I believe in songs; their potency, their ability to convert a magical substance within the body. It’s also an extraordinary thing to devote most of your waking hours to obtain a level of beauty. That’s not to be too high-minded; it’s a form of utmost expression and at its fullest realisation, a moment of beauty. The dissonance of a functional human being as well as someone who is entirely entangled with the machinery of making music is probably the challenge, but the more I make music in my life things get even simpler and you don’t need much at all if you have your devotions.”
His live band includes Frank Ocean’s bass player, Ben Reed, drummer Fabian Prynn, and saxophonist Chris Duffin, who, Thorpe says, will allow him to “live out all my Springsteen fantasies”. A tour of Europe and the UK is on the cards for early 2022.
“It’s been four years since I played with a band,” he says. “Our first gig was an extraordinary sensation to feel that music again. I really like the practicality and theoretical way of doing gigs, which is me and a laptop going around, but it doesn’t have that virility that I want. I’m going to go forward with this killer band, which is a fabulous thing to be doing. I really want to live this one out properly.”
If Moondust for My Diamond is any indication, it’s sure to be a hell of a trip.
The past couple of years have been slow for so many musicians, but beloved Australian singer-songwriter Sara Storer has been quietly productive behind the scenes.
The multiple Golden Guitar-winner has been spending the time putting together a wealth of new material before her appearance at Groundwater Country Music Festival.
“I released my new album the year before COVID hit and managed to get a lot of my touring out of the way and get the album out there,” she says. “Then we moved to Darwin early in 2020 and that was the start of COVID, and of all places to have moved to, the territory is pretty damn good when it comes to lockdowns and everything else. While the music industry shut down and there wasn’t much work at all in 2020. But, for me, it was just good timing for me. So, I’ve been writing, and I’ve got enough for a new album. My focus will be on that for next year; to get in and record somewhere and get the new album out.”
The story of the 48-year-old Victorian’s seven albums follows the former teacher’s eventful life, and her next release is progressing steadily.
“Every album is a diary of where I am, how I’m feeling, and what’s going on in my life,” she says. “For this [upcoming] album, I moved back to the Territory, and we leased a little place out at Adelaide River, about an hour away from Darwin. We had a beautiful little cabin there and I did some songwriting out there. So, there are songs about being back in Darwin and what that brings to me personally. Also, just little stories I’ve heard along the way over the past couple of years. If I hear a story I’ll write it down, and that gives me a number of songs. I can write them, sing them, and record them and then not go back to them for a while. So, what I need to do now is look at what I’ve got and look at what works best as a collective, rather than just having bits and pieces here and there.
Storer does what feels natural to her; following a long line of Australian singer-songwriters telling real-life stories of real-life people and places.
“I grew up on a farm, so I have a bit of a soft spot for our people and our country,” she says. “Country music originated from people writing about people out working on the land and their stories, and I do like writing about our characters in the bush and this great country. As an Australian, I grew up listening to John Williamson and what I love about his work was that he sung about Australia with a lot of pride and used everyday Aussie slang from his world and put it into a song. Aussies can be pretty ‘ocker’ but it still sits beautifully to me, as that’s how we talk, that’s how we greet each other, and that’s our characters. So I like to try to be as descriptive as that in my music, about our beautiful place and, of course, singing with an Aussie accent is important, as it would be pretty silly if I was singing about, say Dubbo for example, in an American accent. Listening back to my earlier stuff, I sound very Australian. I do love the Aussie voice in a song and you have to be authentic; it works well with my songs, themes and subjects and it’s how I’ve always sung.”
Storer will play the upcoming Groundwater Country Music Festival, which runs from 12th to 14th November. The 2019 event saw 73,000 people descend on Broadbeach for the free three-day extravaganza of all things country. This year’s festival features 44 acts, including Adam Brand, Natalie Pearson, Troy Cassar-Daly, Caitlyn Shadbolt and many more.
“I’m so looking forward to it,” Storer says. “I got to play at a big event about a month ago, using a full band. It had been a long time since I’d done that, and I was nervous and excited, but gee, it was good to do that. It was so good to be back on stage with a full band, big, beautiful crowd, and everyone is just there to finally hear some music and do the festival thing again. I can only imagine Groundwater will be bigger and better than ever. I’ve got a really good feeling that it’s going to be a big success. I love music and country music and catching up with friends too.”
Tex Perkins is arguably one of the hardest working people in Australian music, and a true survivor at that.
