A Melodic Dose of Reality: The Medics Pay Respect to Indigenous Culture at Free G20 Cultural Showcase at the HiFi
BENJAMIN PRATT –
When you see The Medics play you have to believe in them, it’s not even a choice.
They hypnotise audiences with an impassioned stage presence – and energy layered through their music – to alter listeners’ perceptions. It’s fierce and energetic rock and roll, an exhilarating blur of passion, movement and honesty uniquely their own.
The Medics’ story began in Cairns back in 2007 and their rapid emergence as one of Australia’s most exciting bands had them performing at Splendour in the Grass, Big Day Out, Laneway, Groovin’ the Moo and Woodford. So in demand were the Medics they relocated to Brisbane in 2010.
Their debut record, Foundations, was a feature album on Triple J, spreading signature sonic frequencies all over national airwaves. As well as touring with the biggest festivals on the Australian music circuit, The Medics are no strangers to supporting shows for causes they believe in. It is a trait which has won them legions of fans and seen them crowned the Best New Talent at the 2013 Rolling Stone Awards.
While the boys from Far North Queensland have trail-blazed their way across the country on the back of their songwriting, their creative processes and beliefs are prominent in their music and their contribution to their community. In 2010 they were featured in a Foxtel documentary series called Who We Are which broadcast during NIADOC week.
Last week the band played Rock for the Reef at Brisbane Powerhouse in protest of the dumping of dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef. Tonight they harness their energy to present a one-off free show to pay respect to their Indigenous culture and the legacy of Aboriginal contemporary musical history, as part of the G20 Cultural Celebrations.
“Those issues are basically fuelling our fire,” says Kahl Wallace, the modestly spoken vocalist and guitarist. “We have a fierce energy at our core and we are trying to bring that back to rock and roll,” he says with an assertive conviction.
Their Radiohead-fused riffs blend with the energy and passion of At the Drive In’s intense sound set, with Wallce’s vocals sprawling for a 90 minute set in one of few live performances for the band this year.
NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award Winner and iconic Indigenous musician and activist Bunna Lawrie will join them on stage for songs from Coloured Stone. Supporting the band is local elder and activist Bob Weatherall with his band Old Dog Soup.
“We just want the opportunity to be heard,” Wallace said. “We are opposing the G20 summit itself through our music and what we’re trying to do with the gig tomorrow night.”
“It’s a very traumatic time for the Indigenous community and aboriginal people around this summit,” he said. “We’re trying to put on a real special night for our community because of that and we feel our music is a part of a healing aspect that we want to share [to] help heal the wounds of the past and present and come together to send an important message to the people in power.”
“What we’re trying to do is invite some Indigenous artists and musicians and share their music and song and story and art tomorrow night.”
Bunna Lawrie is especially proud of his song ‘Black Boy’ which he penned as a revolutionary statement of pride and acceptance for Aboriginals.
“I’m doing it because I’m giving support to The Medics and I love what they’re doing,” Lawrie said. “It’s all about helping other people and everyone getting a fair go.”
And everyone will be “getting a fair go”. After overhead costs are covered the funds that were provided for the show (courtesy of the Queensalnd Government, Department of Premier and Cabinet) will go to The Murri School, an aboriginal and islander independent community school that promotes the development of Indigenous students as independent, skilled, morally and socially responsible members of society.
Though The Medics and Bunna are both indigenous activists the underlying message of the evening is a political one in protest of oppression and classism, using the lead up to the G20 and its cultural celebrations as a platform to influence education and change.
“We want people to take something away that will sit in their minds and help them realise what is really happening in our country,” Wallace said. “We want to share that in our music and do it in a way that’s universal so people can forward their education as to what is really going on in our communities and around the world.”
Rather than using rhetoric to instigate their ideas The Medics use their music as an authentic reflection of their political ideals and beliefs.
“A lot of people never get a chance to speak or speak for their people,” Bunna said about the power of The Medics’ music. “Music is a tool of mediation, a tool for education, a tool for understanding. Music is the understanding of people coming together and seeing why we sing songs and what we sing about.”
As Brisbane bunkers up for a weekend of political discussion The Medics are using it as an opportunity to be heard by the people who matter. Whether you are Indigenous or not is beside the point with The Medics, it’s about coming together as a family, representing something you believe in and making enough noise to be heard. It is the positive angle of being heard and shifting perceptions that is at the centre of their agenda.