Happy New Year! It’s 2020 already and everybody’s doing their “best” of 2019. Fancy another one?
Heaps of good things happened regarding the Australian music scene last year, in my humble view. I shared my highlights on the socials for the last 9 days of 2019. They don’t always align with the industry’s “top” lists. So below is a brief rundown for you, set in my personal context. They are listed in chronological order.
THE TESKEY RBOTHERS AT THE AUSTRALIAN OPEN LIVE STAGE
I have previously written about the Australian Open Live Stage here. In 2019 they put together a massive music event again. In fact, the line-up was so good that I went to see bands live (okay, tennis as well) four times. And the Teskey Brothers were the ones who made the biggest impression on me.
Blues rock is not necessarily my preferred music genre but it is when The Teskey Brothers perform. Those guys are crazy talented, surprisingly down to earth and genuinely one of the best things that has happened to Aussie music in recent years.
And mind you, I’m not alone in this opinion. Because in November 2019 The Teskey Brothers took the gong for Best Group at the 2019 Aria Music Awards, apart from winning the Best Blues & Roots Album category. I’m betting they’ll end up high on Triple J’s Hottest 100 in 2020 as well.
THE “DON’T KILL LIVE MUSIC” RALLY IN SYDNEY
It was a complete coincidence that I was scheduled to be in Sydney for work when the rally was announced. But it doesn’t matter because it was one of the best things I’ve experienced in my life. You can read about the context and what went down at the rally in my post here.
I don’t know many other countries where the music community stands up for its rights in such a united and powerful way. Although it’s only Sydney and New South Wales where music festivals are under fire, bands, music fans and industry people from all over the country showed their support for the cause. Approximately 10,000 participated in the peaceful protest and thousands more expressed their feelings about the situation on their socials.
Even though things are still not looking great for Sydney on the live music front and there were some contradicting things happening throughout 2019, the rally clearly proved that the music community Down Under will fight for its right “to party” as long as it takes.
See one of the speeches from the rally by Helen Marcou from the SLAM Movement / Bakehouse Studios in Melbourne:
MARCH & AUGUST
SEEING OCEAN ALLEY IN AN AREA AND SMALL CLUB SETTING
For those of you who don’t know Ocean Alley won Triple J’s Hottest 100 (a national, publicly voted radio ranking) in Jan 2019 with their song Confidence. So no wonder that I was the first in line to purchase tickets to their show at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne in March. Especially that they were supporting another great artist, Tash Sultana. And well, what can I say… The gig was, obviously, amazing.
So, it was an interesting experiment for me to go see the band again in August when they happened to be in Berlin, Germany, at the same time as me. The gig took place at the Badehaus, a cozy venue located in Berlin’s artsy suburb, Friedrichshain.
It’s funny to see a band play an arena gig in their home country and then a rather small club overseas. It kind of lets you experience their music in a different way. Which doesn’t mean that it had any impact on the quality of their performance. Because “it’s all about confidence, baby” and NOT the size of the venue.
Here’s a little vid from the Berlin gig for you:
HEARING TONES & I’S DANCE MONKEY ON THE RADIO FOR THE FIRST TIME
In May last year I ticked another epic trip off my bucket list. Me and my bestie road tripped all the way from Newcastle in NSW to Airlie Beach in QLD. And back. Over 3 weeks of beaut sights, cool people we met on the way and funny things that happened (like my mate losing her nose piercing when swimming).
And for some reason I remember exactly when we heard Tones And I on commercial radio for the first time. It was already getting dark as we were driving from Eungella National Park in Mackay Region towards Airlie Beach. Somewhere, on a winding country road, Dance Monkey was played on Triple J for the very first time. I’m not sure which segment it was and who the presenter was, either, but they talked about how this girl from Tasmania uploaded only her second song to Triple J Unearthed and it was already making waves.
And that was just a start. Because today, just over half a year later, Tones and I is a globally recognised artist who won a few important awards at the 2019 ARIAs already. And she hasn’t even released an album yet.
MICHAEL HUTCHENCE DOCUMENTARY
Richard Lowenstein, director of the Mystify Michael Hutchence documentary, was apparently quite a close friend of the late musician. He also shot a few music vids for INXS and hired Michael for his 1986 movie about Melbourne’s punk scene, Dogs in Space. So he had every reason and right to make the documentary that I included in my list of the must-watch Aussie ones in 2019.
