Fortitude Valley scrubbed itself up for BIGSOUND once again this week, playing host to the music industry's most respected power players and most entertaining degenerates. Nash Johnston and James Pearson weigh in on the first night's highlights.
One of the more exciting BIGSOUND buzz bands this year was Sydney's Bloods, with set closer 'Into my Arms' no doubt partially accountable for the recent barrage of hype. It's a cracker of a song; catchy, immediately accessible and concise — Australian garage at its finest. The group are stoked to be onstage tonight and word is they've been running around the Judith Wright Centre all day with smiles on their dials that don't threaten to fade anytime soon. Keep an eye on these guys, they're a riot.
Regurgitator took to the Electric Playground stage as a three-piece of matching pink jumpsuits and proceeded into a proverbial thirty-minute hit-parade. Highlights included the driving 'Blood And Spunk' as opener, and a wildly received rendition of 'I will Lick your Asshole' that had the place — dare I say it — jumping. These guys are proven experts and despite the late timeslot allowing for a looser crowd (and they were loose), they could've captivated at any time or place. Don't fret everyone, Regurgitator have still got it.
Following official BIGSOUND proceedings, the party moved across to an over-crowded Alhambra Lounge for the (perhaps) one-off reunion of Philadelphia Grand Jury. The set included their signature cover of Jay Z's '99 Problems'; the brazen Berkfinger barrelled into the crowd to add further intensity to a venue already on the verge of boiling point. It was standing room only, but as the clock moved further into the morning hours the crowd began, fortunately, to thin out. Making way for a criminally short set for Jeremy Neale (we'll get to him tomorrow), then at 3am, King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard.
King Gizzard are currently one of the best live groups in the country. The Melbourne septet, including two drummers, provided the strongest set of the conference thus far. Unwaveringly confident, steely-eyed and ambitious, the group are a perfect example of solid vision meets dynamite execution. The group maintain an outstanding grasp of soft-loud dynamics, but are by no means limited to it, with a versatile repertoire of songs spanning three full-length albums to draw on. Their opener was lengthy, perhaps 20 minutes, and it's this kind of aspirant daring that elevates the group to the very top echelon of current Australian music.
For those who were there, am I right or what?
"I hope we don't die!" jokes Bloods guitarist Sweetie between songs. Sure, she's not being serious, but I can still understand why. Electric Playground is at capacity, yet as Bloods begin thrashing through their latest EP, Golden Fang, the room continues to stand stock-still. You get the feeling that there are some vultures in the audience — Bloods are fresh meat, and the record label bigwigs are swooping in to see if there's anything worth tasting. MC, Dirk and Sweetie seem to be onto this fact as well; no one has ever seen the band this restrained. Each distorted power chord still sounds like garage rock, but the band are clearly on their best behaviour. While I'd like to see them unwind and kick an amplifier (a broken amp, I'm not sure they could afford to kick a working one), Bloods have never sounded this polished. Dirk even manages a drum fill or two. Dirk's tops.
I run into BC Michaels during the (what can seem eternal) twenty minute interlude between bands. The Dune Rats drummer is smelling quite herbal, as are the rest of the DR contingent. As he wanders off backstage I quietly think to myself, will he be able to drum in this condition? 30 seconds into the set and I realise that BC Michaels has probably never drummed this well in his life. It's the BIGSOUND effect, perhaps. Everyone is on show; this isn't a festival, it's a museum exhibit with bands in glass cabinets. 'Red Light Green Light' and 'Fuck It' manage to get the crowd jumping, a colossal feat given the stony, concrete-footed reception Bloods were previously treated to. It helps that the band have managed to recruit Johnny from Children Collide on guitar; as a four-piece, the energy of this band is uncontainable. When the set ends I run outside and start high-fiving strangers furiously.
After another 14-hour delay between bands, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard prove that they are, indeed, one of the hairiest bands in the world. I couldn't actually see any faces on stage, just so much thrashing, sweat-clodden dreads of hair that it seemed as if the Kraken was playing guitar and Confucious had taken up bass. I can't remember any names of the songs King Gizzard played. Come to think of it, I couldn't distinguish one song from another. All I heard was one long, loud thread of distortion. It was nice though, like having tea with your gran while the house catches fire.
Electric Playground is at 5000% capacity by the time Bleeding Knees Club take the stage. The band aren't in a great mood; with more than two-dozen Facebook friends, you get the feeling that they're too cool for any of us. While the set feels more like a rehearsal than a whole-hearted stab at performing, the crowd still manages to lose its collective marbles. BKC's reception eventually drags them to a higher level. I did not know it was possible to crowd surf to the bar, and back again. For the record, it is. Bravo, gentlemen. Bravo.