Big Day Out By Chris Bright

Get the latest from Beat

Big Day Out By Chris Bright


There’s a reason Melbourne remains the cultural capital of Australia.

There’s a reason Melbourne remains the cultural capital of Australia. Nothing gets in the way of Melburnians and a good music festival, not even scorching 40 degree heat. The festival attracted the weird and the wonderful, with a mix of skimpily-dressed, dance-party teens and hard-core Tool fans (wearing concert t-shirts that were probably older than said dance-party teens).

We arrived to hear the end of indie-cum-pop locals Little Red, who finished the set with fan-favourites Rock It and Coca Cola; two songs that remained stuck in my head all day. Afterwards, Dead Letter Circus emerged with their depressing-rock tone, staying true to alterna-stereotype by rocking full-black outfits while everything around them was almost melting.

The time we spent lining up for ID wristbands and drink tokens was surprisingly painless, and would have been even quicker if it wasn’t for girls pushing in where they could.

We walked via the Green Stage to check out who was playing, only to stumble in on a band that could easily rename themselves Operator Please Fuck Off. To avoid hearing that annoying ping pong song, we fled to the bar at the Boiler Room as Sydney-based Sampology started his set. I’d never heard of this guy but he was awesome. I’d even say better than Girl Talk because he didn’t rely so much on heavy hip-hop backbeats. He sampled a bit of everything, with flawless exchanges between The Isley Brothers, OutKast, Sleigh Bells, Guns ‘N Roses, Missy Elliot, The Cure and The Champs, among others. Brazilian electro-rockers CSS followed Sampology. The six-piece band was in fine form, with singer LoveFoxx ripping off clothing and stage-diving, but we decided to head back to the main stage for a look.

I hadn’t been to Big Day Out for a couple of years, but the extended bar area was a real bonus. It gave everyone more room to sit and drink in the shade, without being cramped or too far away to see and hear the bands. Melbourne rock types Airbourne hit the Blue Stage next with their long hair, extended guitar solos and wailing vocals… but I don’t think they quite deserved a main stage slot. I just think that if I really wanted to listen to AC/DC wannabes, I’d go see a cover band – at least they play good songs.

Lupe Fiasco opened to a massive welcome from hip hoppers and pill poppers inside the D barrier. Embracing the Aussie heat in a wife-beater and cargo shorts; he never stopped working the stage as he entertained the crowd with numerous hits. The a capella intro to Go Go Gadget Flow was awesome, as was the funked-up version of Kick Push, while Superstar still received the biggest response. He followed with a bunch of new stuff from his upcoming album Lasers, and finished the near-perfect set with crowd-pleaser Daydreamin’.

Bliss N Eso were able to match the energy with the constant crowd interaction that is expected with Aussie hip-hop acts. And while Eye of the Storm sounded fantastic with the full band backing, we decided to leave mid-set to catch Andrew W.K.

The bad thing about having so many good bands in one day, is that you can always justify to yourself that it’s OK to miss a few. It’s so easy to sit in the shade of the bar and think "we’ll probably miss the start of the next gig anyway, let’s just wait until the next one" and before you know it, you’ve missed nearly everyone you came to watch. But I was glad we made the decision to check out Andrew W.K. We’d already missed him playing with the full band earlier but his solo show in Lilyworld was still a highlight. The set-up was simple: just him and a keyboard, taking requests from people in the audience – and for a guy who can’t really sing, he puts on an awesome performance.

W.K. stepped out with a Carlsberg in hand; opening with Neil Diamond’s I Am… I Said. He eventually caved-in to crowd demand and played his own song Party Hard, before pulling a drummer from the crowd on-stage to support him with Billy Joel’s Piano Man. But it was a dude called Russell who jumped up on stage and stole the song, with his unexpected harmonica solo. The set was short but sweet, with a weird cover of Christmas carol Silent Night and a classical rendition of Coolio’s Gangster’s Paradise that was rapped word-for-word by some hot chick from the crowd.

We ventured back to the Boiler Room bar for more beers and caught the end of Crystal Castles’ amazing set. Singer Alice Glass was sporting a broken ankle, making bands like The Black Keys look like complete pussies for backing out of BDO, which they claim was due to ‘being tired’.

It was about this point that I managed to lose my friends, and thanks to Vodafone’s shitty reception, had no way of tracking them down. I made a plan to head back to the main bar and find people, or at least catch the end of Edward Sharpe And The Magnetic Zeros.

Unfortunately, I arrived as the band walked off stage and had no luck finding my peeps. So I grabbed a beer anyway, introduced myself to some randoms and sat with them to watch John Butler Trio. They opened with the likeable Zebra and finished with new song One Way Road, and while I could probably name a few songs in between, they pretty much all sounded the same.

With 0% body fat, rubbery skin and straightened locks, Iggy Pop still moved like a man half his age. He delivered hit after hit as The Stooges played hard and heavy in the background, with favourites such as Raw Power, Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell and obviously I Wanna Be Your Dog.

I’d never really liked Rammstein’s music, but they absolutely blew me away with their hard-core anthems and pyrotechnics. I only knew a few of their bigger songs like Du Hast and Feuer Frei, and while I didn’t understand what the fuck they were on about the whole time, they were easily the highlight of the day.

It seemed weird that the main act would come onstage with the sun still blazing, but that didn’t ruin the blinding lighting effects that welcomed Tool onstage. Unfortunately, these heavyweights didn’t live up to the energy of Rammstein but were saved by the army of loyal fans reciting each and every one of their hits.

By 10pm, I was well and truly buggered, but couldn’t leave without checking out M.I.A in the Boiler Room. I’m glad I did, because it was where the party was still going strong. She had the crowd in an absolute frenzy; pulling girls onstage to dance and screaming her often-repetitive lyrics in front of an incredible light-show.

It was an amazing event, which left me feeling sore and sorry for myself the next few days at work. But still, I can’t wait to do it all again next year.