Friday, January 29, 2010

Sydney Big Day Out 2010

Dear Homebake,

For details on how to run a festival, please see Big Day Out.

Fans of Festivals

The second Sydney Big Day Out, 2010, marked the 100th BDO show. They put on a pretty good day to celebrate.

But first, a whinge. I know our State Government is broken. I don't expect a lot of them. Still, planning trackwork on half the train lines that deliver people to Olympic Park on the day that 50,000+ people have to get there is a whole new level of stupid. We tried two methods of getting ourselves there, and in the end my wonderful friend Cate called her even more wonderful friend, Lisa who heroically drove us to the venue. If you'd seen the roundabout at Underwood Rd, you'd say "heroically" too. Just to make the whole situation that much more irritating, Adam was waiting for us at Olympic Park, and his trains were not affected, so he was waiting quite some time since I had his ticket....

Ok, so back to the happies. We had given ourselves a pretty large FUM*, so despite the debacle, we made it in time to see more than half of Lisa Mitchell's set. This was largely because getting into Big Day Out is not an exercise in marathon queuing, it's a slow stroll with a short queue for ticket and bag checks.

Lisa Mitchell was a fantastic choice for kick-off. Her bright pop sounds were perfect to warm up the crowd. Although, as a warning to the kiddies - don't write songs asking "Do you have a dollar for me?" and then sing them for an Australian crowd. Dollar coins hurt when hurled at the stage. Given that she sang the whole song, her sincere plea for people to throw $10 notes or nothing must have been heard.

Blue Juice
were next up. Talented they ain't, but they're entertaining. And they put in the hard yards for their audience - they were all wearing yellow spandex body suits. I hope they had industrial strength deodorant, or I pity anyone who needed to be near their dressing room.

Working on the theory that seeing two bands in a row on the same stage would be lazy, we went back to the stage Lisa Mitchell had been on to check out Kisschasy. They were pretty good, I'd be happy to catch them again, but by that time (just after 1pm) it had hit 38 degrees C (100 F) and was still getting hotter, so we decamped to the boiler room for Decoder Ring. This turned out to be the second time I've been in the boiler room and had to ask if the band were on stage, or whether this was still the filler music. Ahem. I am no dance music aficionado. However, it was eminently listenable, and the room was cool with a breeze blowing through. The water we'd been pouring over ourselves all day brought it all together for a pleasant break.

There was some angst about whether to see Kasabian or The Temper Trap, and the latter won. Back to the opposite end of the site. I think they were really good. I can't be sure, though, because my brain had melted and was running out my ears. Up until that point, the day had been hot, but cloudy. Watching The Temper Trap, the sun came out and it hit 43 C (109F). It was a choice between finding shade or ending up crispy - next stop main arena and a seat in the shade.

We caught the last song of Kasabian, but the sound was terrible. It looked like the crowd were well and truly into it down the front. I have a theory that the sound is always crap on the main stages when it's hot - the combination of hot, swirling air and the lower volumes that seem to be enforced during the day makes it very hard to make the sound any good. On average, Australian bands seem to do it better, which is presumably the result of bitter experience.

Eskimo Joe
were next up, and demonstrated the Aussie theory I just mentioned, in as much as they sounded better than Kasabian, but it was still pretty ordinary. If you need any proof of how damn hot it was - it was so hot that Eskimo Joe were on stage without scarves or vests! About 10 minutes into their set the first breezes of the southerly hit, the temperature dropped and the sound improved. They were great, they played stuff off all their albums, but sadly still neglected Beat of a Drum.
The main stage just about the time that the breeze came up

With the temperature dropping, we figured we could brave the outside stages again, and headed up for The Decemberists. I knew nothing about this band, except that lots of people had said they were amazing. I liked them, wouldn't say they were amazing, but I imagine that familiarity would be a big bonus. I spent most of my time trying to place all the other bands they reminded me of. The list was long and varied (The Living End, They Might Be Giants, Irish folk music, Neil Young, for example) so I'm not accusing them of lacking originality.

The Green stage before the downpour

The Horrors were next up and for the first time we stayed in one place for more than one act. I can't tell you much about them. The weather gods played another card, and it bucketed down rain and howled with wind. We fled to the bar and stayed there, half listening to the muffled sounds of the music, half being stunned that we were now cold. The same pretty much applied to Rise Against, which is a shame, because I think I would have liked to give them a decent listen.

Anyway, we were always going to go halfway through to see Lily Allen. Last time she was here, she didn't impress me. She clearly felt she was too good to for the gig, even throwing around insults about other performers. No matter how good the music is, I'm not going to enjoy it if the people on stage are bitter and resentful. (Well, unless it's Tim Rogers and goes right on through to hysterically funny.) However, I'd heard good things about her having a much better attitude this time around, so I kept an open mind. It paid off. She was fun, lively and I got to skip to "Fuck You".

Another band, another stage change. Jet were heaps of fun. The crowd were by far the most amusing of the day - some of the best air guitar you'll ever see, all played in the spirit of utter silliness. Fabulous. They're pretty dull on album, but live they really lift. We then had a factional split, and Cate and I stayed for Ladyhawke and everyone else went to Powderfinger. I quite enjoyed her, although she didn't completely grab me. That may say more about my stamina than Ladyhawke, though.

My restful approach to Ladyhawke left me well placed to make the most of Grinspoon. These guys are always fantastic live, and this was no exception. They did a classic festival set, with a bit of everything, including a crowd choice between "Dead Cat" and "Just Ace" - both songs they don't generally play. (Just Ace won.) I was going to head down to Muse half way through the set, but I was having too much fun. The lads next to us were too. They created themselves a huge ring in which they slam danced through the second half of the set. I dunno, the youth of today - they were careful and explicitly didn't involve anyone else in their silliness. Heartwarming it was.

See, I was in the crowd for Grinspoon

I very much doubt anyone is still reading, but I'll carry on. Muse were brilliant, if a bit same-ish. Their cover of Back in Black was well worth the effort.

I didn't trouble myself to get too close to Muse

The BDO folks put on a pretty cool pyrotechnic display at the end of Muse, including great leaping flames that looked awesome. The fireworks weren't massive, but thoroughly entertaining. I rather hope they carry it on as a tradition.

Some of those shots of flame

Oooooh, pretty.

We bailed after that - Massive Attack were not sufficient incentive to dive into the sea of bodies in the Boiler Room. It was a great day despite the weather. There was heaps of free water available, we never waited more than five minutes for a beer, or food, or toilets. Strangely, despite the short wait for alcohol, we seemed to have managed to control ourselves and not get plastered too. Amazing, I know.

I'm looking forward to the next 100 shows.

*FUM = Fuck Up Margin

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