New beginnings are always filled with interest and intrigue.
And that was at the forefront of my mind as I arrived at Flemington yesterday for the Melbourne leg of this year’s Big Day Out. After all the behind-the-scenes drama and partnership splits that overshadowed last year’s 20th birthday celebrations, I was curious as to whether the more contemporary/indie flavoured line-up this year and several new initiatives would be a hit with punters, or if the Big Day Out brand would be further damaged in a make-or-break year for Australia’s most well-known festival.
Well, things didn’t kick off that smoothly. As reported yesterday, a truck containing gear for a few of the opening bands broke down en route from Adelaide to Melbourne. This forced House vs Hurricane to move their opening main stage slot at 11.30am – and instead, they were relegated to playing the Red Stage after Bodyjar at 8pm.
The truck also contained all the media passes, meaning about 30 or 40 of us journo and photographer types were gathered out the front for an impromptu picnic (without any food, toilets or tables), waiting for an hour or more for supplies to arrive.
When I finally got in (around 12.30pm), I caught my first dose of action for the day with local grandiose rockers ME! Channelling Muse and Queen, the band definitely knew how to throw themselves around on stage, and pleased the small legion of punters gathered to see them early. With their new album about to drop, these guys could soon develop quite a following and make some inroads if radio embraces them.
I was about to head off to Chow Town for lunch, but then, the sound of distortion and guitar feedback pricked up my ears, and I decided to go check out Buffalo hardcore stars Every Time I Die. With fight circles breaking out regularly, the band made up for the early morning headbanging fix that House vs Hurricane were supposed to provide, as they delivered their melodic brand of thrash and hardcore tunes with tons of energy. And no moment was more definitive than when the frontman declared, “This is the ONLY circle pit of Big Day Out”, and whipped everyone into a frenzy for their track Bored Stiff – with hundreds running and pushing and shoving en masse.
Between 2pm-4.30pm, I was venturing from stage to stage, making a few new discoveries and re-enjoying some old ones. The truck breakdown may have also affected Kingswood as when I rocked up at their tent at 2pm, they were still soundchecking and didn’t hit the stage until 10 minutes later. Their first three songs were filled with swagger and grunt, particularly their EP Hit Me Baby, which resonated well with the decent crowd packed into the tent to see them.
A dash over to the Green Stage, and I caught buzz blues man-of-the-moment, Gary Clark Jr. God damn, he knows how to use his axe. Big Day Out seriously hasn’t seen as good guitar-wailing for some time, and his solos in When My Train Comes In and Please Come Home left me flabbergasted. Donning a shirt with the Aboriginal flag on it, Clark Jr oozed coolness, and I would have loved to have stayed for more than the four tracks I saw.
Back to the main stage, and Grinspoon were back in familiar territory, unleashing their tried-and-true back catalogue on the mid-afternoon crowd. Frontman Phil Jamieson was prancing around on stage to all the slamming riffs – and the rest of the guys were enjoying themselves too. But something seemed a bit off – maybe it was because most people have seen and heard it all before, and there was nothing really new added into the mix. Having said that, Lost Control and Champion can still get people jumping around, and Chemical Heart is now ingrained as a huge festival sing-a-long.
I ventured over to the Essential Stage, and the kids were losing their marbles over Death Grips. The man himself was going pretty ape on stage too, shirtless and screaming non-stop. His set was repetitive and sounded like one giant song, and as a result, I left early.
On the other hand, I walked into the Green Stage to see the lead singer of Jeff The Brotherhood crowd surfing, and then walking down a few minutes later to bust out a solo right near me in a grassy patch on the far left of the tent.
Looking and sounding like the new The Black Keys, the Orrall brothers’ punchy garage tunes and storming live show was lapped up by the small and dedicated crowd. Oh, and frontman Jake was also donning an shirt with the Aboriginal flag on it – he must have raided fellow Green-stager Gary Clark Jr’s wardrobe.
Following a short breather to scoff some food at Chow Town and watch the team with the hermaphradite win a pretty entertaining clash at the Mexican Wrestling in the Lilypad, I joined the throngs of people trying to get into the D-Barrier for the evening’s festivities.
Once in, despite being on the other side of the barrier, I witnessed The Killers deliver what was pretty much an, err.. all killer, no filler set. With a presence that made them look like they’ve evolved into genuine stadium fillers, the Las Vegas band tore through their finest moments, from opener Mr. Brightside to fireworks-accompanied closer When You Were Young. The band also got right into the spirit of Australia Day – drummer Ronnie Vannucci donned an Australia singlet behind the kit (he must have visited The Reject Shop on his way to the gig), while a cover of Waltzing Matilda was a cred-filled and fitting inclusion in the set.
Finally, Red Hot Chili Peppers closed out the day with a set that mixed old classics with not-so-amazing new stuff, but was still packed with energy and much better than their half-arsed performances on their last tour in 2007. Check out a more-detailed review of that here.
Check out a photo gallery from the day by Music Feeds photographer Andrew Briscoe below.