The film has been shown at various festivals and released commercially on different dates in different countries so far (and more are to come, like the US in Jan). The reason I’m writing about it under June 2019 is because that’s when it was screened home in Australia for the first time at the Sydney Film Festival. And it has been an amazing success since.
But can you be really surprised? Michael Hutchence was a very special person and artist. His controversial life, tragic death and what caused it have long been a subject of numerous investigations, publications and speculations. That’s why Mystify has had such a great response from both the critics and fans: because it shows a glimpse into those aspects of Michael’s life that were not really the happiest or luckiest ones. Maybe that – in turn – helps us understand his fate a little better.
A VERY AUSSIE GERMAN FESTIVAL
I used to live in Germany at the beginning of the last decade and I still have heaps of friends there. I went to visit some of them this past European summer. Every time I go, I always check if there’s anything cool happening, musically speaking. To my surprise, I discovered that quite a few Aussie bands were touring Europe at the same time. Three of them that I wanted to see live were actually playing the same festival in Hamburg on the same day. So I made a little detour and went to see them.
Not every day do you get Hockey Dad, The Chats and Skegss in one (festival) package on the same stage. It truly was an Aussie party and you can’t imagine how many people were there to see them. Foreigners and Aussies alike.
All three bands killed it. Hockey Dad are such cool but shy dudes. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they have in store in the years to come. But my highlight was defo when The Chats joined Skegss for one of the songs.
See for yourself:
When I sent the email to Bad Apples Music to ask whether I could interview Briggs, I didn’t really think his manager was going to say yes. But she did and I got to meet one of the Aussie artists I respect the most. Because of his musicianship but also his social work for the Aboriginal community.
I don’t have the opportunity to interview artists too often and, as it happens, things went a little sideways on the day itself. But we did manage to catch up and I quizzed Briggs on many things I’d been dying to ask for months, from music to history to politics. You can read the full interview here.
Apart from the insightful chat with Briggs, I also got to accidentally meet another Australian hip hop scene legend, the Hilltop Hoods, and see their sound check. Not to mention the actual gig later on and the moment when Briggs joined them for Cosby Sweater and the audience went absolutely mad.
GUY SEBASTIAN’S CHOIR WINS SONG OF THE YEAR AT THE ARIA’S
Guy Sebastian released Choir on 31 May already. And I reckon I totally underestimated the song back then. The same way the singer himself probably never considered that it could win Song of the Year at the 2019 ARIAs.
Choir has a pretty catchy melody. It sounds like a positive, summer tune. Which in a way it is. The singer’s idea was to make it an upbeat tune, giving hope and leaving the listener with “You ain’t doing this solo / We all ridin’ with you”. But, in reality, this is a song about a lost friend.
And that’s why I believe it’s important that it was named Song of the Year. Because mental health is still a very underestimated topic, regardless of whether in music or any other area of life. We need to talk about it more. And we have to ensure that those who require help can get it. So check on your friends frequently and ask if they’re OK.
AUSSIE MUSIC OVERSEAS
I was travelling quite a lot in 2019. Whilst I travel, I often listen to local radio stations to get to know the local music scene but also to see how connected to the global music industry it is. I was always quite convinced that Aussie music doesn’t get the recognition that it should overseas. However, after my adventures in 2019, I’m stoked to report that you can hear even the less known Aussie musos in the most unexpected places on Earth.
That the world knows Tame Impala, INXS or Kylie Minogue doesn’t really surprise me. But that Spanish people know Vance Joy’s lyrics inside out does a bit. Or that a university radio station in Poland has a weekly segment, called The Seventh Continent, dedicated solely to Aussie and Kiwi music is actually a shocker.
A few fun facts about this radio program. The cover photo of their Facebook page is a pic of Polish Club. Their playlists include artists like Mojo Juju, Huntly, Gurrumul or Triple One. They had an entire episode about Tina Arena recently. And the show’s been on the radio since 2012. Respect!
And on this note, that’s a wrap for the past year. 2020 – bring it on!