Melbourne is often heralded as the live music capital of Australia, but Brisbane, once seen as an underdog in comparison to its city compatriots, has developed a live music scene to suggest that the city is no longer in the shadow of the Victorian capital.
Its history of producing some of the country’s most loved acts is reason enough to suggest such a statement. Look no further than the likes of Powderfinger, The Grates, Custard, and Regurgitator, while huge international success stories such as Keith Urban, The Bee Gees, and Savage Garden have used Brisvegas as a gateway to the rest of the world.
In the late 70s the Queensland capital was at the forefront of Australia’s punk music scene. The punk movement saw a wave of bands sifting through the different genre variations. Pioneering such a trend were The Saints who paved the way for the likes of The Leftovers, The Fun Things, and Vampire Lovers just to name a few. Today Brisbane is home to a thriving underground punk scene.
Such a movement wouldn’t have been possible without the support from local radio station 4zzz, which have been championing Brisbane acts since 1975.
The publicly funded industry QMusic body have also been a factor in the elevation of Brisbane’s music scene most notably through their key event BigSound (which you can read more about below).
At the heart of metropolis’ music scene is Fortitude Valley. The hub was labelled as the “envy of the nation” by Griffith University researchers. An unsurprising fact given that an average of 50,000 punters make their way to the area every weekend. With venues like Rics’, The Zoo, Blackbear Lodge, Alhambra Lounge, The Tivoli and a host of other nightclubs this entertainment precinct is the biggest jewel in the music scene’s crown.
The Valley along with the rest of the city of over two million people has today cultivated a scene that is dominated by indie pop sonics.
Acts like Last Dinosaurs, Hungry Kids of Hungary, Emma Louise, Cub Scouts, The Jungle Giants, The Cairos, and Ball Park Music may fit in that category or thereabouts, but other bands like The Medics, DZ Deathrays, The Red Paintings, Millions, Dune Rats, and Violent Soho demonstrate the diversity of the city’s music scene.
All of the above are products of a thriving scene. They’re proudly spreading the Brisbane brand not only throughout the rest of Australia, but across the globe.
Now in its twelfth year this conference is one of Australia’s biggest music industry events. The event showcases 120 bands throughout twelve different venues across two nights. The conference aspect of BigSound runs for three days and hosts speakers from around the world who present on various topics. The event not only allows for a discourse on the music industry and the current state of Australian music, but it also proudly presents the best that the Brisbane music scene as to offer.
Located in Brisbane’s music hub this free outdoor festival has featured both quality local and international acts for a number of years. Spread across three stages in Fortitude Valley a variety of music genres are represented as witnessed by their 2012 lineup. Headlined by Arrested Development, Deep Sea Arcade, Flume, Muscles, Violent Soho and The Medics this City Council funded event runs over three days in late October every year.
Held at the Queensland Academy Of Creative Industries and facilitated by that body and also Youth Music Industries this is Brisbane’s biggest all ages festival. 4 Walls provides DJs, “chill out spaces” and a roster of quality local acts. Run by “young people for young people” the 2013 lineup includes the likes of Jeremy Neale, Pigeon, Go Violets, Tourism, Tundra and much more.
Brisbane Record Stores
Butter Beats, 11/8 Duncan St Fortitude Valley, http://www.butterbeatsrecordstore.com
This independent record store was first opened in 1998 although its success warranted a second store to open on the Gold Coast in 2005. Hardly surprising given their collection of thousands of records that ranges from hip hop, trance, reggae, funk to rock music. Not only that but street art accessories, urban literature, clothing and DJ gear are also for sale. Under the moniker of One Eight Three Butter Beats has also released 15 different music projects.
Egg Records, 79 Vulture St,
Originally opening in Sydney in 2000 a Brisbane location was set up two years later. Offering a diverse range of the latest CDs and vinyl releases along the classics Egg Records also sells DVDs and memorabilia, which includes collectable toys. The establishment also buy and trades for those looking to offload some of their preloved LPs.
Rocking Horse Records, 245 Albert St, http://www.rockinghorse.net
In business for 38 years this store is the oldest and largest independently owned establishment of its kind. Everything from Tshirts, DVDs, books, magazines, music equipment and other accessories are all for sale here. Vinyl wise there is barely a genre that isn’t represented at Rocking Horse with recently released LPs and collectables on offer. Gig tickets and CDs are also found in this treasure trove of music.
Brisbane Music Venues
The Tivoli, 52 Costin St Fortitude Valley, http://www.thetivoli.net.au
At the centre of Brisbane’s live music scene since 1917 this music venue has not only history but also elegance on its side. Restored in art deco style in the 90s The Tivoli’s balcony allows punters with the choice of a different viewpoint. The biggest international and local bands have played here over the years with the venue providing fans with a spectacular venue to experience live music in.
Black Bear Lodge, 1/322 Brunswick St, http://www.blackbearlodge.com.au
Above a coffee shop this dimly lit space is characterised by its brick walls, vintage furnishings and the “60′s alpine chalet” bar. Hosting regular vinyl DJs alongside local and international acts the establishment is open Wednesday through til Sunday. With a capacity of 200 people Black Bear Lodge is the perfect setting for an intimate performance or even just for catching up with friends in a quiet place.
Alhambra Lounge, 12 McLachlan St Fortitude Valley, http://www.alhambralounge.com.au
Located in the Valley Alhambra provides Brisbane not only with a mid-sized venue to witness local and international tours, but also a popular nightclub. A hotspot amongst the young locals acts like Gold Panda, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Zola Jesus, Fucked Up, Wild Nothing and Baths have all ensured this venue has a strong reputation for providing great live music.
Brisbane Acts You Should Check Out
The Keep On Dancin’s – Soundcloud
This dreamy surf pop outfit were formed in late 2008. The four-piece are drenched in reverb and tales of hard times. They just recently released their debut 7-track release Black Lassie. You can read our review of the record here. Below you can also listen to the band covering Custard’s ‘Nervous Breakdown’.
Velociraptor – Soundcloud
12 members strong this outfit are responsible for some short and loud garage pop rock tracks. Their self-titled debut album landed back in 2010 and they more recently played the UK’s Great Escape festival. Have a listen to their song ‘Riot’ below.
Pigeon – Soundcloud
This electronic dance five-piece released their second EP, Fortunes, in 2012. They’ve played their pop songs across Australia through festival slots such as Splendour In The Grass, Parklife, BigSound and more. Check out their track ‘Encounter’ below.