- Pulp - Help The Aged
Big Day Out tastes so much sweeter when it's free. This year in particular, I certainly would not have even bothered going if not for the pair of industry tickets which eventually arrived in late December and were the cause of arguments over Registered Post conditions.
I arrived at Adam's house early for wine and the surprisingly effective combination of Frangelico and lime. We gathered suplies into Adam's convenient bag and headed off. En route we witnessed a boy in a filthy safari suit harrassing a girl and insisting that she join him at Big Day Out, and were joined in our booth by a group on their way to their first Big Day Out. When we said that this was far from our first BDO, they guessed our ages at 21 and 22, and we didn't argue. We recommended that they check out The Butterfly Effect, Fantomas, and Little Red, and they told us that they didn't know who those bands were, but that we should look at TV On The Radio, Sneaky Sound System and the Ting Tings. Later, Adam and I helped an old woman to get her suitcase onto the train, and one of the group assisted her to get off the train with it at Spencer Street, followed by endless bragging about how he epitomised the helpful yet humble youth of today for the rest of the trip, and a lie to his friends. 'I got that old lady's phone number!' he told them, and Adam and I, behind him, shook our heads. This went on until we arrived at the showgrounds.
Big Day Out 2009
Flemington Racecourse Carpark, January 26, 2009
We didn't listen to the New Breed staff who told us to go inside to get our Drinking Age wristbands, since we were already close to the head of the line, but might have got in saved a little time if we had, since inside the queues were significantly smaller. We headed immediately for the main stages and caught the end of Children Collide's set, and took in all of Birds of Tokyo. I'm convinced that the singer from Birds Of Tokyo would be a pretty good pick to play Jeff Buckley if someone were to produce a musical based on his life. In fact, I am not convinced that he isn't the vocalist portion of Pete and Fíete, but this is, of course, without any real basis. They drew a surprising crowd for a local act so early in the day. In fact, as we left that stage to see Little Red, the crossOver period between them and The Grates seemed to be the only time the inside of the D-Barrier was full and briefly closed to incoming traffic. It was in stark contrast to last year, to be sure. I guess those five or ten thousand unsold tickets really do make a difference, for the better.
Next up was Little Red, whom I have wanted to see live for a long time, but never had the chance. In the few spare minutes before they started, we checked out the nearby 'Cinema 180,' one of those attractions that I often see at second-rate carnivals, but am never willing to pay to see what goes on inside. Since it was free, we went into an incredibly dark dome. Another New Breed security staff asked us to sit down, but I was afraid that if I moved I would step on the fingers of one of the people I could barely make out sitting on the ground, watching the curvy screen above. The screen was playing an art film like Dr. David Richie used to play us in Art Theory 101 at that big cold lecture theatre at Rusden campus.
We left the stint in the shade of the cinema and were just in time for Little Red. Adam was concerned they may have a new, and inferior drummer, since their somewhat iconic original drummer was said to have been deported. But he was their, and bopped along with the songs as is his style. Midway through their set they introduced the horn section from Hunters and Collecters to the stage, who made their songs sound great. I was also impressed with their allusions to big singles. Each song was prefaced with something like 'It's Australia Day, and we hope you'll enjoy the feeling,' 'Here's a song we always like to play. It always gets a big reaction. It's always been one of our favourites,' and 'You can't beat the real thing, and this is the real Big Day Out, Melbourne!' As it was, they didn't play Coca-Cola until the very end of their set.
I was planning a quick break away to see The Ting Tings, the main drawcard for me, when Adam was mobbed by a bunch of people who realised he was friends with Pete from Neighbours and wanted their photograph with him. Later we also ran into Rod, who recognised me from Deakin U, but I thought the familiarity was probably more fresh from Jimi's Homecoming Party a few months prior.
The Ting Tings sounded great, but because they were on such a small stage and drew such a huge crowd, we had to stand miles away. The three of us climbed a hill for a better view, and more people, this time in a tree, recognised Adam. Since there was no one on for a while who I wanted to see, I made my first visit in BDO history to one of the bars, and then Rod wanted to see some of Sneaky Sound System. While they sound good live, I can't help but feel that their shows are kind of bland, and that Feyoncé was better in Machine Gun Fellatio and Primary. Maybe they have just been touring on these same two albums for too long...
The giant Terminator hand outside the V Tent, controllable by patrons via some kind of glove, not unlike the Nintendo Power Glove.
