Having attended the Sydney Big Day Out for the past 5 years, it would
be fair to say that being sick of the crowd that attends this event is
an understatement. So, loving Melbourne, I decided to make the trip
down south for this year's epic BDO event - and boy, did it pay off. I
guess I better just say it now: Melbourne Big Day Out shits ALL over
the Sydney event.
Thanks to a smaller capacity, the fact the event didn't sell out,
the ease to get to and from the festival from the CBD, the roped off
drinking areas, the fantastic stage set up allowing everyone to catch
all the bands they wanted to (including The Prodigy)... and a headliner
that kept the D barrier accessible all day - this was the way that the
Big Day Out should be experienced. But before I start rambling on about
Sydney drunk bogans let's move onto the music...
I arrived at Flemington Racecourse just in time to see the wonderful
success story that is Eddy Current Suppression Ring. And their
performance in front of a packed hometown crowd that early in the day
was a fairly good indication of this success. As usual, the band
cranked out a selection of tracks from their ARIA-nominated Primary
Colours, as well as favourites from their self-titled LP, leaving the
crowd itching for more. Exclusive to the Melbourne line-up, Beaches
followed soon after on the Hot Produce stage, performing a set perfect
for the tent environment. What didn't quite work for me at ATP last
weekend, definitely translated better here. But still can’t say they’ve
converted me into a fan.
But not to worry! It was time to move over to see another Melbourne
success story (I'm noticing a trend here!): Little Red. For me, this is
a band who have always lived up to the hype, dressed to impress
performing fantastic instrumental moments and great sing-a-longs
throughout the set. And as a surprise for the hometown crowd, they
performed the tail-end of their set with Jack Howard and the Horns of
Contempt from Hunters & Collectors, showing just how transcendent
their music has become.
Meanwhile, the first major International act of the day was
performing on the green stage: The Ting Tings. Love ‘em or hate ‘em,
this duo have had a year of tremendously rising popularity, and with
the crowd bursting at the seams on this smaller stage, no one could
argue that. But surely one can argue: Why? Katie White, while I'm sure
a talented musician in her own right, does little to showcase anything
resembling talent in this project. Her rifts are repetitive and boring,
while her voice leaves quite a lot to be desired, both live and on the
LP. It's in drummer Jules where the talent can be found, his beats
definitely providing something "danceable," if not terribly irritating.
Nonetheless, it definitely got the party started for a lot of the
crowd, one of whom jumped on the tent above the sound desk, proceeding
to drink whatever was thrown at him... including sunscreen?
Black Kids got a decent crowd back on the Essential stage, and
provided a similarly decent set, ending of course with "I'm Not Gonna
Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance with You," a song which has found
reasonable success pretty much everywhere BUT America. It's a great,
catchy song, but ultimately they come off as average indie-rock. TV on
the Radio, on the other hand, are anything but average. Despite being
slightly hindered by a sub-par sound system, they continue to perform
at the level of greatness to which I experienced back in 2006. Except
this time, Kyp doesn't quite have the "fro" he used to. They ran
through a fairly predictable set, with "Dancing Choose," "Golden Age"
and "Wolf Like Me" set off early in the set, leaving room for a few
surprises, including "Satellite" and "DLZ," and the perfect closer
"Staring at the Sun," which just leaves you wanting more. A lot more.
When it comes to musicianship, there is no greater live example from
the past few years, and I really can't rate them highly enough. They
ended the set telling us all to go check out Lupe Fiasco and Neil
Young, and so we did as instructed.
Lupe Fiasco clashed with TV on the Radio, so by the time we got to the
Boiler Room, it was close to the end of his set. But Lupe nonetheless
showed us why he is an elite member of the hip hop world. Up there with
the likes of Nas, Kanye and K-os, Lupe makes it all look so easy. Every
rhymes rolls of his tongue with such precision, yet it sounds like he's
singing it for the first time. Even favourites "Superstar" and
"Daydreamin'", which ended the set, had that effect. A truly fantastic
performer who knew just how to get the crowd under his spell, easily
receiving one of the loudest responses of the day. Meanwhile, Pendulum
kept the metal heads busy on the main stage, with Metallica samples
leading into "Slam" and the reggae styling’s of "Tarantula" leading the
D into a frenzy.
My Morning Jacket showed Australia why they are one of the world's
most respected live bands, and they definitely warrant all the praise
they get. But I've always felt a lot of their tracks don't reach the
potential that they could and should, both on their recordings and in a
live setting. Still, some tracks really did explode in wonder at this
event, with "Highly Suspicious" off Evil Urges being one of the
surprising highlights. Cut Copy, yet ANOTHER Melbourne success story -
this time on a world-wide scale - played their standard set after MMJ,
opening with "Heart on Fire" and closing with "Lights and Music". These
guys are a band who have quite a lot of average material, and while
their more popular tracks are fantastic live, these weaker numbers
definitely hold their performances back from being anything
spectacular. Alas, this is how I've always felt about them.
Holding the prestigious spot of final Aussie band on the main stage
this year was none other than The Living End, who as usual, got every
member of that crowd chanting along to every song, ending with their
latest crowd-pleaser "White Noise". Arctic Monkeys, one of the most
anticipated acts of the day opened against a white backdrop with a few
great tracks, including favourite "View from the Afternoon", but for me
it was time to head over to Hot Chip.
They probably had one of the worse clashes of the day, but Hot Chip
easily pulled out the best set of the day. Playing all their
dance-raising tracks, they left their weaker tracks to the side (unlike
Cut Copy)... and believe me, there are plenty of them. With a set that
included "Hold On," "Over and Over," "Out at the Pictures" and "Shake a
Fist," no one would have left the boiler room disappointed. And after
having 10 minutes left in their set following "Ready for the Floor,"
which was supposed to finish out the show, they surprised the crowd
with a superb cover of "Nothing Compares to You" by Sinead O'Connor,
which they mixed into “In the Privacy of Our Love". My feet barely
touched the floor the entire set, and my smile never left my face...
But now that Neil Young had hit the stage, I had to obey the words of
TVOTR and see the master in action. And he really showed everyone how
it's done. The tracks I saw included personal favourites "Spirit Road"
and the immaculate "Cortez, the Killer," and I have a feeling plenty of
others got their favourites too during the goosebump-enducing 90 minute
set. But it was The Prodigy that would appropriately close this Big Day
Out in the Boiler Room. They opened with "Your World is on Fire," and
the main set included “Spitfire” and "Voodoo People" as personal
favourite moments. But they didn't stop there, leaving us with a 5 song
encore including "Invaders Gotta Die, "Blow Your Mind" and "Smack my
Bitch Up". It was nothing short of immense fun, and I'm sure a
highlight of the day for many. A perfect, if not exhausting, way to end
the 2009 Big Day Out.
This was an absolutely fantastic Big Day Out. Without the headliner
that everyone was there to see, i.e. Tool or Rage Against The Machine,
the crowd was as diverse as the bands that were on offer. As such, a
great day could truly be had by all, and I reckon on a personal note,
being in Melbourne rather than Sydney assisted in this quite a lot. And
I don't care what anyone says- Neil Young remains a God of modern
music, and to be able to see him grace the headlining spot on the main
stage was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience; an honour.