By Samuel J. Fell.
Bigsound 2019: What, Why & Who To Listen To
“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench,” the quote goes, “a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.”
The quote, attributed to doctor of gonzo journalism Hunter S. Thompson, finishes with the tongue in cheek aside, “There’s also a negative side,” a playful observation on an industry Thompson wasn’t a part of, but the crooked excesses of which would no doubt have appealed.
What the music business is these days, and indeed, where it’s likely to head next, have changed dramatically over the years. Perhaps anyone not involved in an industry which has been running in Australia for over half a century might not concern themselves with the machinations of it all, but it’s a properly functioning music industry that lays the foundation for what is, of course, the most important part – the music itself.
This is what events like Brisbane’s Bigsound are all about. Running this year for the 18th time, Bigsound is where all facets of Australia’s music business meet to discuss productivity, navigate change, look to overcome barriers to growth and generally map out paths to the future. It’s a heady four days where one can barely get a word in edgeways, but it’s a necessity in a world that changes on a daily basis.
Among all the talk however, there’s music, plenty of music. This year, over 150 bands will showcase in various venues across Brisbane’s grungy-chic Fortitude Valley entertainment precinct, a small cross-section of music across a multitude of genres that defines what Australia is producing at the moment.
Open to members of the public, as well as conference delegates, the music is the big drawcard, and rightly so – this is why everyone is here, after all. And your tastes, no matter how catholic, are catered for, from metal and rock, to electronic, soul, hip hop, country, pop and jazz, and indeed, many points in between.
For the discerning Rhythms reader then, a handful of acts that will not only prove to entertain, but also to challenge and capture your imagination in ways not before thought possible, which is ultimately what loving music is all about.
It’s hard to believe Mojo Juju has been about for as long as she has, but what makes her still worth listening to is her constant evolution as an artist. Never shy about investigating change, Juju is a musical chameleon, based in roots but eager to bring to that base whatever is needed to move the song forward, to get the message across. And messaging is important – Juju is outspoken and articulate, a force within the industry, and one to constantly keep an eye on.
A self-described “Oriental cowgirl howling songs at the rising sun”, Jonze’s music is all dreamy swagger, her voice whirling above barbed-wire, gun-slinging guitar lines, strings adding to the mix a smokey texture that’d fit just as well into a Tarantino western as they would a Eurovision semi-final. There’s obviously a love of country music within Jonze, and a whole lot more besides, making for some serious potential.
Brisbane local Ruby Gilbert specialises in the melding of Australiana and Americana, twangy guitar with rockabilly undertone providing a bed for lyrical observations on a uniquely Australian life. Her voice is confident and powerful, which it needs to be in order to push this muscular, yet quite beautiful, music out and about – think Lindi Ortega or Abby May, and you’re in the ballpark.
Black Rock Band
Out of the west Arnhem area come Black Rock Band, a seven-piece incorporating “traditional and contemporary sounds with a steady rock style, singing in both Kunwinjku and English,” a powerful mix backed by a driving sound reminiscent of Australian pub rock at its free-wheeling best. It’s infectious, furious and in equal parts, tender, the telling of story at its heart. Some wailing guitar, tastefully placed, certainly does not go astray either.
Bigsound runs from September 3-6 in Brisbane. Visit https://www.bigsound.org.au for more details.