(Larry's) Big Day Out (Blow Out) – Sydney Olympic Park (22 and 23 January 2010) – Two very big days…


I’ve done 5 days of Bluesfest, the two and a bit days of
Splendour – I even did 2 V Festivals one year. I’ve done 8 consecutive nights
of live music. But going to 2 Big Day Outs in a row, in Sydney, on the two
hottest days of the year – I don’t think I’ve ever quite been so exhausted. Here’s what went down…

DAY ONE – The 99th

Big Day Out.

With the sun bearing down on us like a skin cancer
commercial gone wrong, 55,000 happy punters gradually made their way into
Sydney Olympic Park – many of whom were enjoying a day off work. From a
distance, I could hear Tame Impala rocking it, but I’d unfortunately missed them by the time
I’d gotten my age verification wristband, applied ample sunscreen, and pushed
my way through the (surprisingly) well behaved crowds.

So I began my day at the main stages, checking out the epic
Karnivool, who were rocking it hard – and the crowd was lapping it up. “New Day”
was a natural party starter and I was both impressed by the band’s stage
presence, and the dedication of the fans up the front. This band has garnered a
lot of them over the years, and with good reason. Next, I moseyed on over to
the Boiler Room for a bit of Decoder Ring, filling the massive space (complete
with a Ferris Wheel!) with their beautiful, ambient prowess;
getting the day off to quite a different start
than what I saw at the main stage. And they came with a good message, too: “I
want to see a bit more hugging out there everyone!” Duly noted my good friend.

As I headed over to the Essential / Green stage area, I
encountered one of the largest crowds I’d seen there since Jet rocked it out in
2004. And once again they were here to experience Australia’s latest sensation –
The Temper Trap. But meanwhile, Magic Dirt were still finishing things up on
the Essential stage, playing a Mudhoney track to finish of the set. Great
success! But it was The Temper Trap the crowd has assembled for, and the Melbourne-via-UK
band absolutely killed it. “Science of Fear” ended the set, and tracks “Down
River” and “Sweet Disposition” were among the expected crowd favourites.
Meanwhile, I was hoping oldies like “Peter Parker’s Alter Ego” would make an
appearance, but unfortunately they seem to be doing too well with the new stuff
to keep us longtime fans happy *insert bitter sniff here*. Seriously though, I
couldn’t be happier that these guys are doing so well.

Naturally, I hung around for party starters Passion Pit, who
are setting the world alight with their dance anthems, much in the same way
Klaxons did 3 years ago. They opened up the occasion with “Eyes as Candles”,
which was followed closely by “The Reeling” – one of my favourites of the Manners
LP. The song was full of even more effects than the album, and truly impressed.
In fact, I felt much the same about the whole set – every track was played with
passion (pun intended) and just the right amount of interpretation. “Little
Secrets” ended things off, and while it competed with “Sleepyhead” for the ‘audience
favourite moment’ award, I would definitely go with the former.

The crowd quickly made a move to Girl Talk, and I hung
around for one of my favourite bands, The Decemberists. I’d seen the Portland
band at Beck’s Festival Bar just a few days prior, so you can tell how much I
love them by the fact I saw them again (and would go on to see them on the
second day, too!). The crowd was small, but full of fans, and made for a
fantastic atmosphere – and short water lines! They opened with “July, July!”
and closed with the superb “The Chimbley Sweep” – which lead singer Colin Meloy
described as “autobiographical – I didn’t come all this way not to talk about
myself!” During the epic track, Colin jumped into the photo pit and engaged in
a highly entertaining jam off with Chris Funk. Colin then proceeded to kill all
members of the band, as well as the audience, and had us jump up at the climactic
part of the track. This is something they do often, and this is something they
do very well. If you missed this band, for shame!

I must also mention that they played my favourite track off of The Crane Wife,
the 10 minute epic “The Island: Come & See/The Landlord’s Daughter/You’ll
Not Feel the Drowning” which was brilliant – and pulled out the banjo for “This
Sporting Life” which went down a treat. While I daresay they were slightly more
tired than they were at Beck’s Festival Bar a few nights previous, they
definitely pulled out a more interesting setlist.

Decemberists Setlist:
July, July!
This Sporting Life
The Crane Wife 3
The Island: Come & See/The Landlord’s Daughter/You’ll Not Feel the Drowning
The Rake’s Song
O, Valencia!
16 Military Wives
The Chimbley Sweep

When one thins of bands in tight black jeans, one thinks no
further than UK’s The Horrors, who were up next – dressed by Sydney’s own Saint
Augustine Academy! They produced a wall of noise which was
difficult to swallow for someone who wasn’t familiar with the band, a boat I
was unfortunately in. So I made a surprisingly easy journey into the D barrier at the main stage (for the first time in many
years) to catch the end of Dizzee Rascal – and it would be here that I’d remain
for the rest of the day. The hip hop superstar easily had the 2nd
biggest crowd of the day (behind only Muse), and had truly set the crowd on
fire. And when “Sirens” came on, I was pretty sure that the bass was going to
cause my knees to EXPLODE!

