My third BIGSOUND brought with it some definite highlights, from corners I wasn’t expecting. There was a solid hip hop presence at this year’s festival, striking an instant contrast between the hard hitting MC’s and the usual fare of bands taking up on stages throughout the Valley. A main take away I came away from BIGSOUND with was the level of talent coming out of Brisbane and its surrounds itself – there’s a melting pot of talent in this city and particularly with its burgeoning hip hop scene, there’s no better time to be turning our attention to the Sunshine State.
Let’s start with the hip hop portion of the program – I don’t think I can remember being at BIGSOUND where the hip hop artists were given so much (deserved) room in the spotlight. The young artists who came to play certainly didn’t waste their time on stage and struck up a flame early on in the showcase series that would continue to burn. From the confidence of Jesswar and Midas.Gold, through to the reception Manu Crook$ brought to his stage at Oh Hello! it was made incredibly evident that the future of Australian hip hop is in very good hands.
Particularly in the case of Manu Crook$ – there is no surprise that he has been hitting large stages in support of some heavy international talent. Watching him work a stage, you’re left wondering how long it’s going to take before Manu Crook$ becomes and internationally renowned name. Jesswar is the latest artist to come into the Golden Era Records fold and even if it’s just a distro deal she’s recently signed, the GE crew know talent when they see it. We championed her stuff last year but BIGSOUND was the first proper opportunity we had to see Jesswar sling on stage – with the swag and flow of an artist with years’ more experience in the bag, the QLD artist had the confidence behind her lyrics showing in spades.
Midas.Gold may have had a diminished voice by the time his Ric’s Backyard set came round on Thursday but it didn’t stop him and GALLVS from getting the crowd gathered suitably turnt. Much like Manu Crook$, Midas.Gold has got that distinctly LA vibe about his music that would easily fit into any club or warehouse party looking for jams focused on cutting cheques and making that six-figure lifestyle a reality.
Straight out of the NT, duo KND (Karnage n Darknis) were a highlight of the CAAMA Music showcase on the Wednesday; with a west coast vibe injected throughout each beat and rhyme, KND were easily one of my favourite artists I saw.
Big soul vocals were also a huge take away of BIGSOUND 2017 – I love seeing artists embrace their love for a genre so wholly, it really does amplify the quality of a live show. Caiti Baker was a perfect example. We’ve seen her work with Sietta and alongside A.B. ORIGINAL in recent years, but her solo material has the Darwin songwriter taking a backflip dive deep into her musical roots of blues, soul and roots music. Her show at the Empire Hotel was one for the books; brilliant fun and dripping in rich vocal talent, Baker turned up to show the crowd how much she’s developed since those early days and for those who have been following her since then, it was an awesome pay off.
Similarly, up at the Black Bear Lodge on Thursday night, Mama Kin Spender (the collab project between Mama Kin and Spender) took charge with a 16 piece choir – some scattered on the floor, some on stage – for a set that came completely left field. Mama Kin has always harnessed a voice that has the ability to bring a crowd to their feet and keep them there, though this experience was truly church-like. As she banged rhythms out on a floor tom in the middle of the crowd, Mama Kin and Spender led the choir through some verses that had the crowd completely captivated.
The diversity of the artists showcasing at BIGSOUND this year was an element of the programming part of me initially thought may have been approached as a way to tick boxes – @ me if you want; it’s not the first time it’s happened this year, certainly won’t be the last – but once on ground, I have to give credit to the organisers for pulling together some cleverly curated line ups that showcased a solid array of talent from a number of backgrounds.
You could go from the intense intimacy within Lonelyspeck‘s body of work during a hot afternoon at Ric’s, to an equally as moving set from Two Steps on the Water at The Woolly Mammoth. Each artist had their own time to flourish and create a unique atmosphere – something quite difficult when given half an hour stage time. Back at Ric’s on Thursday night, the words Ziggy Ramo specifically chose to get his empowered messages across were so, so deliberate that they weren’t not going to garner some sort of response. The result of his politically charged set left many a-jaw on the floor and for the young artist out of Perth to be using his platform in this way, I’m so excited to see where he goes next year.
Coming through with some huge sounds of their own, Billy Davis & The Good Lords and Apakatjah represented two ends of a very entertaining musical spectrum for me at BIGSOUND this year. Apakatjah, who have progressed in leaps and bounds since we first met them last year, have continued to have refined their music and stage presence, making them a prime contender for one of BIGSOUND’s best returning artists in 2017. When it comes to Billy Davis & The Good Lords, from the vocals to the rhythmic instrumentation and the straight up fun that came from their Thursday night set, the band had one of the tightest sets of that evening and indeed, one of the most enthusiastic crowds.
Honourable mentions have to go to West Thebarton for nailing their Brightside carpark show on Tuesday, Good Boy for following suit on the same night, Kardajala Kirridarra for making an impact on BIGSOUND that was so positive and exciting when it comes to Indigenous music’s presence at the festival and Sloan Peterson, who no doubt will have shining 2018 if her BIGSOUND run was anything to go by.
Photo by Michelle Grace Hunder.