Friday January 17th @ Sydney Showgrounds
There is no introduction to this review. I’m going to try and keep this under 1000 words to keep everybody happy, and ensure you don’t strain your brain with a word count larger than 4 digits.
The first act on the roster was Royal Headache, the third performance of theirs that I’d seen. It was impressive as always, warming up a crowd ready for a (sigh) big day out. No one on stage was worried about impressing anyone or gaining attention, and simply wanted to play to people that had rocked up early enough the see them. It was a nice, short and sweet set that delivered more than it should have.
Next on the agenda was Sydney production duo Fishing. Better than I remember on previous occasions, they had a small, dedicated crowd gathered that danced and bopped. The music was happy and made everyone in the crowd happy. Set highlights were the single ‘OOOO’ as well as video producer and musician SPOD coming on stage for a bit of a rap. No offence SPOD, but stick to producing. It’s your born game, and you’re awesome at it.
After Fishing came time to test the waters of the infamous Boiler Room. And fucking boiling it was as Adventure Club hit the stage. The one man/machine had quite the audience, surprising me a lot. With limited visuals, and a limited sound, Adventure Club still advanced with a talented and heartthumping set, ensuring sweat, blood and maybe a bit of vomit was pouring out of every drenched face in attendance. It isn’t hard to be sucked up by Adventure Club’s rocking beats and heavily hardcore-influenced electronica dubstep. It’s like a not-shitty Australian version of Skrillex, with a good haircut.
On the way to the Green Stage to see Deep Sea Arcade, it was worth a check out of the Lilypad featuring Sydney slackers The Gooch Palms. The duo, one sporting a ‘Hunx and his Punx’ shirt, the other absolutely nothing (he was naked, for people that don’t pick up on subtlety) played a set that was not unimpressive, but didn’t leave much to the imagination (BOOM, DOUBLE ENTENDRE MOTHERFUCKER). What they lacked in creativity, they more than made up with energy and enthusiasm, ensuring any passerby’s to at least drop their jaws for a few seconds and listen to a song.
Deep Sea Arcade were one of the most delightful surprises of the day. Showing off the tunes from their latest album,’Outlands’. They performed an incredibly tight and free-flowing set, no hiccups or disjointed awkwardness, the sign of a band that has truly come into it’s own, impressive for the short time they’ve been together, and their limited touring experience. They had a lot more of a rock edge to them, rather than the psychedelic approach of the album, but in the sweltering heat, and playing to their fans who were more than prepared to dance, it seemed appropriate, and worked more in their favour than if they had done a high-society and polished execution of their set, rather than the ragged and fun set they actually performed.
Hunting Grounds were the first band I got to experience at the Vans Essential Stage, thankfully moved indoors because of the heat, and the amazing intensity and pleasure of the band was obvious. The crowd was in constant mosh mode, and not for one minute did the band lay off in their frantic disposition. Triple J heavy-weight single ‘Flaws’ and set closer ‘In Colour’ attracted the biggest responses, however the crowd was on edge and lapping up every note the band could possibly play. A fantastic, well executed performance.
Next was anarcho-punks Against Me! on the main stage. They played to a small crowd, and their selection in the lineup could be conceived as controversial due to the bands sound, politics, and front woman’s recent sex change from Tom Gabel to Laura Jane Grace. However, the intimidation and awesome levels only exaggerated themselves as a heavily tattooed lady in stiletto’s and a leather skirt screamed lyrics like ‘I was a teenage anarchist, but the politics were too convenient’ and thrashed on a guitar. Playing hits mostly off their standout album ‘New Wave’, but still spreading the setlist throughout their lengthy career, the set proved engaging and enticing, the best that Against Me! could have performed.
Jagwar Ma came next, and although they played for little to nobody, it was a crying shame. Their live show isn’t exactly anything to die for, or shell out heaps of cash for, but their songs are tangible strings of love and lust that swelter with heavy passion. What, I’m trying to say is that they play some great music, and that I personally can’t wait for a record to drop from them later this year. ‘Come Save Me‘, off the single of the same name had the crowd in the highest spirits.
From what I saw from Grinspoon’s set, it didn’t look like much was mixed. Grinspoon seem to be a fixation of the Big Day Out, a band that will inexplicably draw a modest crowd, no matter who they clash with. This year they held the main stage, for promotion of their latest album ‘Black Rabbits’, but played a best-of collection, with hits like ‘Champion’, ‘More than You Are‘ and ‘Chemical Heart’ all making an appearance. From were I stood, it seemed like a bit of a half-hearted performance that they knew would psyche up the mosh, but left outsiders unimpressed.
After leaving Grinspoon a bit disappointed, I was greatly relieved by one of the days highlights, Death Grips. The controversial alternative hip-hop group has had a very interesting past year, releasing two albums, one (‘The Money Store’) being highly critically acclaimed, and being cropped from their label Epic. However, they proved they could deliver a manic performance, and weren’t based on hype. MC Ride was a whirlwind of energy, throwing his arms and bare chest into an audience that couldn’t get enough, forming violent moshpits at will, whilst an eclectic light show jittered in the background. Meanwhile, on the left hand side of the stage, the most impressive feat of all was live drummer Zach Hill. Composed of two piece drum set (snare and bass drum) he looked overpowered by a demonic possession, jumping all around his corner of the stage, whacking the drums with a frantic passion of satanic proportions. It was an awe inspiring image. The crowd responded to hits like ‘Get Got‘ ‘Guillotine‘ and ‘Come Up and Get Me’ with a riotous enthusiasm, one poor individual actually throwing up next to me, but continuing to mosh despite being covered in filth and lunch.
