So I’ve been working in this biz for, ballpark, four-years now, and until this one, BIGSOUND has always eluded me, like the last sweet chip at the bottom of a Pringles tube. The simple reason being that there were never enough heavy AF bands on each year’s lineup to inspire this distortion snob to leg it north of the wall.
That changed this month though after the annual conference’s 2017 live music bill just seemed to keep expanding with more hectic riff-punchers than you could poke a drumstick at. Finally convinced, I hopped a plane up to Fortitude Valley to pop my BIGSOUND cherry and see what all the damn fuss what about.
And sweet mother of fuck, am I glad I did. After the fabulous vodka-lime-soda-soaked whirlwind that was BIGSOUND 2017, I can honestly say I’ve never been more excited about the future of heavy music in this country. And you probably should be as well.
From punk to rock to metal to hardcore and everything in between, here are 10 bands that ruled BIGSOUND 2017 (and, with enough support from the Aussie music industry, 10 bands who could easily go on to rule the bloody world).
These Sydney legends were one of the only acts of the entire festival who managed to gee up the crowd (of largely chill industry types) to break out into a fully-fledged pit, so ’nuff said really. With more than enough live chops to back up their earth-shatteringly huge recordings, it doesn’t look like there’s anything stopping Polaris from becoming Australia’s next big metalcore export. Watch your asses, Northlane (JK, we love you guys too).
Get pumped for their debut album.
Delivering a mesmerising performance wrought with chaotic emotion and haywire energy (holy crap what are they feeding that bass player?!) Belle Haven were one of the biggest surprises, and standouts, of BIGSOUND 2017. Not only could you not keep your pupils off them, they were just as much of a thrill for your ears as well – watertight musicianship and THOSE VOCAL HARMONIES FARRRRK!
Pagan ripped the absolute balls off Crowbar during their guerrilla set there late on Wednesday night (or early Thursday morning, depending on your lifestyle choices). Even if you don’t swing this heavy on the metal spectrum, you NEED to check this band out live. The Unify Gathering 2017 triple j Unearthed find left punters having to pick their eyeballs up off the floor during their surprise 1am Death Disco, largely thanks to pocket rocket frontwoman Nikola, who looks as dainty and unassuming as your kid sister but sings with the voice of satan himself.
Drown This City
The same could be said of Melbourne’s Drown This City, starring the Dr. Jekyll/Ms. Hyde vocal talents of front-dudette Alex Reade. The post-hardcore crew captivated the crowd at 256 Wickham with a punch-you-in-the-face set that had people glued to the spot, possibly because they were unsure whether to edge closer to the stage in awe or shrink away in sheer terror.
Sydney alt-rockers Endless Heights commanded the stage to close-out proceedings in the live music cave beneath Crowbar on Thursday night, bringing more stage presence than you could pack into a road case. These dudes have the live chops of seasoned pros but their greatest strength is definitely their arsenal of huge, instantly memorable tunes, like current radio earworms ‘Drain’ and ‘You Coward’.
The Beautiful Monument
The only thing people seem to utter more than the word “hangover” at BIGSOUND is the word “buzz”. The cliched noun gets chucked around like wedding confetti when referring to artists who are getting hyped the shit out of prior to their sets at the fest. And Melbourne’s The Beautiful Monument were definitely worth every last hum of bee-noise that preceded their show at Crowbar. They kicked up a hair-flicking ruckus with a mighty set that swivelled between moody and joyous.
Amyl & The Sniffers
It’s difficult to describe the experience of beholding a live set from hilariously-named punk rats Amyl & The Sniffers, except to say you’re left with the distinct feeling that you need to take a shower. In the best way though. This mullet-clad retro-chic gutter guitar band from St Kilda don’t just play dirty garage rock, they basically have it oozing out of their pores. Definitely worth a second sniff.
If Stephen King’s IT is ruining clowns for punters everywhere then these Melbourne punks are singlehandedly restoring their rep. Through relentless touring, Clowns have managed to hone their live show to a point where it strikes the perfect chord between razor sharp musicianship and messy, improvised chaos. Through their raucous fuzz-powered tuneage, Clowns turned the Crowbar floor into a swamp of beer, sweat and good times.
Confession: I’d never heard of these Melbourne tribal space rockers before BIGSOUND and their set at Crowbar was enough to knock the sobriety back into me. Their remarkable blend of mutating riffs, shamanistic percussions and synchronised headbanging had the crowd’s minds doing the backstroke without the need for recreational additives. Definitely a standout.
Sleepmakeswaves never fail to impress and BIGSOUND was no exception. The Melbourne post-rock lords dished up a hot serving of VIBE with an electric set at The Brightside, sending punters into a slack-jawed trance with their Olympic level musicianship, restrained energy and emotional assortment of atmospheric synth-laced instrumental rock operas that clashed beauty and aggression together like atoms in a nuclear reactor. Sure enough, their set was DA BOMB.
Honourable shout-outs also to WAAX, The Comfort, Osaka Punch, West Thebarton, Deadlights, British India and all the other acts who brought a truly big sound to BIGSOUND this year.