Held on the first Friday of every month, Melbourne Museum’s Nocturnal has established itself as a highlight of Melbourne’s live music and cultural scenes. On Friday 4th May, guests were treated to a special offering hosted by the Museum in collaboration with the independent record label and management collective Our Golden Friend. The artists on display included Jade Imagine, RVG, Jess Ribeiro and Totally Mild, each of which is managed by Our Golden Friend. The ensemble recently concluded a tour across the United States in March, giving Nocturnal the feel of a happy family reunion which happened to feature some of the most unique and promising talents in Australian music.
Before recapping the performances, it’s worth reflecting on how extraordinary Nocturnal is as an interactive venue and immersive experience. Located in the Edenic Carlton Gardens, the postmodern Melbourne Museum is transformed into an otherworldly “adult playground” with an impressive array of bars and other dining options. The exhibits are open to the public for exploration between sets, including the stunning Vikings: Beyond the Legend, Te Vainui O Pasifika, and Dinosaur Walk. We are encouraged to re-experience the childlike sense of wonderment, awe and discovery that children have when they step into a museum.
With summer in the rear-view mirror and Melburnians now bracing for a bitter winter, cultural offerings such as these have never been more important. They represent little oases of colour, pleasure, and abundance that sustain us through the desert of the working week. Melbourne Museum and Our Golden Friend should be congratulated for this outstanding event.
Keeping the themes of discovery and contemplation of the sublime in mind, patrons flocked to the main stage to see Melbourne indie staples Jade Imagine take the stage. Resplendent in her pink power suit, black RM Williams boots, and orange polka-dot socks, lead singer Jade McInally (Teeth & Tongue) created an ethereal aesthetic and atmosphere which suited Nocturnal perfectly. She was brilliantly supported by guitarist Tim Harvey, his brother James Harvey on drums, and bassist Liam ‘Snowy’ Halliwell.
With their dream-pop, low-fi and folksy sound evoking The Shins, Simon & Garfunkel, and Sibylle Baier, Jade Imagine were spellbinding to watch live. As an ensemble, they have gone through many incarnations, but this line up of performers feels just right. Each band member also performs as a vocalist, which Jade Imagine used to great effect on stage through harmonization to create a dreamy wall of sound, which feels like they’re wrapping you up in a big hug. Their musical style supports the band’s deeply evocative and poetic lyrics, which sometimes border on magical realism.
One of the most anticipated acts of Nocturnal was RVG, led by the sensational frontwoman Romy Vager. Despite Romy battling through sickness, RVG put on an electric and rollicking performance which had the crowd in raptures. Having released their debut album A Quality of Mercy (Our Golden Friend/Island Records) in August 2017, the band has already picked up a suite of awards including four nominations each for The Age Music Victoria Awards and the AIR Music Awards.
One is struck by the sense that RVG is on the brink of a very special career, spearheaded by Romy’s unforgettable and deeply moving voice, which transcends genres and eludes definition. Punters revelled in the power, goth and glam of the performance, which recalled the brooding and melancholic stylings of Joy Division’s Ian Smith. Romy’s lyrics are pared-down, hardboiled and often monosyllabic, which lets the profundity of the words hit you in the chest like a hammer: “I used to love you / but now I don’t / and I don’t feel bad / we’re just not the same any more / we’re just not the same”. *dies*.
When enigmatic Jess Ribeiro took the stage patrons were enveloped by the smoky texture of lead-singer Jess’s voice, which is informed by the diverse hinterland of her travels and musical background. It’s been a remarkable personal and creative journey for the talented frontwoman, ranging from the outback and tropics of the Northern Territory to the urban wintriness of Melbourne. Along the way, Jess has found critical acclaim with My Little River (2012), which won the ABC Radio National Album of the Year and Best Country Album (AIR). This dusky country feel came through at the Museum, where the band performed tracks such as ‘Hurry Back to Love‘, ‘Slip The Leash‘ and ‘Strange Game‘.
Jess Ribeiro is getting ready to release their next record in 2018. Jess has worked with some impressive producers in her career, most notably Mick Harvey (The Bad Seeds) who helped Jess rediscover her muse after a three-year hiatus to produce the critically-acclaimed Kill It Yourself (Barely Dressed Records, 2015). She’s recently spent a lot of time in New Zealand collaborating with producer Ben Edwards, who has worked with other emerging Antipodean sensations such as Marlon Williams, Julia Jacklin, and Aldous Harding. One has the feeling that big things are on the horizon for Jess Ribeiro as a collective, and I also suspect that lead-singer Jess will one day make a brilliant producer herself.
Rounding out the evening was Melbourne lush quartet Totally Mild. Frontwoman Elizabeth Mitchell was sublime and at her charming and magnetic best. Her angelic and versatile voice enchanted the crowd, and one could feel the influence of her choral background coursing through her. She was brilliantly supported by the intricate sounds of guitarist Zachary Schneider, the subtle indie drumming of Dylan Young, and rolling bass of Lehmann Smith. Totally Mild make for disorienting performers. You’re so beguiled by the heady, atmospheric sweetness of their musical stylings and by the band’s extroverted stage presence that you miss the dark and brooding nature of their lyrics, best exemplified by their biggest hit ‘Christa. I think this makes their music more impactful and compelling, as it enables Mitchell to speak about highly-sensitive topics such as depression and loneliness in subtle, disarming ways.
It was fitting that the night closed with Totally Mild, who released their second record Her in February. It’s a thoughtful and complex meditation on the experience of being a woman in the 21st century, which was a powerful acknowledgement of the fact that Nocturnal was headlined by four bands which each featured creatively confident, highly-intelligent, and empathic frontwomen at a time when the Australian music industry is being criticised for inadequate representation of female artists at music festivals. Speaking with Elizabeth over the phone, she informed me that Her “speaks to the tension between independence and the sense of having unlimited potential as a young woman, but also still being bound by structural oppression and other personal limitations, such as mental health and other social roles”.
