EQing the Bigsound buzz

Last week I was fortunate enough to experience the 13th annual Bigsound music biz conference in Brisbane.

Whassat? “It’s a big f—ing wankfest full of f—ing wankers wanking on, darling,” one of my old-school publicist pals forewarned. But having not been invited to wank at the previous 12, I eagerly accepted.

My gig was a “keynote interview” with the Church, a band I’d pretty much adored for 33 years. That turned out to be 33 years longer than most of the “buzz” bands at Bigsound had been buzzing.

I went to see some of them across the three days, based on buzz or random circumstance or personal taste. I missed tons more — even though some were abuzz as buggery — mostly because I had this keynote situation to negotiate with a degree of clarity that wasn’t going to gel with the whole buzzing ’round bars thing.

Some of these acts were great and some were lame and I wish them all well. But the best band I saw — very near the end of the 140-act sprawl through the gridlocked mall-scape somewhat stoically called Fortitude Valley — was the Church.

Yes, I know. Clearly there were emotional investment factors at play here. All I can say objectively is that:

  1. They performed like a band with several decades of experience and
  2. They sounded like no other band I’ve ever heard before.

Obviously, the former advantage wasn’t an option for Flyying Colours or the Sinking Teeth or Holy Holy or Airling. The uniqueness principle? Well, it’s been a pretty crowded 33 years. I’m sure a lot of buzz bands have no idea exactly what shadows they’re accidentally labouring in. But labour they must, and emerge into their own light some of them will.

Meanwhile, what a wanking great hoopla those 139 brave contenders have to deal with in this digitised and piratised and omni-streaming modern business of show. As far as this griseous and ivory-closeted wanker could divine from the big f—ing wankfest as a whole, the 2014 buzz band’s best bet for transcending the shrill cacophony of our times goes a bit like this:

Write one (1) song good enough to make a (not terribly) critical mass of teenagers curious when it plays over the closing credits of a popular TV show so your manager can add the Shazam stats to your Facebook Likes and get some Soundcloud action that might catch the eye of a Splendour booker who’ll ask you to play your good song (and some other ones) to a few thousand Hottest 100 voters before your keyboard player rethinks what has been, after all, a pretty paltry and fleeting emotional investment and decides to go back to uni so the whole thing goes tits up before you get to unveil the album that nobody wants to buy at Soundwave.

The future was never written far past the next EP, of course, even when the Church were buzzing through their very first ramshackle gigs, rightly oblivious to griseous old farts’ derision about their second-hand paisley ways and accidental echoes of jangling Rickenbacker. And Steve Kilbey and Co. were doubtless hell bent on writing that one song good enough to make Molly Meldrum pick up the telephone and … hello, has it really been 25 albums?

The future from here though, looks sort of brutal. Seems like it’s not 25 albums long for any band. For the vast majority, it’s not five. For most, maybe it’s one or two. Which is to say two songs, downloaded to some endlessly recycling playlist … and that’s if you count an edit of a remix on an ad for a TV show that doesn’t quite trend on Twitter.

Given the perpetual dilution of emotional investment capital in these maddeningly buzzing times, I was oddly touched to read  one Gen Y critic with enough unconditional love in his heart to take a punt  on the Church’s modest five-song stand  amongst the trending Bigsound newbies. Sitting here like a classic LP in a teeming torrent of single-track downloads, I can only admire his appetite for adventure.

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