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Image for The Great Festival Gambles

The Great Festival Gambles

To celebrate the inaugural Festival Awards, FL looks back at the hits and misses that transpire when an Aussie festival takes a gamble.

Big Day Out puts faith in Rage Against The Machine
When Coachella heralded the return of Rage Against The Machine, few genuinely believed we’d see the reunited radicals down under. And anyway, people wondered, could they really still – œhave it’? How badly do they need that new villa in the French Alps? Defying expectation, Big Day Out secured Rage for the 2008 Big Day Out and – to put it lightly – the gamble was worth taking. Wave upon wave of people jumping along to Killing In The Name is certainly a sight for the BDO history books. Perhaps the real gamble was scheduling Björk right before the rabble-rousing headline act. But that’s another story.

Introducing Golden Plains
Many a Meredith faithful raised an eyebrow when the organisers of Melbourne’s most treasured festival announced they would – for the first time ever – be opening up the gates of the Nolan farm for a new event to be held in March, The Golden Plains Festival. However, we all dutifully bought tickets and put our trust in the festival Gods that we hadn’t all been sold down the corporate river after so many years of devotion. It was with great relief that the sold-out crowd discovered Aunty Meredith had stuck to a winning formula – amazingly unique line-up, BYO booze, not a Coke Zero sign in sight and the best Hare Krishna food this side of the equator. Golden Plains was such a success that it has stuck around on the festival calendar and is gradually becoming a must-have ticket of the season.

Homebake books the Rogue Traders
In 2005, the Homebake Big Top was graced by much-loved regulars Pnau, Cut Copy, The Presets and The Herd…but no one could’ve predicted the delirious response to debutants The Rogue Traders. Even the band itself admitted in interviews to being pleasantly surprised at the booking on this most sought-after of line-ups. After all, they were just a pop-dance act targeted at teens and fronted by a former Neighbours star. But did the Homebake faithful recoil in horror and seek out the Happy Highs tent instead? Nope – the Big Top was spilling out the sides, a sea of hands in the air, screaming along to Voodoo Child. A guilty pleasure has never looked so guilt-free.

Chemical Brothers headline Big Day Out
Come 9:30pm, the Big Day Out crowd is usually split a few ways: mega-rock-band at the mainstage, mega-dance-act in the Boiler Room and assorted worthy headliners at the smaller stages. In 2005, though, the formula got a re-jiggle – with the double-punch of Beastie Boys and Chemical Brothers on the mainstages. Despite the promise of System Of A Down earlier in the day, it was a bold move that potentially left the human-pyramid massive in the lurch. Upping the stakes, the Boiler Room’s closing set was a video feed of the Chemical Brothers. So, did it work? Well, it’s not often you can stroll into the D-barrier while the headline act is playing…but variety’s the spice of life, right?

Cockatoo Island Festival makes its grand debut
It’s not often that a festival site can steal the show. Usually we’re confined to sporting venues or all-purpose fields, but in 2005 the first (and only!) Cockatoo Island Festival raised the bar considerably. The island in Sydney Harbour is a former imperial prison, industrial school, reformatory, gaol and 20th Century shipyard, with many of its heritage buildings still standing. Needless to say, staging a three-day music festival in such surrounds is a gamble that requires dedication. The organisers pulled it off consummately – making fine use of the cavernous Turbine Hall, disused workshops, crisscrossing tunnels and rusting machines. For all those devastated that it only happened once, the Great Escape filled the void in 2007, located up-river at its heritage neighbour Newington Armory.

The Vines fall apart at BDO 2003
2002 was unequivocally The Year of The Vines. Within twelve months the small band from Sydney “who could barely fill a room” had drawn comparisons to Nirvana, played on Letterman and been declared the – œSaviours of Rock N Roll’. However, all the media attention surrounding the band also revealed a highly unstable lead-singer. Craig Nicholls’ behaviour at gigs was gradually becoming more famous than the band’s music. He smashed guitars, abused audience members and was banned from doing media interviews. So when the BDO booked The Vines to play in – œ03 they rolled the dice with the king of unpredictability and what resulted was an epic fail. Their performances were a disaster, with Nicholls seemingly forgetting that he was playing with other musicians; he belted along in his own time, playing out of key and often just screeching through lyrics.

