You won’t find “vibranter” in the dictionary, however it perfectly describes what happened to the Bendigo music scene this year; a vibrant scene got vibranter.

There were many 2016 highlights for me. But I’ll start with Groovin The Moo. Well it wasn’t actually at Groovin the Moo, it was after I left the 15,000-strong Showgrounds throng and got back to the CBD. In Musicman that night I saw two local bands for the first time: Dead Lurkers, and Cameron Holmes and the Blues Dudes. Both bands absolutely blew me away, highlighting the range and depth of talent and originality in our central Victorian midst.

I came across Four Lions’ debut album Charing Cross late last year, but there might only be one album I’ve listened to more since. I didn’t get around to seeing them live until March though, but have made up for it since. I reckon I almost know what Shann Lions has for breakfast now. Four Lions’ intimate Lockington Hotel gig in July was a stand-out – a day that was capped-off by a cracker of a night at Musicman when The Bennies and Clowns hit Bendigo.

The Psychouts were a new find for me this year. Their garage rock is kind of The Stooges meets The Sonics, with a Chicko Roll thrown in to add some local flavour.

Highway 79 debuted on Good Friday with Colin Thompson adding even more oomph to the already very oomphy, very noisy Rattlin Bones Blackwood. It’s a lively collaboration.

Stone Djoser and Kerr’s Cur I saw regularly and enjoyed throughout 2016.

The Cosmic Psychos at the Golden Vine in April was a top night – enjoyed by a largely middle-aged cohort letting their hair down. The Vine has come on strong in the past few months, re-establishing itself as a top music venue. After two years, the return of TH3 was very welcome.
Harry Manx and his diverse, multi-stringed collection of guitars at the Capital was a memorable evening. His fusing of blues and Indian music marks him out as something really quite different. I hope we see him again soon.

At different times in 2016 I found myself wondering how many Keith MacQueens there are. I lost count of the number of times I looked up at a stage to see him on guitar. When he’s not playing in Four Lions, The John Grossman Project, The Bridesmaid or Swamp Monsters he’s lending executive acumen to the role of secretary of the Bendigo Blues & Roots Music Festival. Keith MacQueen’s contribution to the Bendigo music scene is immense.

And on that subject… Bendigo Blues & Roots Music Festival 2014 was widely regarded as the “breakout year” when a homely-ish local festival upped the ante. 2015 was a consolidation year. In 2016 though things went up to a new level. 15,000 people can’t be wrong; it’s a seriously good festival now. And good for Bendigo after some of the negative attention in 2015. I saw 33 different artists play 36 sets over Festival weekend. This Way North only played only once but they’re back in Bendigo on 20th January. They play a kind of indie-dance-rock with a hint of a world music influence. Highly recommended.

The future is clearly in good hands. Four local youngsters released their first CDs in 2016. Bill Barber’ album For Your Consideration, Steph Bitter’s First of May EP, Frank Bell’s White Horse all came out in quick succession early in the year. Sherri Parry joined them with debut EP Equal, launched at a packed Golden Vine in October. The future looks very bright indeed.