The drive to By The Meadow doesn’t feel all that different to the drive to Meredith or Golden Plains. You head towards Geelong, you take the bypass and at some point, you take a turn off away from Geelong for 40 minutes. The first main difference that caught our attention was instead of going through a small town with a pub like Meredith, you read a green wooden sign that says Bambra Bushland Reserve – Removal Of Forest Produce Illegal. This sign sets the tone early, you now know you’re entering nature with some music inside, not a music festival carved into nature.
It feels like the location of the Shady Cottage 2016, on a farm in Trentham, except upon entry to Shady Cottage you went past the house on the property, reminding you that you’re on a farm. At By The Meadow, it took until 7 pm on Saturday for me to notice the location of the house on the farm, hidden back up the hill behind the back of the camping area. For 24 hours I could’ve easily have been in a National Park instead.
When you enter the festival site, there’s one woman checking the car for glass, but instead of the reasonably thorough search one would get at Meredith or the very thorough search at Falls Festival, there’s a trust by the woman. If you say you don’t have glass, she trusts that you’re telling the truth, no search is actually needed. This trust is important, like leaving your clothes by the side of a public pool; you’ll enjoy your swim more if you don’t consistently think somebody will steal your stuff.
By The Meadow has all the nice aspects of other Victorian boutique festivals. The area feels expansive yet close like Camp Casual 2015 in Gippsland. The divide between the tents and car area brings the friendly neighbour tents closer together like Inner Varnika 2013 in Ruffy. There’s an endless view as the sun descends like Paradise Music Festival on Lake Mountain. There’s a valley drop facing the sunset like Sunset Point at Meredith, except at this one you can also camp on it and make it your morning view from your tent. In the words of two overheard early comments “fuck it’s fucking nice” and “this feels like home, very calming.”
But no festival is perfect and there’s still some work in progress elements for By The Meadow. But first, the tunes:
Unfortunately, I missed Tram Cops, but he’s definitely an artist I’m curious to follow the progress of as he plays more live shows. The first band I saw was Totally Mild. If you were new to any of these artists, but you had some understanding and appreciation for hearing four individually talented musicians working together as a cohesive unit, creating something bigger than the sum of its parts, then Totally Mild would confuse you as to how they are still playing 500 people festivals. In another world where dream pop is pop, By The Meadow can’t snatch Totally Mild, because they are too busy headlining festivals worldwide. But instead we don’t live in that world, and lucky for us, because we get to hear them up close, with a quiet appreciation around us, on a sound system that’s 10 out of 10. Yes, the sound system was that good — it made hearing bands you’ve heard many times before a whole new experience.
Cameron Wade (who is behind By The Meadow) said in his interview that the sound was the most important thing to get right. I won’t get too technical, but essentially the sound system was the XD15 series by Martin Audio London with 3 stack X118 series (I think) subs on both sides. What that means was that bands had a full range of highs, mids and lows, and the wide frequency distinction was clear up close or up on the hill. You could hear separation between guitars, between different toms, it wasn’t quite like monitors in a studio, but it was an ear pleasure nonetheless. But the really impressive part was that because of the 6 subs, the electronic acts at night had a powerful low-end to work with, throttling your gut into the early hours. That’s hard to do and is rare at small festivals, to make both bands and electronic artists sound even better than most small venues in Melbourne.
Next up was The Harpoons, and despite having to restart one song due to I think laptop problems, they came home particularly strong and worked seamlessly as a segway into the Daydreams DJ set. Which is in part due to their latest album Amaro carrying a stronger house structure than their previous work, likely influenced by member Jack Madin’s latest side project Shouse, which dives into a variety of house genres.
Max and Mark of Daydreams (no Luke Pocock) know what time it is. They didn’t waste any time pretending this was a Sunday daytime Daydreams set at The Gasometer with light-outside house or disco. They got dark and hectic quick, taking turns whipping this party into shape. Then as soon as you thought you were in for a session of hard techno, they starting dropping lots of ’90s tracks and pop songs. Which isn’t my personal taste, but it’s a wise move to make at a festival, where people are generally more social and silly than in the club environment, but dropping Jimmy Barnes was surely too far. I know he’s relevant again due to that Kirin J Callinan collaboration, but I’m calling them out on that one, a very rare mistake. Almost as if they knew they pushed the boundaries a little too far, they won me back by dropping ‘On & On’ by Orbital, which again, on that sound system, had me lost in my head for at least five minutes
It also helped that the lighting technician was dialled in on every track drop and mood change. What a lot of big festivals do, is they tend to use their best technicians on the bands because they have a lot of pressure to not miss a cue, but then they generally tend to sub out and sleep when the DJ’s come on stage late at night. Usually, it’s either a young tech told not to use the best lights and save them for the bands or the sound guy takes over. Which often leads to bland and boring lighting just scrolling on a loop for the rest of the night. Which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but when the lights are cued throughout the whole night, the highs are way higher — after all, there’s not much to look at during a DJ set, so the lighting is how we process the journey. This minor detail brightened many sets throughout the weekend.
As the Daydreams set continued beyond its intended finish time of 1 am, the crowd began to walk on to the stage, with no objections from Mark or Max. After all, everyone at By The Meadow felt like family (or at least felt like they could be trusted like family). With smiles on every face, the pin was finally pulled on the Daydreams set after they finished with ‘Call On Me’ by Eric Prydz, everyone began the “big” 2-minute walk back to their tents. If night one was meant to feel like an opening ceremony, then they hit the nail straight bang on its shiny head.
On the walk back to the tents, there were some security guards present, but so far back and away from the crowd of people that you never noticed them during any of the sets — but you could easily find them just in case you needed too, which is how it should always be. At the tents, there was condensation, it was cold, but I guess being on a hill near the sea lends itself to those sorts of conditions. It wasn’t Lake Mountain freezing, but I do recommend bringing solid sleeping gear if you plan on going in the future.
