Australia Day long weekends rock.
Part 1 – Big Day Out 2008 – Sydney
Part 2 – Triple J’s Hottest 100 Countdown and trip to the Domain for the live broadcast
Part 3- 1st Best Picture Film seen and reviewed – Atonement
Part 1 – The Big Day Out 2008 – Sydney
A lot of planning is required for the Big Day Out.
What to take? What time to get there? How to get there? Which bands to see? Where to meet if we get lost?
Firstly, you take as little as possible.
My mate’s theory was, all you need is your drivers license, money, sunscreen and life savers.
I opted for Fruit Tingles.
We drove there, as I have done this the last 2 years and found that the $15 parking is worth it when you can just leave whenever you want and there is not much traffic.
Stupid me, I forgot to get money out before hand and I only had $50. There were announcements saying that there was only 1 ATM inside the BDO, so we looked at the ATM line outside and decided that waiting an hour for money was not worth it.
We handed over our beloved tickets (the almost lost tickets) and went through the Express ‘no bags’ line and we were in. There’s a great atmosphere in the air. It’s the festival atmosphere that you only get at a music festival.
The first thing we see when we get in? TWO ATM’s with hardly any people lined up. So I get some cash out in less than 5 minutes and we head to the Alcohol Arm-band tent. About 5 more minutes of lining up for the arm-band and then about 30 seconds for a beer and we were in, cashed up, arm-banded and downing a Tooheys Extra Day, all within about 15 minutes. It was 11.10am.
Time for some MUSIC!
The main stage timings had all changed because of the absence of Bjork. I heard about this in the car on the way to Sydney the previous afternoon, (and of course notified Bjork’s biggest supporter, Enny) and although I was a bit disappointed, I wasn’t about to get a refund. Mind you, if Rage Against The Machine had cancelled, I probably would taken my money and run.
Firstly we poked around the site getting the lay of the land. Checked out the Hot House, the main arena and then the Green and Essential stages. By this stage, British India were just starting up and we had a good listen to them. I really liked them, although some of their music got a little samey by the end. They are a good rocky band, but I forsee them going the way of Eskimo Joe and Kisschasy by heading down the mainstream track (not that there’s anything wrong with that).
I mentioned that I wouldn’t mind checking out the crowd reaction to Operator Please at the main Blue Stage. I had seen them only a few months earlier, so didn’t necessarily want to see their whole set. The crowd seemed to be going off to them as they started and they played one my favourite songs (Get what you want) while we watched, so that was cool. They are such a fun band.
We strolled our way back to the Essential stage as British India finished their set and found ourselves in front of Cut Off Your Hands. Wow. Fantastic sound. The speakers at these smaller stages were awesome. Really clear and really powerful. This Kiwi band went off. They have been making waves in the USA lately and the antics of the lead singer who loves to run about and climb on things has been widely reported. He did, unfortunately, break his ankle during some of these antics and was a little less energetic today, but there are reports they will be doing a live show in Canberra soon. Best so far!
Next band on the Green stage (next to the Essential Stage) was Josh Pyke. He was one of my favourite artists of 2007, so I wanted to see how he went at the BDO. There was a huge crowd there for him and we listened to him playing a few of his crooning, soulful tracks (including my favourite, Lines on Palms). Although the sound was again clear and loud, I felt that his backing band were a little too loud and perhaps he is better suited for a smaller gig inside than an outdoor stage. Never-the-less, he was still very good and after hearing about 5 tracks we headed on our way somewhere else.
My mate I went with was pretty much happy to go wherever, and didn’t have any preferences for bands, so I was pretty much dictating the order of events. I had used my little guide (thanks to Enny) to highlight the bands I wanted to see. Next on the agenda was Faker. They have really hit the airwaves hard with their latest album in the last 6 months, and the fact they were on the big Blue Stage and had 10 foot high letters spelling FAKER on the stage was testament to that. They rolled out a number of their hits on stage, but judging by the people around me, it seemed that This Heart Attack was the one they were waiting for. (as voted for in the Hottest 100 by me) Unfortunately, both my mate and I were getting a little bored of them and the action on stage just wasn’t keeping our attention, so we left before they even got to their big single which was presumably their finale.
We left the arena and after I ate a dodgy kebab (with Chilli) and soaked in some sun for a but we headed over to the Boiler Room. Now, this place is enormous. If you haven’t been there, imagine an aeroplane hangar and then triple it. It’s high, long and fits a crap load of sweaty, young tripped out punters. I was talking up the fact that Funktrust were going to doing some ‘Cock Rock’ tributes in their DJ set on stage (as they said on JJJ the night before). Of course, there was no such luck as we watched them for about 20 minutes and got constant DJ Rave beats. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but we were very sober, very un-drug-fucked and with nothing to watch on stage other than 1 portly and 1 skinny DJ waving their hands in the air (like they just don’t care), we decided to go for a walk and come back for Dizzee Rascal that I had lots of wraps on. On the way we saw Regurgitator first couple of songs. I felt a little unloyal to my favourite Aussie band, as I was wearing their T-Shirt, but wasn’t in the mosh. I justified it however with the fact I have seen them about 6 times before and there were other artists to see.
