Brisbane in winter means a lot of things to locals. Mild weather, the Ekka (Royal Queensland Show) and weekend getaways free from crowds. But to the music industry, it means one thing: Bigsound is coming. For four days in early September, Fortitude Valley’s venues, bars, cafes and hotels are packed with musicians and industry movers and shakers from Australia and all across the globe.
Bigsound is not just a music festival, it’s an ideas conference, where local and international experts gather to talk about developments, ideas and opportunities in the music industry. It’s also one hell of a party; this year, over 150 acts are playing across four nights in early September, featuring a diverse list of names such as Gabriella Cohen, Alice Skye, Ella Hooper and Cable Ties. Every name on the bill, whether fledgling or established, is looking to impress.
Pixie Weyand took over legendary Brisbane music venue The Zoo in early 2017. Founded in 1992, the venue has hosted nearly every notable name to play Australia, including the likes of the Black Keys, Nick Cave, Lorde, the Pixies and Silverchair. It’s also been independently owned, operated and booked by females for the past quarter-century.
“I’ve been coming to Bigsound for years,” says Weyand. “First as a punter, and then gradually I’ve gotten more involved behind the scenes. The Zoo has been a part of Bigsound ever since the festival started. It really gives us a chance to put our best foot forward and show the rest of the country and the world how we do things.”
It’s thanks to venues like The Zoo that Fortitude Valley has become the entertainment hub of Brisbane. Now home to everything from tiny cocktail bars, to packed beer gardens to craft breweries to dance clubs, it offers almost any kind of night out, all within walking distance of the CBD and most major hotels. Weyand says this dense array of different experiences makes the Valley an obvious location for Bigsound as well as a natural lure for interstate visitors.
This has helped dictate the Brisbane music scene. “It’s pretty unique because almost all our venues are in the one place, in Fortitude Valley,” says Weyand. “So it’s really condensed, [and] easy to see lots of things in one night. This makes the community more tight-knit and cooperative, because it’s smaller than some other music cities. We’re all in it together in the Valley.”
This is evident in Brisbane’s rich history of producing quality bands. From the Saints and the Go-Betweens, to Powderfinger and Regurgitator, to DZ Deathrays and Violent Soho, Brisbane musicians have long made an impression both locally and internationally. Weyand thinks Bigsound has a lot to do with how Brisbane music has developed over the years. “Bigsound is one of the most important music events not just for Brisbane but for Australia,” she says. “You kind of feel like all eyes are on you for that week. It pushes Brisbane musicians and the scene to be ahead of the game.”
Where winter sends southerners clutching for their coats, in Brisbane it’s mild temperatures and warm sun. Weyand says it’s a particularly special time to visit her venue. “At The Zoo we’re a bit famous for not having air-conditioning,” she says. “So in winter it’s nice and cosy. Definitely the most comfortable time to see bands here.”