After the first night of BIGSOUND Live rocked the collective socks off an unsuspecting populace, could the second night possibly live up to its memory? James Pearson, Daniel Wynne and Nash Johnston rate the second leg of Australia's best music conference.
The line to get inside Black Bear Lodge snakes its way down the Valley mall; standing at the entrance, I still can't see the end. A few punters hypothesise that it's because Megan Washington is playing later, but personally I think it's because these people want to hear Thelma Plum drop the F-bomb. How does she get away with that? Watching her sway her way through 'Around Here' it's easy to see why. Plum is perhaps BIGSOUND's most unassuming artist, and it's not through charisma that she holds this crowd's attention. There is some prime talent on display; every note Plum sings is exactly where she wanted it to be. Expect some big contractual movement after this performance.
Megan Washington needs no introduction around these parts. There's a surge to the front as she takes the stage of equal parts blonde schoolgirls with fake IDs and old men that seem to have snuck out of a retirement community. Washington doesn't so much launch into 'How To Tame Lions' as she does ease into it like a bath of warm, soapy bubbles. Unlike so many other acts that have been and gone over the last two days, the songstress is completely at ease. Thirty minutes breezes by, and even Megan's keyboard is smiling by the end. Megan, if you're reading this, let's get brunch sometime.
By the time Jeremy Neale takes the Black Bear Lodge podium, his quasi-bandmates DZ Deathrays have almost polished off a secret show across the road. This hasn't diminished the crowd though; a surging mass of hair, sweat and spilled beer awaits the Jeremy Neale Comedy Extravanganza (Now with Music). As Jeremy wheels out his usual (can I say usual?) catalogue, songs like 'In Stranger Times' and 'A Love Affair To Keep You There' leave you feeling torn. A small part of you is stubborn, and longs for the rest of Velociraptor to join Jeremy on stage. The rest of you, however, thinks that this is actually pretty awesome.
I will never be as cool as, dress as suavely as, or fight as well as Jeremy Neale. Post-BIGSOUND, I think I'm starting to come to terms with that.
The second night of BIGSOUND Live once again offered something for everyone with a dizzying mix of artists and genres. Gossling and her band appeared early at Black Bear Lodge and performed a restrained yet moody set on a stage lit by shining yellow lights. Switching between guitar and keyboard, the singer-songwriter played both crowd favourites like the single 'Wild Love' and new ballads from her upcoming album. It was a solid set with the most exciting aspect being the chance to hear what she has planned for the future.
One of the best and most exciting acts of the night was definitely North Coast band Mt. Warning. Combining heavy yet melodic rock with ambient electronic elements, their set was made all the more hypnotic by frontman Mikey B’s personal, evocative lyrics and filmmaker Taylor Steele’s arresting stage visuals. The climactic end featured an epic, soaring performance of ‘Youth Bird’ and Mikey B jumping into the crowd and starting a moshpit. To call them a band worth paying attention to doesn’t do them justice. Once they get started it’s almost impossible to tear yourself away.
Sydney’s Bed Wettin’ Bad Boys, who are worth it for the name alone, kept a packed house at Rics thoroughly entertained with their particular brand of fuzzed-out power-pop. They were a lot of fun and it’s easy to see why Triple J loves them.
On the local front, the very soulful Nat Dunn and her band thrilled the crowd at Coniston Lane with their retro-pop stylings. Dunn has a powerful diva-ish voice that lends itself well to big love ballads and the collection of tracks she showcased kept everyone in high spirits. One highlight was her “song about mates”, the highly enjoyable ‘Mango Tree’.
For some, the second night of BIGSOUND guaranteed to be a slightly subdued affair following the sheer magnitude of the previous evening, and Rainbow Chan at Electric Playground seemed the perfect choice to bring it in. The Sydney songstress looped and sampled her way through dream-pop rhythms and calypso melodies, and at times channelled a kind of fluid, free-spirited Natasha Khan-esque flair that was enormously captivating to watch. She produced a saxophone at one point (which she kept handy for Jeremy Neale later on) and welcomed an MC in fluro for a surprising touch of variety near the end. Rainbow comes highly recommended.
On a whim, Saidah Baba Talibah at The Zoo followed. The Canadian group opened with some audacious funk, unabashed and flashy, and had they continued with it they would've brought the place to its knees. Instead, political banter and slow numbers soliciting revolution marred the set. Still, it's hard to entirely disapprove of a group that includes a spontaneous drum solo, plus, one of the members looked like she'd walked onstage after hanging with Santana, circa 1970; afro, tassels, beads and bands — it was wild.
The winding line into Bakery Lane for John Steel Singers — who've generated considerable hype following a solid new single and 'comeback' of sorts — was a minor blow, and after 15 minutes of idle queuing it was time to move on.
An elated and slightly intoxicated Dom Alessio welcomed Bored Nothing onto the Triple J Unearthed Stage at Oh Hello. The group played to a moderately sized, slightly unenthusiastic crowd, and Fergus Miller's detached demeanour didn't seem to help the general sense of disinterest in the room. The material is good but performance lacks spark, unfortunately.
Finally, it was over to Black Bear Lodge for Brisbane's favourite, Jeremy Neale. The man has had an outstanding year; QMA award, Laneway Festival, an exhausting national tour schedule; and tonight he's looking sharper than ever. Liam Campbell broke the whammy bar off his guitar a couple of songs in – no easy feat – and this unexpected incident helped distinguish the set as something extraordinary.
Jeremy welcomed various Brisbane notables onto the stage for 'In Stranger Times'; and his self-proclaimed hit-parade, including the all-time classic 'Darlin', sounded better than ever. The performance was just further demonstration that this guy... Could go... All... The.. Way...