Sixteen years on from their notorious walk-off at Sydney’s Big Day Out, At The Drive In have reflected on the circumstances leading to their historic 2001 dummy-spit and offered up some wise insights.
Currently back on Aussie turf for the down under leg of their big reunion tour for new album in•ter a•li•a, frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Keeley Davis have been reminiscing on that fateful day, admitting they “could have handled it better”.
Chatting to Rolling Stone, Bixler-Zavala partially pointed the finger of blame for the band’s onstage meltdown at a bunch of Mudvayne “bros” wreaking havoc in the ATDR pit.
“With all due respect to a band like Mudvayne… you have to be super, hyper aware of what that music attracts,” he explains. “So playing side-by-side by them, and their audience coming over to where we’re playing, it just became bro-central.
“And I just started to see people getting hurt really bad… At that time I was very idealistic about trying to control that, which is really naive of me because that’s like a huge audience to try to control.”
“So I was getting really upset with the amount of ‘bros’ that came into our part. Which is just really naive and nihilistic of me to think at the time, but I was just really upset by it. I didn’t know how to deal with that size crowd. I think some of the Big Day Out people were upset with us because we asked for the lights to be turned off… and I think we got into an argument with them, and then they thought that all the violence that erupted was because we didn’t want lights.
And then I was yelling at the audience, and then all these people had come to see us — other bands that were watching on stage, like PJ Harvey people, Queens Of The Stone Age people — and with everyone just watching I just kind of imploded.
I think it was a good performance. And I think it was a really beautiful shambles. You know, ’cause I love watching stuff like that myself of historical rock bands, like [puts on a voice] ‘Did you see when they played that one show?’… you know, I like moments like that, right?
So that’s what that really is, it’s just a crazy, energetic moment where they placed us on a double stage next to Mudvayne, so that crowd just comes into our crowd and becomes like [makes roaring noise] it’s crazy. It’s really crazy [laughs]. And, you know, I think I could have handled it better. But then again, I’m 42 now, I was in my 20’s back then.”
Davis also added some sobering reflections about a far more notorious incident to go down at the Big Day Out that day, when 16-year-old Jessica Michalik was crushed to death in the crowd during headliner Limp Bizkit’s set.
Watch At The Drive In’s full interview below, alongside archive footage of the band’s historic BDO mic-drop and some happy snaps from their (much less controversial) Sydney headline show this past weekend.