I’m happy to say that largely thanks to a handful of great performances, smart scheduling, minimal queuing, plenty of room and an aptly named Green Stage, the 2008 Big Day Out at the Flemington Racecourses was an overwhelmingly enjoyable experience.
There were a few negatives too of course. A festival of this size, appealing to so many people in a certain age group is never going to be the perfect environment to see your favourite bands (i.e. it’s not Meredith), but I guess you just have to take what's on offer. Perhaps if I was insistent on watching acts on the main stages, then I may not have been as pleased. Fortunately enough I am seeing Arcade Fire tonight so I didn’t feel as strong a need to face the masses and the dusty discomfort for their main stage performance. I’ve never been a huge Bjork fan but avoided her also for this reason.
Other gripes included the utterly ridiculous upfront requirement to purchase at least 30 bucks worth of alcohol tokens. Security’s overly liberal use of water hoses was annoying also.Die! Die! Die!
First band on the ATR schedule was the fragile, brooding, yet surprisingly catchy New Zealanders. Despite starting at 11am, the trio ferociously tore into their set.
The lead singer jumped the barrier and joined the crowed on numerous occassions, which I guess some could find gimmicky. But to be frank, if you have the songs, you play mean and tight anyway, and the songs work with something a little unhinged, then it’s not a gimmick, its part of the charm.
Die! Die! Die! delivered their performance without even a hint of the pretentiousness perhaps expected for a band beginning at this hour on such a small stage, playing to a meagre handful of people. Brilliant.Eddy Current Suppression Ring
One of my local favourites once again failed to disappoint. The set was made up of quite a few new songs, but if you hadn’t heard the band before it would have been very difficult to tell – such is their cohesion. And singer, Brendan Suppression is one of a kind. He’s a manic performer. Quite mental at times actually. And not in a ‘this is my stage persona’ kind of way.
While being interesting to watch, he’s also endearing. Always conscious of his command over a crowd, while at the same time appearing genuinely surprised by the reaction he and the band provokes.Midnight Juggernauts
After a wonderful performance at Meredith, I was highly anticipating their BDO debut. Unfortunately they were a huge disappointment. Partly it was the setting. The main stage is ultimately for patrons with the most popular tastes, and to enjoy Midnight Juggernauts at the Big Day Out requires dancing among kids, which to me, feels a little strange.
The dusty surroundings didn't help either. While the Green Stage was set in one of the few lush corners of the Flemington Racecourse carpark, the mainstages were parked right in the middle of gravel, so whenever anyone moved it stirred up a huge cloud of dust.
But I think the main reason was they sounded pretty average. The thumping disco sections just weren’t loud enough. Too much drums and guitar in the mix it seemed. And Vince is pretty quiet most of the time, but was made to sound meeker than usual.Spoon
For some reason I’ve overlooked them before, but will never again after yesterday. A perfect choice for a mid-afternoon slot while the sun shone down on the Green Stage.
Britt Daniel gave a supremely measured performance, emaphasising in a live context many of the intricate and elaborate textures buried within Spoon’s music. And not only can he play a mean guitar solo, but I didn’t quite realise how soulful they were until yesterday. To be honest, I can’t think of one other ‘indie rock’ band who would make me dance that much (The Underdog
was the highlight).
It’s a shame I won’t be seeing them again on this tour, but regardless, I will definitely be digging into their back catalogue on the strength of yesterday’s performance.Children Collide
Part grunge, part psychy Aus rock (think Gersey or Gaslight Radio) and in part sounding a bit like they are doing that post-punk revival thing, this Melbourne three piece played a relentlessly intense set on the local stage. Blasted away without even appearing to draw breath, or raise a sweat. It actually seemed remarkable that Heath and Johnny could still play their instruments the way they were throwing their bodies all over their stage.
Their music does lack a little restraint at times and it could do with a few more shades, but ATM they are awesome rock performers, and they are a young band so there is plenty of time to develop these extra elements. Look set for a big year, on JJJ at the very least.Battles
Who said Melbourne crowds are stilted, and boring? A throbbing mosh to Atlas
was one of the most surprising aspects of yesterday. To me, Battles’ incredibly complex music demands more time, space and ultimately comfortable surroundings so they didn’t quite make me react in this way. But the more bands like Battles they get along to the Big Day Out in the future, the more likely it is that I will continue to buy a ticket. Big points to Ian from Battles who played (complete with bright gold headphones) despite a broken eardrum!!!LCD Soundsystem
I never thought I’d say this, but thank god for Rage Against the Machine. Because of the scheduling it meant that there was a decent amount of jiggling room to enjoy these critical darlings. The set was the same as Sydney BDO. All My Friends
was even better than on record, and Time to Get Away
– irrestibly good. I also never thought I could enjoy such monotonous lyrics before!
I’m always surprised when a seemingly electro oriented band have such an organic live setup, but LCDSS hardly rely on electronics at all in their live setup. Instead all the energy comes from the traditional heartstarters.
As expected with the Boiler Room, many of the viewers didn’t appear to be fans, and because of the distance between the stage and the audience, as well as the dim lighting, there was only a minimal band v audience dynamic. But from the strength of their tight live unit, I now expect big things for Thursday night’s show.