Today the Big Day Out actually felt big again. After what must have been a scary downturn in 2011, the corporate-fuelled beast was back in not-quite full swing, but close enough. There was a new much-touted food strip called Chow Town. Some cool local food establishments took a turn at being a food truck for a day. Cool, I guess?
Something didn’t quite sit right with Death Grips. Their ferocious energy became impotent in the sparseness of the tent, with the live setup of MC Ride, Zach Hill on drums with a too-tight snare, and twin Apple Cinema monitors all playing second fiddle to the huge shoe company banners either side of stage (not to mention the branded novelty hands floating above the audience). The only time things felt dangerous was when they packed up their Macbook Pros and the monitors took a spill off the table.
Vampire Weekend sounded crisp as a freshly laundered Ralph Lauren polo, busting out top shelf tracks from their first two LPs – including A-Punk, Cousins, and Oxford Comma. A splendid, if not revelatory, way to soak up the dregs of the arvo sun.
A weird thing happened since we last saw Yeah Yeah Yeahs where our mainstream pop stars became a whole lot kookier than our alternative icons. But there was Karen O commanding the stage like a cartoon dictator, opening with two new tracks, including Suck Young Blood. But the mix, the barren stage, and the malfunctioning jumbotron made for a pretty dull beginning to a set, so I made for Lilyworld – which was restored to its former glory after being dissipated in 2012.
Zanzibar Chanel commanded everyone to get onstage, then everyone to get offstage, bellowed sardonic cries of jingoism and observations on the bevy of knockoff wayfarers in the crowd. Brilliant stuff.
It was The Killers who made Big Day Out feel big again, bursting straight into Mr Brightside. Delightfully cheesy, the band ran through a sing-along of Waltzing Matilda while drummer Ronnie Vannucci went to work in an Australian flag singlet (perhaps he didn’t get the memo from JEFF The Brotherhood and Gary Clark Jr that an Aboriginal flag would have been in better taste). There were fireworks, there were few new songs, and a lot of Hot Fuss and Sam’s Town.
It was tough going during most of Animal Collective’s set, with an exclusively Centipede Hz opening run of tracks. Therefore, not a single hook for the paltry throng of punters who chose to see out the evening at the Green Stage. Avey Tare led the charge, Deakin bounded about in the middle of the stage like a dickhead, while Panda Bear and Geoligist tinkered away at the back of stage. Just as I was prepared to make an early getaway, we were teased with the distinctive opening tone to Brothersport. Sure enough, we opened up opened up opened up our throats, then we were treated to Peacebone and My Girls.
The Big Day Out is certainly big again, but it remains to be seen if it can regain that special something.
BY RICK WICKMAN
LOVED: Zanzibar Chanel.
HATED: No no-dickheads policy.
DRANK: Ice tea.