In the morning we went for a walk down the hill, past the By The Meadow sign, opened the gate and meandered the Kangaroo track. I don’t know what counts as a Kangaroo track, but my friend who lives in the country assured me that it was one.There was a creek maybe 20 metres further down the steep ditch, but we decided to do some brief yoga instead. After all, the sun was out, and we had some pleasant shade under a tree with no wind, and not a person to be heard near us. After around 30 minutes we ended up back at the campsite — it wasn’t quite the exploration you can take at Lake Mountain, but at least you can escape, unlike the current Inner Varnika location. It’s probably not further of a walk than the one you can take at Hopkins Creek, but at least people can’t still see you at By The Meadow, especially when you just need some escape time that’s not sitting on a public toilet.
Back to the stage action and it felt like Stella Donnelly was the headliner, or at least the name most talked about. She’s been generating attention in the US market and that appears to be helping her exposure back here in Australia. The crowd was all over the hill, sitting down with both ears pointed at the stage, like a school assembly by a guest speaker. After opening with a respectful stolen land speech, she played huge singles during her set such as ‘Mechanical Bull’ and ‘Boy Will Be Boys’. Even threw in a short funny song about the negatives of Sportsbet, that got plenty of laughs. Even told the funny story of explaining the EP title Thrush Metal to her formal Welsh family. This is where Stella is very impressive at such an early stage of her career — she commands the stage and people are just locked into everything she says. I haven’t seen a crowd more quietly locked in at a festival since The Tallest Man on Earth at Golden Plains 2013.
To help process Stella’s set, we took a break about 30 metres away on an open section of the hill to play Finska. Yes they had Finska, freely available for anyone to take and play anywhere they wanted. It was a great way to stretch the legs, meet a few locals confused by the game, and then clearly see when the Dianas were about to take the stage.
This is where I found myself scratching my head and shaking it at the same time. How is one of the countries best bands and best live bands, still completely unknown to even the niches of boutique festivals. Dianas had one of the smallest crowds of the entire weekend, maybe the crowd used the sunny afternoon as a chance to explore the festival campground, I don’t know. But what I do know is that Dianas are like punk angels from another world, almost telepathic with their on-stage musical chemistry. The kind that makes other bands watching say to each other “we need to get more in sync like them”. They’re the kind of band that wouldn’t work if they were missing a member, and despite it clearly being very hot on stage with the back wall all sealed up, by the end of the set the crowd was watching in awe (based solely on the look on their faces). Even when member Caitlin accidentally kicked her volume down via her guitar pedal, during their final song ‘Somebody Else,’ she kept her cool and managed to recover for the final explosive finish to the song — like a skateboarder messing up a trick, yet still managing to remain standing on the skateboard, pure class. My only advice on both the band’s end and the audio technician’s end would’ve been to lift the vocals, they were buried a tad too low in the mix (and this is coming from a fan of low vocals in mixes).
The next activity of the day had the right intentions but needed a little more originality. I’m not talking about the Welcome section, where Cameron and Ruby thanked all the workers, punters (for not destroying the stage during Daydreams the night before), bands and general vibe of the festival, which was all very cute. I’m talking about the running race up the hill in order for one man and then one woman to win a free pass to next year’s festival. The gender separation wasn’t the only awkward part, it’s the fact that this activity is something Meredith has held since the ‘90s. So any real exciting enthusiasm was mixed in with comments of “they took this from Meredith.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s very generous to give up two free passes, but there are so many ways this could be more creative. A stage talent show perhaps, or how about a wholesome activity course without gender separation, or clothes swapping, even — always hilarious, especially with strangers. At festivals like Camp Casual, they would have had dance circles and moments of musical yoga. You could take it one step further like Dan Deacon, and curate those spiral dance circles. Ground participation is so easy at a small festival, there’s nowhere to hide. If anything they should break up the sets with a few more activities throughout the day. Make the crowd very intimate with each other. Even before any music on the Friday, why not start with an activity down at the sunset point area — but I’ll speak more on that area soon.
I’ve seen Suss Cunts a few times now, and this probably wasn’t their best set. I’m guessing a combination of the heat and something else, like having to rush back to Melbourne, because the songs felt a tad rushed, even considering the already short length of them. However, even to fresh ears, the songs would’ve come across tightly constructed, led by their singer Nina Renee, who doesn’t mess around with half cooked ideas — she knows exactly what she wants with every song. This assertiveness makes you a believer in Suss Cunts, a quiet confidence, that they can weather any storm, and that this is still only just the beginning for the band. Or they might flame out at any moment, which makes each set even more vital.
Then came perhaps the favourite moment of the weekend, a real grounding reminder of how lucky and fortunate we are in Melbourne, and it didn’t really have anything to with the strength of our music scene. Recently, Pitchfork posted an article about how artists in the US are leading a trend of running their own festivals, small festivals with a communal feel, moving away from the generic commercial ‘play the set, get paid, and leave’ festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza. This article would be really exciting for people in the US, but as someone from Melbourne, where we’ve had small niche communal festival all around Victoria for this entire decade, you almost had to feel sorry for US music fans.
Which brings me back to the sunset gathering at By The Meadow. The location and the view would’ve been magical even in a windy gusty storm, but luckily for us we scored a warm gradient sunset spectacle. Painters couldn’t paint how magnificent the sunset was. The stroke of genius move by BTM (By The Meadow) was having a classical duo including a Cello, playing delicate arrangements including the Game Of Thrones theme song, that forced the gathering to keep chatter to a low volume and really take in this special country land we are surrounded by in Victoria. Even after a festival season that started all the way back in October and took me all around Victoria, by early April we’re still able to wear shorts and t-shirts at 7pm. This special secret world for 600 people did make you wonder how we got so lucky, and reminded us that we shouldn’t take any of it for granted, and that any missteps we could accuse of the festival of making, would really be us just being incredibly selfish.
