Unless you’re in possession of a time machine, or have several musically astute clones of yourself – there’s no way one person can take in what the first evening of BIGSOUND Live’s incredible lineup had to offer.
With a more ambitiously expansion of last year’s particular focus on indie jangle, Wednesdays’ selection offered everything from genre-defying soul (Grey Ghost, Kira Puru & The Bruise, Electric Empire) to grimy rock (The Delta Riggs, Kingswood, Money For Rope), electronic experimentation (Caitlin Park, Fishing, Flume) and – yes – some wonderful indie jangle.
Chief among them being Bearhug, who took to the awkwardly placed corner stage of the Press Club to put the slacker in slacker rock. Though on record they have a delightfully breezy demeanour – balanced somewhere Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew and the breathy guitars of Pavement’s airy moments – they’re approach feels a little too relaxed this evening.
The gentle indie pop caresses, no doubt, but their connection with the audience is fragmented at best, straight-up sloppy at its worst. If there’s some A&R people loitering in the room (this is BIGSOUND after all) they’re probably waiting until the band have a more professional demeanour.
No love lost for those here to see simply see the band as fans, their casual stage presence doesn’t stop their woolly brand of rock working its way into your ears.
Over at the much larger loft space of The Zoo, the six-piece Winter People are charming the audience at the Channel [V] Stage with their “post-rock folk music.” Many of their tunes have the dark undertow the folk tag denotes, while the building dynamics, harmonies and dual violinists ensure the drama of the post-rock angle.
The sextet certainly have a power and weight to their sound, impressively recreating their forthcoming debut A Year At Sea for the live setting, but they could use with some distinction in their set. Even with the colourful addition of some beautiful whistling and those ever-present strings, it’s hard to shake the feeling that it’s the same cinematic song played with variations.
They won’t want for attention come the arrival of their debut album though, their show is well-rehearsed and well-presented.
A mere block away, an especially empty looking parking lot is a worrying sight.
Despite what looks initially disconcerting lack of attendance at the outdoor QMusic stage for I Oh You’s newest signing, Violent Soho, once they begin their thrashing set – they start drawing what the label themselves later accurately tweet “a big-ass crowd.”
The faithful and the curious have turned out in droves to see one of the first tastes of the newly-returned band – having seemingly disappeared from the Australian music scene to flirt with invitations from international acts. Whatever the absence, it’s doen nothing to dim their awesome, jagged live show.
Luke Boerdam’s thrilling howl recalls The Vines’ Craig Nicholls in his early days, while long-haired bassist Luke Henery gives his spinal column a workout, windmilling and moshing with everything the ragged rock spirit of their music is urging him to. As if channelling a direct line to Nirvana, their visceral set reminds of the raw power of four guys giving a spitfire performance.
Another equally intense presence, though of the smouldering variety rather than the explosive kind, is Jess Cornelius of Teeth And Tongue.
Looking like the love-child of Debbie Harry and PJ Harvey – with the moves to match – she lulls the crowd at the Press Club with a hypnotic set of slow-burning tunes. Aided by musical co-conspirators Regueiro-Mckelvie, Damian Sullivan and an understated drum machine, Cornelius plays the room like its a venue of a much larger size (and crowd).
Slurring through her broken, romantic phrasing while writhing in a yellow sun dress, she gets full points as an eye-gluing presence, as the off-beat guitar lines and bruised melodies work the room with disaffected splendour.
Around the corner, The Trouble With Templeton are pulling similar shapes from the heaving mass crammed into Alhambra Lounge.
Once the solo project for the spare acoustic stylings of Thomas Calder, The Trouble With Templeton are now a newly-minted five-piece that makes the most of their cinematic influences and darker, storytelling lineage. Think the dark character-based musings of Tom Waits, replacing his gravelly-voiced tones for Calder’s intense emotive Alto.
Playing with tight fervour, their set is characterised by building moods and the textural atmospherics of the UK’s Elbow and US heartbreakers The National. The penultimate take on new single, ‘Six Months In A Cast’ is a good catalyst for The Trouble With Templeton’s appeal, driving through a burning set of cutting chords before the tune breaks down in a sombre, shimmering heap – only to pick itself back up for a sweeping, grand finale. It’s stirring stuff and it’s not lost on anyone in the room.
Equally grand in sound are Brisbane’s Founds, who are tucked into the converted church, now night club Electric Playground. Looking like someone’s attempt to downscale a New York nightclub: wall of LED lights, leopard print couches, mirrored surfacing and all; the venue’s neon trimmings are a bit of a distraction during the sextet’s carefully crafted atmospheric rock (particularly a flickering screen towering above them).
The rough sound mix doesn’t help either, some wild feedback problems aren’t pinned down for half the set, while the throbbing bass and general muddy wall of the band drown out the group’s strongest asset, the piercing vocals and off-beat phrasing of twin female singers,Kirstie Ford and Elle-Louise Burguez.
Once the sound desk finds their feet however, the full glacial sweep of Founds – think Mogwai fronted by Bjork – begins to shine. The enormous dynamic build of ‘Avalanches’ and its climax – featuring some guest trumpet – hits hard, while the closing ‘Caves’ and its haunting intensity sees them leave the stage with a strong finish.
As they depart and the bands, delegates and concert-goers begin to file in for Shock’s showcase for their new imprint, the Halfcut/Permanent records party, it’s clear that for those willing enough to persevere, the sounds, sights and music of BIGSOUND on its first big evening – could conceivably go all night long.
– Al Newstead