From Brisbane with Love: Larry Heath’s musical highlights from the best BIGSOUND ever

The few days we spend at BIGSOUND in Brisbane is best described as an annual escapade into a fine slice of the best in Australian music – a sample of what’s been round the traps recently, what’s returned after some time away and what’s coming next. Across the three nights of live music – two official showcase evenings branded as “Bigsound Live” and a special evening that preceded it – there were plenty of musical highlights for everyone involved. Here are just a fair few of mine.

An early highlight of my festivities were Melbourne rockers Apes, who smashed out a 1am opening night set at Crowbar, while still proving to be the highlight of the night. Their music just got more and more epic as the set continued. Way too under appreciated and way too solid for their own good.

On the first day of the conference, the incredible voice of Colin Lillie lit up the MusicNT party all the way from Alice Springs. I’d go so far as to call him the voice of the festival – and as good as his voice was, it was only made stronger by his musicianship and songwriting. Similar praise can be given to Thando, the Melbourne based Soul songstress who showed off her amazing vocal skills with some equally energetic backing vocalists. She knows how to get the party started with plenty of class. Learn more about her on her Facebook page – everyone need to get on board with this!

Thando is slaying The Zoo right now. What a vibe! What a voice! #bigsound16 #bigsound #AUxBigsound

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Ainslie Wills, meanwhile, is just too good to be playing BIGSOUND. She should be playing the City Recital Halls and Opera Houses of the world, instead of slumming it with us industry hooligans. Her music is perfect, and among the most world class you’ll hear at a festival like this. I don’t know how else to describe it. Being following by Leah Senior at The Foundry was a solid choice, her Celtic vibes were a welcome addition to the Bigsound experience.

The second and final night of BIGSOUND felt to be home of the buzziest bands to play the event. Among them was Mossy, who brought a bit of an MGMT vibe, with some jangly Modest Mouse esque riffs thrown in for good measure. With lead singer Jamie Timony also in the incredibly entertaining These New South Wales, you know you’re going to be in for a great live show, and that’s certainly what Mossy delivers.

Credit: Zakarij Kaczmarek
Credit: Zakarij Kaczmarek

Middle Kids were another of the buzz bands at the festival and absolutely packed out Oh Hello! – with terrible sight lines aside, it was a great set. Lead vocalist Hannah Joy proves a powerful talent, with the band crafting some clever songs. She reminded me of Fiona Apple at times – with that slight fragility but moments of total power. I loved when they scaled it back to just the piano too for that very reason. They certainly cemented their position as a band to watch here at BIGSOUND.

As a bit of an interlude here; I need to give a special shot out to the Singapore Sound System event, which had by and far the best food of any event at the festival. Those sliders and the haloumi with noodles were divine. It was fantastic to see the artists as well – I caught .gif and THELIONCITYBOY and they were both excellent – something I knew already from catching them in Singapore over the years! It would be great to see continuing interactions with BIGSOUND and the broader Asia region – given the growing market and opportunities for Australian and Asian artists alike.

Credit: Zakarij Kaczmarek
Credit: Zakarij Kaczmarek

If I had to pick a favourite set of the night though I’d have to give that accolade to Dorsal Fins. The nine piece brought an epic party to Ric’s Backyard, showing themselves to be a tighter and more seasoned unit than their last visit to the BIGSOUND stage. “Monday Tuesday” was a highlight of the set (an old favourite by now) and then they ended with a devastating jam. Great to see the band grow – I’d definitely make sure to keep a close eye on their movements over the year ahead. They feel poised for greatness.

It’s been many years since I last saw I Heart Hiroshima, and the sheer nostalgia of the set made it a highlight; it’s great to see them back amongst it – and they’re just as impressive live as ever. Susie Patten on drums and lead vocals didn’t miss a beat. They dedicated their last song to the OG IHH fans, as well as the outgoing station manager of 4ZZZ, “Your hard work is appreciated… We would never have been played on the radio if it wasn’t for 4ZZZ”. It was great too to see Tinpan Orange back on stage too. They two are one of Melbourne’s finest. Hopefully we’ll be hearing much more from both acts in the year ahead.

Helping close out the festival were DZ Deathrays, who finished things out at The Zoo. They’re far beyond the point of being a band who need to play an event like this, nor do you need a list like this to tell them that they’re good, but they were the perfect band to end official Bigsound Live proceedings for 2016, amplified only by the fact that they finished their set with a spectacular cover of the Beastie Boys classic “Sabotage”, aided by Ecca Vandal, whose set at The Brightside the night before was an easy highlight, with the artist providing herself to be at the top of the game, leaving us all wanting more.

And that was a feeling that stayed with me as I flew out of Brisbane on Friday night. Though I was totally destroyed physically, mentally and emotionally by the epic week, I wanted to experience more Australian live music. The few days at BIGSOUND only cemented my ongoing position that Australia has some of the best talent in the world. And I’d go far as to say that this year’s BIGSOUND offered the finest showcase of this they’ve ever put together.

Best BIGSOUND ever? I do think I need to give 2016 that title.

Header Image: Zakarij Kaczmarek.