What We Learned at BIGSOUND 2019
Words by Francis Tait and James Lynch
Thursday 19th September, 2019

Once again, after a week of controlled (and at times uncontrolled) chaos, BIGSOUND has come to an end and Fortitude Valley has spewed us back out.

If you weren’t amongst it, there’s a bit to catch up on - 150 of Australia’s strongest emerging acts, a whole lot of drinks, some poor attempts at schmoozing and our own little party, for starters. Now that we’ve had a week in bed recovering, we’ve taken a moment to look back on what lessons BIGSOUND 2019 had for us.
First nations artists lead the way this year
We’ve always had a wealth of amazing First Nations talent around us but at this year's BIGSOUND, with the addition of a First Nations House for the first time, things felt like they’d been kicked up a notch. The huge choruses of Electric Fields sung in Pitjantjatjara and English, and Yorta Yorta man Neil Morris’ captivating presence with DRMNGNOW made for two of the most engaging and impressive sets of the week. Similarly, all the way from Numbulwar (a remote community on the edge of the Gulf Of Carpentaria), Mambali’s electrifying contemporary take on traditional song absolutely tore the roof off during our showcase.

As is the nature of BIGSOUND, by the end of the week we still couldn’t escape the feeling we’d missed a couple of unmissable sets - none more so than that of Snotty Nose Rez Kids, who hail from Haisla Nation near Kitimaat Village, British Columbia, Canada, and had Fortitude Valley raving about their inspiring high-energy set.

We can’t go past Melbourne music
Turns out we’re real suckers for the sounds coming out of Melbourne at the moment. Despite BIGSOUND showcasing some of the most exciting new musicmakers from around the country, we had a pretty hard time pulling ourselves away from our favourite local acts. Whether it was Pinch Points’ manic garage-punk, Darvid Thor’s captivating neo-psychedelia or Hannah Blackburn wooing us with her ethereal indie-folk, we couldn’t help but stick around to see some of our locals killing it on the national stage.

BIGSOUND proves how music brings people together
We’d be fools to think it was only Melbourne bringing the goods this year - in truth, BIGSOUND had us floored on with some of really incredible acts, both from around the country and beyond.

Adelaide’s Bad//Dreems were a clear standout with their raucous pub-rock, as was the charming Jack Davies and the Bush Chooks from Perth. As always, BIGSOUND managed to sneak a few international acts into the mix, and we were lucky to be treated to the jammy indie-rock of Canada’s Boy Azooga and the eclectic psychedelia from New Zealand’s Mermaidens.

One more undeniable highlight was South-Sudanese asylum-seeker Gordon Koang. His infectious take on traditional music had entire rooms moving and grinning, and it was incredibly thrilling to learn his permanent residency in Australia had just been approved as he took out the Levi’s Music Prize.

The action around the official events really makes BIGSOUND what it is

With almost 20 official stages running each night of the festival, it isn’t always possible to catch everyone you want to see while giving yourself time to stumble across a few new names. That’s where the unofficial side of things comes in - a chance to hear some of your favourite acts in a low-intensity setting, and discover a handful of new bands we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

During the week, we found ourselves drinking free beers at 4ZZZ as The Goon Sax played, watched festival acts Pinch Points and Cry Club play relaxed arvo sets amongst arcade games, and caught TJ favs Easy Browns getting amongst the action with a one-off set at the Sonic Boom showcase. It’s hard to recreate the feeling of seeing an act that seems set to blow up in a small room, and we were even lucky enough to revel in that unique buzz at our unofficial party at Barbara with Baked Goods.

When you’re there in 2020, make sure you’re wandering the streets and trying to catch wind of whatever is going on next. You can come and say hi to your mates at Trouble Juice while you’re at it.

BIGSOUND is a fkn good holiday

BIGSOUND is the best excuse you’ll have for a week off work all year. As well as the perfect weather, there’s a feeling in the air around Fortitude Valley for the first week of September that you won’t find anywhere else. If you land yourself in the midst of a mid-year crisis and desperately need some time away to get some sun and see a million bands, make BIGSOUND 2020 the first thing you write in your diary. We did in 2017 and have been locking it in every year since.