I headed out to the Adelaide Showgrounds for the annual Big Day Out festival yesterday, and here is the obligatory review post. For those that want to short version, highlights were Rage Against The Machine, Battles and the Electronic Drumming Robot. Lowlights include crowds and aged rockers slowing down. For those that want the long version – read on!
My two friends and I decided that we’d plan to arrive at the BDO at about the same time Anti-Flag came on. After hearing a couple of tracks on Myspace we thought they could be interesting. As it turned out, parking near the showground sucks, as there are now only 2 hour and 4 parking spots within 20 minutes walk of the venue. I’m sure the last Adelaide BDO I was at (probably 5 years ago now) you could more or less park where ever you want. Personally I’m surprised the nearby parklands weren’t open for parking. Even if there was a fee of say $5 I would have been happy to pay.
Anyway, getting into the venue was pretty painless, unlike previous years in Sydney where you can stand in line for half an hour or so just waiting to get in. One thing that strikes me in Adelaide is that the showgrounds are really a quite dusty and relatively desolate location. There’s not much in the way of trees and shade, and a hell of a lot of ashphalt and dirt patches where most of the eating and market areas are. On a relatively hot day, shade was at a premium. I don’t think there’s really anyway the venue could improve on this, but the showgrounds in Sydney are much more user friendly in this regard.
We worked our way to the main stage for Anti-Flag, walking straight into the D barrier was quite easy. Anti-Flag were OK I guess, the sound was relatively quiet, and the crowd seemed to be getting into them, but their by-the-numbers punk wasn’t really working for me. We quickly moved on from there, and decided to take a walk around the venue.
We checked out some of the market stalls. One thing that strikes me is how much of the merchandise being sold in some stalls is legitimate? We walked through one where there was heaps of Tool merchandise, some which had symbols and logo’s I didn’t recognise. Still, I couldn’t resist buying a size 1 Tool T-Shirt for Hellboy Jr. I’m pretty sure they don’t sell those on Toolarmy!
Eventually we made our way around to the local stage, where Skeletons where playing. These guys were pretty good and we stayed and watched them for 10 minutes or so. We also came across the Roborock display, which a robotic drummer, who played Helmet‘s Unsung, RATM‘s Bullet In The Head and fittingly Iron Man by Black Sabbath. It was damn cool, and more entertaining then a lot of bands we saw…
After bludging around a bit, we decided to work our way back to the main stage in anticipation of the first band I knew would be good- Regurgitator. Before they came on though, we caught the end of the Midnight Juggernauts set, which was actually alright. Not really something I’d listen to much, but good festival music none the less, and the crowd seemed to be really getting into them.
Eventually The ‘Gurg came on, dressed up in white tracksuits, and played a greatest hits set which was probably one of the more energetic ones for the day. They switched style from alt. rock, to electro, hip-hop and then back again, and I enjoyed them a great deal. Definitely a highlight of the day for me, though as their (unplayed) song says – I like their old stuff better than their new stuff. The Hilltop Hoods came on after that. We didn’t stick around, I think they suck. Personally Regurgitator’s take on Hip-Hop sounds better…
After leaving the main oval once again, we made our way to the Essential Stage for Enter Shikari. We only got to see a few of their songs, but what we hearded sounded alright. One song was quite heavy and hardcore, while others where a bit goofy. Not quite sure what I think of these guys at the moment. Still the Essential Stage was indoors and air conditioned, so it was worth being there just for that!
Next up were Battles who were a band high on my list to check out. After finding a spot right next to Kim from The Mark of Cain (obviously there to see how band mate John Stanier was doing), Battles came on and did their thing. It was a pretty energetic set, and played more or less all the “hits” I expected them too. The crowd seemed to be getting into them too, though quite a few left early I assume to go and see Grinspoon on the main stage.
After Battles we decided to go see The Nightwatchmen, which was actually better than I expected. The highlight was a version of AC/DC‘s Dirty Deeds. Soon we got sick of his folky political songs and moved back to the Main Stage to check out the end of the Grinspoon set. I’ve seen Grinspoon before, and they’re a good live band, and this afternoon seemed to play more old stuff than new stuff, which worked for me. The singer doesn’t seem to have the same presence on stage since he stopped taking Meth…
Following Grinspoon there was a big gap with no one that really stood out were on. The Arcade Fire was boring the crowd on the main stage, while Spoon did their thing on the Green Stage. Spoon sounded ok, but I’m not really sure I see their appeal at this stage. We had dinner in the dry, dusty markets, and eventually found a slightly shaded footpath to sit down on. I had gourmet pizza, which had a gourmet price but wasn’t really that gourmet!
