Breaking Down The Best Of BIGSOUND '17
Over four days and nights I found myself falling in love with the Fortitude Valley, freaking out over the quality of the Australian music industry and fearing when that hangover would finally hit. Now that the immense feeling of impending death has subsided and I've had time to wrap my head around just what I saw, I bring you my top 5 acts of BIGSOUND '17...
In the scorching Brisbane heat, in the middle of a Thursday afternoon Zaachariaha Fielding and Michael Ross pushed an industry only crowd to every extreme of the emotional spectrum: pure joy, laughter, awe and literal tears. No mere feat, nor one to be repeated throughout the rest of the festival. Without the assistance of excessive alcohol, a heaving dance floor atmosphere or huge stage production this beautifully powerful group broke down the guards and drew out a uniquely human experience from a crowd of people whose bread and butter is made in music. Fielding is a force to be reckoned with, possessing the single greatest live voice I have ever experienced; a combination of sheer power and unguarded frailty switched frequently between English and the traditional language of the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara people. This act is something truly special.
Stella Donnelly walked away from BIGSOUND '17 with $25,000 in her back pocket for a good reason; graciously accepting the inaugural Levi's Music Prize on behalf of all women working in the music industry. Standing alone with two guitars on the Oh Hello! stage Stella Donnelly set about carving herself a statue ten foot tall. A testament to the power of song, at times hilarious and others heartbreaking. Latest single Boys Will Be Boys silenced and slapped the crowd with arguably the most powerful moment of the entire festival.
It's probably the laziest comparison possible to make when talking about Alex The Astronaut, given she references him in songs and covered him on Triple J's Likeaversion, but the bow to draw between Alex The Astronaut and Paul Kelly is a short one. Awkward, unassuming and able to find magic in the same four chords we all fumbled through in high school, Alex The Astronaut emerges as a wholly unifying figure in the modern Australian music conscious. Songs that cut to the core of relatability, strung on undeniable melodies and carried on narratives that either hit like a hammer or embrace you like a hug. Alex The Astronaut stood, sung and cried with a crowd that adored her as much as she adored them through a set that no-one will soon forget.
There is no band in the world like PARTY DOZEN. Nothing comes close to and nothing compares to the intensity these two remarkable musicians bring when they go to war with each other. Jonathan Boulet's cool, collected and controlled chaos behind the drumkit launches Kirsty Tickle's warped saxophone directly into you in an utterly confronting non-conformist musical assault. Half the crowd attempted to dance, half the crowd stood frozen almost in shock; yet everyone left in a dazed, happy confusion. PARTY DOZEN produced the most challenging and rewarding set of my BIGSOUND '17 experience if not my year.
Their debut EP Alive was the first thing I ever wrote about on this blog and has been a constant musical comfort for me since it's release, so my expectations for nyck were set high. Unsurprisingly those expectations were set nowhere near high enough. Built out to a full five piece band, including the remarkable-in-his-own-right Hayden Calnin on guitar, nyck brought Black Bear Lodge to a standstill. Performing a humblingly honest set that soared on the back of the beautifully natural harmonies between Nick Acquroff and Dom Garrard and ended far too soon.