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Live Review: REVIEW: Highlights From BIGSOUND 2022 Night One

BIGSOUND 2022 returns in style!

(Pic by Dave Kan)

Kutcha Edwards pumps soul into the small little alcove of Blute’s, where a feeling of joy and intention surrounds his set. Sitting on a tall bar stool, he has unmatched energy. His song Singing Up Country has the crowd singing along to every word, making it a family affair that brings everyone closer together. Intersecting with the crowd and getting cheekier as the night goes on, he says, “My wife doesn’t like it when I swear so I won't fucking swear.” His ease in front of a crowd is welcoming and can only come from years of performing and honing his craft.

Heavy prog rockers The Atomic Beau Project have the daunting task tonight of being one of the first bands to kick off the showcase festivities. They power through an energetic and dynamic set from the get-go, ripping into punchy breakdowns reminiscent of Spiritbox, underscored by some spacey synths to enhance their unique electronica edge. Vocalist Emma Beau’s candy-sweet soprano vocals lend a strong pop punk flavour to the mix, and often-frenetic blast beats on the drums and driving riffs immerse us in a wall of sound that’s something of a cross between Poppy and Slayer. It’s not long before a crowd begins to gather at the foot of the stage, with infectious guitar grooves getting everyone moving and even moshing. Safe to say these innovative up-and-comers have transported us on a musical odyssey tonight and set a high standard for bands to follow. 

Kicking off the night at Black Bear Lodge is Chloe Dadd, a singer-songwriter from the South Coast known primarily for her audio engineering and production for others, including Courtney Barnett, Nick Littlemore, Jack Ladder and Lime Cordiale. Jumping into the limelight, Dadd treats the full bar to a string of unreleased indie rock tunes. She keeps the energy high throughout her set, with bandmates Ruby Boland and Isobel Rabbidge keeping up with ease. The bar is certainly set high for the rest of the night by Dadd and co!

Baby Cool’s hypnotising voice captivates everyone from the moment she starts her set, before her band bursts into a funky number with heavy bass and wavy guitar. Fans of ‘70s new age rock fall in love with the groovy feel that Baby Cool exudes and her new single Magic garners a large round of applause. The rest of her set cements her place in the pop/country space. Baby Cool has an effortless and authenticity rare seen in emerging acts.

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Performing as part of the triple j Unearthed showcase, duo Caroline & Claude bring their brand of fun pop music to The Warehouse. Their set is well-polished and gives them a chance to demonstrate their chemistry and coordination on stage. They hit the mark well, with the set flowing effortlessly as they alternate vocals and solos. A particularly poignant moment comes later in the set with a stripped-back offering that keeps the crowd in a trance. It’s clear that while big pop numbers are where the duo are most comfortable, they’ve also got the range to do so much more. 

Perth indie outfit Death By Denim, unfortunately, seem to encounter some tech issues, resulting in a notably late start to their set. Nevertheless, once they get going, they successfully set the psychedelic groove train back on course with their layers upon layers of ethereal synths, funky (and very prominent) bass, and abundant retro distortion effects on the vocals. The venue is packed out with a legion of fans who immediately start grooving along to the funky synthwave soundscape. The four piece’s single Caged introduces a dark and urgent edge, sprinkled with the band’s signature ‘80s video game synths. Even with their shorter set, Death By Denim deliver a sparkling performance, and their raucous crowd response indicates that their star will only continue to rise.

Sydney-based Hauskey mesmerises the crowd at The Loft with his meaningful pop tunes. Fresh off the release of his latest EP, Heartache & LSD: Act II, part two in a trilogy, he treats the crowd to some new material. Pegged as one to watch before Sydney’s lockdowns last year, this set made obvious that Hauskey’s trajectory is continuing up.

With three guitarists onstage (not including the bassist) it’s a tight fit on the Woolly Mammoth stage for Victorian farm rock band Bones & Jones, however, the boys don’t let that sway them from giving us one hell of a show. Their alt-rock and country roots are clear throughout the entire performance, their sound emulating a mix between The Black Keys and Willy Nelson as they deliver a new wave of country with progressive lyrics and an old-guard sound. The MVP of the night is the band’s harmonicist.

Walking into Summa House, we immediately feel the waves of Bumpy’s luminous, soulful tones wash over us like a luxurious musical waterfall. A proud Noongar artist, Bumpy’s brand of earthy funk-soul is imbued with the distinctive, unique threads of her cultural heritage. Bumpy herself croons away with dulcet, sweet vocals and maintains a strong, assertive stage presence. The addition of backing singers amplifies the gospel flavour to the music. Slower ballads in the set give Bumpy’s vocals the space to shine as she soars with some flawlessly executed R&B flourishes. Extended jazzy instrumental sections seem to infuse the air around us with palpable funk vibes as each member of the band showcases their technical prowess during solos. Bumpy has taken us on a vibrant sonic journey tonight that channels the spirit of First Nations culture and landscape in a compelling musical offering.

Jem Cassar-Daley’s voice soars above the crowd gathered at Blute's Bar. Performing as a trio, she proficiently flies through a tight set, highlighting her modern take on indie pop; a sound that would be at home on a much bigger stage. As Cassar-Daley wraps her set, there are murmurs from the crowd wishing she’d do one more song.