After several recommendations we decided to move out to the Green Stage to check out Aussie metallers Karnivool. After having their guitars set up by Elvis, they finally came on a rocked out with a few tracks I kinda recognised from Triple J. Their sound was great, and they’re a really tight unit, but to be honest it just didn’t work for me that afternoon. Maybe it was the fact they played outdoors in the daylight, but I just couldn’t get into it.
We decided to skip UNKLE and head straight to the main stage to get a good spot for Bjork and Rage Against The Machine. Thankfully Silverchair had already finished. We took our place outside the D-Barrier on the RATM side, and eventually Bjork came charging onto stage with her horn section. Bjork’s show was a bit hit and miss. Some songs were amazing, while others just fell a bit flat. Watching the various gizmo’s that the band used was pretty cool though.
The crowd around me voiced their displeasure at having to see Bjork, but I really didn’t think it was that bad, though given the high bogan count this came as no surprise to me. I do question the timing of Bjork’s set though. While I don’t think she’s a Boiler Room act, I think putting her on immediately before Rage wasn’t a great idea. I probably would have worked better if she was the final act on the main stage.
Following a poorly placed lightning and fire show (from our spot on the oval only those taller than 7 foot could see anything – nowhere near as cool as the fire hand thing at last years) Rage Against The Machine came on. Overall it was a great show, though it was kinda disappointing that a few songs had been slowed down. They weren’t even ones I thought were particularly hard to play, while other more challenging ones were quite good (and fast). Zack seemed to smile a lot, which goes against the whole raging theme I guess, though obviously the guys are enjoying their time back together. Zack rolled out his well rehearsed speech during Wake Up too, which went down well with most of the crowd.
Carl Cox was the headline act in the Boiler Room this year. I’m sure he’s a great DJ but does he need to headline every second year? I can think of plenty of other acts I’d rather see in that position. We didn’t bother checking him out. The Boiler Room lineup was pretty weak this year, aside from UNKLE who I missed, and Dr. Octagon who skipped Adelaide, it just looked boring.
This was the 12th Big Day Out I’ve been to since first going back in 1993, and it was a good day, though not one that will really stand out compared to many of the great lineups in the 90’s. People like to complain about the crowds being worse, but personally I don’t think they’ve changed – there were as many morons at past BDO’s as there were this year, and besides, if you’re heading towards the front of the stage then you have to expect to get kicked, pushed, etc.
I guess there’s not a great deal they can do with the venue, but some better areas for eating a chilling out would be great. Getting booze was much better than in Sydney though, I had no problems getting a drink while at Homebush I’d be waiting in line for 30 minutes or so. There was a good range of food too, and the toilets seemed to be bearable, though there was the usual queue for the ladies.
Getting out of the venue was a real pain in the arse.I’d say there was about 25,000 out of 35,000 people in the oval for Rage, and everyone trying to get out at once through a somewhat constricted path to the ext mean that there was basically a hugh crush right in the middle of the venue, worse than the actual pit during RATM. Organisers need to do this better next year, since I can’t remember it being a major problem in the past.
They also need to do something about the D barrier. While I have no problem with them trying to limit the amount of people in there, I think the way they are going about it is wrong. All they’ve basically achieved is moving the crush from the front of the stage, to the D entrance, and security have nowhere near as good access to people at the entrance as they do at the front of the stage. Admittedly if it weren’t for pushing morons this wouldn’t be a problem, hopefully it won’t take a death for them to make a change. I also think that given the size of the Adelaide BDO it’s unnecessary and a T barrier would be more effective.
Maybe I’m stuck in the past, but I don’t think there has been enough depth in the bands at the Big Day Out in the last few years. The Australian and Local bands are fine but most of the second string international bands in the lineups in the last few years have been pretty ordinary in my opinion. In years past I’ve been more excited about the smaller international bands than the headliners, but the last few years if it weren’t for Rage and Tool, I’d never have gone. In fact next year, unless there’s a good lineup, I can’t see myself going either. I’m no longer in a space where I’d just go for the experience of the day.