Words by Thea Martin
10 hours, 14 of the best local bands around, and a venue that was recently awarded Best Live Venue in the National Live Music Awards, the iconic Lion Arts Factory. It was this deadly combination that made Stonecutters 2019 such a wild, sweaty, and absolutely joyful day. Thanks to The Australian Underground, I was able to head along to catch as many of the bands as I possibly could and give you a little bit of insight into how it all went down.
I’ve been giving some thought as to what the role is that articles like these play. Where I stand currently is that perhaps we can create some kind of little time capsule of what it felt like to be in that space at that moment; what it sounded like, and how it felt. Despite having perhaps the best resources ever in history at our disposal to record and save moments, I still feel that so much of the time we spend at gigs is lost to the past, and perhaps that’s where the majority of the magic does belong. However, I feel that if I can record some kind of highlights reel from the perspective of one slightly confused and overeager teenager navigating her way through the music world of her little city, I think there is some value to be found in that somewhere.
Another year has come to a close, and so Stonecutters arrived at a perfect time for me to reflect on all that I love about live music and the local scene. Here now I present to you a series of thoughts, highlights, and many poor quality photos taken on my iPhone 5s barely saved by some editing (thanks Harry), from this little festival in my little city.
Burnout was the first band to take to the stage for the day. A 3-piece that have been together since they were barely out of primary school, they hit the stage with force to showcase their 90s skate punk-esque sound. With songs about the hatred of their neighbours, they brought more enthusiasm and raucous to the stage than I thought was possible at 2:30 in the afternoon. Something about Burnout’s sound and stage presence made me think they wouldn’t have looked at all out of place performing straight after Sex Bob-omb in the Scott Pilgrim universe, and there was also a sense of almost coming off the rails that kept their set very exciting. Also, major props to the organisers of Stonecutters for making the festival all ages, because as a young person it’s so great to be able to go see people your own age performing in accessible venues.
The next band to play I was very excited to see. Having done a quick little google search and seeing the words “math” and “Midwest emo revival” pop up I was intrigued by what Superdose Gangway would have to offer. I haven’t really heard a lot of this kind of music coming out of Adelaide, and as a big fan of a lot of bands that fall into this genre I was looking forward to seeing what these distinctive sounds would feel like channelled through a group of Adelaide musicians. The twinkly guitar riffs had me instantly hooked, as did lead singer Max’s energy, I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone move around such a small stage as much as he did. The vocal harmonies possessed that great warmth of nostalgia I associate with bands like Modern Baseball and The Front Bottoms. A cover of Gwen Stefani’s 2000s classic “Hollaback Girl” was anything but expected, but there was something undeniably fantastic about repeatedly hearing “that’s my shit” yelled in a slightly aggressive manner. A favourite moment of the day was the crowd participation to start the song “Everything’s Coming Up Sidedown,” where we were asked to yell in unison “what the fuck Richard,” in what I assume is a call back to an iconic vine from a few years ago. I’d very much recommend checking this group out, they have a really interesting project out on bandcamp from 2016 where they released 26 songs, each starting with a letter of the alphabet consecutively, from which material was then drawn to form their album “Monsoon Season.”
Self-proclaimed “juicebox punk” legends Teenage Joans were up next on the main stage. I think this band is one of the most exciting stories to come out of Adelaide recently. I’ve spent so much time telling so many friends, some of whom care, others who seem very confused as to why I’m bombarding them with this information, about how impressive it is that Teenage Joans have amassed such a great following from only their live shows, opening for the likes of Ruby Fields and touring with beloved Adelaide band Hey Harriett before they had even released one song. I feel so incredibly lucky to have interacted with and heard them perform live on quite a few occasions, and every show they just get better and better. On a serious note, every Teenage Joans show I have been to they have started by acknowledging country, something it would be great to see more artists do to continue to build the respect and awareness within the creative spaces of our community. I will also note that both Ben David and Scabz started their sets with an Acknowledgement of Country as well. Teenage Joans really have built such a fantastic little family that is growing every day, with everyone knowing all the singalongs before Cahli could even introduce them. For me personally, their song Something About Being Sixteen really resonates. Although the title references being a sixteen year old, I think this song really captures what it’s like to be confused in finding your place in the world at any age, and the hook “This is overdue, I’m getting over you” always gets me emotional. Honestly, I think I’ve felt like a confused sixteen year old all my life. Their new track “Ice cream” had everyone jumping around from the get-go, and with lyrics like “I’m still figuring out how to figure things out,” they were quick to recapture my heart and that of everyone in the room.
