35 speakers. 2 days. 12 panels reflecting on a gruelling, changing industry.
Held over two spacious yet linked studios in the heart of Brisbane’s inner suburbs, musos, writers and fan alike from all over and outside the country came together to talk and hear about some of the most relevant issues dominating the space where rock music and writing intersect.
We’ve compiled some of the most important things we took away from the event, ones that’ll resonate whether you’re a musician, writer or photographer.
- Rock has the power to counter some of our world’s most deeply rooted social issues.
Frontman Tim Rogers from Aussie alt-rock icons You Am I naturally injected a fun yet introspective vibe into the fest. This was particularly felt during the Saturday panel on freedom and rock ‘n’ roll, as the songwriter ruminated about rock’s ability to tackle the world’s “increasing narcissism”.
Contemporary poet and fiction author Brentley Frazer also had something to say about our world’s inherent hypocrisy, where we “uphold” and then “rape” celebrities from all walks of life in the public arena when they transgress, or according to Frazer, “drink too much”.
- While we currently live in a digital culture of anxiety and immediacy, there is hope for music writers.
A particularly powerful conversation flowed when three contemporary music critics got together later in the day. All three panellists considered our current digital age, where there is no safety net from, as put poignantly by moderator Larry Heath (publisher of The AU Review), “critics of critics”.
However, even working in a space where free work is rampant and the ceiling for music journalists seems to be pressing lower than ever, there’s a spark of hope from The Australian’s Iain Shedden (also former drummer for The Saints). Shedden fundamentally believes that it’s the quality of writing, not the speed that will ultimately come back to the forefront.
- At its heart, the power of rock ‘n’ roll lies in the freedom to be androgynous.
Reflections ran even more rampant during one of the day’s most anticipated sessions, as solo musician and Magic Dirt vocalist Adalita Srsen sat alongside Rogers to break down the ‘rock persona’. Facilitated by radio and TV show powerhouse Bec Mac, the two epitomised the gender fluidity of rock ‘n’ roll. Srsen’s main concern was clearly with getting older and longevity rather than her organic sense of masculinity, while Rogers’ softer side was on display.
This came full circle on Sunday afternoon when triple j’s Zan Rowe sat on her ‘throne’ like a boss, alongside Ireland-born writer Nick Earls and three strong female authors, Peggy Frew and Melissa Lucashenko among them. At its heart, the panel was about acknowledging the masculine and feminine in us all, going back to rock ‘n’ roll’s potently ambiguous nature.
- If you’re having to push too hard to ‘sell’ someone in your article or photos, you’re doing it wrong.
Leading Sunday panel ‘The Eyes Have It’ was a feast for aspiring and current rock photographers. Sophie Howarth imparted her 20 years of experience by emphasising the importance of being completely “present” in the moment. Meanwhile, the formidable Tony Mott informed us bluntly that sexiness is implicit in rock images, and that if you’re feeling like you have to go to lengths to ‘dress’ someone up, then there’s a problem.
While different parts of the weekend resonated with different people, apparent during roundtable discussions with the panellists over lunch, one thing was for certain: The second annual Rock & Roll Writer’s Festival provided the opportunity for rock musos from all walks of life to come to terms with their own place in the world, and it’s the only one of its kind here with the leverage to do so.