Pig City

(Queensland Music Festival)


Professional production

Inspired by Andrew Stafford’s history of Brisbane’s music scene, Pig City: From the Saints to Savage Garden, Pig City the concert was staged as part of the Queensland Music Festival. On one of the University of Queensland’s sports fields, QMF had set up what seemed very like a mini-Woodford of recent years: music, a crowd of multiple demographics, beer, and several little stores where you could buy useless trinkets and novelty gifts.

Given that the music stage was housed in a tent, the acoustics were fabulous. Actually, the sound quality was generally great: all instruments were clear and the overall sound was crisp and well balanced, even at the back about 60 metres from the stage. The big top where the music stage was set up was impressively large and well equipped, as only a state-run venue can be, with lights fixed in every possible direction in every possible colour and an enormous stage protected by an army of security guards.

Six-piece group The Apartments opened the gig strongly with a solid, well rehearsed set of fast-paced rock tunes. With three guitars, a trumpet, keys and percussion, they had the crowd of old rockers head-bopping along in no time. Screamfeeder was up next with a new drummer, Steph Hughes, pounding out some more crowd-pleasing rock numbers. With two front people, you could expect that there would be some competition or unbalance, but somehow it worked for Screamfeeder. All band members are strong performers, and they looked way cool in the glow of the hundreds of lights and multimedia screens showing the band’s name in a super-edgy font, and the crowd loved their messy, fun style.

The Ups and Downs served up a more rhythmic, fast-paced flavour of rock, led by the vocalist’s smooth tenor and backed up substantially by the three guitars and drummer, but one of the highlights of the day was Kate Miller-Heidke singing a Go-Betweens’ tribute backed up by the Brisbane Excelsior Band, a 20 piece orchestra. She led with the strong, finely textured vocals we have come to expect, and was accompanied by a butter-smooth trumpet (who also had a gorgeous solo) and beautiful, unobtrusive classical guitar. Towards the end of her set, KMH broke out her opera voice – very QMF but not real rock concert – which added an interesting dimension to a Go Betweens’ tune.

And in case anybody had doubted it, The Saints still know how to rock, all eight of them. They had the obligatory guitars, bass, drums and singer, as well as a trumpet, trombone, and sax. The thumping bass and drums got the crowd pumped and the powerhouse vocals and showmanship from the front man kept it that way.

While, according to QMF 2007’s Artistic Director Paul Grabowsky, Pig City was “an opportunity to bring back those glorious days of anarchy and alcohol”, the reality of the concert had very little to do with anarchy and everything to do with regulation. The festival grounds were overrun with scores of security guards and police preventing anything that looked like rowdiness, presumably to minimise public liability. There were miles of barricades – too many to be useful and just enough to get in everyone’s way. It was a completely non-smoking event, which may be healthy, but just seemed odd, and the crowd kept sedate by an abundance of strictly enforced rules cheered when The Saints’ front man introduced one of their last songs with “the last time we played this song here we got kicked out”.

Although everyone seemed to be having fun, there wasn’t much chance of anyone being inspired to do anything gloriously anarchic enough to get kicked out of anywhere.

Duration: 9 hours

— Sarah Jansen
(Performance seen: Fri 13th July 2007)