Five of the Best New Bands at BIGSOUND 2019
There’s no place in the world quite like Brisbane. Beautiful weather, amazing venues, the rock band Powderfinger… unfortunately only two out of three were on show at 2019’s BIGSOUND festival, but we’ll take it.
BIGSOUND is more than an event showcasing some of the best emerging talent that Australia has to offer – it’s a genuine experience, taking over almost the entirety of Fortitude Valley for the better part of a week, with eighteen stages and over 150 bands playing.
The city puts on a show for the festival – and the locals themselves get a lot out of it. Places like Lucky Egg and Barbara are full to the brim for the entire week, incredible bands like First Beige and Concrete Surfers are caught by whole new audiences, and the small businesses and collectives of makers that populate The Lanes are exposed to a whole new group of people.
The festival more than the sum of its parts – the music and networking – it changes the suburb both visually and atmospherically. A huge inflated cyclops juts out of one building, while another is alive with tentacles reaching across the street. Light-up eyes are stuck to the outside walls of the Royal George, observing the scene below. It’s the only time of the year Fortitude Valley isn’t filled with a vaguely tense atmosphere – it is instead replaced with a buzz of excitement, of “oh my god did you see them”, and “…they’re starting in FIVE minutes, we have to GO!”.
Putting aside just how great Brisbane is for a moment, here’s a summary of five of the best new bands I was lucky enough to catch at BIGSOUND 2019.
Arriving at GRAIN’s pre-BIGSOUND showcase just in time for the self-described ‘queer-pop anti-heroine’ Elizabeth’s set, we were immediately off to an excellent start. Playing as a three-piece ahead of the release of her debut album The Wonderful World of Nature, the band powered through a set that highlighted Elizabeth’s gifts not only as a performer but as a songwriter – taking cues from Angel Olsen and Kate Bush, the music was ever-present, but a background to Elizabeth’s stunning voice. Even on purely the strength of ‘Parties’, a genuine sad banger and the sole song the band has released so far, you can see that Elizabeth is destined for bigger stages – and soon.
Adelaide’s premier 90’s slacker-rock revival two-piece TOWNS were the surprise of the festival for me – I caught the band several times over the course of the week, and they proved that they thrive in environments as different as Greaser’s tiny back bar and a completely-full Foundry. Besides their incredibly catchy songs and insane chemistry, the best thing about the band was that they actually seemed like they were having the time of their lives. From ‘Safe to Say’ to a medley of television show theme songs to even busting out the slow burning ‘Bleach’ from their EP ‘Television’ when a fan requested it, TOWNS powered through their set each and every time – having the most fun they possibly could.You can catch TOWNS in Brisbane and all over Australia supporting Bugs and Sweater Curse this November.
- Cry Club
Wollongong’s Cry Club are something to behold in a festival full of men in t-shirts and jeans – they hit the stage like a hurricane, the two-piece in matching suits and makeup (a pair of pastel glitter tears) with a live drummer. Singer Heather Riley is an enigma throughout, and their energy is infectious, with the entire crowd transfixed on what is happening onstage – a rare thing for an event where so many people manage to talk through entire sets. The highlight of Cry Club’s set is genuine ANTHEM of a song, ‘DTFM’, an aggressive call to arms against harassment. Cry Club will return to Brisbane next month to play at The Hidden Lanes Festival.
- Concrete Surfers
BIGSOUND was my first time seeing Concrete Surfers, and they didn’t disappoint. Their first show, upstairs at Woolly Mammoth, was an absolute cracker to a 200 strong crowd, but the band truly shone at Crowbar Black to almost the same amount of people in a much smaller space. Ripping through songs like ‘VCR’ and ‘Miscommunication’ before ending on the one-two punch of new single ‘Shattered Thoughts’ and their EP’s title track ‘My Life on Repeat’, the band kept the intensity on ten through their entire set. New songs, somehow both heavier and more melodic, provided a taste of what’s to come for the young Brisbane skate punks – keep posted. You can read our interview with the band here.
- Obscura Hail
Obscura Hail was a name I’d seen thrown around a little over the last few years, but never properly investigated. After catching RAT!Hammock at The Outpost and finding out their bassist was also the mastermind behind Obscura Hail, I knew I’d have to check the band out, and I’m glad I did. The goth-folk took to the Flying Cock stage late on Tuesday night to a small but enraptured crowd, debuting new single ‘Swear Jar’ ahead of the release of new EP Zero and played haunting renditions of songs from their 2018 LP Pallbearer.