But it was “Bonkers” which closed things up and not only
stole the set, but stole the entire DAY. I haven’t seen that much spontaneous
energy emitted from a crowd since I saw “Killing in the Name Of “ performed on
the same stage in 2008. To put it bluntly – the crowd absolutely LOST. THEIR.
SHIT. I had the opportunity the next day to watch the same set from up in the
guest bar, and the view was something to behold – an absolutely packed stadium
all jumping as one, to a track most of them probably didn’t even think they
liked! Well, Lily Allen was up next, after all.

Speaking of which, the British songstress jumped onto the
stage wearing a Bjork-esque frock, supplemented by a bass line to rival Dizzee. “Everyone’s
At It” opened up proceedings, and “Littlest Things” was amongst the older
tracks she pulled out. There was quite a lot of live remixing done, too – During
“Smile”, for instance, Lily was accompanied by MC Professor Green, which lead
into “Just Be Good To Me”. She also gave Britney Spears a run for her money but
actually singing “Womanizer” live! “Fuck You” wasn’t far behind, and “It’s Not
Fair” – again remixed – closed up the ‘Lily Allen Hour’. While I’m not a fan of
the artist, she put on an entertaining and engaging set – but I just have to
ask – what was with the Oxygen mask?

The Mars Volta were next and hypnotised me for an hour. I
could see pretty much every other band side of stage watching the influential
artists, including headliners Muse. And it’d never any wonder why – their set was mindblowing,
full of freakish amounts of energy, and even recognisable tracks! “Son et
Lumiere” was one such treat, and opened the set. See below for the full setlist!

Mars Volta Setlist:
Son et Lumiere
Inertiatic ESP
L’Via L’Viaquez
Tiptoe Through The Tulips (Tiny Tim cover)
Cicatriz ESP
Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of)

Powderfinger followed, a band who I’ve always found to be rather average – and live
this sentiment remains. But there’s no arguing that they’re one of Australia’s
biggest bands, pulling hit after hit out of their pockets. Something which is
perhaps frustrating in its own right. “These Days” saw some unnecessary lasers
make an appearance, and “My Happiness” got a well deserved singalong – even from
me! “(Baby I’ve Got You) On My Mind” ended the set, and Muse fans began their chant,
as we awaited the three-piece’s return to the Big Day Out main stage.

The stage was adorned in post-apocalyptic attire – the
backdrop in particular rather reminiscent of Dark City, with melting and
shifting buildings often taking up the screens. The artwork which had lit up
the main stages all day was removed for the main act, and the areas were used
as massive screens – a first for Big Day Out, at least in my experience. The
set was full of lasers (never enough, mind you), smoke, a fantastic light show,
and a great crowd. It was a pity their new material let them down so hard. Plus,
the only half decent song on the new album, “United States of Eurasia” wasn’t
even played in full!

But they made up for this fact duly with a selection of
their backcatalogue which included “Plug in Baby”, “Supermassive Black Hole”, “Hysteria”
and “Time Is Running Out”. The encore definitely stole the set, however, with
Nic Cester of Jet joining them on stage for an incredible cover of AC/DC’s “Back
in Black” – followed by a beautifully lit harmonica solo which lead into closer
“Knights of Cydonia” – the Hottest 100 winner to which the crowd went
absolutely nuts! And I was no exception.

But Muse couldn’t even begin to compete with what was to
follow – a test run of the 100th

day celebration – a 360 degree
experience of fire, light, music, flares, more fire (it’s TOO HOT!),
explosions, fireworks, more even bigger fire, and then a firework so loud that
I’m pretty sure my ear drums broke.

It was a pure, unexpected moment of euphoria that made me feel like a 5 year
old at Disneyland. “Suddenly,” I commented to my friend, “I’m pretty sure I
just had the best Big Day Out ever”. And then we danced around like said 5 year
olds as the fireworks continued to explode overhead, before heading home. Bravo, Sydney, bravo.

… but did I really want to do it all over again? My feet
said no, but my ears said … well they weren’t too sure either. That was a loud

DAY TWO – The 100th
Big Day Out.

It wasn’t as hard to get out of bed for the second day as I expected, but this was not a feeling shared by my body once it went outside. 40 degree heat was bearing down on my tired self, and I got a taste of what was to come. Thankfully the heat was removed late-afternoon by a quick shower, and the rest of the day was surprisingly comfortable – even a bit chilly by the end of it all!

While the weather made a big impact on the day, there were only a few differences between the two days for me, and it’s on these that I’ll focus my second day coverage.

