When you’re temporarily unable to travel to Oz to see live music, let live music come to wherever you are.
Also, let it be an informal event, preferably showcasing a good few Aussie acts representing different genres. And have those acts mingle with fans and people from the industry during the day as well.
That sounds like a wish list, right? But it was made possible in May 2022 in London by Sounds Australia.
Every country with a music scene that significantly contributes to its cultural landscape and economy has a “music export office”. It’s an organisation that promotes local artists overseas at different industry events: showcases, conferences and festivals. This is Sounds Australia‘s role in a nutshell. I wrote about it in more detail in this post.
The Rona undoubtedly made things more difficult for the global music industry. Travelling to other continents was off the table for Aussie artists. The same was true for their international counterparts willing to showcase in Oz. Wherever it was even possible or allowed to stage events during the pandemic, organisers focused mostly on local talent.
Actually, a few virtual events did happen in those two pandemic years. Austin-based SXSW (South by South West) cancelled the 2020 edition completely, but went dully digital in 2021, for instance. And it featured a stack of Aussie artists, amongst them Baker Boy, Shannen James, The Chats, The Merindas or Jaguar Jonze.
Nothing beats a proper live gig, though. This is where the magic happens. It applies to both the music experience and networking bit, which is the backbone of this industry. Showcase events are also the best bet for acts to get the feel of new markets. It’s often their first opportunity to travel overseas and interact with new audiences, too.
Apart from the States, the UK is, without a doubt, a target market for Aussie artists. It’s one of the three big music exporters that have been shaping music history for decades. And the fact that people speak English there doesn’t hurt, either.
No wonder Sounds Australia has been exporting local Aussie talent to The Great Escape showcase festival in Brighton since 2009. And in 2014, a more relaxed gathering, the Aussie BBQ in London, was added to that leg of their overseas tour. It might have been stalled for two years in the pandemic, but it made a return with a bang in 2022.
I happened to be in London on 15 May 2022, so I decided to pop in and check out a few performances. And it was definitely the best Birthday gift to myself this year.
20+ acts played on the day. Even though their sets were fairly short (30 mins tops), to fit all of them in one day, the showcase needed to be split between two rooms in the venue. Plus, the turnarounds between the acts were super quick (like 20ish mins quick).
So, with all the networking going on in the meantime, it was impossible to check out everyone. I, for one, regret not having seen Merpire and Beckah Amani.
And there were quite a few people from the Aussie music industry on the day. Apart from the Sounds Australia crew (Larry Heath or Dom Alessio, for example), I spotted Johann Ponniah from the independent record label I OH YOU in the crowd.
Artists and their entourage were coming and going. Coopers and Little Creatures beers were sold at the bar. As I expected, the Aussie accent was mixed with the British and international ones. It was a heaps good day for everyone involved, I reckon.
So here are a few of my takeaways from the whole day.
The best set overall – The Vanns
It’s never easy to open up any event. Especially if you’re scheduled to play at 1.20 PM on Sunday when only hardcore fans or teetotallers are willing to drag their asses out of bed to hear a rock band. And very London-like weather doesn’t do you any favours, either.
But The Vanns totally nailed it. They walked on and off the stage like proper stars. They sounded great, played the right tunes (like “Mother”, “Red Light”, or “Feels Good Now”) and brought positive rock’n’roll vibes to the event from the start.
There was even a new song in the short set that Jimmy (vocals) introduced as “f**king don’t applaud if we shouldn’t put it out”. I reckon they totally should release it. So let’s see if the NSW-based group will drop a new single in the next few months.
The only complaint I have is actually not band-related. I wish more people had been there to see The Vanns’ set that Sunday. Because they really are a great live band.
The biggest surprise – Little Quirks
I’ll be brutally honest – I’d never heard of this Central Coast outfit before 15 May 2022. But I’ll definitely be willing to hear more about and from them from now on. I effing loved their little show!
Indie folk is one of those music genres that will make you move even if you’d rather die than dance. It’s the pure energy of the (mostly) uptempo songs that are to blame. Also, let’s face it – everybody loves a mandolin (looking at you Manfred & Sons fans) and perfectly-executed harmonies once in a while.
Not to mention the effort the band (well, at least the three ladies) put into the short set, slapping on full makeup and costumes to uphold their stage image.
Little Quirks are definitely landing on my playlist next time they release a tune. This might be really soon, actually, because they also performed an unreleased song called “Colours” on the day.
The best entertainer – Alex The Astronaut
Everybody knows Alex The Astronaut is a great storyteller – any of her songs is proof of that. But I didn’t know the Sydney-based artist was such a good entertainer as well. And believe it or not, it’s not a given amongst the musician community. Some musos have it, some don’t.
