Jesse Sheehan was lucky enough to perform at Bigsound 2014 held in Brisbane, September 10-12. He filed this report of his adventures in Queensland for NZM.
For those who don’t know, BigSound is an annual music expo staged in central Brisbane and attended by music industry aficionados from around the globe. During the day there are seminar sessions and at night showcases from emerging bands who have been selected following an application process earlier in the year.
A lot of schmoozing and blowing smoke up proverbial buttocks was to be done over these three days. Luckily for me, I have a wonderful manager in Rodney Hewson, who understands I am simply no good at schmoozing so did this on my behalf, leaving me to simply enjoy the event and focus on my upcoming set.
Although I had well-meaning people telling me not to spend the money on going to Brisbane, that nothing much ever came from these showcases, the reality was that I met some great contacts and had a very productive and valuable experience. I am quietly confident some good things will come out of it. I also had a lot of fun!
Keynote speakers included The Church, Neil Finn, Mick Harvey (of The Bad Seeds, The Birthday Party), and Peter Noble who is director of the prestigious Byron Bay Blues Fest.
Plus there were seminars from artists, managers, agents, festival bookers, online PR companies, indie labels and publishers, the whole nine yards. There is a vast wealth of knowledge shared from these distinguished guests inspiring musicians and industry delegates alike to lift their game.
After the day sessions, the delegates along with the general public filtered into the various venues around Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley to check out the talent, with the hope of finding the next big thing. The first thing that struck me was the surprising inconsistency from the bands, ranging from exceptional and innovative, to incredibly dull and generic.
One of my favourite acts was Sydney act D.D Dumbo with his melodic songs that twisted and turned yet somehow never lost you, his endearingly eccentric performance style, and magnificent guitar playing. Another was Christchurch-born Marlon Williams whose voice reminded me of an early Roy Orbison, with understated yet beautifully crafted songs. He’s a handsome devil too, or as our female bass player more eloquently put it, “Ouch… my ovaries.”
Speaking of my band I was very lucky to have a talented group of friends playing with me, comprising the beast Adam Tobeck, Coach Haddon Smith and Gala ‘vegan warrior princess’ Georgette. After two days of preparation rehearsals at our hired apartment we played two sets on the second night, one at the OZTIX industry party and one for our official showcase at Blackbear Lodge.
The first show was incredibly disheartening. On arriving at the venue for soundcheck we were told there were going to be severe noise restrictions due to complaints the previous night. As a result the onstage and FOH mixes were poor (and quiet), which kind of pushed our performance into background music status. Luckily Blackbear Lodge was a whole different story.
We had a really good soundcheck as we had a fantastic in-house soundman who knew the room intimately. After I’d got my suit on, got Gala to do my mascara and eyeliner, I did my usual pre-show nervous star jumps and screechy vocal warm ups. I was feeling ready. I was nervous as all hell to be honest but warmed up at least. During this time the band and manager were having a quiet drink and wondering why their singer was doing such strange things.
The truth is I get nervous before every show no matter what it is. However I choose not to see it as a flaw, instead accepting and harnessing the feeling to my advantage, using the adrenalin to propel me with more energy and power for the show. When we got on stage, it was loud, pumping and a whole lot of fun. We got tremendous feedback and had impressed the people we had come to impress. (Hopefully more on that in the coming months.)
Job well done, it was time for a celebratory drink! To the liquor store we skipped with spring in our step and joy in our hearts. After a bottle of cheap whisky and a revealing game of Never Have I Ever we were feeling increasingly jolly and ready for a dance. Gala had been asked out that same day at a juice bar and with her new found confidence challenged me (the only single man in the band) to a hook up competition; i.e. who can score a kiss in town first. The winner buying the other person whatever chocolate they desired. Sounded like a win/win situation so I accepted.
Haddon and Adam agreed to be unbiased judge and adjudicator, however weren’t quiet about their opinion that there was no way I was going to win, and I would return later to the apartment sad and alone, crying my little eyes out. I took this on the chin. Our first stop was the grandest most majestic salsa bar I had ever seen, and although we drank and danced with different people, neither Gala nor I scored a kiss.
So on we went, this time to The Press Club, the venue where Marlon was playing. It seems I was past the line of charmingly intoxicated as I had to have an intervention from Coach Haddon. “Bro you’re too pissed, you need a strategic pie and coke.” It seemed Haddon was taking this game the most seriously out of all of us. It was around this point that Gala is seen with a handsome boy at the bar. The game seemed all but over and my competitive side was gutted. I mused over what chocolate I was going to make Gala buy me. ‘Something expensive’ I thought, bitterly.
I then proceeded to go out dancing and get myself a consolatory second place kiss from the Big Sound afterparty. When I found out later that Gala had in fact not kissed this boy and instead run off to hang out with her friend I humbly jumped around the room exclaiming, “I won! I won!”
In the morning however it would seem that the real winner of the day was Brisbane Bigsound, considering Gala had slept through her alarm and missed her flight, all my cash was spent, and all our heads were in severe pain.