BIGSOUND Festival: Beers, Balloons, & Breakdowns

Night 1:

Black Crowbar balloons bob against the ceiling, there’s a nervous excitement in the air as BIGSOUND Festival 2018 is about to kick off. Staff are following regular procedure but seem extra alert: Tonight is the big night. Fans pack into the Crowbar’s underground venue and chatter ensues while we all wait for the opening act. People crowd the barrier long before the set is even scheduled to start. Photographers are testing their cameras against walls and each other, praying all goes right for them.

It wasn’t long before the stage lights began to glow orange, purple and blue. Bad Juju had made their entrance and were off to a crashing start. The crowd had that usual slow, shy build up that most crowds do but they were quicker to start moving than most. Bad Juju didn’t appear to be afraid of holding back, they were the band to kick off the next few nights after all. My eyes catch a group of air guitarists shredding away together in the midst of everything.

“Pressure”, from the band’s new EP Hidden Desire, was one of the set’s highlights, just about every head began to thrash with the drop following “I know there’s a darker side of you…”. With the increase in dynamic intensity, hips began to sway, and feet loosened from their stuck positions. Bad Juju had won the crowd over, me included. As the band began to play one of their earlier singles “Bloom”, there was a definite shift in the crowd that replicated the music. You know you’ve got a good audience when they can follow you through fast and slow; ecstasy and melancholy. Ten minutes in, people still pile down the stairs and into the show, nodding along to Bad Juju. I’ve quickly become just another person in a sea of faces.

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(Bad Juju @ Crowbar)

Fellow artists surround me, it’s good to see bands support one another, to which I noticed one of the band members wearing a Ceres shirt. I love other band love. Bad Juju have created a good vibe that everyone’s happy to take part in. It’s a welcome change to not see phone screens illuminate an audience. One of the band’s final tracks “Rejects” really was a highlight in audience engagement, they had created an intimate connection in such a short space of time. Bad Juju were a perfect way to open BIGSOUND and the rich round of applause at the end was well deserved.

 

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(Arteries @ The Brightside)

It wasn’t long before Wildheart took the stage. The ceiling balloons were quickly dissipating, and I didn’t think they’d make it to the end of the night (they didn’t). Although it was initially not quite the crowd the previous act had pulled, everyone from the bar and back of the room quickly moved to the stage. There must have been a decent queue at the bar, I thought to myself, because the crowd began to roll in, all with freshly poured drinks. Before I knew it, I was very quickly surrounded by a healthy amount of movement. Wildheart had much more of a raw and punchy sound than what we’d seen so far but that didn’t dishearten a soul.

Given the Black Flag shirt rebranded with an Indigenous flag and the tribute to “black history and black future”, it’s clear that Wildheart have a lot to say socially and politically. Their music felt charged with passion and power, offering a voice to those who may not have one. Wildheart weren’t just there for a good time but to provoke ideas and offer another pattern of thought. Hearing a few loud and rough tracks from the band’s recent EP We Are, such as “Solitude” and “We Are” really got the crowd up and having a good time. They had a good jam to lose yourself to and breakdowns that rattled my core. Punchy, loud and sharp with a big healthy “blegh”, Wildheart almost shook down the walls.

Before finishing up, the band’s vocalist took many opportunities to connect with the people in the front rows, no matter how intimidating he may be. The band had an ominous and looming feel of impending doom, probably a decent connection to the current political climate. Wildheart finished on a strong note with people of all ages winding their arms up and stomping their feet.

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(Wildheart @ Crowbar)

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(Windwaker @ The Brightside)

After a quick Maccas run, I returned to the Crowbar to find it rather populated. I had to squeeze through a few people to get back to where I was standing. The night is starting to feel alive and Sleep Talk took the stage. Not a single patron hesitated to huddle in and brace for what they were about to see. No one was shy in the crowd by this point, they’d had enough good bands to warm up to. The vocalist’s cries cut straight through me, I felt it in my bones. The crowd was quick to dance, including the six nuggets and medium fries in my stomach. It was by far, the most evocative stage lighting, I’d seen all night, for every mood there was an atmosphere to go with it.

