Experiencing great live music is truly one of the most invigorating ways to spend one’s time, and in my opinion, is even better when it’s a coming from a brilliant new band you’ve never heard before. Easily the best part of the year-or-so I spent living in Canberra was the ability to walk into any of a number of venues (most commonly The Phoenix and The Polish Club) and find myself in the grips of a delightful new musical discovery.
The number of times I asked musicians, “Do you have a triple j unearthed page?” is far too high to count, but thankfully I was regularly rewarded with an affirmative answer, allowing me to wander through their recordings and relive some of the best indie gigs of the year. In this post, I share some of those recordings from bands that I loved live in 2012, and who you should definitely be keeping an eye out for in 2013. You can find the playlist here, but for the full visual experience and links to relevant profiles, you’ll have to read on!
I’ve been a massive fan of Elana Stone for some time now, but 2012 was the year that I really started to get into her project with Brian Campeau, The Rescue Ships. Basically, they are both quite significantly loopy, a fact demonstrated in their delightful brand of folk-pop and the magnificently bizarre show I saw them at in August. Sure, when you go to see them, Campeau might keep his pants on and Stone may not sit on your lap, but what I can assure you is that you’ll have a marvellous time that will inevitably leave you grinning from ear to ear.
It’s been a big year for Sydney’s Preatures, complete with triple j airplay, lots of touring and even a name change. I had the pleasure of catching their gritty retro sounds in October, and have been completely sucked in by their Shaking Hands EP in the months since. Tonight, they play Peats Ridge Festival, but if you’re not lucky enough to be going to that, you should definitely keep an eye on your local gig guide to see when they’re playing near you.
A man of many bands, Mikelangelo can be a hard man to keep track of, but the effort is always worth it. I got to see his surf-western set a couple of times in 2012, and each time I was transported back to a time when the skirts were swishy and the quiffs were huge. The incredible stagecraft of the man and his band is truly a sight to behold, and always well worth the admission. If you get a chance to see Mikelangelo in any of his many guises over the coming year, take it. You will never be disappointed.
This bunch of gents from Melbourne were easily one of the quirkiest bands to cross my path in 2012, with their bizarre “spaghetti western/rock opera” style definitely standing out from the crowd. Offering a unique blend of gritty blues-country that whisks you back to the days of Eureka, The Toot Toot Toots’ full-scale live shows are incredible, full of crazy antics, amazing costumes and monologues. That said, don’t dismiss their more intimate gigs: they might be dealing with a smaller space, but you’re still sure to experience something insanely wonderful.
I didn’t catch anywhere near as much of this delightful Canberra band as I would have liked, but the little bit that I did see was enough to prove that Julia Johnson and her merry minstrels are truly worthy of all the praise that comes their way.
Johnson’s cheerful brand of folk is terrifically honest and heart-warming, stirring up memories of summer picnics and romantic interludes. It’s no surprise that she was chosen to represent the ACT at the triple j unearthed Song Summit workshop, hosted by Adalita and Gotye! Add to that a MusicACT Award nomination for Best Folk Artist, and you’re left with a band that is sure to bring bigger and better things in the new year.
The Brass Knuckle Brass Band is another Canberra group that’s had a massive 2012, playing Canberra’s TEDx event, touring a significant chunk of Queensland, performing at the MAMA’s, and a whole lot of local gigs and festivals right through the year. There’s no stopping this New Orleans style street funk band, with a set at the Lorne chapter of the Falls Festival just a couple of days ago, new recordings coming soon, and gigs in Melbourne this Friday and Saturday!
(And these folks are bloody cheeky because they snuck another song into the video for this song. Sneaky, sneaky buggers!)
You may associate Brendan Maclean‘s name with a whole range of things: that cheeky scamp from Twitter, the new Klipspringer in the forthcoming adaptation of The Great Gatsby from Baz Luhrman, the guy who didn’t exactly love Newtown’s Sandringham Hotel, that triple j presenter guy, Gerald Sparks, the dude who got a bunch of old people to throw jelly at each other. Honestly, the man has more links than all the copies of Legend of Zelda ever sold.
I have been lucky enough to know him as all of these things, but also as a musician, which is a really awesome thing because he is a ridiculously good one. So good, in fact, that Kate Miller-Heidke brought him along to support on her August tour. If his remarkably catchy, honest pop isn’t your style, you should probably go and see him anyway, as he easily has one of the greatest stage wardrobes I have ever seen. (Also, see a doctor. There may be something seriously wrong with you.)
With Luhrman’s film due out in the middle of next year, you’re definitely going to be hearing a lot more about this gentleman over the coming months. Check him out in February (in Sydney or Melbourne) before he hits a big screen near you.
If there was an ARIA award for Most Adorable Group, there can be no doubt this married duo from the Central Coast would be regular nominees. Their light folk-pop is earnest without being trite, with both Brendan and Tessa possessing truly delightful voices. Their sweet cheekiness makes a live show a little difficult to enjoy should the crowd be a little rowdy, but if you give Microwave Jenny your full attention in an intimate venue, and you will be treated to a special kind of magic.
I’ve been enjoying this Newcastle-based roots act for a few years now, but it was only this past May that I finally got to see them play live. Even though they were the support act for Kim Campbell’s tour, they managed to blow away the room with their folk/reggae/pop fusion. With Woodford, Peats Ridge, Festival of the Sun and three EPs under their belt, they’ve definitely got enough cred to deserve your eyes and ears, and trust me, it will be time well spent.
These Brisbane gentlemen decided to grace the south-eastern states with their country-rock presence with a massive tour back in March, and luckily for me, they decided to include Canberra on that list. They presented a rollicking set, full of fun and ruckus, regaling us with tales of heartbreak, mining disasters and bushrangers. Rough, raw and full of energy, Rattlehand provides a show that quite simply makes for a good ol’-fashioned night out.
Of course, this isn’t by no means a completely exhaustive list of fantastic bands I’ve seen over the last 12 months. I’ve seen plenty of signed artists, and a stack of bands and solo musicians who haven’t got triple j unearthed pages too, and all thanks to the willingness to walk into any venue and see what they’ve got on show. I’ve stumbled across some great new albums and EPs, and made some magnificent new friends from all over the country.
If you’re looking to find the Next Big Thing in your musical experience, make the following your New Year’s Resolution:
In 2013, I will see as much live music as I possibly can. I will walk into all kinds of venues, from the biggest arenas to the tiniest pubs and bars. I will discount nothing and try everything, because the Australian live music scene is an aural feast where I can never be truly full.