I decided to leave behind my new found elderly friends drinking wine well outside my price range to check out Flowertruck‘s set. When I think of Sydney bands that I wish would make the permanent move to Melbourne, Flowertruck is definitely one of the first who come to mind. A lot of that is because I want the lead singer Charles Rushforth to reach his full potential, unleash his personality and get weird in ways he hasn’t yet achieved. He’s got the stage presence, the character, the vocals, the lyrics — he just needs to embrace weird, surround himself with madness and get lost in it. He’s just a bit too clean, a bit too tight. If those screws get loosened, he could become one of those lead singers that’s great in 20 years.
A good example of his confinement was his bewilderment of somebody bringing a couch down to the stage. Then his following bewilderment from the lack of crowd reaction to his comment. Now maybe he’s been to Meredith or Golden Plains before and forgotten, but it sounds more likely that he’s never been to either festival before. In that case Charles, there’s literally 100’s of couches down at the stage there and they feature everything from personal bars, to totem tennis poles, to popcorn machines. The stage comment that was however very funny, was when he described the feeling that all the festival’s millions of crickets must be experiencing down at their ground level. Comparing it to the end of the world or 100-foot tall Slipknot Monsters blasting music above us and then proceeding to dedicate the next song to the crickets. Then they finished with my favourite song moment of the weekend when Flowertruck emphatically played ‘Come Across’, a song I already featured on several of my Spotify playlists, but live on that Maxim PA it was another experience altogether. It couldn’t have felt more from the heart. Throw on top that keyboard hook by Sarah Sykes, which is as vintage as any Depeche Mode keyboard hook, and I looked like the take-all-my-money Futurama meme up on the hill.
If ‘Come Across’ was my favourite live song of the weekend, then The Senegambian Jazz Band were my favourite band of the weekend. There were numerous reasons why. They managed to ride that fine line between fun festive big band and tight, interesting, dissectible, headphone-worthy music. Then there was their noticeable pure enjoyment and smiles across all the members, the kind that comes from enjoying their own music and seeing the crowd’s warm reaction to it. Simple, but the enjoyment was mutual across everyone in the area. The real festival MVP however was the singer and Kora player Amadou Suso. He may be one of the coolest musicians in Melbourne. I have no idea what he’s like off stage, but I don’t want to ruin that illusion of just how cool he is. He automatically makes the band almost a must on every festival in the country, which would actually kind of suck, because I don’t want to get sick of The Senegambian Jazz Band, which could happen if everyone booked them, like they really should. They just spice up not only the Melbourne music scene, but the Australian music scene.
With an evident West African influence in his rhythms and flows, he makes you want to get down and be silly. More impressively the set never feels tiring, there’s enough variety in the arrangements that it makes you actually never want it to end, or at least for it to go a little longer. Whether it’s turning the Kora upside and playing it like a magician or covering a ‘90s song — of which I sadly can’t think of title, despite it being a very famous song (I’m better at naming obscure B-sides). Please DM me the song title if you were there.
I had to gather myself for a moment and went to get some food, $10 small pizzas to be exact, which hit the spot. On the way to the toilets I walked past a classic Australian scene. On the left people were watching Jaws in the movie theatre inside a country hut (props to the selection of movies including Trainspotting, Spirited Away and Kill Bill: Vol 1). Jaws may not be Australian, but a film about a killer shark is more Australian than any other country could claim. Then on the right I could see inside the First-Aid RV, yes a mobile home First-Aid (something you would see rock up to a country footy match), people watching the AFL live on Channel 7. Felt like a scene dropped from The Castle’s final edit. It was all very endearing, and because there was never any lines for the toilets in the toilet truck, I didn’t feel guilty sitting on the toilet for a while, while I typed down all my notes. A nice pause, something you don’t get at big festivals, where you know there’s a busting line outside the door and the guilt gets to you, forcing you to hurry up and not actually gather yourself for a few minutes. Or maybe that’s just me.
Outside of Billy Davis and Pjenné, the rest of the Saturday night set times could’ve been reworked more effectively, and again this is something BTM were aware of, and sometimes it’s unavoidable due to scheduling clashes and stage criteria etc. Firstly, Tiny Little Houses felt like somebody pulling you away from a dance floor (The Senegambian Jazz Band) for a serious D&M. I’m all for D&M’s, but the timing was off, the mood was too positive, those two bands should’ve switched set times. GUM was actually more interesting than I expected, a one-man show like D.D Dumbo, but more focused on snyth and guitar layering. But honestly I wasn’t expecting much — I’m surely not the only person a bit tired of Tame Impala members getting so much exposure (over far more interesting Australian musicians), simply because Kevin Parker is a genius. Jay Watson tried his best — he comes across as a good dude, no ego. Apparently, he was originally meant to have a band, again he would’ve worked better before Senegambian and Billy Davis. Darcy Baylis was also his usual hard-to-pin-down self, twisting and turning from ‘90s electronica to hip-hop to PBR-RnB. It was more noteworthy and discussion worthy than party mood. Which is how Paradise used him when he played upstairs in clubland, while there was an option of basement party DJs at the same time downstairs. Giving punters an option. The crowd was a little confused at BTM by the set time pacing at this point and started to thin out.
Which was unfortunate for Pjenné, who was 100% from the get go. The lighting guy made a big no-no by sitting tight on the lights for like 20 minutes — FYI, DJ set lighting must be 80% go-go from the start, very different to lighting a band or group. This really hurt the early momentum of loosening up the crowd, which was evident by the time the lights got moving and the crowd finally appeared to be back in full party mode, but a good 4 hours later than the full party mood during Billy Davis. For those who hung around, it was a genre world tour experience hour, with the only blemish being playing too much Kylie Minogue, again another trend I wish Melbourne DJs would stop, trying to be too cute and full-circle self-aware, playing pop songs we’ve already played too much for the last 20 years. There’s so much amazing music out there, new and old. Keep it exciting, please. It’s really hard to not get behind Pjenné, who sings along to many of the songs dropped, and chats to everyone in the front row.