Feist at St Jerome’s Laneway
Every so often a promoter stumbles onto a band before they hit the big time, securing them for an affordable price and then sitting back and enjoying the ride as a that performer shoots into the public eye (or ear). When St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival booked Leslie Feist, member of indie band Broken Social Scene, in 2008 to play their festival, the young Canadian songstress was building quite a name for herself as sassy solo artist, Feist. However, by the time the festival rolled around (and with a little bit of help from an iPod ad) she had become the must see indie-darling of – œ08. Her performances as part of a stellar line-up went on to make it the most successful year for the Laneway promoters thus far.

Big Day Out blends bogan with At The Drive-In
The notoriously unhinged At The Drive-In was a major drawcard of Big Day Out 2001, but all did not go to plan on the Sydney leg. It was already a charged year for the travelling festival. Nu-metal was at its peak, with headliners Limp Bizkit upping the testosterone + bourbon equation. On a line-up that also included Mudvayne and Rammstein, it’s fair to say dropping At The Drive-In amongst it all was quite a gamble. Playing at a tightly packed-in side stage, the band repeatedly told the punters to settle down and look after each other – but to no avail. Frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala then bleated at the crowd and called them sheep, before the set was abandoned altogether after 15 minutes. Later that year, At The Drive-In disbanded, breaking off into two new bands – Sparta and The Mars Volta. Those 15 minutes really weren’t enough…

THE FUTURE GAMBLE…

Neil Young headlining Big Day Out 09
The rumours that Neil Young was going to be headlining the BDO 2009 started flying as early as March this year to many a hopeful yelp. When it was confirmed by promoters in August we all cheered with joy and then paused to consider what this meant. Will the same shirtless, Australian-flag brandishing bogans who shook the earth for Rage Against The Machine in 08 light up a joint, hold hands and sing along to Harvest Moon? Only time will tell.

THE GAMBLE WE’D LIKE TO SEE…

Amy Winehouse to play any Australian festival

It would seem that the biggest gamble any festival promoter can take in the world at the moment is to put Amy Winehouse on the line-up. Most recently her festival performances have included a complete cancellation with two hours notice at Rock En Seine in France and showing up forty minutes late for her headline set at Bestival, only to be booed off the stage when she finally arrived. Although this final schmozzle was declared her “last performance for 2008”, we want a festival promoter to take a gamble on Wino and bring her down under. What I would give to see that crack-hive on stage. I promise I won’t boo, Winey…

Words by Sarah Smith and Jack Tregoning

Don’t forget to head on over and vote in Australia’s first ever Festival Awards.

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Comments

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Chainsaw

Chainsaw said on the 17th Sep, 2008

Great Escape to Oct long weekend should've been up

sarahanne

sarahanne said on the 17th Sep, 2008

Livid going to melbourne = fail

LisaP_

LisaP_ said on the 17th Sep, 2008

Great photo above the article!

Napoleon Solo

Napoleon Solo said on the 17th Sep, 2008

Cedric was paying out on one guy in the crowd in particular with the sheep bleating, There was one guy who was crowdsurfing and acting like a dick, I remember that he had a flashing wristband and I think Cedric did too. After seeing him for the third time he had enough. He singled the guy out saying "you learned that from the t.v you didn't learn that from your best friend" and he then called him a sheep and baaaed at him as he was escorted from the front of stage. The stupid bastard even gave him the "Come on, I'll fight ya" motion as security dropkicked him out.

gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 17th Sep, 2008



livid leaving brisbane should definitely have been on the list, it ruined a brisbane music tradition :(

grattan

grattan said on the 17th Sep, 2008



Homebake going to Melbourne = fail

misscrystle

misscrystle said on the 17th Sep, 2008

Livid RIP. Sounds Of Spring ain't got nottin' on it, I can't believe they're touting themselves as "filling the Livid void" - wrong!

