Initially I thought that I should do a 'Top 10 Brisbane Bands in 2007' list, or something along those lines. However, as I thought about it I realised that that particular idea really didn't appeal to me. For one thing, I felt like I was always forgetting someone who was deserving, or perhaps giving credit to someone else who I thought may be objectively deserving but that I had very little personal connection to. And anyway, what worth do my opinions have in these matters? It's one thing to write a subjective review of a show or release, where I'm presenting my opinions as purely that: my opinions. It's another thing to give something some sort of objective ranking and score, and I felt like I had no business doing so (you might notice that we don't give ratings in any reviews here - a blog by its very nature has an inflated opinion of its own worth without going to that extent).
Instead I thought I would come up with something a little less structured and a little more personal. The following are a selection of things that were important to me from throughout this year, or that were important to the groups of people who are, in turn, important to me in some way. What was important to you? Let us know. This isn't supposed to be some sort of be-all-and-end-all list, and these opinions are only valid to me, so please feel free to add in your own experiences and favourites from this year. Lord knows I've probably forgotten about a bunch of things.
Best New Venue: The Lofly Hangar. Hands down. It combines the best elements of 610 (DIY culture, interesting bands, casualness) and The Troubadour (great vibe, comfy chairs). Plus you can actually stay out the back and have a conversation with someone without being bothered by valley morons / crazy volume. If it wasn't for the difficulty in getting home at the end of the night it would be perfect. Then again, if it were more accessible then perhaps some of the magic would be lost.
Biggest Loss: Skinny's. Although I have to admit that I haven't shopped there as much in recent years (I could never seem to find what I was after), I still tried to buy tickets from there. It's always been a good place, especially with their regular instores. RIP.
Most Blissful Moment: Lying on the floor of The Globe, drifting in and out of consciousness as Bloon played a pretty amazing (and somewhat rare) set of 'ambient rock'.
Most Surprising Shows: I'm going to list a couple of sets here that I really enjoyed after not really having high expectations beforehand:
- BigStrongBrute @ Ric's - What I was expecting from this set (keyboard driven pseudo-electro-clash) and what I got (noise inflected country-rock) were so completely different that it really surprised me. It was really great.
- Rocketsmiths @ Ric's - It wasn't so much that I loved this show and this band, but more that I was expecting to not really like the band very much at all. The fact that I really enjoyed the show surprised me, so credit where credit is due.
- Chris Perren & The Wicky Massive @ The Hangar - I had absolutely no idea what to expect from these guys. Some dude (I'll make an educated guess and say that it was Chris Perren) set himself up behind a laptop and synthy thing, alongside a guitarist and drummer. What followed was one of the more successful amalgamations of electronic and 'organic' music I've seen. And their drummer was very impressive.
Most Exciting New Bands: Again, there are a few to mention here... so I'll mention them.
- Do The Robot - could be the new I Heart Hiroshima, ie: the band that somehow manages to walk the line between widespread appeal and precious 'indie ideals'.
- The John Steel Singers - that rare thing: an interesting 'serious' band. Slick but not lifeless. Poppy but not boring. They're becoming a pretty good live act, too.
- Rialto Decibel Choir - unfortunately it seems that they're relocating to Melbourne in the early months of 2008, but for the meantime they're one of Brisbane's best new bands (if you can stomach the drama... personally I love drama).
- Shiver Like Timber - I'm pretty sure that Ms Dircks appeared prior to 2007, but she's really gone up a few notches in terms of recognition this year. Certainly one of the more weighty presences on the Brisbane scene.
- Rooftop Nightwatch - I wouldn't have mentioned these guys normally, considering how close I am to the band, but a lot of people seem to be talking about them.
- Nova Scotia - carrying the torch for that particularly Brisbane brand of melodic-noise-rock that was so popular 5 or so years ago. A fine band that hopefully will stick around long enough for more people to notice them.
- Shakes - 90s revival meets 00s emotional bombast. Nirvana meets Arcade Fire? That's a terrible description that does a disservice to the band, but I'm lazy.
- Then there are the bands that aren't quite 'old', but aren't quite 'new'. Your Scul Hazzards, Butcher Birds, Violent Soho (can anyone say '90s revival'?), Del Toro. All worthy bands who enjoyed a successful year, most of whom have new releases coming out in the next year or so.
Encouraging Sign: Continuing on from last year, it's been really cool to see a lot of young folk musicians appearing around the place, most significantly at all ages / DIY shows. Acts such as Let's Not But Say We Did (who were quite impressive in their guitar-and-string-section format - they've recently changed formats again, though), Shiver Like Timber and (prior to their transformation into a rock band) Rialto Decibel Choir head this 'scene', but it's been good to see so many other people picking up an acoustic and fingerpicking their way through a set.
Congratulations: ... go to Greg Charles, the winner of the first Grant McLennan Fellowship award. Let's hope New York treats him well.
Bands I Feel Bad About Ignoring: There are certain sections of the Brisbane scene that I think probably deserved more of my attention, either in this list or just in general. For example: Texas Tea, most of the Mere Noise / garage rock scene, Turnpike (still my favourite Brisbane band on their night), Night Crash, Little Lovers, To The North, and many of the more 'established' bands, plus plenty more that I've forgotten about. I'll be trying to rectify this.
Song Of The Year: Joel Saunder's 'Porch Song'. Yes, it's kind of rough. Yes, sometimes he struggles with the combination of electronic and acoustic elements when he plays live (although he's definitely improved a lot in this respect, and now has a 'proper' band anyway). But when he hits those last lines of the song and his voice strains and the reverb fills the recording... it's pretty fucking amazing. And that's not nothing.
As much as it can be bitchy and tiring and thankless and seemingly worthless to be involved in the Brisbane Music Scene (TM) at times, it can also be incredibly rewarding. Thank you to those who put in the effort to make it so. For that I hope each and every one of you has a wonderful break over the holidays (for those of you lucky enough to indeed have a break).