And just like that, my “Australian music scene” series turned 40 (episodes) last week. Who would have thought… As usual, since I published episodes 31-40, and an update is due. So, without wasting much more words on introduction, here’s a little recap.
PART 31: TRIPLE J UNEARTHED CAME UP WITH A COOL COMP FOR INDEPENDENT MUSOS
In this episode, I explained briefly how triple j Unearthed allows unsigned artists to directly upload their music to the radio’s platform to be sussed out by literally anyone. Which is an awesome thing to start with. But in April 2020 the Unearthed team stepped up their game. They figured that the ‘Rona times deserved something better and announced a DYI Supergroup competition.
The idea was simple: some of Straya’s finest provided stems to their music. The contestants’ task was to create a whole new track using at least three of them. And when I say “some of the finest”, I mean the likes of Tame Impala, Tash Sultana, Flume, Amy Shark or G Flip. Those names ring a bell, right? So it was pretty obvious Unearthed would be flooded with entries (almost 900 in total).
Watch how TKay Maidza reacted to the tracks using her samples:
On 21 May five finalists were announced and their tunes are pretty amazing. We are yet to find out who will be named the DYI Supergroup Champ (hopefully this first week of June). But the real winners for me are Order Sixty6, a Brisbane-based hip hop/pop/indie outfit, who submitted their entry in… wait for it… 24 hours (!) from the competition’s announcement. Listen to how their track turned out here.
PART 32: QUARANTINE PUSHED THE INDUSTRY TO BE MORE CREATIVE AND SOME ISO THINGS ARE HERE TO STAY
Quarantine shook us all. First days were stressful and hectic. But two weeks into the isolation and Australian artists were already busy inventing new ways to connect with their fans. I wrote about it in this post.
Amongst all the good things that have popped up in Australian music in the last few months, the Isol-Aid Festival is definitely the one I’m stoked to see gain momentum. Initially, an Instagram-based event, with 50+ different acts playing 20-minute sets over the weekend, it has now been upgraded on many levels. There have been 11 consecutive editions of the festival already and it has expanded beyond Australia, welcoming artists from the US or Canada. The line-ups continue being interesting and diverse.
Now the event has its own website and sells branded merch. And the organisers just recently announced they would start transferring raised funds to the artists performing at the festival as well as donating to artist supporting institutions. Oh, and they got their own Iso-Late party to keep you entertained on Saturday nights as well.
Even though streaming will never be the same as experiencing live gigs (I mean, in real life, not online), I hope Isol-Aid becomes a recurring event in the future. So far, it looks like they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.
PART 33: THERE WAS NO BLUESFEST 2020, SO EASTER FELT DIFFERENT THIS YEAR
Well, not too much to add here. Bluesfest 2020 was cancelled just a few weeks before Easter – when it normally takes place. For obvious reasons. It was disappointing, nevertheless, and I dedicated this post to it.
Things still look rather uncertain in the live performance sector in the whole world, but Australia seems to have beaten the disease in a relatively short time. So chances are that massive gatherings will be allowed in 2021 again. The only trick might be not having international acts on the line-ups if the mandatory 14-day quarantine for inbound visitors remains in force next year.
Bluesfest organisers recently released a statement, pledging to do their very best to put on a great event in 2021. And their motto is uplifting, “We believe in music”. I share their point of view. So see you at Bluesfest next year, hopefully!
PART 34: #AUSMUSICTSHIRTDAY 2020 PROVED THE AUSSIES HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOUR, EVEN IN THE PANDEMIC
This post was actually related to a pretty serious thing. #AusMusicTShirtDay is an annual event organised by triple j (again, I know) to help raise funds for Support Act. And it’s a cool occasion for music fans to rep their favourite bands. I dedicated much more attention to the whole idea in these two posts last year (here and here).
This time triple j brought #AusMusicTShirtDay forward because of the pandemic. Normally, it takes place in November, but changing the date of the event in the current circumstances just made sense. Artists cannot tour or play live gigs. So the only other way they can make money is when they sell their music and merch.
And what can I say… The Aussies delivered again in 2020. Not only the fans, actually. Some bands put out hilarious merch related to the ‘Rona reality, samples of which I included in this post. Back then I thought they were the most creative examples, but I found another one which tops them (the inscription on the T-shirt is a reference to Holy Holy’s song “Teach Me About Dying”).
PART 35: GUILTY PLEASURES ARE OFFICIALLY DEAD… AND IT’S A GOOD THING
I felt like uncovering a part of me in this post. I also shared a playlist on Spotify with my Aussie guilty pleasures. Thankfully, now it turns out that there’s no such thing in music anymore, as reported by triple j. So I have nothing to be ashamed of anymore.
Triple j dedicated the last week in May to another first in their history, the #Requestival. For 7 days, from 6am till 9pm, only tunes requested by listeners were played on the air. And you know what that means: some pretty wacky choices, to say the least.
The good thing was, though, that #Requestival was fairly democratic. Bands that seem to be otherwise banned (like Sticky Fingers) got some (conditional) love. The genre spectrum was quite broad and wild as well (think Slayer and Taylor Swift on the same day). And the requesters dug up historic tunes, like the “Crazy Frog” song or Beethoven’s Symphony no.5.
I’m not even joking! So, to prove it, here’s a selection of the best requests I’ve seen online:
On a serious note – it was a brave move to open up triple j’s airwaves to the public. But everybody, including the presenters, seemed to enjoy it. So fingers crossed, #Requestival will also return in the future.