Their chiming guitars were wonderfully melodic and a nice contrast from the pain filled verses. You could sense real pain behind the lyrics in songs like “Sorry” from their 2016 EP Growing Pains. It felt a lot more like a performance than something I could take part in, I merely sat and watched on. I can’t stress enough just how well their guitar parts were constructed and the intense feel that gripped the room with. Balloons above swayed with the rhythm, mirroring us as onlookers. Just as the balloons showed, the rhythm was indeed far too hard to resist, and the mean guitar licks really topped it all off. The words “Slave to the Rhythm” are tattooed on my leg and during Sleep Talk’s set, I was exactly that.

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(Sleep Talk @ Crowbar)

As with all of the band’s I was lucky enough to catch last night, Sleep Talk are going directly into my Spotify library. During a rather dreamlike interlude, the band’s vocalist was able to share a laugh with the crowd. That really set the mood in place for me, and I’m sure others. These boys from Adelaide had gotten a very warm Brisbane welcome. After a few minutes, they were back in full swing to throw some sounds around. Hips had begun to twist and arms were flying, Sleep Talk had struck a nerve in quite a few people. To top off a powerful set with very real emotion, they played “Tradition”. The crowd had well and truly gotten off of their feet for this last song, it was the most movement I’d seen all night. Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to any other sets, but the raw energy I’d experienced in the Crowbar was enough to open and close BIGSOUND night one for me.

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(Eat Your Heart Out @ The Brightside)

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(Bugs @ The Valley Drive-In)

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(Bare Bones @ Crowbar)

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(She Cries Wolf @ The Brightside)

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(Sweater Curse @ Crowbar Black)

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(The Comfort @ Crowbar)

Night 2:

After a fun time the night before I was well and truly ready for BIGSOUND Festival night two. I was back again for the opening act and I couldn’t wait. Crowbar fans slowly began to trickle in as I sat back with the beer of BIGSOUND and waited. Although this is a music review, I must say the Mountain Goat Hazy Pale Ale was pretty nice. Crowbar Black was starting off the night so it was a little more quaint and intimate. For those of you who have never been, there’s a small nook in the corner surrounded by a collection of the best records you’ll ever hear. No lie go check them out. [Can confirm they are the best! – Kel]

Brisbane boys, Walken kicked the night off for me and a room full of others. They began with a loud crashing start, it’s almost like I’d walked in to the show half way through. The energy took the room by surprise but it wasn’t long before people started moving around. I watched parties of people move from the booths to stand in favour of a better time. Walken were live and chatty with the audience, something night one was in a little more need of. Generally, a bar. Like Crowbar Black is a bit of an awkward venue to play to with a raw sound like Walken, but they filled every crack with their rich, guttural sound. As the set had well and truly kicked off, I began to catch feet tapping more and more regularly.

The band played “Taurus” and from an observer’s point of view, this is when they gained control of the audience. They were locked in for the ride now. Crowbar Black by this point had definitely filled up, to my delight. Familiar faces were spotted here and there as vocalist, Matt Cochran would exchange pleasantries between songs. No matter if you were a Crowbar employee or another band, you couldn’t escape from Matt’s comradery.

The gig seemed to serve more as a testing ground than a best of set as Walken played five new songs, to my knowledge. “Twenty Twenty” was the next new song and after hearing and seeing the crowd’s reaction, I can say without a doubt that it will take off upon release. It was a punchy, funky number with a clear evolution from their previous material. There was a slight tuning blooper that was quickly laughed off and a freestyle rap verse while guitars were being swapped; two shows for the price of one. Even with the size of the crowd, I’d laughed at the fact that everyone had still cleared a path to the toilets, though you’d be crazy to walk away from this set.

As the set was beginning to wrap up, the crowd engagement and banter grew to a point of comedic; this was now the third show I’d gotten for the price of one. Two tracks, and fan favourites, from the band’s EP What’s Your Environment, closed us out. If you’re reading this, congratulations to the guy who guessed the last song as he won a fishing rod. “Unomi” came and went with some intimate swaying and “Eagle Eye” set us up for the rest of the night by just about shaking the walls down. It was received with a room full of praise and a surprising amount of dancing; myself included, it’s a great song. The wailing guitar solo was enough to bookmark that moment for me and I look forward to hearing the abundance of singles once they drop.

Between You and Me were up next for me and boy was I happy to report, the Crowbar balloons were back. They survived the night, although looked sheepishly new. Like the balloons, there was already a large gathering of fresh faced people downstairs waiting for the band. They were, by far, the biggest I had seen all festival. A few lost souls dance through the crowd as though they’re late, perhaps the bar queue was long again. As the opening few notes hit, the crowd managed to compact themselves efficiently; I was impressed and now able to breathe.

