We chat to Athina Uh Oh about Brunswick Music Festival's Highly Contagious, a twilight musical mass in the heart of Melville Road for Brunswick Music Festival ‘24.
The Brunswick Music Festival is a pretty important feature of Melbourne’s music scene. What does it mean for a band like Gut Health to not only play the festival, but curate an event such as Highly Contagious?
It means playing and enjoying music in the very nooks and crannies that we met so much of our community, and saw so many of our favorite acts over the years.
It also means having the resources to bring our wild ideas into fruition, because we wouldn’t be able to do this without support. We get to show people what we care about most when it comes to music and events.
Some might be unaware that Highly Contagious began as a zine created by Adam. How did it go from being an independent publication to a tangible, real-life event?
Highly Contagious, in the words of co-writer Fergus Sinclair’s foreword, was a “publication born out of a humble home above a wedding store in Brunswick’s luxurious bridal district, ever developing into an apartmental-apocalyptic hellscape” in the throws of the pandemic. It was the brainchild of Adam Markmann (who also plays bass in Gut Health), with all illustrations made by Rowena J. Lloyd and all reviews by Fergus Sinclair.
And, we know what you might be thinking – no, it didn’t earn the name Highly Contagious because of the pandemic, but due to the contagious nature of good records being passed through our friendship group. The idea was simple: explore music and art you love with people you love. In the case of Highly Contagious’ first edition, that music and art was from outsiders; those on the fringes, be it a bedroom producer, psychedelic synth pioneer, creatrix Dominatrix, or illustrator.
The publication was something tangible; a pocket sized slice of many lives that had love poured into it. Music enthusiasts love owning memorabilia as much as they love experiencing the thing in real time, beside others. Adam had always hoped to continue this exploration of music and art they love through events when we were finally out of the pandemic, and I wanted to remind the crew of how well-loved HC was. Now that the energy is there, we can resurrect it.
What was the curation process like? How did this lineup come about, and what do you hope attendees experience and take away from it?
Our aim was to stay true to HC: explore outsiders of music, throw genres out the door, and have fun while doing it. We wanted to show through this event that these spaces should champion people on the fringes of these genres, who are marginalized and often downplayed.
Sneaks’, for those that don’t know, is like a fantastic blend of young marble giants and ESG, effortlessly cool. Those who know her have probably played her songs on repeat like me over the years. We can’t believe she’s flying over from the USA for her debut show here. There’ll also be Aotearoa/New Zealand’s free and archaic electronic enigma Vanessa Worm. Savage punks Frenzee will also be touching down from Greece for their first run of shows in Aus. Lori and Cease and Desist’s tastes throw genre out the window, and bring the outsiders, outcasts and outlaws in.
It’s presented by Crown Ruler & Slow Clap who both represent niche music with integrity and care and are family to me.
While singing songs might not solve the problems in the world so much, there’s a place for dance and punk music – one that holds space to safely let loose, process whatever you might be going through and find catharsis. We want this to be a space where people feel like they can come together through the power of community.
What does the future hold for Highly Contagious? Will we be seeing more of the zine, or is this the auspicious beginning of a recurring event?
We have more events on the horizon, and other exciting tidbits on the horizon. New editions are in the works for the future, everyone can be very busy so it’s a slow moving beast with the zine. We are so thrilled to have the cogs moving again and have HC back in the world. It was such an important project for everyone and it feels so special to be able to announce its return with an amazing show line-up.
Get tickets here.
Beat is an official media partner of Brunswick Music Festival.