"Despite their playful bluster, the band seem humbled by the enthusiastic reception this evening."
Down below the street level, underground, there’s a rave happening at The Warehouse. It may only be just after 8pm in the evening, but Holliday Howe is bringing third-Mountain-Dew energy to the small crowd gathered in front of the stage. With a giant LED screen behind her, and wearing a blue skirt with the words ‘main character’ emblazoned in yellow all caps across the front, the Sydney-based singer-songwriter and producer’s music knowingly collapses distinctions between online and offline life. This collision of the natural and the artificial informs not only the electronic sounds of Howe’s hyperpop, but also its subject matter; in Howe’s songs, the real world, the online world, and the world of dreams are indistinguishable from one another. As is true of all good pop music, themes of connection and disconnection are at the heart of Howe’s songwriting – and it feels a shame to have this connection severed as the set comes to a close.
It’s one of the earliest sets for the final night of the showcase, but a huge crowd has already gathered for the super-hyped alt-hardcore act from Melbourne, Future Static. Dominating the stage with a frenzy of high-octane melodic hardcore, the five piece explode with an enormous presence for such a small venue. The sheer force of their thunderous double kicks, crushing breakdowns, and colossal vocals is electrifying. The members themselves thrash around with so much energy that it’s equally exhausting and exhilarating to watch them. The quintet coasts through some technical issues like champions, with one of the guitarists temporarily taking over on vocals when vocalist Amariah Cook’s mic dies, and they barely break a sweat. These newcomers came prepared tonight, and with a performance as powerful as this, they’ve definitely lived up to the hype, and then some.
A small but dedicated crowd fills the front of the stage at Tomcat as Eastbound Buzz take to the stage. The Melbourne natives shine in the dimly lit space, and lead singer Jarryn Phegan’s voice is steady as they move through each number. Big choruses define this band and their comradery is infectious. Before leaving the stage, they tease new music is on the horizon, and it can't come soon enough for all of those in attendance.
Up at the Woolly Mammoth Mane Stage, Beckah Amani holds the attention of the crowded room with a humility and quiet generosity that is striking. She sings not just with clarity of voice in a musical sense, but also in a rhetorical sense; her songs are clear-sighted and resolute, embodying dignified self-worth and championing equality. “I’m beyond what they think of me / I’m not changing for nobody,” the Tanzania-born, Australia-raised singer-songwriter proclaims during Standards, accompanied by acoustic guitar. In her plainspoken and direct manner, she is unfailingly resolute. However, Amani’s elastic vocal range creates the opportunity for her to voice multiple shifts in perspective within her songs, and her steadfastness is often compellingly contrasted with a vulnerability that is expressed musically through moments of falsetto – such as the chorus of I Don’t Know Why I Don’t Leave You. Her songs subsequently possess a dialectic quality, addressing the push and pull of thesis and antithesis, with the eventual emergence of resolution: “You’re more than enough,” she sings at the conclusion of Lebka Leka. Evidently, there is no doubt that the same is true of herself, too.
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Melbourne’s glamorous pop princess Sappho begins her set brimming with theatricality, clutching a magazine over her face with bejewelled gloves as she begins to croon before a troupe of backup dancers bound onto the stage. What follows is a true spectacle. A gorgeous hybrid of music and dance unfolds as Sappho joins in on the elaborate choreography, channelling '80s aerobics video meets summer pool party. Sappho’s bubblegum brand of indie pop infuses flavours of Spice Girls and Britney Spears with an occasional funk twist of chunky bass thrown into the mix. Sappho dances with such unbridled ecstasy in what feels like a jubilant celebration of life and womanhood, spotlighted especially by the lyrical content of her songs, culminating to a completely committed performance overall.
Ayesha Madon is keen to make a lasting impression at Prohibition, kicking things off with Outside Of The Party. It’s Madon’s humour that really cuts through during the set and new track Goldfish wins over new fans while treating those who have already had it on repeat since its recent release. With a starring role in Heartbreak High just around the corner, you can expect to see and hear a lot more of Ayesha Madon.
June Jones is about to change the game. The songs she performs in Ric’s Backyard tonight are all from her upcoming album, Pop Music For Normal Women, her third record as a solo artist. These songs from the Naarm/Melbourne-based singer-songwriter are an exploration of not just Jones’ identity as a neurodivergent trans woman, but more broadly of the concept of identity in general. Jones sings about the human desire to be a machine (Motorcycle), the need for a little bit of hell inside of heaven (Goblin Mode), and the ease with which one can easily confuse insecurity with extroversion (Extrovert). Her writing seems to acknowledge that while embracing the fluidity of identity is one path to self-actualisation, a person’s sense of self is nonetheless deeply mysterious – and somewhat absurd. “Never really figured out which one was the real me,” Jones sings during Gamer. Towards the end of the song, in a remarkable moment of epizeuxis, Jones repeats the word “gamer” until it, too, becomes a series of sounds that merely evoke and gesture at meaning, signifying something that ultimately eludes representation. Normal people may not exist, but June Jones’ pop music thankfully does.
