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Big Day Out Co-Founder Ken West Shares Chapters From Forthcoming Book On Festival’s History

Big Day Out co-founder Ken West has set up a new website where he’s sharing chapters from a yet-to-be-published book – tentatively titled Controlled Kaos – about the iconic festival’s history, commemorating 30 years since the first Big Day Out in 1992.

“Seeing as the world, and in particular, the live music world, (thanks Covid), are still running on chaos theory, I thought this might be the right time to drop some of my ramblings covering the path to and the first 6 years of The Big Day Out,” West writes in an introduction.

“I had hoped to deliver the whole story, however, it’s been more complicated than I originally anticipated, so you might have to wait a while longer for the book. If you’re locked down or even locked up, you might enjoy my warts and all trip down memory lane.”

The new site currently contains seven chapters which detail some of the Big Day Out’s earliest years, including West reflecting on he and Vivian Lees launching its debut – a Sydney-only event with a lineup that featured international headliners Violent Femmes and Nirvana alongside local acts like Beasts of Bourbon, Yothu Yindi, Cosmic Psychos, You Am I and more.

“What we had achieved was something that made us different from the others. We could offer something special that the others did not have. I immediately had a feeling of urgency & dread of what was ahead,” West writes of his realisations following the success of the festival’s debut. “The only solution was to go national.”

Over the next couple of years, Big Day Out would expand to Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, the Gold Coast and Auckland, and the festival would continue to run until 2014. Headliners over the years included Rage Against the Machine, The Prodigy, Hole, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Björk, Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, Beastie Boys, The White Stripes, Muse and Kanye West.

On the Kenfest website, West writes that while Controlled Kaos is completely written, it is “constantly evolving” due to the “thousands of photos, artwork and documents to integrate.” He hopes for the e-book version to be released by the end of the year.

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