To kick off this year’s Darebin Music Feast, 15 bands will hit three stages spread across Bar 303, Northcote Social Club and the Little Eastment St car park. It’s happening all day on Sunday October 20 and not only is it all ages, but it’s free entry for shit’s sake. Without a word of hyperbole, every band and solo artist on the lineup is friggin’ awesome. Here are eight acts you simply cannot miss.
Briggs’ Bad Apples Music imprint calls itself the leading label for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists. If that is indeed the case, then there’s no better home for Melbourne-based songwriter Alice Skye. The Wergaia woman released her debut LP, Friends With Feelings, last year, relaying an urgent request for better mental health awareness through gently provocative songcraft. “There’s no black or white/But a whole lot of grey,” sings Skye on the album’s title track, succinctly communicating how depression can’t be solved with indifferent rhetoric.
Melbourne’s Cool Sounds are probably tiring of reviewers using their band name as a crutch for critical assessment. Though, that wouldn’t be a problem if they hadn’t so sufficiently lived up to its promise. They don’t sound cool in the sense that their music incorporates trap hats, dancehall cadences or DJ Khaled banging on about fuckboys. Rather, what’s wonderful about the group’s new album, More To Enjoy, is how patently the quintet enjoys making its bright, fiddly, left-of-centre brand of pop music.
Culte, led by Melbourne’s Yura Iwama, are tender-hearted jangle pop dynamos. Even when the group’s triple j-endorsed single, ‘I Don’t Wanna’, cranks up the nasty distortion, it’s not an affront. “I don’t want to die, tonight,” Iwama sings in the chorus, the track’s rollicking energy suggesting there’s simply too much fun to be had for that. The band’s Goodnight EP is not without melancholic deviation, however, which is just as you’d expect from a group of gen Z-ers navigating this increasingly hostile world.
The Goon Sax
The Goon Sax channel the spirit of post-punk where technical prowess takes a backseat to ideas and chutzpah. The Brisbane band’s three members all possess a charmingly offbeat musicality, which is channelled into their deeply empathetic songwriting. The Goon Sax’s second LP, 2018’s We’re Not Talking, was a striking step forward from their debut, recalling the likes of Television Personalities, The Go-Betweens and Anna Domino. Drummer Riley Jones brought her vocals into the mix, supporting the exposed baritones of Louis Forster and James Harrison with a candid high register.
Huntly proudly describe their music as “doof you can cry to”. The Melbourne trio’s debut LP, Low Grade Buzz, proves you don’t need to sacrifice beaming melodicism and driving grooves to make progressive pop music. While much of Low Grade Buzz intends to get bodies moving, it’s not all mindless hedonism. The band’s stylistic range is so impressive that some tracks are barely comparable to others, but the feeling of honesty and humility at its core makes Huntly feel like allies.
There has been a number of high profile releases this year. From Lana Del Rey to Thom Yorke, Solange to Sharon Van Etten, there’s been a lot to absorb simply to stay up to date with the pop cultural conversation. Jess Ribeiro’s psychedelic pop opus, LOVE HATE, is not unhailed – The Guardian gave it four stars while Double J made it a feature album spot – but when people discover it in years to come, there’ll be some confusion as to why it wasn’t held up as a modern classic.
Kee’ahn is a Kuku Yalanji, Jirrbal and Badu Island singer-songwriter who relocated from Townsville to Melbourne last year and turned heads with her vocal performance on DRMNGNOW’s early-2019 single ‘Ancestors’. Kee’ahn has since become a full time member of the DRMNGNOW live experience while also growing her solo project. The soulful vocals heard in Neil Morris’ arresting hip hop numbers cross over to the 21-year-old songwriter’s solo work, for which she accompanies herself on guitar.
Spoon’s Britt Daniel and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig both worked as substitute teachers before their bands hit it big. If the arbiters of artistic success have any sort of sense, then Brisbane’s Grace Stevenson will soon join that list. Stevenson’s day job is far removed from the industrial techno she makes as Rebel Yell. Last year’s Hired Muscle LP combines brawny drum programming and bleeding synthesisers with Stevenson’s reverb-smeared vocals that tend to paint a bleak picture of contemporary life.
The Darebin Music Feast Opening Party is happening at Bar 303, Northcote Social Club and Little Eastment Street Car Park on Sunday October 20. Find our more at musicfeast.com.au.