The music stopped at 4 am, and for most, it was late enough, however as someone who loves dancing until sunrise at festivals, I had to take the UEboom down the hill to continue the party. Only 8 other people came along, but it’s when I started to jog down notes on how the festival’s identity needs clarifying. By finishing the nights with DJs, some punters come along thinking each night will be a loose party. Instead the DJs need to be advertised as a little boogie before bed or just spread out between the bands, and they had the right lighter DJs to do so. I think to advertise the festival as a day and evening festival, a summer season winde down, would help its market and would leave punters a little less confused at the end of the night. A lot of this was also my fault, naturally assuming the nights should finish the same way, just like every other festival, instead of viewing By The Meadow differently.
This was a notion I didn’t fully grasp until the next morning with a lush closing combination of Leah Senior (who Lachlan, during the following The Ocean Party set, claimed to be his favourite set in a long time) and The Ocean Party. It’s an unfortunate situation Leah Senior find themselves in. Their calm, angelic lulling atmosphere is ideal for festival recovery mornings, I can honestly only think of one other equal option in Australia, that being Dannika. The unfortunate part is that Leah deserves a later time-slot, a bigger audience. Maybe that’s why two of the band members started the more upbeat and fun band Girlatones, trying to break their typecast.
Having said that, Leah Senior looked liked she had grown up on this farm, her music embodied the purity of the country community.
Despite some strong wind kicking in and knocking down the fences around the stage, nothing could prevent the sound during The Ocean Party. I question every PA I’ve ever heard them play through, and there’s been a lot of PA’s I’ve heard them play through. I sat on the hill thinking “oh, this is what they must actually sound like in the studio.” Almost like a jump from Earbuds to $1000 open headphones. They introduced a guest pan flute player as Aldani, which I still find funny typing this up weeks later and I don’t even know the story behind the joke. I think he’s from the band Cool Sounds. Then after reading on Facebook that Snowy (their Saxophone player) couldn’t find his Saxophone the day before, in true dolewave DYI fashion they closed with a local classic ‘Head Down’ with Snowy bringing it home via somebody else’s Saxophone. Please never change, The Ocean Party.
And that’s it, really. By The Meadow is a few slight adjustments from being a flawless wholesome weekend. Add some gripple wire across the stage, hang some ferns. Get rid of the gap between the stage and the crowd, no fence needed, bring everyone together. Add one more vegan option and group activities between sets. Open the gates earlier on the first day, give people a couple hours to set up their tents before the first band. Really minor adjustments, that’s just how impressive By The Meadow truly is.
Photo by Sarah Chavdaroska
This is our updated weekly playlist of the 30 best new Australian songs released within the past two months. This week’s guide includes new entries from Amaya Laucirica, Montero, Albrecht La’Brooy, Fantastic Man, Rings Around Saturn, Gamirez, Deer, and this week’s best new track by Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever.
30. Deer – ‘On My Own (Drum Edit)’ | Uploaded: January 18th
29. Roland Tings ft. HIGH HØØPS – ‘One Hundred’ | Uploaded: December 5th | Open with SoundCloud
28. LETRAN – ‘Rider’ | Uploaded: January 2nd | Open with SoundCloud
27. Pond – ‘Fire In The Water’ | Uploaded: January 10th | Open with SoundCloud
26. Gamirez – ‘U KNXW’ | Uploaded: January 12th
25. Total Control – ‘Laughing At The System 1, Pt. 1’ | Uploaded: December 5th | Open with SoundCloud
24. Hector Gachan – ‘East – West’ | Uploaded: December 5th | Open with SoundCloud
23. Dasler – ‘Someday’ | Uploaded: November 28th | Open with SoundCloud
22. Ju Ca – ‘Wilt’ | Uploaded: December 6th | Open with SoundCloud
21. Rings Around Saturn – ‘Night Swim’ | Uploaded: December 24th
20. Shame On Us – ‘NAAM (Fantastic Man Remix)’ | Uploaded: January 23rd
19. Albrecht La’Brooy – ‘Last Light’ | Uploaded: January 23rd
18. The Citradels – ‘Pictures of Uncle Arthur’ | Uploaded: January 8th | Open with SoundCloud
17. Solo Career – ‘Let Down’ | Uploaded: December 17th | Open with SoundCloud
16. Corniglia – ‘Strange Desires’ | Uploaded: January 9th | Open with SoundCloud
15. Tim Coggins – ‘Embers’ | Uploaded: January 8th | Open with SoundCloud
14. Telete – ‘Basketball Boy’ | Uploaded: December 17th | Open with SoundCloud
13. James i.V – ‘Freda’s Jam’ | Uploaded: January 15th | Open with SoundCloud
12. Polygon Woods – ‘Royalty’ | Uploaded: November 29th | Open with SoundCloud
11. Elizaband – ‘Old Australis!’ | Uploaded: December 24th | Open with SoundCloud
10. Oscar Key Sung ft. Ah Mer ah su & HTML Flowers – ‘Fools’ | Uploaded: January 1st | Open with SoundCloud
9. Doona Waves – ‘Losing Focus’ | Uploaded: January 8th | Open with SoundCloud
8. The Plastic Fangs – ‘Kickback’ | Uploaded: December 2nd | Open with SoundCloud
7. K a r y m e – ‘Angus’ | Uploaded: January 9th | Open with SoundCloud
6. Primitive Motion – ‘Feed the Signals’ | Uploaded: January 9th | Open with SoundCloud
5. Montero – ‘Running Race’ | Uploaded: January 17th
4. Amaya Laucirica – ‘All Of Our Time’ | Uploaded: December 24th
3. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – ‘Mainland’ | Uploaded: January 22nd
2. Donny Benet – ‘Melodie’ | Uploaded: December 17th | Open with SoundCloud
1. Totally Mild – ‘Lucky Stars’ | Uploaded: December 1st | Open with SoundCloud
It’s no secret that we’re big fans of everything about Totally Mild here at RipeMusic. Since we first heard ‘Christa‘ in 2015 before the release of their debut album Down Time, we’ve been hitting the refresh button waiting for more Totally Mild material. Not only was Down Time an instant classic that’ll still be enjoyable in 10 or 20 years, but it set up a unique sound for Totally Mild to build from.