Photo by Saige Prime
Many Adelaidians would be familiar with Ben David from his band “The Hard Aches” so it was very exciting to see him performing for the first time some songs from his solo project, joined by the likes of Cahli from Teenage Joans on guitar, Jared Grimm from Pemberton on sticks and Benedicte Beneweather of Plastic Plants on keys. Ben’s 2017 EP “Aro” can be found here, and features very minimal instrumentation, largely just vocals, acoustic guitar and some occasional backing vocals, so it was very interesting to hear what the songs sounded like in the context of a full band. Ben really hits that sweet spot of combining blunt honesty with beautiful poeticism in his lyrics.
The next band to take to the stage was absolutely my highlight of the day, I was completely and utterly blown away by every moment they were on stage for. Colourblind was the last Adelaide band on the lineup for the day, and there was so much to love about their set. Their sound just seemed to fall into the space they played in so perfectly, and if you tilted your head back just right the noise would fill your entire being. This is no exaggeration, listening to Colourblind was one of those semi-spiritual experiences I only encounter from hearing live music. Seamlessly weaving between emo, alt-rock, mellower tracks with sparkly guitar and heavier tracks that resounded through your body, it felt as though this band could take on any genre but would never lose sight of their own distinctive sound. In tracks such as “Water” the bass was so delightfully heavy, and I was also very excited to hear them play my favourite song “Backbone.” As well as playing material off their 2018 album “Move Like You” they also played some new unreleased tracks, such as “Changing Seasons” which they introduced as potentially the “best song (they’ve) ever fucking written,” of which the crowd was quick to respond to with enthusiasm.
The members of Colourblind looked so overwhelmed with the well-deserved response they received from the crowd throughout their set, and to me this is one of my favourite parts of seeing music live. Seeing just how incredible it is for the musicians on stage to feel their music having some kind of impact on the audience, in the same way it is for us as audience members makes you feel so connected to something bigger than yourself. It really is an indescribable feeling. The final note I wanted to make about Colourblind was just how fantastic the vocals were. Finn Cameron has to be one of the strongest voices around right now, but it was not only his vocals that stunned me, but also bass guitarist Bernadette Wright’s backing vocals that were filled with so much beautiful clarity. My favourite moment of the entire set was when their voices were joined in an interlocking duet with the instrumentation gradually being stripped away to eventually leave just their voices. It immediately reminded me of the ending of Flashlight by the Front Bottoms, or a lesser known Strokes demo called Modern Girls and Old Fashioned Men (both of which I would really recommend giving a listen!) I implore you to give Colourblind’s music a go, you can find their album here.
I’ve tried to give all of the Adelaide bands who played a good look-in throughout this piece, however much to my disappointment, I couldn’t quite get around to hearing every other band that played, or I felt that my knowledge or understanding of the band was not suffice to properly provide any interesting thoughts on. So as I now come to wrap up, I thought I’d just provide a few more little highlights from the day in the place of a full write up of each artist:
1. Scabz explaining the meaning behind their song “Victoria Bitter” in the distinctive way only they can
2. The crowd for Bugs going absolutely off for their insanely catchy track “Neighbourhood”
3. Sweater Curse covering Snail Mail’s dreamy track (and a personal favourite of mine) “Pristine”
4. Hearing Ceres play their Like a Version cover of “A Thousand Miles” for the final time ever
5. Sound guy doing a shoey of tequila in a giant mosh circle during Skegss’ set
Stonecutters was probably the best festival I’ve ever been to. Yes, it was a festival on a much smaller scale, but there was such a great sense of community and positivity that radiated throughout the entire day that made it such an enjoyable experience. Featuring an absolutely fantastic lineup, a great venue and great people, I’m not sure what more one could ever ask for. I feel so lucky to have been able to witness so many wonderful bands and be able to do my favourite thing, to write about the music they are making. I truly love writing about music, particularly live music, and so I thought I’d leave you with some words I wrote about a year ago about what it’s like being in that otherworldly realm you enter hearing music live. Thank you for reading if you made it this far, and as always, I leave you with just one message; please, please continue to support local music!
These are the sounds that echo in the background of your dreams
A spinning room of
Evaporating in the eye
Rising in a wave of feeling
That crashes through the field
Of a thousand arms
That hold you up
And push you down
The physicality of sound
Your hips and arms are a whirlwind
Becoming than I could ever be alone
Look up, look down
Your eyes aren't yours
And your feet are stuck to the ground
But there's no anchor for my heart
Or for my soul
Or whatever you want to call it
The little aspects I do know
Float in isolation
Where is the centre of space?
These are the sounds that echo in the background of my dreams.