The band played “Move On” from their new album Everything is Temporary and they had grabbed me from there. It was followed by a big round of applause and the aforementioned crowd engagement. It was hard to tell at this point whether I was at a comedy night or a music festival but nobody seemed to care. “Cut Me Some Slack”, one of the band’s older songs was played and that had the crowd bouncing around. They had a nice melody that carried them along and really filled the room, like a spell they had cast over the audience.

“I’m having such a good time right now” one of the band members says to the audience, rest assured we were too. The banter was fun and thrown back and forth, the band recognised a few patrons who had come and gone to their shows in the past. It really shows you how humble and down to earth a lot of these acts are; being able to use their time in the spotlight to praise others. I have a lot of respect for that. Between You and Me finished up with an obvious fan favourite, “Dakota”. I say obvious because the venue erupted when the song kicked in. They really helped set the tone for night two and I could tell it was going to be a fun night that didn’t have to be taken too seriously.

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(Between You And Me @ Crowbar)

I had about twenty minutes to kill so I went up Brunswick Street to grab myself some pizza. BIGSOUND really went all out transforming the city into a playground, there were tentacles sticking out of buildings and giant heads attached to things. The biggest shock of all came when I saw a punter staggering around with the shrivelled corpses of Crowbar balloons hung from his belt. I wasn’t too sure if I still had an appetite but I managed to make short work of that New York Slice anyway.

Back at the Crowbar for my final set of the night, Windwaker were gearing up for a full on set. As they started, it was evident that they were the heavier band out of my lineup tonight but it wasn’t a deterrent. Windwaker weren’t waiting for anyone and went ahead with their thunderous start. Less than a minute in, the band had taken control of the audience and had them eating out of the palms of their hands. “Move up” the vocalist would cry, and they’d move up. “Bounce”, he’d say and you guessed it, they’d bounce. While this isn’t a big feat for a band at their own gig, coming to a festival with 150 other bands and getting that sort of respect, is a good effort.

With the walls shaking, people upstairs must have known something good was happening as it wasn’t long before the crowd began to grow. A lot of the bands warmed up and got a feel for the crowd but the same couldn’t be said for Windwaker as they hit us with a pretty gruesome breakdown minutes into the set. That incited the closest thing I saw to a mosh during BIGSOUND. There’s nothing wrong with that, I was just there for a good time too but Windwaker had fully gotten this audience and they weren’t stopping anytime soon.

Band members spotted some familiar faces from the night before and encouraged them to show the rest of us how they do it, Windwaker style. That handful of people really did show us too, I’m fully across Windwaker style now.

In my notes it just says, ‘another breakdown’ and that’s really no lie. The breakdowns were cold, hard and rattled my fillings loose. I loved it. The crowd loved it too, the band brought their raw sound and threw it around for thirty minutes without fault. They are much more impact over melody and it was a fine change of pace, it meant we got a little bit of everything from BIGSOUND Festival. Before they left, they played an unreleased track that I believe is titled “The Sitch”(?), as in the situation. It was a punchy fucking number and I’m very eager to hear it upon release. You know you’re doing something right, as Walken also had done, when you’re unreleased track has people jumping around.

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(Cast Down @ The Zoo)

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(Gravemind @ The Zoo)

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(Slowly Slowly @ Famous Nightclub)

Night 3:

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(Cast Down @ 256 Wickham)

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(Clews @ Famous Nightclub)

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(Gravemind @ 256 Wickham)

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(Sleep Talk @ 256 Wickham)

All in all, BIGSOUND Festival 2018 was a fantastic culmination of acts, wonderful venues as always and plenty of good people. I found a lot of bands to put in my daily playlists and had the pleasure of speaking with a lot of good people. You all know who you are and to those I didn’t get to see, I hope you all enjoyed BIGSOUND just as much. The ticket pays for itself within the first hour or two, so if you’re on the fence for next year, I would 100% say take the leap and come along. Maybe you’ll even catch me there.

See you next year, BIGSOUND!

[All photos courtesy of Rowan Donohue who is a legitimate madman/magician, managing to shoot all three BIGSOUND nights with one arm in a sling.]

 

Jack Walsh

A fan of music and an even bigger fan of his opinions, Jack Walsh is a resident content creator of Depth Magazine. He is currently studying a Creative Writing degree and hopes to someday be writing for Rolling Stone.

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