The first new single ‘Today Tonight‘ from their upcoming second album Her, displays perhaps what the lead singer Elizabeth Mitchell needed to do next – reduce the reverb a tad and take over the narrative reigns. ‘Today Tonight’ does exactly that, by putting her relatable personality and vulnerability in the forefront. It also helps that she has a very tight band around her, including Zach Schneider of Great Outdoors and Free Time. The guitars are crispier than fresh nacho chips and production overall sounds like a restored expensive vintage muscle car.
We have to wait until February 2018 to hear Her, but until then they’re playing a few shows in November (assuming there’ll be more to come around Australia) and the band have sent us a Trading Tunes with the theme of “Songs about loneliness!”.
Friday November 3rd – Melbourne at Northcote Social Club with Sui Zhen, Lalić + Mystery Guest.
Friday November 17th – Sydney at Oxford Arts Factory with Gussy + Sachet.
The Reels – ‘(Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All’
Zach: “This song is a cover but The Reels really own it. The twin peaks-y arrangement is kinda sterile and cold. David Mason’s weathered vocals feel so dire. Staying up all night because you are lonely and sad. Sleeping pills ‘not working’. The old image of sitting by the land line telephone, waiting for your lover who never calls. It might be harder to be lonely with smartphones, but I think we all still manage to get there sometimes.”
Beach House – ‘Saltwater’
Dylan: “I love the obscurity of the production. It is completely immersive and lulls you into a very personal space. The opening lyric “love you all the time – even though you’re not mine” is unrequited love at it’s bluntest. The song embodies loneliness to a tee, yet it never fails to be uplifting.”
Stevie Wonder – ‘Lately’
Liz: “This song perfectly captures the loneliness of knowing someone has fallen out of love with you but is trying to make it work. Stevie just loves his lady and he can’t contain his tears, knowing that she’s going to leave him.”
Peggy Lee – ‘I Go To Sleep’
Lehmann: “Ray Davies from the Kinks wrote this, which is sort of obvious from the bouncy phrasing of the words. I think those two-note guitar things in the chorus really cut through the heart, like little meows, little pangs of sadness. The bridge gets a bit Las Vegas but loneliness is not always a subtle beast.”
Divinyls – ‘I’m Jealous’
Liz: “I love how angry Chrissy Amphlett is in her delivery of this super angry/sad song. Why is she so mad at the new girlfriend? Shouldn’t she be mad at her lost love? Why is she mad at all? I think it’s a really spot on translation of the irrationality that can come with learning that someone you loved is seeing someone else, that ‘out of your mind’ feeling. Also the lyric ‘in my heart is a bloody tear’ is so perfectly emo, I’m obsessed.”
Photo by Sarah Chavdaroska
Music venues around Melbourne house some of the best local and international acts. We’ve compiled our top five picks for gigs this week so you don’t miss out. Be a part of one of the best live music cities in the world, and check out some of our favourite artists and venues.
|Friday, 26th of May||~Free Entry~|
Cable Ties and Shrimpwitch played their first gigs in the same backyard, and they’re coming together again to celebrate the release of their respective new albums.
They’re playing instore at Record Paradise in Brunswick from 6pm on Friday. All ages, free entry and cheap drinks but first come first serve so head down early.
|Friday, 26th of May||On the door|
Later on and around the corner on Friday, two other fantastic acts are coming together to play at The Tote.
Golden Syrup and The Ocean Party — both absolutely blistering live — are on from 9.45pm for only $8 entry (on the door).
|Friday, 26th May||Tickets $15|
Dust off your go-to all-white outfit* because Loose Tooth have put together the inaugural Sensation at The Curtin (*suggested but by no means compulsory).
Also playing on the night are Totally Mild and Pure Moods, all for $15.
|Saturday, 27th May||On the door|
Flamingo Jones‘ new single ‘North (We’ll Be Warmer Up There)’ is the perfect auditory escape from looming Melbourne winter.
He’s celebrating its launch at Hugs&Kisses on Saturday night (with live band The Hi-Life Tribe). Playing support are Uncle Bobby and Blyolk, for $10 on the door.
|Sunday, 28th May||~Free entry~|
Arbes and Great Outdoors are playing on Sunday afternoon for this weeks’ edition of Snow Cone.
Snow Cone has been taking over the garden at Howler for free, fun live music to chill out to. If you can’t make it to this one, their upcoming line-ups are worth a peek– when winter officially takes Melbourne you may as well lean in to it.
Photo by Sarah Chavdaroska
Music venues around Melbourne house some of the best local and international acts. We’ve compiled our top five picks for gigs this week so you don’t miss out. Be a part of one of the best live music cities in the world, and check out some of our favourite artists and venues.
|Thursday, 8th September||Buy Tickets|
GODS are bringing their psychedelic rock to The Toff on Thursday, using the night to further fund their upcoming debut EP.
RAThammock are playing support as are the beautiful boys of Greeves, who will be preforming some of their new tunes.
|Thursday, 8th September||Buy Tickets|
Northeast Party House are playing at 170 Russell, on the tour for their new record ‘Dare‘ (out this Friday).