The muso rocked up to her set in a Chelsea supporter’s shirt announcing that she’d just been to a football game (it was the weekend before the end of the Premier League season in the UK). And that was only one of the personal stories and jokes she served up between songs. Not all of them were a hit, but she definitely got the audience’s attention.
Speaking of random stories musos tell to entertain the crowd whilst tuning their instruments, for instance. Alex didn’t hesitate to mention her controversial haircut that sparked quite a discussion amongst her followers a couple of years ago. Apparently, her own mother found out about it from social media.
So Alex wrote a whole song about it that is her new single “Haircut”, released just last week.
The most moving set – Didirri
When an artist walks on stage and talks about how he got emotional watching somebody else’s set just before his own performance, that’s something you don’t see every day. But it’s exactly how Didirri wins listeners over: being honest, authentic, and funny when appropriate as well.
Then, he backs up this good rapport with the audience with his soulful repertoire. And his only accompaniment is the guitar, which, by the way, he forgot the capo for in the green room, so there was a whole commotion about getting it from there.
Maybe it’s because he had way too much caffeine on the day, which he also informed the audience about.
Aside from the hilarious bits, the Melbourne-based singer/songwriter delivered a truly touching set. At the end of it, he thanked the crowd for being attentive. “It’s really hard these days”, he said. And that’s something I truly respect him for.
The best dancer – Tyne-James Organ
Music is inevitably linked to moving your body. Okay, maybe not all the genres, but you know what I mean.
There are quite a few Aussie artists who like to have a boogie on stage while performing. Tyne-James Organ is one of them.
I saw the Wollongong-born artist twice within two days, actually (at the Aussie BBQ and later at this sold-out headline show). Both times he proved that he’s a special case of a performer whose dancing doesn’t compromise his great vocal abilities. And again, that’s not always a given.
Tyne-James’ tunes are very melodic, so I would be surprised if he didn’t compliment his performance with a little dance-off. Plus, it’s always great to see musos enjoying themselves as much as the audience.
There were also other noteworthy moments.
Grace Cummings turned out to be a true powerhouse with her live band. Harry Heart, an artist with British-Australian history, delivered a nice, intimate set on the guitar. Alice Ivy turned the main band room into a club, as usual (it’s just too bad she and Sycco didn’t get to play their banger “Weakness” together).
Also, Pist Idiots weren’t so pissed at all. Keli Holiday sang everyone’s favourite tune, Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own”. Piano-driven jazz-rock outfit, Brekky Boy, closed the Front Room stage on a high note. And Telenova sent everyone off with a good vibe.
Many artists also acknowledged the sound engineers who worked at Colours Hoxton on the day throwing in an occasional “we appreciate you” comment. The majority agreed they wouldn’t want to be in their shoes.
The super-quick changeovers between acts representing very different styles must have been super stressful indeed. But the sound guys did pull through without major cock-ups (apart from Sycco’s set when the muso’s vocals were not very smooth, in my opinion).
Carousel pics: flowerkid, Grace Cummings, Harry Heart, Keli Holiday, Pist Idiots, Telenova, the full line-up
The 2022 Aussie BBQ in London was one of those rare occasions that bring together the three pillars of what music is all about: the artists, their fans and people from the industry, in a casual setting. And I’m pretty sure the pandemic break made this experience even more valuable.
So a shoutout to Sounds Australia for putting together a fun event that, for me and the people I spoke to, served its purpose perfectly: it was a day full of Aussie music discovery.
Get social with Silly McWiggles here:
Check out these posts about some other aspects of the Australian music industry:
Sounds Australia – taking music from Down Under to a global level
Three countries in the world can call themselves music exporters: the US, the UK and Sweden. What that means is that they have nailed promoting their music diversity and talent overseas and done a stellar job in increasing their music sector’s competitiveness globally. Australia would very much like to join that elite club. And there…
Sydney – Australian music business capital?
Some time ago I wrote here about Melbourne being the Live Music Capital of the World, based on objective studies and stats. And if it’s a global title, then it definitely applies to Australia as well. If you want to be in the midst of the music scene and where things are happening, Melbourne is…
Australian indie sector needs AIR. Here’s why.
August-November is always music awards season in Australia. The NIMAs (Indigenous music) took place in August. The NLMAs (live music) are scheduled for 20 October. And November is reserved for the ARIAs (the Aussie Grammys). But if there’s one ceremony I was looking forward to this year, it’s the AIR Awards, dedicated to the independent…