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 17th Sep, 2008

Lol @ what Jack's T stands for.

de-tec-tive

de-tec-tive said on the 17th Sep, 2008

what happened to that Offshore Festival? where was it even held? i remember always seeing ads for it when i first started reading Recovery back in 2000, but didn't really pay attention to festivals back then.

brownie-ll

brownie-ll said on the 17th Sep, 2008



The layout was worse then the '08 Melbourne BDO. Still, the lineup was win.

grattan

grattan said on the 17th Sep, 2008



Lineups. They tried twice didn't they? I seem to recall one headed by White Stripes and another with Oasis topping the bill.

dkos

dkos said on the 17th Sep, 2008

Why would anyone consider Rage Against The Machine a risk?

grattan

grattan said on the 17th Sep, 2008




[URL="http://www.fasterlouder.com.au/forum/showthread.php?t=16609&highlight=riot"]Riots?

gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 17th Sep, 2008



its a pretty good lineup for its first year...i'm excited...

brownie-ll

brownie-ll said on the 17th Sep, 2008



I can't remember if it was once or twice; but I went to the last one (02?).Four or five stages: Main Stage (Melbourne Park), Triple J Stage (Vodafone Arena), Hip-Hop Stage (Upstairs Hall between Melbourne Park and Vodafone), Rock Stage (Downstairs Hall between Melbourne Park and Vodafone), plus a local stage and maybe one more?

Headliners were Linkin Park, White Stripes (good but not great), The Roots (upset that I missed out on them), Jurassic 5 (saw them, some idiot made a noose with his hand which pissed off Akil and stopped the show for a few minutes), Me First & The Gimmie Gimmies.

Also playing: Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Upset I missed 'em now, not then), Frenzal Rhomb, Resin Dogs, The Living End, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (who played the same song over and over as my friend and I waited to get into Vodafone Arena), Goldfinger and a few other decent international names I can't remember. I remember seeing someone play in Vodafone at 4:30 to about thirty people and laughing at how tragic it was.

rodismdotcom

rodismdotcom said on the 17th Sep, 2008

Livid was a great festival, should have stayed in Brisbane instead of the cash hungry gamble to expand to three cities - which ultimately killed it.

sarahanne

sarahanne said on the 17th Sep, 2008



Yeah - I went to the one with Oasis headline. You had to walk like three kilometers between stages. Although i remember the streets playing to a tin shed of about 50 people which was cool...

sarahanne

sarahanne said on the 17th Sep, 2008



Well they spent all their budget on them ( hence the ammount of 'Aussie Headliners' ) and despite stories from OS it could have been a bit if a Duran Duran type reunion and failed..

JackT

JackT said on the 17th Sep, 2008



Not hugely creative, is it?

dkos

dkos said on the 17th Sep, 2008



Hmmm I still question it.

The Rage Against The Machine fan base is still in full swing and was still very large, plus people had remained in touch with them through Audioslave. Duran Duran on the other hand were older (as was their fan base) and really didn't warrant their fan base to go see them at Vfest as their sideshow didn't even sell out (from memory).

I dunno, from my understanding, the hype surrounding Rage Against the Machine never died, even after they broke up.

dkos

dkos said on the 17th Sep, 2008



You are totally getting poked on facebook. :cool:

JackT

JackT said on the 18th Sep, 2008

Hmmm I still question it.

The Rage Against The Machine fan base is still in full swing and was still very large, plus people had remained in touch with them through Audioslave. Duran Duran on the other hand were older (as was their fan base) and really didn't warrant their fan base to go see them at Vfest as their sideshow didn't even sell out (from memory).

I dunno, from my understanding, the hype surrounding Rage Against the Machine never died, even after they broke up.