First, a scheduling change saw Tame Impala hit the smaller stages at 2pm – a last minute pull out by Magic Dirt (that’s what it looked like had happened, anyway), saw the stages running at a slightly different schedule. I’m sure it would have been irritating to some, but I was pleased to hear a couple of tracks from Perth’s latest success story. I caught the end of Passion Pit’s set later in the day, too, the band in far better spirits than the day prior. They were quite talkative, interacting with the crowd more, and played a rousing cover of “Dreams” by The Cranberries, which I’d heard great things about from their Metro show.

The dust started to fill the air as the heat became quite unbearable, but the crowds were nonetheless just as excitable as they were the day before. Kasabian were another band I missed on day one, so I went out of my way to catch them today – and they were brilliant! I honestly had no idea they had that many hits. Opening with “Vlad the Butcher” and closing with “L.S.F.” – “Where Did All The Love Go?”, “Fire” and “Shoot the Runner” were among the highlights thrown in the middle. And much like every other band of the day, they enjoyed the “you’re so much better than yesterday!” rhetoric. I have to say the songs sound quite different in the live environment, but this wasn’t a bad thing by any means. They were simply great fun.

Today I managed to catch BOTH Girl Talk and The Decemberists, for one. The latter didn’t play anything they hadn’t in previous shows, and weren’t very talkative up to the time I left, so I was quite content in missing the rest of their set to catch the end of Girl Talks. And he was SO much fun. It was great timing, too, because just as I entered the boiling room, the rain started to bear down with unbelievable force. Girl Talk cranked out Nirvana, mixing it in with a bit of Glee’s “Don’t Stop Believing”. He threw out balloos during “Since You’ve Been Fine” – confetti and streamers too. “Mia” followed, with some Cranberries “Dreams” riffs thrown in, as girls danced all over the stage. Girl Talk, meanwhile, sat like a frog over his decks, getting the crowd to party hard as he mixed his tunes.

“Imagine” ended the set, as he screamed like a Bloody Beetroot, and shot a toilet paper dispenser into the crowd. Several of them, in fact. This was a man who truly knows how to put on a great show, and I was thrilled to have seen some of his set. Midnight Juggernauts were given the difficult duty of following the eccentric performer, their dark, melodic electronica proving too much of a come down for some, but “Tombstone” no doubt changed their minds. As usual, the crowd jumped around like maniacs for the party starter. And the rest, well they went to see Dizzee Rascal, who once again gained the largest crowd of the day. I couldn’t help but have a dance during “Bonkers” one more time.

As I walked over to Dizzee, however, I heard “This Heart Attack” being played on the Hot Produce Stage. Turned out Faker, billed as Freak (clever? *cough*), were making a surprise appearance to a crowd of about 30. It was quite a random thing to walk in on, and it makes me wish that festivals like Big Day Out had more of these sort of things – only with bands that people would have kicked themselves for missing. It’s not that people don’t like Faker, but they can just see them some other time, you know?

One of the biggest benefits of coming both days was getting to hang out on the smaller stages – in this case Lilyworld, where internet sensation Bangs was playing to a crowd which just about equalled Fakers. Bangs is of course known for “Take U to Da Movies”, which he performed for a good 10 minutes, ultimately showing himself off as a one-trick pony. But hey, if you’re lucky enough gain some popularity online, why not milk it?

I made it just in time for Devendra Banhart next, who I regretfully missed on day one. His backing band were “The Grogs” and “If I Lived In China” finished out his set. A clear idol being Iggy Pop, Devendra is an amazing talent on the stage, who is single handedly keeping the musical landscape an interesting one. 

I headed back to Lilyworld for Blowfly next, who is kind of like Lee Scratch Perry, except he sings filthy songs in a costume. “Fuck Your Boss!” etc. Like Bangs, it was entertaining for the first 5 minutes, but after the initial hilarity subsided it got quite repetitive. So I made the journey to Calvin Harris next, catching the end of “Ready for the Weekend”. Feeling underwhelmed, and starting to feel like I’d made the best decisions the first day, I next migrated next to Ladyhawke. I’ve got to say I enjoyed her set, although it wasn’t anything mind blowing. “Better Than Sunday”, “Back in the Day” and “Paris” were amongst the highlights. 

Next up, I returned to the main stage to get a spot for Muse and Fireworks part II, and I caught Powderfinger playing to a much more receptive crowd, cooled down by the preceding rain! “My Happiness” got a HUGE singalong tonight, right after we all sung happy birthday to Big Day Out! Muse meanwhile played mostly the same set, although added “Stockholm Syndrome” into their set. A personal favourite, I was pleased to see it back in the mix!

Once again the day ended with fireworks, although it was preceded by a video countdown showing photos from the past 100 Big Day Out shows! Happy Birthday BDO! Two days may have indeed been a bit too much, but I had an amazing time. I’ll no doubt see you again next year! But let’s get a bit more original with the lineup, eh? Blink! No Doubt! Let’s go old school 😉

Crowd shot by Tony Mott. Fireworks shot from BDO Flickr Page.

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.