I love a couple of Dizzee Rascal songs that I have heard, especially new single, Flex. I had read that he was very good live. Unfortuantely after we went for a walk during Funktrust and then came back, the Boiler Room population had just about exploded and we were relegated to standing behind the sound desk to the left, when before we had a nice position in front of the stage. Dizzee came on and played a few tracks, repeatedly telling us how he was going ‘Old School’. He even stopped a track mid way and told the crowd to stop pushing. Not that we could tell as we were about 50 metres away. I realised that although I wanted to hear Flex, I didn’t really feel like listening to any other songs, so we wandered back outside where some rain had been falling to cool things down. This might have also been the reason the Boiler Room was so full. It’s pretty much the only venue that is undercover.
We walked out, and all I wanted to do was see The Gurge again. So, we headed back to the main arena and into the ‘D’ to watch the last couple of songs of their set. So – Freaking – Good. I still love them, no matter what they do. They were all decked out in white and for their last song, Song Formally Known as.., 2 girls came out in bridal dresses to rock on down. One of them was of course Yumi, from Channel V, who is also Ben Ely’s (the Gurge Bass Player’s) girlfriend. I was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t seen their whole set, but I know that I will see them again when they’re back in Canberra.
On the other stage in the main arena was now Midnight Juggernauts. They area another one of those bands that has come out of nowhere for me and became one of my favourites for 2007. I was impressed by their large banner on stage, but was unfortunately less than impressed by their sound. They played some of my favourite songs, (Road to Recovery, Ending of an Era, Dystopia), but I just found it hard to get into them. I really wasn’t drunk enough obviously. I also noticed my mate was getting decidedly bored and wasn’t really into them (he was in the US for the last 5 years or so and didn’t know most of the Aussie acts that were there). So we moved out of the ‘D’ and back into the fray.
It was now about 4.30pm and we knew that we’d have to start thinking about our tactics to get into the ‘D’ for the final acts, most importantly, Rage Against The Machine. The D is the very front section that spreads across both main stages and can only be entered via a funnel-like entrance at the middle of the round bit of the ‘D’. There are no toilets in the ‘D’. No Alcohol Allowed either. So, it’s impossible to stay in the D all day, unless you decide to pee in a bottle or pour grog into a water bottle and take it in. (with both options being utilised by many people).
From experience, I knew that the squeeze to get into the ‘D’ starts early, and it’s a long wait for the ‘red’ and ‘green’ lights that control the flow of entry. As my mate and I listened to the end of Spoon (Sounded ok) and then the start of The Nightwatchman (Tom Morello’s band), we felt the tension and anticipation of RATM rising. Even as Tom Morello sang his own raspy political version of Dirty Deeds by AC/DC, we were concentrating on the job to come…
Surviving in the ‘D’ for the last 5 hours of the day.
As 5.30 rolled around and with our bladders drained, we headed into the main arena and into the queue that was the ‘D’ entry. What followed was 1 hour of the most enormous crush you will ever experience. Imagine hundreds of people pushing their way towards an entry the length of a car. It was intense. The years before could not prepare me for the effort it took to make out way 10 metres from where we entered the queue to where we made it into the ‘D’. Girls were getting crushed (or faking it so they could get passed over the barrier into the ‘D’), guys were pushing from behind. Sweat was being transferred between all parties and as Grinspoon and then The Hilltop Hoods tore up the main stages. I couldn’t watch at all as I was squished in this human sardine experiment. Finally, at around 6.30pm we made it in. The relief to entering the ‘D’ was amazing. The desperation to get in was huge. Just as we got in, a guy jumped over the fence and was immediately tackled by security staff. His ‘Big Day’ was over.
So, we were in. We stepped over the people sitting down in the crowd to get a good position near the front. The Hilltop Hoods were still playing on the other stage and sounded great. I have wanted to see them for ages, but there are things you have to sacrifice to get a good position for the bands you want to see. I was now in front of the stage that was going to have Zach running around on it in a matter of hours.
But first, we had Silverchair to watch. Now, I went to the Powderfinger/Silverchair double-header earlier in the year and I had big wraps on Silverchair’s show. I thought they outplayed Powderfinger and gave the crowd a fantastic show. Today, was a different kettle of fish. Most of the crowd were there to watch Rage. They, like me, were in position solely to see them. Silverchair was just something to fill the time until then.
It’s kind of unfortunate for the ‘chair’ fans and for the band that they had to endure the rubbish that was thrown at them during their set. Bottle of ‘yellow’ liquid were thrown towards Daniel Johns, and a guy standing right behind me threw his shoes at him. He was then threatened with a punch in the head from other people around us after doing this. The show itself was good. They are a talented band, no doubt. But why does Daniel Johns have to be such a fucktard? His constant “Scream for me one time, two times, three times” bullshit was just getting on everyone’s nerves. His weird gospel accent was also stupid and his little hands wave things when strumming. I just think that their performance was probably not appreciated as much as it could have been, but if you were a big fan you would have seen their show the ‘Across the Great Divide’ tour anyway.
