BigSound 2017: Day 2 – When Lonelyspeck plays, the world melts away

Posted on: Thu 7 Sep 2017

Our Music Director Luke Penman is in Brisbane for BigSound – Australia’s biggest music industry conference – and will be checking in over the next few days.

Here’s his wrap of Day 2:

I’m heading back to The Brighton for the Tassie Music showcase. Violet Swells are playing a 20-minute set and I’m running late. Their latest EP was our Feature Album early this year and I thought I’d never get the chance to see them. I can hear they’re playing Infinity In Your Eyes, my favourite from the EP. I’m in such a rush that I get halfway to the stage before I realise that the lady on the gate was asking to see my conference pass. I pull it out of my pocket and run back to apologise, flash my pass and get back in time to see the last 30 seconds of the song.

I really love their EP but this performance feels incomplete. Midday probably isn’t the right time for an outdoor synthy-space-psych gig. Have it in the dark, add in some lasers and projections and it’d be perfect.

The gender diversity posters that Listen put up yesterday are still here, which is great to see.

Over to Ric’s and we’re hanging in a gigantic beer garden. The weather is absolutely perfect this week. In the mid-20s every day.

These things are hell for a reformed smoker. Everywhere you go, everyone’s lighting up, but you can’t walk away or you miss the chats.

Confidence Man are in line for drinks and I wonder what their conference has been like. How many people are trying to offer them a deal? How many of those deals are even remotely worth their time?

Donny Benét is wearing an Akubra and, like I imagine everything does, it suits him impeccably.

I haven’t been to any conference panels yet. It’s 3:30 and the conference is already pretty much over for today.

Electric Fields are here. I wish they were showcasing. They’d blow everyone away. Maybe next year. I hear a rumour of a gigantic upcoming opportunity for them. Hopefully it comes through.

Tia Gostelow is on stage. “We’re done… oh no, wait we’ve got five more minutes? OK, well this song is my latest single.” Lucky. Timing is everything at these showcases. Best to not leave your strongest song till last as you may get bumped for running late.

Sharni Honor jumps on the decks and drops Missy Elliott’s “Get Ur Freak On”. A room full of people hungry for new Australian music can’t stop their heads from bobbing in time.

I’m getting a slice of pizza and they’ve got the radio on. They’re talking about a plastic bag ban and drink container deposit scheme that will soon be introduced. A promo for tomorrow’s show says, “there’s nothing worse than running into your current partner’s ex!” I mean, being dragged into a nuclear war with North Korea would probably be worse, and is a thing that could actually happen any day now, but sure let’s re-tread those same tropes. I imagine the tagline is ‘100% relatable conversations and music you’ve heard a million times before!’

A Chainsmokers song comes on just in time for me to leave.

A bit of time to kill before tonight’s showcases begin so it’s back to the hotel to charge my phone and try to ride out the seventh or eighth anxiety attack for the day. It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of Adelaide and forget just how big this whole Music Business™ thing is. It’s as intimidating as it is inspiring. I try to nap. It doesn’t work.

My iPhone cable is getting that all-too-familiar kink in it. It’ll probably stop working soon. I swear I’ll investigate Android phones next time purely because Lightning cable prices are bullshit. I probably won’t.

I convince myself that my stomach being tied in knots isn’t only due to mental health: I’ve pretty much only eaten pizza and burgers in the past 48 hours. I could probably do with something a bit cleaner.

Beach Burrito has salads. Short of wandering around all night, this looks like my best bet. There’s signs all over for the CrowdDJ app, letting anyone select songs to play. No-one else is using it, so I load up Heaps Good Friends and Tkay Maidza.

This salad is so good.

I start to relax, but not by much. Every fibre of my being is telling me to go curl up in bed and dwell on negative thoughts all night. I remember that I had a coffee before going back to the hotel room. I’ve had some idea that caffeine might trigger my anxiety for a while now. This is pretty good confirmation of that. I guess that’s the last coffee I’ll ever have.

