With BIGSOUND 2019 on the horizon, we're taking a look back at our highlights from last year's jaunt.

Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #XXXSubscribe to our print edition here! 

What: BIGSOUND Festival 2018
When: Tuesday, September 4th – Friday, September 7th 2018
Where: Fortitude Valley, Brisbane
Words: Matt Doria
Photos: Rochelle Flack

Even after 17 years, the annual BIGSOUND festival continues to evolve. As always a celebration of the innovations and revelations shaping the Australian music industry, this year’s bash posed a notable focus on audience participation. Gone was the usual slew of two-dimensional panels for punters to sit in and listen to – those still thrived, of course, but coexisted with workshops and forums that encouraged the younger guns amongst us to make their voices heard.

If there’s one reason you should make the pilgrimage to a future BIGSOUND, it’s the live music. From legends like Regurgitator and Ella Hooper (plus a midnight set from the one and only Paul Kelly) to the up-and-coming hopefuls who had barely touched a stage, there was no shortage of riffs and pits to sooth our cravings.

And though we’re rounding off on 15 of our favourites now, there were countless young vagabonds that took our breath away – like the carefree indie grooves of RAT!Hammock; Cable Ties and their neck-snapping punk fury; Alice Skye making us feel all the feelings and Sleep Talk proving that Oz hardcore is as incendiary as ever.

So without further ado, here are the acts we thought crushed it the hardest at BIGSOUND 2018. ‘Til next time...

Defying the limits of their PA with a mix that served both wall-rattling guitars and glittering synths justice, the post‑gothcore fivesome made a stunning case for their inevitable domination of the scene. Driving their set was a stack of jams from their stunning debut, I’m The Sin. A follow-up is due in 2019 – pray we might survive its riffs.

With defiantly buoyant rhythms and instantly addictive hooks, the Kiwis shined with a luminosity that other bands in their class just couldn’t match. Elizabeth Stokes stole the set up front, a triple‑hit combo of dusty strums, honeyed vocal melodies and effervescent energy whipping us head over heels from the second she kicked into gear.

Without so much as a drummer to back them, the alt-pop duo brewed a live sound that was preposterously huge. Mic in hand, Heather Riley channelled a prime-era Gerard Way, twisting around the stage like their bones were made of rubber. Jonathon Tooke’s riffs were delightfully spicy, too, both elements fusing without a hitch. We need an album and tour, right the f*** now.

Welp, it’s official: pop-punk is cool again. The trailblazers spent not a second in respite during their 30-minute conquests, shredders Will Moore and Andrew Anderson laying a crisp and crackly base for frontwoman Caitlin Henry to soar over. Our prediction? These kids will be tearing theatres to shreds within the year.

Speaking of newbies that are sure to have the world in a trance come their breakthrough, Georgia Flipo turned a car park full of industry moguls into a dizzily euphoric dance club, circa ‘95. Bounding between an axe, bass, keys and drums – sometimes all within the same track – the pop-rock princess beamed with an impenetrable sprightliness.

‘Enchanting’ doesn’t even start to cut it. Her vocals cut deep, the mountainous harmonies soaked in humanity and executed with a passion unrivalled. The bluesy twang of the guitars absorbed them like marshmallows in hot chocolate, sweetened evermore by heartfelt numbers that demanded surroundings much more opulent than the dive bar we caught her in.

Driven by quick ‘n’ gritty riffs, punchy drums and hear-on-sleeve vocal hooks, the fiery four-piece are breathing new life into the punk sphere. Their headbang-heavy bar set dialled back to the heyday of the ‘90s scene (leader Annabel Liddell wielded a rad Joan Jett-ish fierceness), but their motley stage dynamics felt distinctly modern.

Making cookies underwater. Growing a second head. Remembering that cool idea you had at 3AM last night. These are just a couple of things that are less impossible than watching Moaning Lisa play without a big, dorky grin on your face. The chemistry between the four Canberran alt-rockers was as striking as their songs were stunning (see: extremely).

Pairing bright and jangly emo-rock guitars with bouncy, retro flavoured synths, Cox and their band mustered the perfect blend of panic and disco. Each track was its own journey through the oft chaotic mind of Cox theirself, with captivating stories laying the framework for soundscapes that cantered from simple riffs into lively and thriving choruses. Keep an ear out for LP2 in 2019.

Wielding her Telecaster like a machine gun ready to fire, each dry, rumbling strum was a bullet that hit us straight in the heart, her pristine and emotive vocals serving as the tourniquet that kept us holding on. Accentuated with dreamy synths and a brazenly smoky rhythm section, Mei became an instant talking point at BIGSOUND.

Undercut by twinkling synths and warbly bass, the local outfit’s pop‑punk jams and playful spirit were impossibly infectious. It’s hard to believe they only had one guitarist onstage, Ethan Laenen ripping out a shred mightier than Thor’s hammer. Coupled with a voice as powerful as Erin Reus’, they’ve got a foolproof formula on their hands.

They’ve a knack for hooks that glue themselves to your brain and their chorus game is strong as all hell, but it was the simple interplay between guitarist Chris Langenberg and bassist Monica Sottile (both trading vocal duties) that made the local indie-emo trio really stand out. Fun, fresh and melodically massive – especially when it came to cuts from their forthcoming debut EP.

Gloriously gruff and deliciously DIY, the aptly self‑defined “shed rockers” revelled in summery riffs and blistering drums, pasted over with choruses designed to be chanted back at them. If you’ve got a sweet spot for bands like Dune Rats or Violent Soho, there’s a good chance these Wollongong wailers will steal your heart.

Starring members of DZ Deathrays, Violent Soho, Tape/Off and I Heart Hiroshima, this local unit simply weren’t allowed to fail. And of course they didn’t – a three-way axe attack drove a set of numbing grunge‑infused punk scorchers, reverb howling like wolves in the moonlight and destructive levels of distortion punching us square in the temples.

Two parts teen angst and one part cheap beer: the trio took us back to 1998 when they pummelled into a set of coarse and calamitous feelgood bangers. Flavoured with just a hint of distortion, Matt Cochran and Pat Shipp’s earnest fretting hit hard and carried a dynamic far statelier than their laidback punk cuts demanded. Expect big things (and bigger pits) in their future.