Adrian Dzvuke leaps onto the stage with an energy that BIGSOUND is craving. Technical difficulties throw Dzvuke off his game for the first song or two, but after getting into a groove, it is clear that he is well on his way to being an R&B king. With his smooth vocals and warm, intimate sound, he transports punters to what feels like a tropical island, with the hustle and bustle outside fading away.

Self-proclaimed “hippie country” sibling trio The Buckleys get off to a rollicking start on the Woolly Mammoth stage with a Southern swagger and powerhouse vocals. With guitarist Lachlan sporting a double-neck electric guitar, keyboardist Molly frequently swapping out synths for a mandolin, and lead vocalist Sarah’s rock energy as she belts catchy choruses while shredding on the bass, this troupe of utterly unique and innovative musicians really are showcasing the meaning of the term ‘multi-instrumental’. The pitch-perfect harmonies executed by Sarah and Molly enhance the retro vibes within the bright indie-country-rock soundscape. It’s such a fun performance delivered with sunny, joyful enthusiasm. Particular highlights include debut single Daydream and the spirited country bop Oops I Love You with its stunning guitar solo and charming disco beats.

One of the most anticipated artists at this year's BIGSOUND and across the country, BOY SODA takes to the open-air Summa House stage to perform one of the most well-organised and gorgeously sounding sets of the evening. Touted as an up-and-comer in Australia’s bubbling R&B space, BOY SODA proves on stage that he is a genre-bending virtuoso, performing mainly unreleased songs from his upcoming bodies of work. Between tracks he speaks candidly to the audience, urging them to move, whether a small shoulder roll or a bending of the knees he perfectly brakes the ice on what had been a timid BIGSOUND crowd. His set consists of golden falsettos that rain perfectly over glitchy rap cuts, glitzy soul and even some '70s funk. If his unreleased material and live performance is anything to go by, BOY SODA is guaranteed to be a superstar.

By the time South Summit take the stage at Blute’s Bar it is absolutely heaving, with punters trying their best to catch a glimpse of the rising Perth act. Even from the pavement, though, South Summit’s brand of rock is unmistakable. The five-piece rip through their set, keeping the crowd moving. Strong guitars and tight drums underpin their operation, demonstrating the band is well-versed in performing together.

Bud Rokesky puts a unique spin on the best of old-time country. With a slick ‘50s rock look, it’s surprising when he busts out the acoustic guitar and starts singing quintessential country. A newbie on the scene, the turnout to the set is great, with Rokesky already having some dedicated fans. His new single Love My Baby More is a crowd favourite and crooner vocals shone, lulling us into a country and blues bliss. Definitely one of the leading country stars on BIGSOUND night one. 

Newcomer Club Angel (real name Gabriel Espinosa) performs a stellar DJ set for those who make it down to EC Venue. Big beats are the order of the night, and Club Angel absolutely serves them up. The room is moving the whole time and it is clear why he has just landed a Willaris. K tour support slot.

flowerkid lives up to the hype. Fresh off two headline shows and a Splendour In The Grass make-up show, his live show is always something special. There are a few technical difficulties at Woolly Mammoth but that doesn’t the rising star from putting on a masterclass in heartfelt pop. Supported by an all-star band, it is easy to see why flowerkid is on a meteoric rise this year.

Even the very late hour doesn’t prevent a rowdy and supportive crowd of devoted fans from huddling around the stage at O’Skulligans for pop country crooner Melanie Dyer’s solo set. It’s just the talented singer and her acoustic guitar centre stage, but she fills the space with powerful, resonant vocals and sheer force of personality and natural charm. Confidently belting through her catalogue, Dyer almost immediately has the audience singing along joyfully to catchy tunes; particularly popular numbers that inspire a raucous crowd chorus are the cheeky Cheap Moscato and the blatantly Southern country Memphis On My Mind. Playing without a backing band tonight, Dyer announces she’s going to attempt to make her poppiest track Magic sound less country with the sole acoustic accompaniment, and she does an excellent job. Dyer effortlessly captivates the crowd and holds their attention with light banter, successfully creating an intimate setting in which to share in the uplifting music.

Rising Afro-Swing vocalist Big Skeez sends the night into undisputed party mode as he takes the stage at EC Venue. Still young in his performance career, Skeez warma into his set progressively song after song. His discography to date has conquered new frontiers of sound in Australia, utilising melodic afrobeat sounds and blending them with hip hop and R&B-inspired vocals, a match made in heaven for any live format. The set peaks as he performs his latest release, House Cheque, a collaboration with Sydney-based producer Human Movement, whose UKG rhythmic section sent the room into mayhem.

Sydney’s EGOISM had an impressive warm-up set on Monday night inside The Brightside, but those who make it to the venue tonight are treated to something even better on the outdoor stage. The duo is confident and strong on stage, bantering easily with the crowd and with each other. Their blend of pop and indie rock translates well into the live setting. EGOISM deliver the perfect soundtrack as it hits midnight.

It wouldn’t be BIGSOUND without a few secret shows! For those in the know (or savvy followers of the BIGSOUND Instagram account), The Brightside is the place to be for an intimate set by Brisbane’s Sycco. Fresh off Splendour In The Grass and a support slot for Glass Animals, her set is nothing but fun, while WAAX make a surprise appearance at The Zoo and Marlon Williams stuns fans at Black Bear Lodge, rounding out an absolutely BIG night one.