PART 36: QUITE ACCIDENTALLY, I REVIEWED THE NO.1 ALBUM IN AUSTRALIA
Birds of Tokyo released Human Design at the end of April. And I had the crazy idea of reviewing it here. In all honesty, I didn’t give it 5 stars. Now, over a month later, I still uphold my main argument: it’s not their best record to date. But I don’t think it’s that bad, either.
It wasn’t an easy task for me because the Perth band are one of my fave Aussie acts. So I needed to gather all my objective critiquing superpowers to approach it professionally. And I managed to pull it off (I think?). Then, two days after I’d published my review, the album went to no.1 on the ARIA charts. Oops…
On the other hand, it tells me that my instinct to spend time on it was correct. And since I published the review, it is one of the most visited posts on my blog (hint, hint).
The interesting part about the album is that it caused mixed reactions from the critics, overall: from super harsh ones (1.5 stars) to pretty favourable ones (4 stars). Considering that it’s such a personal release (at least for the singer, Ian Kenny), I reckon we should cut the band some slack. You’ll definitely find at least one song that you’ll like on it. I did.
PART 37: THERE ARE STILL NO LIVE MUSIC PROGRAMS ON AUSSIE TV BUT INTERNET LIVE-STREAMS ARE GROWING STRONG
After watching Music On The Home Front, a social media live-stream paying homage to war veterans in Australia and New Zealand, I felt inspired to write a pretty long rant about the lack of live music on Aussie TV. (One of those things you do when you’re unemployed.)
It was only a month ago. I guess it’s just not enough time for anything to change yet (although it’s a long-standing problem on TV Down Under). Social media and private music companies are doing a great job on this front, though. The Mushroom Group does, for instance.
They partnered with the Victorian (VIC) Government (a very good sign) to put together a weekly stream called The State Of Music. The series focuses on (mostly) the Melbourne music scene: the bands, the venues, the local personalities and activists. It’s also a nostalgic journey into the vaults of Australian music history.
Some episodes are dedicated to specific themes. For instance, before Mother’s Day in Australia, there was an all-female line-up of both artists and presenters. The chats are on point, too, and there’s a new discovery artist presented every week. Plus, heaps of interesting collabs and special song renditions are recorded for the program. Like this one by Mansionair:
Five episodes have been aired so far and I look forward to the next one every week. Which means that it can be done. You can have audiences eagerly waiting for music programs. And the VIC Government has proved it again through its partnership with Michel Gudinski’s Mushroom Group. My hope is that national TV broadcasters and the rest of the state governments in Australia will finally get the point, and get behind their respective music scenes.
PART 38: ONE OF MY BIRTHDAY WISHES HAS ALREADY COME TRUE – THIS IS GOING TO BE A GREAT YEAR
It was my Birthday mid-May and I decided to publish my Australian music wishlist here. The list was not over the top at all. Especially that my wishful thinking was based on industry eavesdropping and cold-calculated observations. And surprise, surprise – one of my desires came true just a few days after I’d articulated it. Thanks heaps, Powderfinger.
There are never-ending speculations about a possible reunion of this beloved Aussie band who said goodbye to playing together in 2010. So when things started happening on their social media (like changing profile pictures, publishing phone calls between band members etc.), fans went bonkers.
To my delight, Powderfinger did reunite for a one-off show called One Night Lonely on 23 May. Apart from the music bit, the performance was in support of some mental health charities Down Under (Beyond Blue and Support Act).
Powderfinger prepped a short, 40-minute set with their biggest hits, shot in different locations. Although not exactly what people might have expected (I’m sure many would have wanted an actual live performance but the band members all live in different states), the gig did its two main jobs. It gave some fuel to the hungry and desperate Powderfinger fans (including me) and raised much-needed funds for both charities.
In my view, the gig was heaps good. So I reckon we’ll hear from the band again very soon.
PART 39: I (VIRTUALLY) MET AN INDEPENDENT GUITAR PLAYER FROM MELBOURNE
Correct me if I’m wrong but I have the impression that little time is dedicated to instrumental music and independent artists in mainstream music mags. I’m on the mission to uncover hidden gems. So it was quite refreshing to catch up with Ash Ravens, a Melbourne-based guitar player, in this video chat.
We chatted about different things: from his early days as a guitarist to managing himself, struggles with creativity in the pandemic and various music projects.
Within the Melbourne music community Ash is best known as an instrumental/session player. But he also sings in a cover band and has committed vocals on his latest singles as a solo act. One of the things he mentioned as an important part of his professional development was perfecting his singing abilities. So it’s cool to see that he’s releasing more and more videos showcasing taking those next steps in the process. Like the one below.
PART 40: MENTAL HEALTH IS NO JOKE AND MUSIC IS A MEANS TO RAISE AWARENESS ABOUT IT
Last week me and a Melbourne indie/alternative band talked about mental health for a change. The reason was that Peak Park – the group in question – just released a new single, “Please Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself”, which tackles this challenging and complex topic. Check out the chat and full write-up about the band here.
We all have experienced mental health challenges at some point in our lives. But Peak Park raised another poignant point during our virtual catch-up. Not only is it generally a stigma to bring up inner struggles in conversations but you’re in an even trickier position being a male who wants to open up. And it’s difficult to exactly know how to approach it because many people don’t want or don’t know how to ask for help. That’s why we need to talk about it frequently, openly and with no shame.
Peak Park announced that over the next few weeks they’d be sharing some more insights into the single writing process and what it meant to them personally. This is the first video in that series.
Although they’ve only released five (rad) songs so far, I can’t wait to hear more “sad boi tunes” from the Melburnians. And I’m 100% sure it’s going to be worth it.
Dear Reader: thank you for making it till the end of this post and bearing with me for 40 episodes already. Hopefully, you’ll stay for the next 40 as well 🙂 So see you here next week!