As a member of Beasts of Bourbon, The Cruel Sea, Tex, Don and Charlie, The Fat Rubber Band and others, as well as a finger in the pies of the acting, writing and presenting worlds, Perkins has been working practically non-stop since the early-’80s. Having had many guises over the years; from hard-drinking rocker, Johnny Cash in his ‘The Man in Black’ show, or member of a bonafide Australian super group, as well as simultaneously juggling family life and personal relationships, Perkins isn’t going to be held back by the roadblocks of recent months.
The enigmatic singer-songwriter will be continuing his decades-long relationship with Australian music-lovers when he appears at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art’s ‘Up Late’ series on 20th March as Tex Perkins & Friends; an ensemble including Jez Mead, Lucie Thorne and Christian Pyle.
The latest edition of the popular series is part of GOMA’s ‘The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire’ exhibition, which examines the ground-breaking designs that shaped one of the most iconic vehicles and features 100 of the greatest motorcycles ever assembled. Included in the outdoor celebration, which runs for two nights at the Maiwar Green at South Bank, are Indigenous rapper and musician JK-47, Brisbane punk/grunge outfit VOIID, and DJs Eamon Sandwith, Paolo and Patience Hodgson. Throw in GOMA’s top-notch bars and food service and you’ve got a veritable smorgasbord of delights.
Added to this, Perkins’ year is looking as busy as ever, with appearances pencilled in at Byron Bay Bluesfest in early April and the Gympie Music Muster in late August, and a string of club shows lined up, among others.
But being a rock ‘n’ roll survivor inevitably takes its toll and doesn’t come without its scars. The past couple of years have seen the loss of some of Perkins’ closest friends in the music world, including the Beasts of Bourbon’s bassists Brian Henry Cooper and guitarist Spencer P. Jones, who both passed away from cancer at the ages of just 55 and 61, respectively, and put an end to the much-loved band forever.
Then came COVID, but, not one to stand still or take time out, Perkins put together ‘The Show’; an online concert series recorded and staged not in the pubs and hotels of urban and rural Australia, but in a shed on his country New South Wales property. With the help of family and friends offering expertise in equipment use and setup, recording and editing, the series kept the ever-busy Perkins from getting restless before the re-introduction of the live music show towards the end of 2020.
Now, fresh from lockdown and with a number of shows with Matt Walker under his belt, including a recent show at Kings Beach Tavern on the Sunshine Coast which a Scenestr reviewer described as “ultra-solid”, Perkins is back in the game. It’s a timely return to a natural habitat for the Fender-toting guitar-slinger.
If quality rock and roll performed by one of Australia’s most experienced and respected industry veterans in a moon-lit urban setting is your thing, this one can’t be missed.
Catch Tex Perkins & Friends at GOMA’s ‘Up Late’, Saturday 20th March at 9pm. Tickets via GOMA.
It was a good night for an art-rock hootenanny as Brisbane’s The Stress of Leisure successfully launched their new album, ‘Faux Wave’, before an amped-up audience at Lefty’s.
With COVID restrictions eased just days ago, there was a palpable relief and optimism in the air as ales were sunk, memories of distant gig-going were reawakened, and heads were nodded in time to the quartet’s unique brand of jittery, unconventional and fun sound.
Given much of the lyrical content of the songs to be found on ‘Faux Wave’, with song titles including ‘Non-Expertise is Killing Me’, ‘Banker on TV’ and ‘Beat the Tension’, one could be forgiven for thinking this is The Stress of Leisure’s ‘lockdown’ album. This couldn’t be farther from the case.
Indeed, the entire album was recorded in February, just before everyday reality spiralled sharply into the realm of shitshow; possibly making The Stress of Leisure the soothsayers of a generation or simply fortuitous peddlers of exactly the right kind of musical vibe suited to these *cliché warning* unprecedented times.
The show was almost a straightforward run-through of ‘Faux Wave’ from start to finish, with additional tracks including oldie-but-goodie ‘Sex Time’, ‘Thought You Were Young’ and ‘Pulled Pork’; the latter of which frontman Ian Powne declares a work of “genius”, as it’s one of the only songs to tackle “politics, nationalism and pork-barrelling”; not to mention getting shouted at him “any time he walks around New Farm”.
‘Non-Expertise is Killing Me’ is dedicated to “Donald over in the States”, while latest single ‘Banker on TV’ and a gloriously ramshackle cover of The Clash’s ‘Lost in the Supermarket’ round off a solid hour of off-kilter rock and pop; leaving an audience riding high on the crest of a wave of ‘faux’; whatever that may be.