How Brisbane is making its mark on Australia’s live music scene

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How Brisbane is making its mark on Australia’s live music scene

Photo: Alice Duffield

From fostering a punk scene that birthed The Go-Betweens and The Saints to hosting Australia’s answer to SXSW, Brissy is a major player in the Aussie music game.

When contemplating Australia’s live music scene, Brisbane often goes unappreciated – an oversight the Queensland capital is working hard to overcome. Between establishing Fortitude Music Hall, the largest ballroom/theatre-style venue in Australia, and playing home to Australia’s oldest independent record store, Rocking Horse Records, Brisbane is definitely holding its own.

Such is especially clear during the annual BIGSOUND Festival and Conference which brings approximately 15,000 music lovers to Fortitude Valley each September. The event offers networking opportunities and live performances showcasing the best up-and-coming homegrown talent.

Having just capped off its 18th year with over 300 bands and speakers across 18 venues, BIGSOUND once again proved to be a vibrant celebration of Brisbane’s infrastructure which plots a huge offering of live music venues within a short stroll from one another. Darting from venue to venue, The Valley’s Brunswick St and surrounding streets and alleys were abuzz with eager punters trying to cram as many gigs into their evening as possible.

It’s like “Spring Break for the music industry”, as BIGSOUND marketing manager Michelle Padovan puts it.

Brisbane’s role as a live music city is nothing new either, something which Brisbane Museum aims to demonstrate through High Rotation, a new exhibition documenting the city’s rich music history. Featuring memorabilia from the first Livid Festival in 1989, Regurgitator, Powderfinger, Violent Soho and Kate Miller-Heidke, High Rotation is a celebration of Brisbane’s creative past, present and future.

“This isn’t a moment in time that stopped,” says industry stalwart and High Rotation curatorial advisor Leanne de Souza. With that in mind, the exhibition sprawls three decades and focuses heavily on video and sound to tell its story. Music exhibitions are usually quite still, explains de Souza, so for High Rotation, it was decided the energy of music would be captured through moving image.

The Queensland city is dedicated to fostering its creative community. As BIGSOUND wraps up, Brisbane Festival is kicking into gear, hosting a swathe of local and international acts. At Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), you can find yourself immersed in the religious experience that was Jacob Collier’s exclusive Australian performance. Just a ten minute Uber ride away at The Tivoli, you can have a holy awakening of an entirely different breed with the Groove Terminator and an assortment of DJs accompanied by a gospel choir.

“Brisbane is better experienced than explained,” Deputy Mayor Cr Krista Adams surmises, and as much is especially true during the ripe live music season currently blooming across the city.

Of course, the Sunshine State is renowned for its weather. Even in the early days of September you can find yourself shedding layers as the temperature sits around the mid-30s well into dusk. It’s balmy nights like these which makes Brisbane’s Riverstage such a beloved institution for gig-goers, local and otherwise. Set among the lush green Botanic Gardens and perched aside the Brisbane River which serpents its way through the city, the natural amphitheatre feels like a smaller scale Splendour in the Grass.

For its 30th birthday, and as part of Brisbane Festival, Riverstage welcomed Clea, Last Dinosaurs, Confidence Man, Cub Sport and Hot Dub Time Machine to the stage – a predominantly Brisbane-bred, eclectic lineup fitting of the occasion.

Running until Saturday September 28, Brisbane Festival will welcome the likes of The Middle East, Kate Miller-Heidke, Tropical Fuck Storm, Holy Holy, Girlpool and many more to its abundant live music venues, alongside a bountiful program offering theatre, comedy, dance and more.

As ARIA chief executive officer Dan Rosen mused during his BIGSOUND conference on the future of Australian music, it’s an exciting time for the music industry, and for the sunny city of Brisbane, the future is especially bright.