Joining them are Polish Club, Twinsy and Osaka, hot off the release of their new single ‘Weights‘.
|Friday, 9th September||Buy Tickets|
Animals Dancing and Crown Ruler are presenting Larry Heard aka MR Fingers in his first ever show in Australia, and second since his return to live shows.
Gigi Masin and Gaussian Curve are also playing on the night at the Melbourne Town Hall, so if you have the means and opportunity you would be crazy not to jump on tickets ASAP.
|Saturday, 10th September||SOLD OUT|
Dreamy party-time dance duo GL are touring their debut album, Touch, around the country at the moment.
They are playing at Howler with Totally Mild and Venus II for the Melbourne leg on Saturday night.
|Sunday, 11th September||Tickets on the door|
Ciggie Sunday is back at the Gasometer this Sunday with Ciggiespiracy.
Tunes will be coming from Tomsk, Service Desk, Max Matthews, Runsthevoodoodown and VJ Isaac Christie for the grand total of $0.
Head down early.
Local band Pregnancy‘s debut single ‘First Kiss’ is like the unexpected Melbourne sun shining through the clouds on a cold overcast day. With its fluttering pop synth, sunny guitars of jangle pop and a vocal that nods to the likes of Paul Kelly, the band have delivered the perfect antidote to the grim winter weather currently bestowed upon us.
Only into their first trimester of gigging, Pregnancy are the unexpected love child of various other Melbourne acts – The Ocean Party, Totally Mild, Ciggie Witch, Cool Sounds, and Arthur Penn and the Funky Ten. Inspired by the disco-infused post-punk of the late 70’s, ‘First Kiss’ ends up sounding half way between the new wave aesthetic of Talking Heads and meaningful moments of 80’s pub rock, delivered with the bands’ own brand of indie pop.
Lyrically, the song explores themes of independence and progress, with vocalist Zac Denton singing about challenging times that have ultimately lead to growth and development. This is complimented by lusciously interwoven harmonies of vocalist Ashley Bundang, creating a layer of sincerity over the sunny guitar melodies and grooving beat.
‘First Kiss’ is our first taste of Pregnancy‘s forthcoming album that is due out early 2017.
We start at #28 with the Melbourne duo Leisure Suite and their latest track ‘Shame‘, off their second EP Lay Low. If you’re a fan of Rhye or Banoffee, check them out. Great Earthquake comes in at #26 with ‘Thought Broadcasting‘, off an EP with the same name. It’s the work of the Melbourne-based Noah Symons, and the project sounds like a cross between a dreamy version of Ponytail and the sporadic patterns of Terrible Truths.
Melbourne hip-hop duo Milwaukee Banks slide into #23 with ‘Reincarnated‘, which will feature on their long-awaited debut album Deep Into The Night, out March 18th. I’m digging its Cities Aviv-styled production and the assertiveness of Dyl Thomas. LUCIANBLOMKAMP, also from Melbourne, comes in at #22 with ‘The Overman‘ off his upcoming sophomore album Bad Faith. You can catch Lucian playing along with Lower Spectrum during late-April in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.
Speaking of Perth, we’ve got new music from Arvo Tanty, with ‘Forget This Mourning‘ at #20. The track’s dreamy loops draw comparisons to early Atlas Sound or Brothertiger, and you can hear the full Tender Yonder LP later this year. At #15 we have Wax Witches from the Gold Coast (currently residing in Brooklyn) – you may remember Alex Wall from Bleeding Knees Club. ‘Morning Flowers‘ has a strong The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart vibe, and it’ll feature on the new album Memory Painting, out on the 18th of March.
Totally Mild return at #14 with ‘Today Tonight‘ off their new three-track live EP Alive In Denmark, which also features another new live track called ‘More‘. ‘Today Tonight‘ doesn’t feature any drums, showing a more stripped-back side of Totally Mild. Low Lux from Sydney come in at #13 with their cover of ‘Girls‘ by Royal Headache. Whereas the original used adrenaline to carry its momentum, Low Lux have cut the pace in half and wrought a more nostalgic atmosphere. It’s a clever and well-executed cover, one that most artists wouldn’t have thought about attempting.
Brisbane’s Mexico City come in at #8 with ‘Rosewood Line‘ from their third album When The Day Goes Dark. If you’re wondering who Mexico City are, they’ve supported The Black Keys, Cat Power, The Drones and many more, sounding somewhere between Cass McCombs and Phosphorescent. Next, we have Summer Flake with ‘Wine Won’t Wash Away‘ at #7. After releasing the underrated Time Rolls By EP last year, the Melbourne-via-Adelaide trio are set to release a new album titled Hello Friends. ‘Wine Won’t Wash Away’ is ridiculously contagious and full of summer joy. Interestingly, it was recorded and mixed by Geoffrey O’Connor, who generally records slick, catchy, ’80s-sounding alt-pop songs.
We stay in Melbourne with SHOUSE featuring Habits on ‘Support Structure‘ at #6. The duo includes Ed Service of IO and Jack Madin of The Harpoons. We actually heard this track, reminiscent of Orbital or The KLF, in their Ripe Mix for us last month. The catchy vocal hook provided by Mohini of Habits could easily have been lifted from a classic early ’90s club hit.
However, the best new track of the week drops in at #2: ‘Got Something‘ by Jamal Amir. Jamal is part of the emerging Melbourne label Temporal Cast, featuring Cale Sexton and Kangaroo Skull. ‘Got Something‘ is straight up nasty smooth house, which makes me want to dance (even while I’m currently hobbling around on crutches). You can catch all three Temporal Cast artists playing along with Sleep D and Chiara Kickdrum this Friday the 4th of March at Goodtime Studios in Melbourne.