While the urine filled bottles were cleaned off the stage and a cloak was cast over it, the Arcade Fire launched into their big, multi-instrumental, extravaganza on the other stage. It was, however, very hard to enjoy the show from where I was standing, or more accurately, where I was getting pushed back and forth in every direction. The mosh had started already in front of the Rage stage, but the band was still over an hour from appearing! For some Silverchair fans it was too much. How to escape the crush when there is a wall of people behind you? The crush eased off after about 15 minutes and then it was just time to wait while we listened to the cacophony of sounds coming from the left of us. From what I heard and saw it looked to be a pretty amazing show. I like some of their songs, but don’t know stuff from their first album. They are just a little bit overly fancy and grand I reckon, but it was a good soundtrack while we waited.
And waited…and waited…and waited.. That hour was sooo slow as we peered onto the stage waiting for them to come out. Rain threatened, but hardly anything fell that could have cooled off the sweaty crowd. The Lords Of Lightning did their electricity dance to our left, but still we waited.
I had been waiting almost half my life to see them, I realised as I was standing there. It has been 15 years since I first heard the distinctive chords at the start of ‘Killing in the Name‘. I also clearly remember the first time I ever listened to the whole debut album. I was on a bus heading to Orange for an eisteddfod in the orchestra I used to play in. I was listening to it on my mates walkman, and I remember how amazing it sounded. The guitars, the riffs, the singing. They were all so original and like nothing I had ever heard before.
Finally. They came out. The crowd pulsed and tensed with excitement. They belted into Testify and everyone erupted. It was easily the most intense mosh I have ever been in. I wish I was 10 years younger so I could have survived and jumped along with a much energy as everyone younger than me. Bulls on Parade came next and the crowd was alive. It flowed from left to right, forward and back. People fell over, but they were being pulled up and they continued to mosh. After watching others fall and helping then up, I was the one to go down. I was on my arse as the mosh collapsed and my legs just wouldn’t work. I tried to stand up as people tried to grab me (and the 10 other people that went down), and eventually I found the ground and the energy to push myself up and get back into it.
But that was enough for me. I had to retreat. I hate to admit it, but it was at the point where the struggle to survive in the pit was overriding the ability to see the band. I made my way backwards, which was almost as hard as going forwards, as the band rolled into People of the Sun. I reached the back and realised that it was just as packed back there as it was at the front. People were moshing in the section between the D and the back part. It was chaos! There was no way I was exiting the ‘D’ that I’d worked so hard to get into, so I ploughed my way back in again until I was positioned midway back in the ‘D’, directly in front. I watched the rest of the amazing performance from here.
They played all the hits.
Bulls on Parade
People of the Sun
Bullet In The Head
Know Your Enemy
Renegades of Funk
Calm Like A Bomb
Sleep Now In The Fire
War Within A Breath
Killing In The Name
I am sure they slowed down Bombtrack to try and calm the crowd down, and Renegades of Funk was also one that gave the crowd a breather. The highlights were Bullet in The Head, Know Your Enemy and Freedom. 3 of my favourite songs. During Freedom, there were 2 ‘circles of death’ around me. One behind and one in front. While the music surrounded me I dove in and moshed my little butt off. It was a frigging dream come true to see these guys and I was going to make the most of it.
Zach really seemed to be having fun as well. He often had a smile on his face as he watched the crowd and was enjoying seeing everyone bounce. I can’t imagine the feeling he’d have watching 40,000 people watching him, but I think I’d have a smile on my face as well.
When finally “Fuck You I Won’t Do What You Tell Me” echoed around the arena, the crowd was spent. The lights came on, and the sweaty, half-naked, moshed out youth made their way from the Showgrounds.
It was all worth it.
The staying up till 3am to get tickets ; The panic of almost losing the tickets ; The sweaty shirtless bogans rubbing against me ; The hour long squeeze to get into the ‘D’ ; The Silverchair and Arcade Fire build-ups and the crazy mosh.
It’s what loving a band is all about. That live music experience and everything that comes with it.
We decided after Rage that no other band was going to be worth seeing, even though Paul Kelly was chilling it on the Green stage and Carl Cox was pumping it in the Boiler Room. We jumped in the Odyssey and drove back to the city. In 30 minutes we were home. My shirt was saturated with my and others’ sweat. My in-grown toenail was a bloody mess and was killing me in the mosh pit everytime someone STOMPED THE SHIT out of it. Or so it felt.
So The Big Day Out was done and dusted for another year.
Will I make it 4 in a row next year? I think I am now at the point where I would consider going to other festivals if the line-up is better. There is so much competition from other festivals now that the best bands are spread around all of them instead of the BDO snagging the best of them. I would like to go in 2009, but if the line-up is no good I might skip it. Here’s hoping Metallica make it over for next year, because then I would definitely go!
Phew. Was that long enough for you?
Did any of you make it all the way through?
Tomorrow is my review of the Hottest 100 and the songs that made it and songs that didn’t.