BIGSOUND, Australia's biggest annual music conference, returned to Brisbane on Wednesday, bringing with it thousands of punters and hundreds of bands, all converging on Fortitude Valley. Here's what went down on day one...
I Know Leopard
The program may list Peter Garrett's keynote address at 10am on Wednesday morning as the first official order of BiGSOUND business, but the bleary eyes that greet the former Midnight Oil singer and politician as he takes the stage in front of a packed Judith Wright Centre betray the fact that the action really kicked off the night prior with a host of pre-BiGSOUND gigs. With various labels getting the jump on things by showcasing their artists at one of the Valley's 15 venues – all within walking distance of each other – by the time our head hit the pillow we'd taken in Born Lion, High Tension, I Know Leopard, Tired Lion, Katy Steele and Waax. By the time Garrett appeared onstage, not even a bacon and egg roll could dull the pain.
On a day where one of the panels was considering whether the public's seemingly insatiable appetite for listicles is killing longform journalism, Peter Garrett began his keynote address by offering two versions of his speech. The first lasted a very Twitter-friendly one minute, in which he listed what it takes to carve out a successful career in music; the second version was fleshed out to 48 minutes. At the risk of putting a list inside a list, some of his pearls of wisdom included: The small print is as important as the headline; If at first you don't succeed pull your finger out and try again; Respect your audience, protect your copyright; There's always room for dissent, there's always room to experiment; Everyone's a fan; You'll meet people on the way up and you'll meet them again on the way down; And, "in a homage to my road crew, of whom there are many, who kept me going for 30 years in the business, and for whom this is their favourite expression, it is a long way to the shop if you want a sausage roll, but it tastes pretty good when you get there."
If only to see Garrett in his natural environment onstage again. As he talked for just under an hour with all the passion and intelligence for which he's become synonymous, it was hard not to look at him and hope that, one day, he's again flanked by his Midnight Oil bandmates, flailing their way through the likes of "Beds Are Burning" and "Dreamworld" – songs as relevant today as when they were written.
Sydney quintet Green Buzzard have created significant buzz off the back of their debut double A-side single, "Zoo Fly"/"Slow It Down". When we caught up with vocalist Paddy Harrowsmith and bassist Huw Farrell, Harrowsmith revealed the interplanetary goals of his early lyrics. "I had a real idea to make it this ridiculous thing. Green Buzzard was like a comic book character, and we were going to have all these different characters in [the comic]. There was Fantasy Boy and Fantasy Girl, we were like the band that played on this planet. The first song [we wrote] is called Fantasy Girl. I think that [idea] lasted one or two songs then I got really over it cos I a) got bored of it and; b) started writing songs about stuff that was set on this planet."
Marc Geiger is the head of the music division at William Morris Endeavour, and counts amongst his clients Jack White, Rihanna, Tom Petty and the Pixies. In his keynote address he recounted one of the moments he realised the traditional music industry model had changed and how record sales were no longer indicative of a band's popularity: some years ago Incubus started receiving messages from fans in Chile on their Facebook page. After looking at their sales in the region he discovered they'd sold less than 100 copies of their latest album there, but when he spoke to a local agent he was told the band could probably play arenas. Sure enough, when they announced shows one arena sold its 13,000 tickets in 20 minutes; a second night was gone in half an hour. "The [album sales] numbers we're seeing are not like the numbers we used to see," he concluded.