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Image for Big Day Out @ Sydney Showground (26/01/2011)

Big Day Out @ SydneyShowground (26/01/2011)

Oh, Big Day Out. The grand heavyweight champion of a festival-laden summer, a teenage rite of passage that’s left memories musical and otherwise etched in the minds of punters for nearly two decades. And none more so than the arguable centerpiece of the tour, the Australia Day Sydney show. The sold-out confines of Olympic Park didn’t take long to swell with bare flesh, beer cans and the inevitable parade of tacky Australian flag paraphernalia, with the placement of former superstars The Vines as openers probably helping proceedings.

You’ve got to feel a bit sorry for Craig Nicholls and co. Once a bona-fide sensation, they’re regulated to the earliest possible main stage slot, providing the soundtrack to the influx of the festival’s true believers. They seem to know it too, with Nicholls doing his best to still sound excited while repeatedly thanking the crowd for coming, as if they’re the last thread remaining before The Vines plummet into obscurity. Performance wise they aren’t too bad, and early hits Get Free and Highly Evolved get a good reaction. But the excitement of their heyday is gone, and when Nicholls ends the set by smashing his guitar and dismantling the drum kit – barely past midday – it’s hard to feel anything but second-hand embarrassment.

Around the corner, Parades fill the Hot Produce stage with ethereal guitars and electronic flourishes, charming the somewhat small crowd gathered. It sounds gorgeous on the stage’s hefty PA, and the set comes to a tremendous climax with a rendition of Marigold that proves Jonathan Boulet can drum as well as he can write pop songs.

Airbourne write derivative, shallow music that mimics yesterday’s hard rock to near-parody. So why are they so goddamn fun? In front of a Spinal Tap-esque stage setup of 12 neatly lined-up Marshall stacks, frontman Joel O’Keefe method-acts rockstar excess with such enthusiasm that it’s hard to not get swept up in it. It’s a blizzard of scissor kicks, sculled beer and more hair whipping than a schoolyard full of Willow Smiths. And when he scales the stage’s monstrous scaffolding – all in the name of the most stupidly dangerous guitar solo I’ve ever seen – it leaves little choice but to be impressed. Sure, there’s plenty to dislike if you stop to think about it, but thought isn’t a currency that Airbourne trade in.

Lupe Fiasco, on the other hand, struggles to generate excitement. Perhaps ill-fitted to the mainstage, his set often finds itself in a no-mans land between hip-hop and a half-hearted attempt at the kind of rock n’ roll stage show that Jay-Z is touring of late. Mix that with a heavy dose of new, unreleased material and you’ve got a well-meaning set that falls flat.

Over in the laid-back Lillyworld, The UV Race play to a small fraction of Lupe’s crowd, but charm them with their simple, somewhat shambolic garage pop. With little separation between the psychedelically-painted stage and audience, the set ends with frontman Marcus riding one punter’s shoulder while another enthusiastically shreds at a guitar handed over by a band member.

The Boiler Room offers some respite from the sun’s onslaught, but not from the heat – especially with such a huge crowd gathered for South African oddities Die Antwoord. They immediately put their reputation as a YouTube meme to rest with a commanding live performance. Between Hi-Tek’s massive beats, Ninja’s powerful stage presence and Yo-Landi’s overt sexuality, their sound was crisp and focused. And so was their stage show, combining subversive eroticism and menace into a truly unsettling, yet incredibly engaging performance. Add to that an penchant for bizarro theatre (complete with a huge rubber penis microphone) and you’ve got one of the oddest and best sets of the day.

There’s no such menace in *Catcall’s8 set, but there’s certainly a seductive quality to her music. Backed by some huge 80s/italidisco-influenced beats, she saunters along the stage performing unashamedly catchy pop gems. It’s terrific, and a welcome respite from the guitar-driven masculinity that traditionally dominates the festival.

The succeeding band on the Annandale stage are the opposite – loud, muscular and abrasive. It’s The Hard-Ons, Sydney punk veterans, and they absolutely tear the smaller stage apart. Combined with Catcall, it’s a mid-festival reminder that Sydney’s own can run laps around many of the much-hyped touring bands.

Despite being festival mainstays, John Butler Trio seem oddly placed. Playing a late-afternoon set on the otherwise hard rock-dominated main stage, they play a set of overbearingly earnest pop folk, punctuated by longwinded solos – one particular point in the set finds Butler performing a solo acoustic instrumental that overstays its welcome by a good five minutes. They’re technically proficient, but hard to stomach.

With the possible exception of Nick Cave, Iggy Pop is the festival’s only bona-fide rock star. The godfather of punk with the group responsible for his best work, The Stooges were for many the most exciting part of this year’s lineup. With an ecstatic stage presence that’s bewildering for a man of 63 years (especially considering his colourful history), Pop leads the reformed Raw Power -era Stooges through almost the entirety of that album, as well as other tracks from the era and older faves like No Fun and 1970. Pop is a born entertainer, and still manages to find himself running around both on and off-stage, clad in his signature black jeans, boots and long blond hair. It’s an exhilarating, riff-heavy trip down memory lane with a band who have no right to be as exciting at their age as they are.

The first sign that Rammstein are going to be a sight to behold isn’t a subtle one. During setup they drape the entire orange stage in a massive German flag. And when it drops amid heavy riffs and fireworks, revealing a stage with multiple platforms, industrial furnishings and the most theatrically-dressed band of the day, you can’t help but be curious. What ensued was one of the most thrillingly, amusingly camp sets in Big Day Out history and one of the day’s clear highlights. Every song featured pyrotechnic displays, acted interludes and heavy, chugging metal riffs – a hedonistic metal theatre that would give Alice Cooper stage envy. It’s a riot too – a crowd mostly made up of “Aussie blokes” chanting along to German lyrics would be hilarious on its own, without band members spitting fire into the air, a (quite convincing) stage invader being set on fire, and the explosive death and sequin-covered resurrection of the group’s keyboardist. All to the soundtrack of industrial German metal. It was unashamedly ridiculous, and undeniably entertaining.