An intimate venue like Blute’s Bar is the perfect setting to revel in the dulcet tones of Kee’ahn - the soulful artist from Kuku Yalanji, Jirrbal and Zenadth Kes country. The audience is welcomed into a precious moment as the powerhouse vocalist tells us the stories of her country and her people throughout the course of her immersive setlist. There’s a distinct reggae flavour embedded within Kee’ahn’s funk roots sound that intertwines with her lyrical pleas for peace. Overall, the band demonstrates great diversity in their songwriting, delivering poignant ballads and grooving, gospel-infused funk numbers with an effortless confidence. Kee’ahn belts through intricate vocal passages with a mature expertise beyond her years, and by the end of the set, the crowd envelops the band in an eruption of resounding applause.
Apparently, a friend of the band has described Melaleuca’s sound as something you would hear a band play on the rooftop of the high school in 10 Things I Hate About You. While this description is rude (this is Letters To Cleo erasure, honestly), it is not inaccurate. Following in the footsteps of their nineties musical forerunners, Melaleuca are, somewhat ironically, hell-bent on selling out. Performing out the back of The Prince Consort Hotel, the Meanjin/Brisbane four-piece play in front of a giant ‘Melaleuca Worldwide’ logo, written in a steely font with flames flickering in the background. The band’s songs – as indicated by the reference to native Australian plants in their botanical band name – are parochial and modest in their scope and focus, parsing the pedestrian moments that comprise their day-to-day lives. However, the band seem aware that the universal is often found in the specific, as songwriters Jane Millroy and Andy Francis’ sharp-edged guitar riffs wring out cathartic pathos from amidst a backdrop of the ennui and neurosis. Despite their playful bluster, the band seem humbled by the enthusiastic reception this evening.
The Wolfe Brothers own The Outpost with modern country vibes that instantly connect. Fans throughout sing every word while brothers Nick and Tom Wolfe unleash one of the tightest sets of the festival. One of BIGSOUND’s goals in 2022 was to focus more heavily on country music and tonight’s set from The Wolfe Brothers will no doubt see many in attendance take a closer look at what the genre has to offer.
The sense of exclusivity and mass popularity to BLOODMOON’s showcase at The Warehouse seems unparalleled; a long line of people snakes down McLachlan Street in anticipation of the Temper Trap frontman’s performance. However, it soon becomes apparent that the hold up getting patrons inside the venue is simply due to the slow process of scanning identifications that many licensed venues have a legislated requirement to operate after 10pm. Nonetheless, once inside the two-tiered performance space, it is immediately apparent that Dougy Mandagi is an inimitable figure in the Australian music scene – and that, while The Temper Trap have been on hiatus since 2016 – he is moving from strength to strength. The songs he performs tonight, from his recent electronic release, Giving Up Air, are full of the familiar hope and yearning that characterise his best work. And while he performs Sweet Disposition second-to-last in the set, it is the breathtaking, cloud-parting chorus of Disarm, afterwards – where Mandagi seems to be singing about this promising and precarious moment in his career – that steals the show.
Our immediate impression of Adelaide pop rock sister trio Germein is that they are a ray of sunshine that has burst forth to keep us moving and grooving as the showcase proceedings draw to a close. Despite the late hour, the effervescent sisters barrel through an infectiously catchy set with unparalleled levels of joyful energy. It’s impossible not to dance along to these upbeat pop ditties, blending the brightness of pop and the tenderness of heartfelt ballads. Guitarist Georgia impresses us with her jaw-dropping belts, bolstered by a bed of pitch-perfect harmonies from her sibling counterparts. Georgia even hops on the keys for a brief stint during their powerful new single Good For A Girl. The band really look like they’re having a ball, and it’s the perfect injection of pep and pizzazz that we need at this hour of the night.
Eclectic hip hop head-turner KANADA THE LOOP steps out to a crowd of avid fans eagerly gathering at the stage. Despite numerous tech issues and a late start to the set, KANADA THE LOOP launches ahead full throttle and manages to reignite the audience for a power-packed party-starter. Delivering an energetic performance oozing with charisma, passion and full body-buzzing beats, KANADA THE LOOP’s infectious spirit makes it near impossible not to jump along. Rounding out the night with a much-needed recharge, KANADA THE LOOP definitely brought a last hurrah of freshness and fun to the night’s showcases, and to the end of the mind-blowing live music mammoth that was BIGSOUND 2022.