30. Mossy – ‘Electric Chair’
Uploaded: February 17th | Last Week: #27
29. James Blake – ‘Modern Soul (Asdasfr Bawd remix)’
Uploaded: February 13th | Last Week: #28
28. Leisure Suite – ‘Shame’
Uploaded: February 16th
27. Diet- ‘The Rip’
Uploaded: February 11th | Last Week: #25
26. Great Earthquake — ‘Thought Broadcasting’
Uploaded: February 21st
25. Stina Tester & Cinta Masters – ‘Deep Sleep’
Uploaded: February 12th | Last Week: #22
24. Charles Murdoch – ‘Open (feat. Chloe Kaul)’
Uploaded: February 15th | Last Week: #21
23. Milwaukee Banks – ‘Reincarnated’
Uploaded: February 24th
22. Lucianblomkamp – ‘The Overman’
Uploaded: February 24th
21. Marcus Whale – ‘My Captain’
Uploaded: February 8th | Last Week: #20
20. Arvo Tanty – ‘Forget This Mourning’
Uploaded: February 26th
19. The Sanctuary – ‘Miss You’
Uploaded: February 3rd | Last Week: #19
18. Hayden Calnin – ‘Cut Love’
Uploaded: February 9th | Last Week: #17
17. Jen Cloher – ‘Famously Monogamous’
Uploaded: February 14th | Last Week: #15
16. Mio – ‘Morning Sun (Dave Bixby cover)’
Uploaded: February 16th | Last Week: #14
15. Wax Witches – ‘Morning Flowers’
Uploaded: February 17th
14. Totally Mild – ‘Today Tonight’
Uploaded: February 3rd
13. Low Lux – ‘Girls (Royal Headache cover)’
Uploaded: February 21st
12. Lower Spectrum – ‘Masquerade’
Uploaded: Febraury 19th | Last Week: #11
11. Mall Grab – ‘Sun Ra’
Uploaded: Febraury 17th | Last Week: #10
10. Back Back Forward Punch – ‘Machine Believing’
Uploaded: February 4th | Last Week: #8
9. Fountaineer – ‘Still Life’
Uploaded: February 3rd | Last Week: #6
8. Mexico City – ‘Rosewood Line’
Uploaded: February 9th
7. Summer Flake – ‘Wine Won’t Wash Away’
Uploaded: February 27th
6. SHOUSE – ‘Support Structure’
Uploaded: February 24th
5. Ara Koufax – ‘Makers’
Uploaded: February 8th | Last Week: #5
4. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – ‘Write Back’
Uploaded: February 13th | Last Week: #4
3. Major Leagues – ‘Better Off’
Uploaded: February 10th | Last Week: #3
2. Jamal Amir – ‘Got Something’
Uploaded: February 29th
1. Nearly Oratorio – ‘Tin’
Uploaded: February 17th | Last Week: #2
Without a doubt 2015 has been the best year in the history of Australian music. The amount of quality tracks and artists that we couldn’t fit into this list was astounding.
What’s particularly exciting is the fact that most of these artists are new, which makes the prospect of putting together next year’s list seem even more daunting.
We would like to thank all the artists for making the music, the readers who share our site’s content, the writers who contributed this year, and everyone else who makes the Australian music scene extremely enjoyable to be a part of in our own small way.
Let’s do it all again in 2016.
100. Knightlife – ‘Solstice’
99. LUCIANBLOMKAMP – ‘From Afar’
98. Jess Ribeiro – ‘Kill it Yourself’
97. Oisima – ‘Take Your Time’
96. Flamingo Jones – ‘Skinny D.I.P.’
95. The Ocean Party – ‘Black Blood’
94. Cleopold – ‘Down In Flames’
93. Harvey Sutherland – ‘That’s The Fact, Jack’
92. Cool Sounds – ‘Control’
91. Bad//Dreems – ‘Hiding To Nothing’
90. Total Giovanni – ‘Paradise’
89. Woollen Kits – ‘Girl With Heart’
88. Zone Out – ‘Inside’
87. Frances Fox – ‘Jake The Flake’
86. Low Lux – ‘Rivers Roll’
85. Redspencer – ‘Ride It Out’
84. Abelard – ‘I’m OK For Now’
83. SMILE – ‘Boundless Plains To Share’
82. Snowy Nasdaq & Snowy Life – ‘Ironic Life’
81. Fraser A. Gorman – ‘Blues Run The Game’
2015 in Australia has definitely been dominated by guitar bands, with many including The Ocean Party, Dick Diver, Blank Realm, Royal Headaches and Twerps delivering their most mature efforts to date. Other artists originally considered a little bit more left of field, such as Sui Zhen, Kučka and I’lls, found a more accessible middle ground with their releases.
Some young artists like Amateur Dance, Crepes, Gold Class and Good Morning flashed their future potential, and a few debut releases by Jaala, Roland Tings and Sampa The Great might be considered one day to be Australian classics. Meanwhile, Tame Impala and Courtney Barnett demonstrated why they’re clearly the current quality benchmark in Australia and around the world.
If you’re looking for Christmas presents, click on the album images below for links to purchase the albums and support Australian music.
25. Banoffee – Do I Make You Nervous?
24. Oisima – Nicaragua Nights
23. Summer Flake – Time Rolls
22. Sui Zhen – Secretly Susan
21. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – Paper Mâché Dream Balloon
20. Amateur Dance – It’s Really Something
19. Flowertruck – Dirt
18. Terrible Truths – Terrible Truths
17. Crepes – Cold Summers
16. Gold Class – It’s You
15. Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon
14. The Ocean Party – Light Weight
13. Kučka – Unconditional
12. I’lls – Can I Go With You To Go Back To My Country
11. Jaala – Hard Hold
10. Good Morning – A Vessel / Radiovoice and On The Street / You
9. Totally Mild – Down Time
8. Blank Realm – Illegals In Heaven
7. Dick Diver – Melbourne, Florida
6. Royal Headaches – High
5. Roland Tings – Roland Tings
4. Sampa The Great – The Great Mixtape
3. Twerps – Range Anxiety
2. Tame Impala – Currents
1. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit