What a year! Out of the box pop sensations, legends returning for triumphant tours, the usual acclaim, spectacles and intrigue, and a homegrown scene that despite its challenges is going from strength to strength.
Festival fatigue hits
For two decades, the Australian festival scenes saw rude health. But if any year signalled a turning point, it was 2013. The list of casualties was long – some were unoriginal concepts that failed, but many were established events that had once delivered. In the dance/electronic vein, the death of Good Vibrations two years back should have sounded warning bells.
While massive EDM events like Stereosonic flourished, Parklife and Future struggled, with the former re-naming itself and downsizing, while Future Music was sold to Frontier Touring, who are proceeding with Future in 2014.
The real damage was done to large rock-based festivals with big overheads; Pyramid Rock failed to materialise, and Homebake was cancelled. Harvest died after only two short (strong) seasons of superb bills.
But it’s the granddaddy of the modern Aussie music festival that’s still the subject of conjecture – The Big Day Out has cancelled its second Sydney day, and honcho Ken West (following fellow co-founder Vivian Lees’ departure two years back), has reportedly left BDO after a buy-in by Soundwave’s AJ Maddah. The future of the iconic festival remains cloudy, if not in doubt.
Events offering unique experiences and edgy bills seem to be thriving; Laneway, Meredith/Golden Plains, Splendour in the Grass, Groovin’ the Moo, and The Falls are all holding their own and more.
Bruce Springsteen’s tour over March and April was long awaited. His last Australian appearances had failed to spark the performer/audience connection for which he’s so widely renowned, due to issues connected to venue set up and sound problems.
All that was forgotten when The Boss juggernaut hit Australia in 2013: uniform rave reviews resulted from all corners of the country, while in Victoria, two shows at Hanging Rock at sunset deservedly earned special mention.
Each Australian gig was an ocean of placards requesting songs (as per tradition), and gigs were renowned for return visitors who poured savings into seeing not one or two shows, but five or more. The faithful were rewarded. Although Miami Steve Van Zandt was absent from The E-Street Band, RATM’s Tom Morello was a mindblowing replacement.
See newly released doco Springsteen and I and get yourself to February 2014 shows: it’s never too late to get the Bruce bug.
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
When Black Sabbath announced the completion of their first Ozzy Osbourne-voiced album since the 1970s, the cynics got their pens out.
But 13 – a far more energised and dynamic affair than even their hardcore fans had predicted – sent a message that somehow, Sabbath was alive.
Despite ructions with drummer Bill Ward (who ultimately didn’t participate), Tommy Iommi’s health issues, and the ongoing human drama that is Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath’s Australian dates matched the huge anticipation surrounding them. Shows were not only sold out, but were incredibly well received; their bludgeoning riffs and blunt musical force still very much in evidence.
The Sabbath army – now ranging from 16 to 65 – were enraptured.
The Ascension of Lorde
“I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh/I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies/and I’m not proud of my address/in the torn up town, no postcode envy,” sang 17-year-old New Zealander Ella Yellich-O’Connor. In less than a year, the singer, otherwise known as Lorde, has become a global sensation, with massive chart hits on both sides of the Atlantic.
The degree to which Lorde is a genuine freak of nature isn’t yet fully apparent. She’s just signed a music publishing deal worth over two million dollars, she’s a media star, working in the pop idiom, and courts mainstream acceptance quite openly. Yet she remains a critics’ darling and a credible artist.
In 2013, Lorde proved that melody, an auto-tune free voice, drop dead gorgeous beats, slinky lyrics and a down-to-earth public image can still make you a pop star as well as a working musician. There’s humour, a tinge of mystery; all tempered by an attitude that doesn’t scream ‘I need your attention’.
Asked by STACK where she saw herself in five years, she responded with “A buzzcut, a lot of animals, a beautiful city and hopefully, good music.”
Lorde is the hands down N.T.R music success story of 2013. N.T.R? No Twerking Required.
Daft Punk got lucky
Good evening, Wee Waa! It had to be the most unlikely global album launch ever. Even Aussies were looking up the location of the NSW town (pop. 2000) let alone the rest of the world. People came from all over the globe, and Wee Waa had never seen anything like it! Daft Punk weren’t actually there, but when the robotic French duo blasted back with what sample maestro Todd Edwards hailed as “two androids bringing soul back to music”, it seemed the whole world’s ears thrummed to the refrain of the Nile Rodgers/Pharrell Willliams-fuelled Get Lucky.
Despite odd get togethers (as seen with 2009’s Bushfire Relief gigs), the upcoming Hunters and Collectors reunion is straight from the ‘Hell freezes over’ category. While no new recordings are in the offing, their national appearances in early 2014 represent a chance for those who never saw them to hear why H&C are held in such esteem. They are – simply – one of the most powerful and moving things you’ll ever see live.
Musicians who left us in 2013
Chrissie Amphlett 1959-2013
The Divinyls vocalist was an icon: her confrontational performance style inspired a generation of female musicians to get on stage.
Jeff Hanneman 1964-2013
Slayer guitarist/co-founder. Wrote classics Reign ins Blood and Seasons in the Abyss.
Ray Manzarek 1939-2013
Doors co-founder, keyboardist. An integral element of The Doors’ sound, carrier of The Doors’ flame after Jim Morrison died in 1971.
Chris Bailey 1950-2013
The Angels bassist, and Gangajang founder. Tragically lost his cancer battle in April.
Lou Reed 1942-2013
One of the most influential figures in modern music, Reed’s hard bitten street poems – in The Velvet Underground and solo – forged a path that others could only follow.
This article appeared courtesy of STACK Magazine.