Nine Lives Festival @ The Tivoli, 01.03.2020
By Billie Stimpson
Photos by Bianca Holderness
In Brisbane Sunday the first of March, The Tivoli, Jet Black Cat and handsome tours collaborated on Nine Lives – the latest in ongoing efforts to creatively reach beyond the more unpleasant conventions of the large-scale Australian musical festival. Despite my utter lack of credibility or clout in relation to music and culture, I suspect that there might be something in a niche festival review written by a socially and spiritually old maid still attached to the vestiges of half-decent taste and sometimes leaving the house. Call me sentimental and self-focused, I am definitely both, but I get a sense the question of how to connect audiences and artists of a certain introverted-but-culturally-engaged type is an interesting one as Australian music spaces continue to become more nuanced, specific, diverse and responsive. Interesting because surely people, not just me, become disengaged when they need to sift and sit (and pay) through events that they can’t relate or connect to in order to have a moment of creative resonance or closeness with artists they love, and yet single headline shows in an intimate venue isn’t always possible.
So, I feel like efforts to connect artists and people that exist on the peripheries of what can actually get off the ground in Australia are probably quite serious and earnest in ways that are hard to appreciate as someone often deciding to stay at home. Nine Lives seemed like a genuine effort though, and one should be affectionately recognised as an opportunity for self-identifying soft-spoken and gentle folks in their 30s a day of communion, relaxed revelry and tasteful curation. Of course, any target brief is always aspirational and subjective; you can’t always choose your fans, but I was reminded of the work that remains ahead by the obnoxious guy giving me a teeth-grittingly unpleasant compliment about my ‘little dress’ and how nice and breezy it must be in the hot weather, and the subsequent conversation I had with my friend about how she could support me to respond to transphobia in crowded and confined areas (P.S. It was a skirt you fuckhead, also fuck off).
It was also Nine Lives’ first effort, and so probably understandable to see some of the practical logistics play out imperfectly in real time. Heat, shade, food availability, seated space, internal capacity, easy water access, all factors that could have been planned better and may have really impacted on people’s experiences, but I don’t sense that these were huge obstacles, and the Tivoli’s gender neutral bathrooms gave a lil’ something of a balance towards this enby’s favour .
Thankfully, the ‘block party’ concept made good on the need for distance and space where it was needed, I’m guessing especially for any dogs and dog-owners that capitalised on the strange but on-brand offer of canine tickets, and the various stalls gave some opportunity to escape the crowd for a moment. For both those in the know as well as my friend and I who were reasonably unfamiliar with a lot of the lineup though, the curation was excellent. The auspice of Brisbane’s Jet Black Cat records established more than enough trust that you could point yourself towards any stage and meet with something pleasant and quite probably beautiful. On top of that, the luxury of an indoor stage was the perfect compliment for artists that must be constantly undermined by the realities of outdoor sound and settings.
For me, back-to-back sets of Allah-Las, Aldous Harding, Hand Habits and Julia Jacklin was a lovely flow of presence and charisma, the kind of presence that was being craved for and promised, and if I had more stamina I feel like an entire day could be spent in that fashion (sorry Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, I bet you were great). Ultimately, if Nine Lives 2020 was an inauguration it was a strong one, and if it was a mere testing of the waters then I urge the bookers to keep in mind that there are plenty of us out here that are looking for somewhere to swim.
Billie Stimpson is a settler nonbinary girl living on stolen land in Meanjin/Brisbane. Jet Black Cat has for some time now been the local booking presence that has most consistently enticed them out of their hidey hole, and once out they sometimes reflect on the social fabric and structure of music communities, having felt both disappointed and enamoured with them on many occasions. They work and study within the community sector, and also have a cat that is black (with white paws).