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Rising neo-soul star Ngaiire was a clear standout at BIGSOUND’s Official Closing Party. The petite Papua New Guinean-born singer shows what could happen if Mary J Blige and Erykah Badu brought their voices to a collaboration with M.I.A.’s genre-bending sensibility.
Ngaiire’s Rabbit Hole has shimmering pianos and subtle dubstep, whereas the track that she declared “started all this” for her, Dirty Hercules, is pure R&B and soul. Drumming up anticipation for her new album, Blastoma, out early next year, Ngaiire previewed new track Diggin’, the raw emotion of big ballad Fall Into My Arms and the first single Once, co-written by Paul Mac and Megan Washington.
This new BIGSOUND shindig gave a selection of the conference’s performers one last opportunity to play for the Brisbane crowds and gave every sleep-deprived delegate running on the smell of an oily rag a few final rounds of 2015 BIGSOUND beers. Nearly every artist was endearingly upfront about their afterparty-induced hangovers (“I was at the Woolly Mammoth until 5am… I didn’t really think things through. You just go with the flow,” Fraser A. Gorman told his audience), but without the pressures of the BIGSOUND showcases the atmosphere was much more relaxed, playful and collaborative.
Brisbane’s The Triffid, a gorgeously revamped World War II hangar that’s less than a year old as a music venue, played host to the event a couple of minutes away from the conference’s Fortitude Valley epicenter.
Melbourne supergroup Dorsal Fins, led by the multi-band, multi-tasking vocalists Liam McGorry and Ella Thompson, threw everything but the kitchen sink into their performance of material from February’s diverse LP Mind Renovation. The ten-piece (!) group’s busy instrumentation always felt complementary and never too chaotic, whether it was their grungy garage, jazz horns section or more electronic flavours.
Ella, who also showcased her stellar solo material at BIGSOUND a couple of nights earlier, took the lead on the 1980s Duran Duran-esque Monday Tuesday and the sexually-charged Heart on the Floor before the group broke out their remarkable rejuvenation of Kate Ceberano’s 1997 track Pash, recorded for Triple J’s Like A Version.
Picking up where the now-defunct Brisbane band Hungry Kids of Hungary perhaps left off, The John Steel Singers’ psychedelia-tinged and harmonious indie pop could also be described as a faster, looser Vampire Weekend. Playing cuts from their 2013 second album Everything’s A Thread to an adoring hometown crowd, the Brisbane boys delivered the kind of delirious and magical grooves that evoke images of a lazy Sunday afternoon barbeque or a road trip along any Australian coasts.
Melbourne alt-country artist Fraser A. Gorman not only has a remarkable physical resemblance to Bob Dylan but the folk legend is one influence Fraser wears on his sleeve, bursting into an impromptu cover of Dylan’s The Weight and also name-dropping Neil Young during his set. His own material is offbeat, slice-of-life Australiana storytelling set to a folksy American beat, delivered with similar endearing idiosyncrasies and local accent as label mate Courtney Barnett.
And “folktronica” may sound like a bizarre proposition but Sydney singer-songwriter Caitlin Park and her two backup instrumentalists blended guitars with electronic drum loops to give a driving bassline to tracks like For What It’s Worth and Hold Your Gaze and Caitlin’s album’s title track The Sleeper, while still leaving room for more straightforward balladry on tracks like Hunt for the Young.
Image: Dorsal Fins Perform At BIGSOUND Live 2015, Day 2 / Photo By Rebecca Reid