Five things we learnt at BIGSOUND 2017
With a pang of sadness and also a sigh of relief, BIGSOUND is done and dusted for another year. To say that we were shattered after juggling the four-day event around daily weekday life is definitely an understatement, yet it is still probably a fraction of what the artists and coordinators are feeling right now.
BIGSOUND is a pretty big deal for multiple facets of the Australian music industry, let alone our sleepy ‘ol town of Brisbane. The immense team of organisers work all year round to pull together world-class conference events and an incredibly diverse festival line-up, showcasing some of the finest up-and-coming artists Australia and New Zealand has to offer.
There were so many positive experiences over the course of the past week, it’s darn hard to try to focus on just a few elements. After some much needed naptime over the weekend, we’ve come back with a few lessons we picked up during the festivities.
The integrity of artists is at all all-time high.
Where are we without our integrity… It’s important, but it is a tough one to balance when you’re competing with 100+ other artists for a 30-minute set and an abundance of scheduling clashes. Performers have to bring their A-Game, but that definitely didn’t let that stop this year’s collective from being humble.
It was great to see some artists acknowledging the area’s traditional landowners. This isn’t exactly commonplace with gigs in Brisbane, so it speaks more than words when an interstate band takes the time to address the crowd and share their cultural respects.
Bridging on from this were establishing equal rights and an all-inclusive safe spaces for all identities of patrons. This kind of festival is unique in reaching out to a whole range of demographics, so it’s bloody important that everyone should have the opportunity to feel comfortable going out. Actively trying to squash out intimidating behaviours from our society earns an infinite amount of kudos.
Lastly, many of these down-to-earth folks took the time to mingle with attendees and fellow artists off stage. It sounds like pretty rudimentary etiquette, but it was actually beautiful to see so many kind and passionate creatives getting together amongst what can often be an incredibly pretentious industry.
Performance calibre was next level.
Hot damn, this line-up did not feel like an up-and-coming artist showcase. We got very spoilt and undoubtedly everyone was blown away by the calibre of what was offered to us at this year’s event. So much dancing, so many goosebumps, such all-round amazing vibes.
Despite crazily running around for much of the peak times and at some points having to view half sets when there were mega scheduling clashes, every performance still felt immensely special. Showcasing artists encouraged the audiences to have just as much fun as they were having, offering polished performances that embraced punters and ultimately showed true showmanship.
Passion catches more bees than honey.
The statement is more of a hypothesis, but in regards to music… artists who slay passionate performances can and will definitely win a crowd.
Putting out some honourable mentions: Miss Blanks dropped an insane amount of femme power, further elevating her already radiating stage presence. Holiday Party busted out some stellar showcases, especially given that these sets were their second and third gigs ever. Also, if you haven’t heard Braille Face’s phenomenal vocals, be sure to do that now – they are a force to be reckoned with.
Ultimately, it was ALTA, Exhibitionist and Yoko-Zuna who stood out with oozing talent and passionate delivery of their music. We were pretty big fans of these acts already, but in the flesh they are a whole other level of maestro. ALTA caught us by surprise with the finesse of their live rig, Exhibitionist utilised the prowess of a full band to do justice to her complex production arrangements and Yoko-Zuna‘s pulsating fusion of electronica and hip-hop was really quite ineffable.
There’s always time for a bit of activism
Musicians have always made the stage a platform for politics and to voice their positions on issues of the time, but given the hustle and bustle of the 30 minute showcases at BIGSOUND, it can be a challenge to even fit in all the songs you want to play- let alone making time for activism. However, this year it was different, with artists such as ZIGGY RAMO, MISS BLANKS, OKENYO, ALEX THE ASTRONAUT and more using their 30 minutes to its utmost advantage and performing their own form of activism.
From Ziggy Ramo’s final showcase focussing on justice for Elijah Dougherty, and calling for justice and equality for Indigenous Australians, to Miss Blanks starting off her set with asking all women and non-binary punters present to make their way to the front; Okenyo’s “DON’T LOOK DOWN ON ME” t-shirts worn by her and her band, to Alex The Astronaut preaching the need to be there for the Australian LGBT+ community during this time with the postal survey happening, it was very much a politically minded BIGSOUND, and very powerfully done.
Ziggy Ramo in particular showed he was there for more than just rubbing elbows with the industry’s elite, and considering the keynotes such as Sadie Dupuis’ and panels on First Nations artists, safe spaces, women in music and more earlier in the days which also followed along this line of taking verbal allyship and activism to real, tangible activism, it was a powerfully inspiring and motivating few days.
Two words: Kardajala Kirridarra
I could group in all the amazing emerging talent that was on offer over BIGSOUND 2017, but none compared to the incredible performance by Kardajala Kirridarra.
The band from the Northern Territory communities of Marlinja and Kulumindini that had to crowd fund to even get to BIGSOUND delivered the absolute best showcase I’ve seen at the festival in the five years I’ve been there. Combining the traditional with the present, Eleanor ‘Nalyirri’ Dixon, Janey ‘Namija’ Dixon, Beatrice ‘Nalyirri’ Lewis and Kayla Jackson sing in both Mudburra and English, over delicate beats producer by Lewis to create something utterly spellbinding.
Having been a fan of their music since the release of ‘Ngurra (Rain Song)’ back in June, I was so eager to catch their final set of the week, and was so unprepared for just how special this was going to be. Kardajala Kirridarra took my already high expectations and blew them apart with the spectacular vocals from Dixon, Lewis and Jackson (as well as Jackson’s rapping!). With just 30 minutes and an extra-talkative room, it can be hard to connect with the audience, but Kardajala Kirridarra did exactly that from the first few notes of their opening song, and this connection remained strong until their final song. They transported us to the sandhills they’re named after, and brought tears to many eyes in the room.
BIGSOUND is a fast-paced, exhausting week, so to provide this respite, this magical experience was an unexpected and transformative moment that I’m confident left everyone feeling not only a lot lighter and more hopeful than when they entered, but also with the feeling that we’d just witnessed something that we’ll remember for a long time to come. My one complaint is that it was only for half an hour, as I could’ve easily stood there for hours more and would’ve been as captivated. Thank you, Kardajala Kirridarra, for coming all this way to share your stories with us.
Image: Stills In Time