Yeah, you're absolutely right. But I guess it was never a gamble on their continuing popularity, but perhaps more of a gamble on whether they'd be able to deliver a performance that befitted their reputation. Given they're more than just a band that gets up and runs through some songs ... there's so much expectation of the passion and conviction they'll give to each song. In my opinion, I didn't feel that passion and conviction at their Sydney Entertainment Centre sideshow, but I know I am part of a very, very small minority.

JackT

JackT said on the 18th Sep, 2008



Sadly, I don't have Facebook. Would a FL private message be the same?

sarahanne

sarahanne said on the 18th Sep, 2008



I remember being so surprised at how fucking excited I was when they started playing at the Sydney BDO. I think a lot of the gamble was in whether fans would still feel that emotional connection with them too...

I dont think you could have predicted the reaction their sets got..

dkos

dkos said on the 18th Sep, 2008



Hmm yeah I get where you are coming from then. Although is that really a gamble on behalf of the BDO or is it actually a gamble on behalf of the band deciding to tour again?

QueenNahs

QueenNahs said on the 18th Sep, 2008

Cockatoo Island still burns bright as the best festival experience I have ever had here or abroad... Damn shame it only happened once...

JackT

JackT said on the 18th Sep, 2008



Well....I dunno, maybe it was a gamble for the band itself. But the organisers of the BDO perhaps had to put faith in the assumption that RATM was back together for "the right reasons", as wanky as that sounds, and not just a cash-grab.

QueenNahs

QueenNahs said on the 18th Sep, 2008



Nobody who saw them at Coachella would. It was beyond superlatives.
BDO promoters would have been MAD not to book them.

dkos

dkos said on the 18th Sep, 2008



I suppose, but people were going to go see them regardless if it was a cash-grab. Because they are Rage Against the Machine. Big Day Out was never in danger of not selling out whilst Rage were on the lineup, so really I wouldn't call it a gamble on behalf of Lees and West.

JackT

JackT said on the 18th Sep, 2008

Argued well my friend, glad it inspired some debate. Maybe including RATM was our gamble?

gumbuoy

gumbuoy said on the 18th Sep, 2008



time for a new article, "Greatest FasterLouder feature article gambles"...

Anton Newcombe comes to mind - luckily that one paid off :>

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 18th Sep, 2008



Obviously RATM are going to cause BDO to sell out ridiculously fast.

The danger for Lees and West was potential damage to the BDO brand if RATM had been a complete failure. Obviously they weren't, but there have certainly been some reunions that haven't gone so well.

Whilst I think that BDO is big enough that they could have a horrific year (performance wise, not ticket sales), and still sell out the next year with no trouble, for many smaller festivals, the complete failure of a headline act could be the death knell for a smaller, less established festival.

dkos

dkos said on the 18th Sep, 2008

Obviously RATM are going to cause BDO to sell out ridiculously fast.

The danger for Lees and West was potential damage to the BDO brand if RATM had been a complete failure. Obviously they weren't, but there have certainly been some reunions that haven't gone so well.

Whilst I think that BDO is big enough that they could have a horrific year (performance wise, not ticket sales), and still sell out the next year with no trouble, for many smaller festivals, the complete failure of a headline act could be the death knell for a smaller, less established festival.

How many people would have genuinely blamed BDO and boycotted it in the future had Rage fucked up? There might have been some backlash in the two weeks after the festival, but it wouldn't have lasted long.

Ultimately a festival comes down to lineup and reputation. Something like Soundwave needs to have a brilliant lineup to battle against their shocking reputation (similar for Vfest, although I'm the only one like this).

For BDO 2008, I would suggest that Bjork was the bigger gamble than Rage.

Whitesnake

Whitesnake said on the 18th Sep, 2008

Most of the festival promoters will have to start gambling with headline acts as more and more festivals are announced and ticket prices soaring!
Days Like This is a classic example. Brand new festival and 80% of the lineup is exclusive to the festival. Sideshows can often take the heart

JackT

JackT said on the 18th Sep, 2008

Viva la Days Like This!

