BIGSOUND 2023: Four artists defining Australia’s next wave of Pop

Now, let me confess something: I’ve always avoided Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. It’s not that I don’t appreciate its charm – I really do, but I would much rather stay within the confines of my super secret sanctuary (a.k.a my rented bedroom). My appearances in the Valley are like a supermoon – rare and unusual, but when they do happen, you can bet it’s going to be a memorable night out. 

As BIGSOUND 2023 came roaring to life, boasting an impressive lineup of Australian artists set to perform across three exhilarating nights, resisting its musical allure was harder than turning down a free sample tray at Costco. The magnetic pull of the annual music festival is undeniable, with 18 trendy venues, a smorgasbord of bands and an eclectic mix of genres that could make even the most seasoned music enthusiast feel like a kid in a candy store. 

And so, I found myself being drawn to the siren calls of Australia’s next generation of musicians – particularly the plethora of pop artists BIGSOUND 2023 has brought to the forefront. 

Joan & the Giants 

Joan & the Giants radiates an infectious enthusiasm from the get-go. They’re in their own world as they open with “Wolves”, but audiences are immediately drawn in as lead singer Grace Newton-Wordsworth commands The Outpost Bar stage with an irresistible presence. Adorned in a striking red flowy dress cinched with a sleek black belt, she weaves her raw emotions seamlessly into every note she sings while prancing around barefoot on stage. This harmonious ensemble echoes the band’s distinctive blend of alternative-pop music, fusing emotional lyricism with a sprinkle of Florence and the Machine’s edginess. 

Their rendition of “The Weekend” earns a few cheers from the crowd – which only doubled in size as the setlist progressed – with lyrics peeking into Grace’s intimate thoughts and the background beats from her bandmates amplifying its emotional resonance.

“Who here has been heartbroken?” Grace asks, before the band launches into “Sleep Alone”. The crowd breaks out into laughter at the sea of raised hands – myself included – as we realise we’ve all been through our “heartbreak era”. 

The band comes into full focus as they bring their performance to a close with “Bloodstream”. Drummer Riley Sutton radiates sheer joy, bassist Liam Olsen exudes a calm coolness while guitarist Aaron Birch plays with an unrivalled passion. Different emotions, but all in perfect harmony with Grace as the cherry on top. 


When Yorke takes the stage to perform a set of eight songs, audiences are immediately transported into a cinematic universe – and it’s not just because she kicks off her set list with “if this was a movie”. There is a youthful vigour coursing through her music, perfectly capturing the experiences of a “teenage girl in her twenties”. Her songs are vulnerable, tender and a beautiful hybrid between Gracie Abrams and Olivia Rodrigo. 

The Byron Bay artist embarks on a journey from past to present, revisiting nostalgic gems like “Thought I Could” alongside tracks from her recent EP ten feet tall. In a delightful surprise, Yorke treats the crowd to “your favourite flowers” and love on the run”, two unreleased songs which feel like scenes straight out of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. 

Yorke’s connection with the crowd is palpable, inviting them to dance with her as she belts out to “window shopping”. The atmosphere morphs into a massive slumber party, with everyone jumping and singing into imaginary microphones in one giant bedroom. 

If you’re a hopeless romantic seeking solace in makeshift worlds, Yorke’s music will serve as a heartfelt letter to the growing pains of being in love. 


If teenage rebellion could be personified, it might just take on the form of FELONY. Despite being only 17 years old, she has injected a refreshing perspective to the pop music genre with

songs that represent a personal expression of adolescence. Her performance is like a mischievous wink with a daring invitation, and the words Revolution emblazoned on her mint green electric guitar only adds to the intrigue. Once she strikes the opening chords to “Your New Girl”, you’ll be torn between nodding along to its catchy tune or sparking a rebellion yourself. 

As FELONY. switches from one angsty song to another, it’s hard to dismiss the the turmoil and thrill of youth attached to her lyrics. A born entertainer who seemingly slips into a trance-like state when she sings, FELONY. channels the charisma of Lindsay Lohan’s Anna in “Freaky Friday”. Watching her perform feels like you’re sitting in your best friend’s garage after school, jamming out with her bandmates. 

“This is probably the most controversial song I’ve written about my life,” she says, surprising the crowd with an unreleased track called “So Long”. Before the hip-swaying and head-bopping commences, FELONY. yells a quick shoutout to her mum in the audience. Even then, she never once shied away from having a good time on stage. 

smol fish 

With a whimsical name like smol fish, the all-female indie-pop band from Perth bring audiences on an eccentric musical voyage at the Stranded Bar. They plunge headfirst into “This is not a love song”, setting the tone for their performance that felt akin to frolicking in an open flower field. Their music has a way of whisking you into a dreamland where the sun shines a little brighter, showcasing songs such as “Sad Girl Summer” and “Like a Lemon” which capture the playful instrumentals paired with witty lyrics. 

There is a strong synergy between its members – Clancy Davidson, Hannah Coakley, Cat Zoller and Josie Offer – that translates into a harmonious interplay of vocals, bass and Cat’s iconic egg shaker. A standout moment unfolds from their rendition of “Cry All the Time”, with Clancy and Hannah screaming “I wish that I did not cry all the time!” into each other’s faces towards the end. The epitome of female rage.

And even if you choose not to have screaming matches with your friends, smol fish is still the ideal musical backdrop for all your “hot girl walks” in summer.


This feature has been published as part of The Music Writer’s Lab initiative, developed between MusicNT and Australia Council for The Arts. For more information, visit