OPINION: More than the working-class cliches

Radar Illawarra will be contributing a monthly column to the University of Wollongong’s student magazine, Tertangala. The below article can be found in issue #3, available free at UOW.

The only music that comes out of Wollongong is hard rock, punk and metal… right? If you listened to most media banter around music in the Illawarra, that’s the impression you’d get. Of course, you’d be wrong, but that’s the impression you’d get. Typically a working-class area, Wollongong has typically produced and embraced working-class music (probably why Cold Chisel can sell out the Entertainment Centre, playing the same songs from when they were 20 years younger and 30 kilograms lighter), but today there’s a quickly swelling number of acts bubbling away just beneath the surface, looking to change public perceptions of music in Wollongong. Scratch the surface, take a closer look, and you’ll find a wave of artists that – pound for pound – could challenge the musical diversity of any other area in Australia.

There is maybe no more distinct and noticeable indicator of the shifting paradigms of the local music scene, than the fact that our most prominent, popular and promising young artists are creating work that does cannot be stuffed into the “loud, heavy and simple” pigeonhole that many are quick to shove Wollongong music into. Take for example, Alotta Presha. The eight member reggae/dub (that’s got nothing to do with “dubstep,” for all you Skrillex aficionados playing along at home) outfit have quickly developed into one of the region’s most loved and talented outfits, with sets at Rainbow Serpent and Foreshore festival, a headline spot at Stacked Music Festival, support slots for The Herd and Thundamentals, packed-out local shows wherever they play, and serious love from Sydney radio station FBI.

For another, try Rocking Horse & The Baby Dolls. The rhythm’n’blues ensemble filled the Heritage Hotel to the brim for their EP launch a few weeks back, won the UOW band comp in 2011, have toured up and down the East Coast, and singer Christie would give any soul singer in the country a run for their money. Consider, too, Tommy M & The Mastersounds, the insanely youthful reggae eight-piece (yes, there’s a bunch of eight-piece bands around) who have won pretty much every competition there is to win in the region, and will be one of the more entertaining live acts you see.

Bec Sandridge has scored massive plaudits from overseas, and already completed a handful of international tours, while Bennie James is a semi-permanent fixture in the Sydney music scene. There’s a strong indie pop scene led by Jenny Broke The Window and Round The Corner, as well as Beaten Bodies and Firelucy tapping into some bluesy, soulful stuff. We’ve got outstanding electronic prospects in This Mess, Elliphant, Reactionary and Moonbase Commander, producing the sort of music almost never seen before in Wollongong; a burgeoning hip-hop scene led by Common Grounds, Cass Clay and Mass Effect; and folk-pop acts Yetis, Vicious Dickens, Paisley Park and Obscura Hail, bringing a much-welcomed tender touch to the local scene.

If you didn’t know already, Wollongong is no longer a town solely producing rock and metal. Pound for pound, our scene is as strong, vibrant and diverse as any other area in Australia. Get out and see for yourself.

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5 Responses to OPINION: More than the working-class cliches

  1. Mitch Bell says:

    Devastating that Troldhaugen didn’t get a mention in Wollongong’s list of diverse music.

  2. chops77 says:

    Wow – mods vs. rockers much?

    • Admin says:

      not at all! The local rock and punk scenes are still producing some amazing acts, some of the best in town; Mother & Son, and Totally Unicorn, just for starters. But this article was just to highlight the growing diversity in the scene. It was to show how the landscape is changing, with the introduction of new venues (Yours & Owls, Good Jelly, and the reintroduction of Music Farmers), festivals (Stacked) and promoters in the scene, paving the way for new types of music to start blossoming in Wollongong. It wasn’t meant as an attack on the rock scene! Just a piece to show how the local scene is diversifying and changing, and that Wollongong shouldn’t be pigeonholed as a place only producing rock and metal.

  3. Gareth Hoyle says:

    I highly doubt that any band appreciates being categorised as “loud, heavy and simple”. If you saw the attendance at these rock and particularly metal shows it’s clear that rock and metal bands in Wollongong are in need of more support to promote their music in the region. Alienating Wollongong bands based on some class distinction determined by what genre they play is going to do nothing except set the local music scene apart and prevent musicians from either persuasion from enjoying the diverse music scene that Wollongong offers. It seems that by promoting ‘diversity’ a number of acts are ultimately excluded from the scene, which does nothing but reduce the diverse range of genres that Wollongong offers.

  4. Rob Carr says:

    “Wollongong is no longer a town solely producing rock and metal.” Was it ever? Debates concerning and resistances to the genre-isation of a city “sound” are more about the community negotiating its identity/sense of self than the music per se. Styles ebb and flow, and preferred tastes change and diversify over time. I think it was Alby Fares who once said something about a 5 year cycle in audience tastes which still rings true to some degree. A researcher in Geo at UOW said to me recently that music scenes are an “intersection of (sometimes directly competing) subjective viewpoints”. Think this pretty much sums it up in some ways.

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