Keeping up with any kind of news this year can be tough. Even music news is getting stranger and harder to track. Rather than exhaust yourself trying to swallow an endless stream of push notification updates, MTV Australia have knocked up a bite-sized rundown of the most important happenings in the Aussie music biz this week – and every week – and why they matter.
ARIA Awards lines up its 2020 schedule of presenters and performers: Billie Eilish, Julia Gillard(?), and A$AP Ferg
The ARIA Awards drip fed announcements on performers and presenters for its audience-less ceremony next week, and it's a star-studded affair. Delta Goodrem – a 12-time ARIA Award winner, if you can believe it – will host the awards, while Sam Smith and Billie Eilish are the headlining international performers on livestream. Smith will play something "special" from the iconic Abbey Road Studios in London, while Eilish will perform a version of her latest single, "Therefore I Am", from her home in Los Angeles. Local acts performing for Australian music's night of nights will actually play from the home of the awards, Sydney's Star Event Centre – announced previously, they are Tame Impala, Sia, Lime Cordiale, Sampa The Great and Amy Shark.
Digging into the list of presenters is where things get a bit weird. Apropos of nothing, former Prime Minister Julia Gillard will hand out one of the awards, and so will Robbie Williams and A$AP Ferg. Shame we can't see them all sit at the same table. There are also more fitting, traditional choices in Briggs, Tim Minchin, Tones & I, Christine Anu and Keith Urban – comedians Hamish Blake and Joel Creasey, and TV personalities Richard Wilkins and Sophie Monk will round out the night.
The ARIA Awards are one of the strangest of the world's music awards shows, and under the circumstances of this dumpster fire of a year, it's going to be even stranger.
NSW government passes landmark live music reforms...
The NSW government passed a flurry of reforms to over 600 pieces of legislation regulating live music in the state last week, freeing it from the strangle-hold it has had on the scene for decades.
The most significant change might be the removal of "entertainment conditions", which previously restricted the type of music or instruments played in certain venues – only cover bands, jazz, etc – and stopped restaurants and pubs from hosting any live music at all. A "music-first" approach will see special permission granted for longer opening hours and discounts on liquor licenses for music venues, and in one of the most bizarre laws to exist in the first place, disco balls will now be permitted in venues that are not nightclubs. The government has also promised to establish new entertainment and culture precincts – with the significant new rule that, once built, any residential development built around the venue afterwards would not impose new noise restrictions.
It's hard to overstate how important these changes will be to a reborn live music economy in NSW, post-COVID. Many of these new rules are inspired by current regulations in other Australian states – NSW has long had the most arcane restrictions on live music, and its night time economy more broadly. The overhaul comes after Sydney's infamous lockout laws were also dropped everywhere but King's Cross in January.
The cynic would note that the real reason there is bipartisan support for reforms like this in NSW is not because of an enthusiasm for local music, but because the state needs every last dollar it can get after the economic devastation of the coronavirus pandemic. This is true, but if political convenience is how we get substantial change in this realm, so be it.
...While Queenslanders can dance outside, and pack out venues again
As of this week, Queensland enjoyed a privilege foreign to most of Australia, and the world: a music venue at 100% capacity. The state premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that from 4pm November 17, indoor venue capacity could increase from 50 to 100%, provided all gig goers were seated. Open air stadiums, with notably higher capacities to begin with, are also permitted to operate at full capacity, jumping up from 75%. Music festivals are still a while off, with outdoor event capacity going to 1500 from 1000, though one key element of the festival experience has been restored – outdoor dancing is now permitted.
The only state doing better than Queensland on the live music front is WA, which has been luxuriating in almost unrestricted, standing gigs for months – only the major indoor arenas have a cap.
Lime Cordiale bags triple j's Album of the Year
One of the first major Australian music awards shows of the year, the J Awards, were dished out this week. Not to toot our own horn, but this column made some solid predictions: with Lime Cordiale clinching Album of the Year for 14 Steps to a Better You, Gudjinburra rapper JK-47 taking home Unearthed Artist of the Year and the Done Good Award going to online music festival Isol-Aid.
Now to what we didn't guess. A titan of Australian music, Archie Roach, was awarded Double J Artist of the Year for his multifarious projects over the last year – his 2019 memoir and album of the same name Tell Me Why, the re-recording of his debut album Songs of Charcoal Lane, his final ever tour, a series of educational resources on the Stolen Generations and a Youtube series of storytelling about his music. Tasman Keith also won Music Video of the Year with director Joel Hunter for "Billy Bad Again" – a stylised clip of Keith rapping into a dangling mic in various locations around his country, with his producer using a blocky computer next to him.
It would have been good to see Album of the Year go to something a little more groundbreaking than the quirky rock duo of Lime Cordiale. Among the triple j mainstay nominated were three records that will be remembered beyond their ability to be good drinking music for dudes in floral button-ups – The Kid LAROI's prodigious mixtape FUCK LOVE, Miiesha's plainitive Nyaaringu and JK-47's incendiary Made For This.
45 year-old man found guilty of glassing Hilltop Hoods' MC Pressure at a wake
A 45-year old Adelaide man was found guilty this week of glassing Hilltop Hoods MC Pressure at a wake in 2018. A District Court Jury heard that Christopher Peregi smashed a bottle or a glass against the rapper's head – real name Daniel Howe Smith – while Smith was having a conversation with someone else.
"I heard a loud popping sound on my head, felt a hot rush, and my vision went blank and I passed out," Smith told the court. "My next memory is being in the melee and being pushed to the front of the property and being asked to leave...I recall throwing several punches. I don't recall whether they landed. I was scared, angry, concussed, confused and in a heightened state."
In cross-examination, Peregi's lawyer Andrew Williams asked Smith if Peregi had actually fainted, and accidentally broken the bottle on his head – something he called "an outrageous suggestion".
The jury took just two hours to deliver their guilty verdict. Peregi will be sentenced at a later date.
Aussie Album Of The Week:
King Gizzard And The Lizard Wizard - 'K.G.'
Almost a self-titled album, K.G is a return to centre for the relentlessly prolific psych band. Returning on their 16th record in eight years after their thrash metal experiment Infest The Rat's Nest and the folk-blues of Fishing for Fishies, King Gizzard are beginning to triangulate a sort of "standard" sound. It goes back to the microtonal guitars of Flying Microtonal Banana, the relentless world-building of Murder of the Universe and the stomping guitar rock of Nonagon Infinity – the commonality is a muscular hard rock, with environmentally concious lyrics.
The result is their most consistent release in years, synthesising all of their strengths. That's not to say it's predictable – guitarist Joey Walker still manages to sneak in a '90s Turkish house dive on "Intrasport", and the doom metal closer "The Hungry Wolf of Fate" – but the band don't let their empire of sound and style become too big to control.
Aussie Track of the Week:
Agung Mango x Nikodimos - "Yo El Rey"
Agung Mango is the country's most slept-on MC, and his new collaboration with producer Nikodimos only continues to prove that point. The rapper switches through at least five different flows on "Yo El Rey" – a nasally blast, grindcore growl, smooth talkin', adolescent voice break – while the beat strips back the elements of neo-soul to just a flute and a halting drum beat. The title is basic Spanish for "I am the king", and by the end of the track's three minute runtime, it sounds like a prophecy for the future of Australian hip-hop.
This column was written by Josh Martin, a Melbourne-based freelance music and media writer with words in MTV Australia, NME, Junkee, Crikey, etc. Follow him on Twitter @joshuamartjourn.