We listened to Pendulum from afar after discovering that there were no queues at all for the bars in the Lilypad, and then went back into the main stages to see Serj Tankian. One of my biggest Big Day Out mistakes was in 2000, when I skipped System Of A Down to watch Spiderbait. While it was one of the best Spiderbait shows I had seen before or since, on the back of their most electronic albums, I now rank System Of A Down amongst the bands I would most like to see live. While we watched the dregs of Pendulum on the stage opposite, my excited reports to Adam and Rod from the VIP bar that I had seen Serj and he was wearing a top hat were perhaps unneccasary - apparently Serj is most often seen wearing a top hat.
Serj was great, and really easy to get into, and, I am impressed to report, recieved huge applause for his take on my infamous sunflower dance. I was inspired to rush out and buy his album, and even though he and his black-clad band looked small on stage, his personality filled it. Next I rushed to V's 'Hot Produce' tent for Tex Perkins and his Ladyboyz.
It was a star-studded set. Yes, that is one of the Cester boys on stage when I arrived. Nic, or Chris, which ever it was, drank from a bottle of Yellow champagne throughout their duet of Hold The Line. Meanwhile, Stevo from Area 7 bopped along to the music in the audience, Mya Jupiter danced nearby, and RockWiz's Brian Nankervis apologised for bouncing too enthusiastically into me. The trademark white suits were matched by white balloons which just seemed to materialise above the audience, and I couldn't help but smile when Tex introduced his back-up singers, the Lady Ladiez. For lack of anything else to do afterwards, I bought drinks back at the Lilypad, and caught the end of Barrence Whitfield's set.
He put on a pretty good show, and I didn't even mind when he invited the audience into chants of 'Yes we can!' in honour of his love of Barack. He danced with the props on stage and rolled on the floor, yet still created the kind of rock 'n' roll that would appeal to the Monash Hotel on a Saturday night. And it was really catchy. Apparently Fred Negro had also discovered the minimal bar queues at Lilypad, because I spotted him getting drinks in the tent nearby, in which Slate Bourbon cocktails were a speciality and pole dancers were gyrating all over a Combi. Next I took my dinner break, watching parts of The Living End and some of Mammal from a distance before securing prime position for The Butterfly Effect.
Even though it was a smaller stage than they played last year - the main stage being the perfect setting for their sound - The Butterfly Effect put on a kiiler show. Clint, as always, took over the stage, and they played all my favourite songs. I wondered how they did in the Hottest 100, which I'd missed. The songs from their latest albums sounded great live, too.
Next I jogged over to see Fantomas. The drumming looked incredible live, but I didn't quite understand the band's matching cricket outfits, with zinc. Perhaps Mike Patton explained before I arrived. Despite the material, he cracked jokes and personified the content of the songs, like Nick Cave does. It really was something to see as the dark of the night drew closed in. Since there wasn't much else to do, I took the closest stage, and was impressed by the Dropkick Murphys. I wasn't too familiar with their songs, and prefer bands of the same ilk, like Rancid. But their set was fast-paced and varied, and quite watchable. I skipped their encore to get over to the Boiler Room, where I'd earlier watched a few minutes of Lupe Fiasco, to catch The Prodigy. Like The Ting Tings earlier in the day, The Prodigy's crowd appeal had been underestimated. Or perhaps Vivian and Ken were trying to avoid a mismatched crowd, like last year's Björk / Rage Against The Machine stand off. Either way, there was no way I could get close to the stage, and I'm pretty good at getting close to stages. They could have easily taken on one of the main stages. I listened to a couple of their songs, but since I like to watch too, I tried to beat the crowds to the train.
There was no dancing on stage with Iggy Pop. There was no watching NoFX from a rooftop. There was no surprise appearance from Kylie Minogue. But it was still a pretty good Big Day Out. Then again, there was nothing to lose. I certainly wouldn't have paid for the line up, but being able to drift between stages without desperately needing to rush to see favourite acts made the day much more calm than usual. The smaller crowd might have helped too, and the perfect weather conditions. Apparently for Adelaide's turn, today, the expected top was somewhere around 43 degrees. On the way home, the train was held up by a bunch of people wearing the Australian flags as capes throwing full bottles of Victoria Bitter at one another and into train carriages, terrifying an old man, and a young mother with a small boy. When the people finally got on, they tried to talk to me about inane things, but I found everything about them incredibly dull and couldn't feign interest even for the sake of my book. Perhaps I have become jaded, or maybe I always was...