Love that line-up, can't wait.

sarahanne

sarahanne said on the 18th Sep, 2008

How many people would have genuinely blamed BDO and boycotted it in the future had Rage fucked up? There might have been some backlash in the two weeks after the festival, but it wouldn't have lasted long.

Ultimately a festival comes down to lineup and reputation. Something like Soundwave needs to have a brilliant lineup to battle against their shocking reputation (similar for Vfest, although I'm the only one like this).

For BDO 2008, I would suggest that Bjork was the bigger gamble than Rage.

I think billing Bjork and Rage next to each other was a gamble..
I was happy when she missed the Sydney leg and we got to see Arcade Fire glowing in the evening slot they deserved...

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 18th Sep, 2008


I was happy when she missed the Sydney leg and we got to see Arcade Fire glowing in the evening slot they deserved...

True story.

Whilst I was dissapointed that I didn't get to see Bjork, the onset of darkness made the Arcade Fire set that much better.

I was very excited about The Arcade Fire's set, but the start of it really seemed a bit flat. As soon as it got that bit darker, they really came into their own and were incredible.

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 18th Sep, 2008

Both are fantastic. So dissapointed I missed out on seeing Bjork.

asb123

asb123 said on the 18th Sep, 2008

AMY WINEHOUSE all the way

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 18th Sep, 2008

I would definitely like to see her.

sarahanne

sarahanne said on the 18th Sep, 2008

I know - I want someone to get her crack arse out here..

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 18th Sep, 2008

I want to take her back to my house, feed her to the point where she looks good again and then lock her in a studio, not letting her out until she makes an album that is as good, if not better, than Back To Black.

JackT

JackT said on the 18th Sep, 2008

Mmmm, sweet crack.

On a side note, I listened to 'Frank'. You know, the album hardly anyone bought that has now been re-released to capitalise on her popularity. It's pretty poor.

sarahanne

sarahanne said on the 18th Sep, 2008

all her albums sound "cracky"...black, frank, crack....ya know?

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 18th Sep, 2008

Sorry, she's doing Frank Black's crack?

Dananarama

Dananarama said on the 19th Sep, 2008

I'm sorry, but I still don't understand the fascination with ol Wino hey......maybe I'm just un-cool....but I think she is a freaken retard.

Dananarama

Dananarama said on the 19th Sep, 2008

I'm sorry, but I still don't understand the fascination with ol Wino hey......maybe I'm just un-cool....but I think she is a freaken retard.

Dananarama

Dananarama said on the 19th Sep, 2008

I'm sorry, but I still don't understand the fascination with ol Wino hey......maybe I'm just un-cool....but I think she is a freaken retard.

Dananarama

Dananarama said on the 19th Sep, 2008

I'm sorry, but I still don't understand the fascination with ol Wino hey......maybe I'm just un-cool....but I think she is a freaken retard.

Dananarama

Dananarama said on the 19th Sep, 2008

I'm sorry, but I still don't understand the fascination with ol Wino hey......maybe I'm just un-cool....but I think she is a freaken retard.

Dananarama

Dananarama said on the 19th Sep, 2008

I'm sorry, but I still don't understand the fascination with ol Wino hey......maybe I'm just un-cool....but I think she is a freaken retard.

Dananarama

Dananarama said on the 19th Sep, 2008

I'm sorry, but I still don't understand the fascination with ol Wino hey......maybe I'm just un-cool....but I think she is a freaken retard.

dream_brother

dream_brother said on the 19th Sep, 2008



says the person who posted the same point 7 times.

dream_brother

dream_brother said on the 19th Sep, 2008

hahahahahahaha.

YES.

i'm glad we see eye-to-eye on this matter

Cpt_Pugwash

Cpt_Pugwash said on the 19th Sep, 2008

How many people would have genuinely blamed BDO and boycotted it in the future had Rage fucked up? There might have been some backlash in the two weeks after the festival, but it wouldn't have lasted long.



Your assuming people go to the BDO based solely on what acts are playing. In my experience its more "its BDO I dont care what the lineup is I'm just gunna get fucked up"

to which I laugh at them from my tall Ivory tower