Death Grips’ seductive set was equally matched by Nashville, Tennessee band JEFF the Brotherhood on the Green Stage. Unfortunately barely watched by a small crowd, they played one of the best secret sets of the day, full of mind blowing guitar noise, gruelling bass, and head pounding drums, delivered by only the two brothers Jake and Jamir. These guys are home grown talent, with a fantastic album recently released (and produced by Dan Auberach of the Black Keys) and heaps of other awesome material under their belts. ‘Sixpack‘ was a set highlight, however the jamming that spewed from their custom 3-stringed guitar was astounding. Loud noise has never been so great.
More disappointment followed, especially from a band I had been wanting to see for so long. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs delivered a performance that was underwhelming, barely getting the crowd moving. It seemed like the band were just going through the motions, and could be mistaken of being high out of their minds. Guitarist/Bassist Nick Zinner barely moved and showed no emotion, whilst singer Karen O, who posseses one of the most formidable voices in modern rock, barely contained any of the zest and raw power than she is renown for. Her howls were more like whimpers, and although she had the gadgets and accessories, and a whole bagful of greatest hits tricks, from ‘Maps‘ to ‘Heads Will Roll‘, from ‘Phenomenon’ to ‘Zero’, Yeah Yeah Yeahs left the stage having made nearly no impact.
I was very cynical about watching The Killers. On one hand, I hated their latest album (total white trash, self entitled bullshit; like the Las Vegas Coldplay), Crystal Castles and Foals had clashing sets, and the entire stadium was totally packed out, with barely any room to breathe. On the other hand…it’s the fucking Killers. When they opened with ‘Mr. Brightside‘, I knew I’d made the right decision, and what followed was the most eye catching and awe-inspiring show of the night. Filled with glitter, glamour, trippy visuals, a frontman who knows the fuck out of what he’s doing, and lightning bolts (both real and props) the set featured a highly intoxicating and beautifully delivered greatest hits set, taking in all the best of the Killers and setting it loose on the people of Sydney. It was honestly one of those shows that will go down in Big Day Out history, finishing with a shower of sparks and ‘All These Things That I Have Done’ followed by ‘When You Were Young’.
Finally, the main event had arrived. If you wanted room to breathe, you had come to the wrong place. The Red Hot Chilli Peppers set at Big Day Out was everything you wanted at a stadium gig: great songs, great people, thrashing everywhere, sweat pouring from every crevice, and a unified love for the band onstage. The set played on the extremes, giving us ‘All Around the World‘, ‘Californication‘, ‘Snow (Hey Oh)’, and ‘Higher Ground’ (Stevie Wonder cover) and also showing off, or at least showing us 5 tunes from their latest album as well as jam sessions and instrumentals between the famed musicians Flea, Chad Smith, and new guy Josh Klinghoffer. Set closer ‘Give It Away’ blew everyone’s mind in the stadium, a powerful punch to the internal and external systems that knocked out your breath but forced you on through frontman Anthony Kiedis’ energy. The band played eclectically onstage and made many dreams come true that night. They made it rememberable, awesome, and soulful, everything you want out of a stadium gig, and a Chilli Peppers concert.
After the hour and half trudge through Sweatsville in the never ending Chilli’s mosh, I was in need of some well deserved rest, which was provided by the beautiful set by Animal Collective. I did not understand a single word, or recognise a single song from their set, but just watching and listening was an experience to remember. The stage was covered in coloured, glowing fronds, and a set of multi-coloured glowing teeth hung over the band as they played some seriously weird shit, accompanied visually by some equally weird shit. It turned me into a fan, and although no one in attendance could move that much after losing at least 5kg’s at the previous set, everyone in attendance was loving the basking glow of Animal Collective’s tunes.
To round the day off, it was back to wear it all started, kind of: The Boiler Room. Headlining was everyone’s favourite masked purveyor’s of electronica, The Bloody Beetroots, and their set was tight, visually stunning, exhausting, and mind melting. I honestly can’t think of any better adjectives to describe such a great setting. The multitude of flashing lights that pierced the eyes, while the brain was victimised by light footed and gashing beats is an overwhelming and must have experience. Yes, The Bloody Beetroots know how to entertain well, and they know how to mix an electronic track. They may not do it the best, but they do it fucking well.
After 12 and a half hours in a sweltering sun that scorched the very concept of staying sun safe, at a music festival that is embraced as an Australian tradition, and for some rite-of-passage, The Big Day Out’s pro’s far outweighed it’s cons and set up a fantastic festival for Sydneysiders to enjoy, and try not to fuck up with overdoses of dingers, alcoholism and sunburn.
P.S Sorry I just made you read 2000 words