Mama Kin Spender are playing across the road. I only listened to their single the other day and regretted not having done so earlier. I head inside and all my anxieties disappear in seconds. There’s a 16-piece choir on stage. The music is joyous and there’s so much love reflected between the performers and audience, it’s impossible to not get swept up. My heart is lighter. I’m back already.

Mama Kin has a bass drum behind her, with her heel on the pedal. A snare drum to her left and a shaker in her right hand. She’s playing all at once while belting out flawless vocals. Surely they’ll be at WOMADelaide next year.

Down to the basement TBC club and oh man I’ve only just realised “TBC Club” probably stands for “The Basement Club”.

Lonelyspeck starts and the world melts away. The bar clangs and people talk but it barely registers as background noise to the crowd watching Lonelyspeck perform. The room sways in time to the beat and erupts with applause after each final note has finished ringing out. These performances are open to the public and there’s definitely a few punters here who are big Lonelyspeck fans.

There’s three stalls in the Men’s toilet here. The first has no door. The second has a door but no seat and the cistern has been destroyed. Who does this? It’s such a dog act. “Don’t break stuff” is, like, #2 on the list of what you can do to help local music venues. This stuff often goes unfixed for ages and it lowers the experience of everyone else who visits the venue. It’s far too often the case everywhere, and obviously expensive as hell to fix.

I get to Caiti Baker in time to hear Make Your Own Mistakes. I can’t see any horns on-stage but I can hear them. They might be on a backing track. Baker makes up for it by singing the bugle outro to the song note-for-note, pitch-perfect. My jaw hits the floor.

Over to Woolly Mammoth for Taj Ralph and they have a craft beer bar. I wasn’t expecting to drink any sour beer this week, but here we are. Wayward Sourpuss. Definitely sour, but a bit flat. 3.5/5.

Upstairs Taj Ralph is killing it all on his own. A loop pedal artist similar to Tash Sultana, but a lot more funk than reggae. He’s absolutely owning the room. He’s still in high school. He’s got better guitar and mic technique than artists twice his age. He performs with such confidence, it’s like he’s played a thousand gigs already. He’s going to be huge.

“This is my first BigSound,” he informs us. “I can’t get into most of the venues because I’m underage.”

Next door at Oh, Hello, Muto casually drops a Lorde remix. Unsurprisingly, the crowd loves it. He must have played In The Fog already as his last song is his latest single Say Nothing which sees him doing little more than twiddling a couple of EQ knobs as far as I can tell. It’s a great tune and the crowd are loving it but I’d like to see a bit more happening.

At risk of being labelled a cranky old coot: young electronic artists could stand to learn a thing or two from Mama Kin.

Earlier in the day I cried while watching a video about Tim and Sam from Cub Sport falling in love and reconciling being gay with their strict religious upbringings. I’m back at The Brightside again for their set. Tim’s wearing a shirt that says “Why be racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic when you could just be quiet?” No doubt many in the crowd are acutely aware of the fact that the High Court will tomorrow decide whether or not to allow the postal survey on marriage equality.

Their performance of “Oh Lord” brings the hundreds-strong crowd to tears.

I follow some friends inside for POW! Negro. “The idea of what we call ‘man’… is f*cked up.” Gender identity is a somewhat common theme this year, and a great reminder that music is always progressive.

It’s packed in here. This must be amazing for the local economy. It’s probably their busiest nights for the year and it’s not even the weekend.

I remember that Joel from Wolf & Cub told me to see Party Dozen tonight. It’s too late for me to get there. Damn it.

Ray from West Thebarton buys me a beer. They’ve had a few meetings, particularly with record labels. “It’s funny,” he says. “They all don’t want to change anything. I thought labels were supposed to tell you to change everything!”

“I wondered that with Taj Ralph,” I say. “He’s a good looking kid and a great singer. He could easily win a TV contest, but would the Major Label Machine tell him to sing other peoples’ songs and stop playing guitar? Would they strip away everything that makes him unique and exciting to make him fit the mold?”

Ray lights a cigarette.

I start to think maybe it’s a good idea for me to ask if I can have one.

That means it’s time to go before I do.

Luke Penman

Other stories