This year was my first Big Day Out and it will probably be my last. It’s not because of the bands or price of entry. It’s not even because of the dodgy festival toilets. It was because of the crowd. While you’re bound to come across a few idiots in a crowd of 50,000 people, it seemed that most of the crowd were there to get drunk, show off their best open-toe footwear and confirm Australia’s racist reputation. It impossible to walk 1 metre without being greeted by an Australian flag, a southern cross tattoo or hearing “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie” being chanted by drunk bogans. It was enough to make you want to renounce your Australian citizenship and move to Japan. Luckily the music made up for the crowd.
The first sign of crowd management problems was at entry. With organisers urging the crowd to take the train to the festival, it was suprising to see that security could not cope with the huge influx of people using the railway entrance. The line was huge and in the end they didn’t check bags or have any kind of police presence. Way to stop the drug problem, guys.
After watching the end of a very scary looking Mastadon, The first band I saw were Kasabian. Five minutes before their set some Neanderthal types thought it would be fun to try to crush us to death. Needless to say I made my way to the back of “D” where some nice guys and their equally nice girlfriends stopped me from being killed by sweaty bogans. Musically Kasabian were very good and many of their tracks such as Shoot the Runner and Fire provided great sing along moments. Unfortunately Tom Meighan’s bigger-than-god stage antics did not suit the time slot and I had the urge to punch him more than once.
I caught the first few songs from Eskimo Joe and was bored to death. They’re competent but hardly exciting and they lacked the kind of stage presence that is needed at a large festival. I was expecting more from a band who have been around for so long.
Watching The Decemberists, it was easy to forget you were at a large music festival rather than a small outdoor gig. The smaller stages attracted a much nicer crowd and those that came to watch them were hanging on every note and there wasn’t a southern cross tattoo in sight. Their blend of folk-rock made a great change from the pedestrian music on the main stages. Despite how you feel about his nasally vocals, Colin Meloy was the perfect frontman. His good natured banter(his remark about Melburnians being more attractive than Sydneysiderswon him plenty of fans) and enthusiasm was well received by the crowd and he even acted at a volume controller during the sing-along 16 Military Wives. The whole band looked like they enjoyed themselves and were all entertaining to watch. Their set was, at least for me, the highlight of the festival. It was worth the price of admission alone to see the entire crowd singing along to a song about killing children. They managed to be entertaining and theatrical without the need for a big light show and could teach Muse a thing or two about connecting with the audience. It almost made up for it being their first Australian tour. Almost.
The Horrors looked out-of-place in 34 degree heat and played their way through a noisy, dirgey set made entirely from songs off their Primary Colours album. It was enjoyable but also slightly comical so see such a pale and serious band in broad daylight. It was hard to know whether to dance, laugh or stare at your shoes. It was great. My only complaint is that there weren’t any songs from Strange House.
The crowd for Dizzee Rascal was ridiculous. It was impossible to walk through the grassed area behind the ‘D’ with people packed in everywhere. Once again there was no kind of security presence. I can’t comment on his music since I spend of most of the time trying to escape the crowd but it was incredibly bass heavy and the crowd loved it.
Lily Allen is one of those artists I like but am not crazy about and I was expecting to walk away form her set as a massive fan. Instead I walked away disappointed. You could hardly hear her vocals over the high bass and she spent the whole set walking around stage, getting security to light cigarettes she didn’t smoke and generally being a bit lacklustre. Her unclassy banter (“I’ve had gastro the last two days and have been shitting myself”) was amusing and her attack on the recent bashing of Indian students before she launched into Fuck You were met with heckles rather than cheers. She wasn’t terrible and she has some good songs but once again it came down to lack of stage presence.
I’ve never really understood the Mars Volta. It was hard to hear the vocals at times but the crowd seemed to enjoy their set and they were a good distraction while waiting for Muse.
Powderfinger are one of Australia’s most reliable live bands. Unfortunatly reliable doesn’t always mean exciting and they had the difficult task of opening up for Muse. They played a solid set however the inclusion of many new album tracks left the restless crowd bored. While I appreciate that the band have to promote their new material, playing it before arguably the biggest band in the world is not the place. These Days was a great crowd sing-along but the band toned it down making the ballad even slower. you can’t get much more Australian than singing My Happiness on Australia Day at The Big Day Out and their mini-cover of Mumford and Son’s Little Lion Man was very well recived and the crowd enjoyed the opportunity to sing the word “fuck” at the top of their lungs.
I haven’t got all that much to say about Muse. They were spot-on musically and their light-show was brilliant but their set lacked any kind of connection with the audience. I felt like I could have just watched a music DVD in room full of people and have pretty much the same experience. Knights of Cydonia was a highlight as was the cover of Back in Black with Nic Cester from Jet, which was well recived by the crowd. It was good, but not amazing.
The Big Day Out was a fun way to spend Australia Day and many of the acts were very enjoyable. Unfortunaly most of the crowd were not there for the right reasons and there were too many organisational issues like the line to leave. Next year I’ll see the sideshows instead,