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Big Day Out 2011

Written by Jason Strange on January 31, 2011

For this reviewer it was 13 years since he’d been to a Big Day Out. That fact alone made me feel old. Australia Day Big Day Outs are as much a tradition in Sydney as a BBQ on Bondi Beach or fireworks on the harbour.

The day kicked off with The Vines. Quiet of late, the band has fallen into the opening slot in the morning when only die-hard fans and festival first timers show up. They were still solid and the cover of Outkast’s Miss Jackson was a highlight of what was essentially a best of set. Over on the Converse Stage, Children Collide rocked. A healthy fan base sang and head banged to their style of post psychedelic rock, warming us up for the day ahead. Jim Jones Revue had to contend with microphone issues but still delivered another great set. Jim found a way on top of the speaker stacks for a bit and the band tore up tracks from their latest album Burning Your House Down. The crowd really dug their 60s flavoured rock n’ roll. Jim Jones as a front man reminds me of Mick Jagger with that strut and the sexual poses.

It doesn’t get more Aussie on Australia Day then an AC/DC style metal band. Airbourne are the essence of oz pub rock/metal. While most of us would write them off as hair metal, Airbourne keep the genre alive! Sounding like old Metallica/Maiden they certainly kept the metal brigade happy. At this point I have to say. I admire all the Tool Goths and metalheads for wearing all black on a 35-degree plus day. Kudos to you!

Chaingang are a Sydney rock band who graced the Annandale stage. The singer looked a bit like (a younger) Joan Jett, but sounded like Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They were impressive and worth further investigation. Andrew WK….well what can be said about the man who lives to party hard? Male sexist rock for jocks. He also has a resemblance to Russel Brand’s character in ‘Get Him To The Greek’, so maybe that’s the prerequisite for partying hard?

I only watched Lupe Fiasco because I was in an undercover bar with air con and the heat had beaten me. Normally I wouldn’t care for him and rightly so. He just doesn’t do it for me.

Earlier in the day, I got to meet Bliss n Eso briefly in the channel V tent. They liked my tattoos and friends have been telling me for years how good they were
so I had to check them out. They turned up the heat even more with their infectious hip hop. The crowd went nuts for the beats and rhymes and even inspired a marriage proposal on stage. She said yes!

The Deftones have had a tough 18 months. Their bassist Chi was in a serious car accident and subsequent coma and the band released their best album in 10 years with Diamond Eyes. Their down-tuned nu metal started a frenzied circle pit and mosh duel reminiscent of mongoose fighting for supremacy. In fact, the male showmanship was more entertaining then the set. Songs like My Own Summer (shove it) and Change worked well. The new bassist looked like Pat Smear, ex Foo Fighter, but I’m sure it wasn’t. (Leave a comment if I’m wrong). It was heavy and had a groove and was a good set to kick off the evening.

Birds Of Tokyo were the band I was most keen to see and they were outstanding. Obviously the focus was on the latest self-titled album, but they also pulled out some older classics. They played my favourite songs in Wild At Heart, Circles, Plans and The Gap so I was happy. Although I do have to point out Ian Kenny still dances like a Thunderbird, John Butler Trio were as cool as ever with their trademark poignant message mixed with fun, bouncy music. The Trio never fail to deliver live. John’s funky tunes always go over well. They played a typical festival set with all his best-known songs such as Better Than That, Don’t Wanna See Your Face, Zebra and Revolution Road. He even had a Mexican wave going for a second.

Iggy Pop and The Stooges: as old as your grandfather and rocks harder than you. They opened with Raw Power and Search and Destroy. Early on in the set he let 40 odd people on stage to hang out. Forty years and these bastards still rule the garage rock scene. It was amazing to see a legend in action. Wolfmother… you know I’m not really a fan, yet live they always impress me and again they did tonight. Decked in tassels they were solid on the Green Stage, which in my mind was the most underrated for the day. Woman and New Moon Rising were the standouts.

Rammstein: right, I’ll be brutally honest. As lovely as the Germans are, I just don’t get them. Rammstein are weird. Granted their set, stage set up and lighting make it a visual feast. But for me it makes no sense when they sing in German. It’s kind of like watching Bowie as Ziggy Stardust meets Tron. That’s the best way I can explain it. But it was entertaining even if I had no idea what the fuck was going on. The fireworks and explosions were cool. So was the fire breathing while still playing their instruments. The set ended with the singer riding a cannon firing foam. How will Tool top this show?

First let’s play a game: spot Tool’s singer Maynard James Keenan? Is he behind the drum kit? Backstage? Or phoning it in from his vineyard? Because from my vantage spot, he was a ghost – just a muffled voice though the P.A system. The stage presence and lighting failed in comparison to the Germans. As a semi Tool fan and massive music lover, this was disappointing. The video footage was interesting at times but, I hate to say it, I found Tool boring. Diehards would’ve loved it, but the rest of us thought it was average. And maybe that’s the thing for Tool. They should be a recording band only and not a live act. They were so tight they could’ve lip synced off their CD and no one would notice. And if I come across as harsh it’s because I’m disappointed. I expected to be blown away, not bored to death. (Can’t wait for the hate from the tools….I mean tool fans).

So that was it for me. Big Day Out 2011 done. I missed Grinderman, but working life doesn’t allow for a 2am bedtime. But overall it was a pretty fun way to  spend Australia Day.

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