Back in the boiler room, LCD Soundsystem were getting off to a rather subdued start with Dance Yrself Clean. Back in the country on the tail-end of their final tour, they treated the crowd to a brief but exciting trip through their catalog, with All My Friends and early hit Yeah standout highlights. With rather long songs their hour-long set didn’t quite satisfy, but it was a great last hurrah from one of the better dance acts of late.

After the excitement of the last few acts, headliners Tool were a bit of a comedown. One of the more divisive headliners that the festival has had, they probably thrilled the rather large army of fans that packed the front of the stage, but their longwinded, prog-influenced metal combined with their reluctance to perform to the crowd (vocalist Maynard performed in darkness at the back of the stage, while the rest of the band remained relatively static) didn’t seem to garner much enthusiasm elsewhere. Sure, there were plenty of punters in the showground, but by headliner standards there didn’t seem to be much enthusiasm, and their stage setup (consisting of massive video screens, a laughably naff heptagram and not much else) didn’t do much to convince otherwise.

To their credit, the group are incredibly tight, and the set had some highlights – an extended Lateralus in particular. But that’s not enough, and it was mostly long, drawn out, self-indulgent and ultimately dull. Of course, Tool are a band with dedicated fans, and there’s an entire Tool Army out there who will disagree entirely. But the best headliners are universal, bringing together punters who have spent the day bouncing between the festival’s nine stages, and ending it all with a great big celebratory set. Tool, by their very nature, fail dismally at achieving that.

It’s lucky, then, that the side stages run later, allowing the day to end with Grinderman. Fronted by the incomparable Nick Cave, they ended the festival with a rugged, testosterone-driven performance. Like Maynard, Cave deals mostly in darkness, and yet the two couldn’t be more dissimilar – where Maynard hid in the shadows, Cave commands the audience like a southern preacher, with a swagger that’s both foreboding and overtly sexual. Guitarist Warren Ellis is a great wingman for Cave, and their natural chemistry only heightens the power of the set. The smaller stage allows Cave to interact more with the audience, with him pleading with members of the audience during No Pussy Blues and commanding everyone to Get It On with the song of the same name.

A supergroup of Australian music’s gritty underbelly, fronted by one of the most electrifying frontmen we’ve produced, tearing through odes to aging and frustrated sexuality. Could there be a better end to an Australia Day Big Day Out filled with bombast, subversion, musical icons and straight-up great music?

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Shieldsy23

Shieldsy23 said on the 29th Jan, 2011

Great review!Words cannot describe how awesome Rammstein were.

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 29th Jan, 2011



Mainly because you wouldn't be describing how awesome they were.
Words can describe how rubbish and gimmicky they were, though. Could barely stick around beyond two songs.

grattan

grattan said on the 29th Jan, 2011

Black Milk > Rammstein = best decision of the day.

doubtfulsounds

doubtfulsounds said on the 29th Jan, 2011

brilliant write-up... I think you must have been standing next to me most of the day given the bands you saw - Hard-ons were like a tornado touching down and UV Race were one of the most 'real' bands of the day... Grinderman were the highlight though!

esquared

esquared said on the 29th Jan, 2011

wow, interesting mab. i found the whole thing so entertaining, though it's a shame that i missed black milk... i hear he went off.

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 29th Jan, 2011

I bailed to watch Sia and then LCD Soundsystem. Very glad I did.

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 29th Jan, 2011

Without doubt watching Rammstein is quite the spectacle.

Musically however, they are nothing more than a novelty act. I heard the same three power chords in almost every song (that I bothered staying for).

Glad I watched a bit of the fireballs and fireworks.

jackorybelle

jackorybelle said on the 29th Jan, 2011

as much as i loved the tool set (and can't wait to finally hear forty six & 2 at the sideshow), you have a pretty good point about tool's performance in context of the entire festival... despite how much it pains me to admit it. fantastic review though, a brilliant account of my bdo swansong... (i almost drowned in the flood of filthy parochial australiana - definitely enough for one lifetime).

lanesra23

lanesra23 said on the 29th Jan, 2011

We didn't get Forty Six & 2 at the Brisbane sideshow.

random_hero

random_hero said on the 29th Jan, 2011

Mainly because you wouldn't be describing how awesome they were.
Words can describe how rubbish and gimmicky they were, though. Could barely stick around beyond two songs.

what would you know any ways you think Amy Meredith are a good band

Stefan Beck

Stefan Beck said on the 29th Jan, 2011

I like the way snrub thinks!

random_hero

random_hero said on the 29th Jan, 2011



the truth hurts doesnt it batty boy

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 29th Jan, 2011

Go back to beating up coons or whatever the fuck it is you do.

random_hero

random_hero said on the 29th Jan, 2011

awww is MAB upset

you like to dish out insults at people dont you MAB you oxygen thief but you cant handle them back can you batty boy

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 29th Jan, 2011

Yeah, I really can't handle your homophobic slurs. Never come my way before, ever. You're a pioneer.

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 29th Jan, 2011

Wow, you've used the same insult twice in two posts within an hour of one another and now you're using an ancient meme.

Remind me again why you were ever worth anyone's time.

random_hero

random_hero said on the 29th Jan, 2011

Wow, you've used the same insult twice in two posts within an hour of one another and now you're using an ancient meme.

Remind me again why you were ever worth anyone's time.

Remind us what gives you the right to be an arrogant, self righteous asshole ?

is it to get some e-cred?

or are you just generally a mega douche?

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 29th Jan, 2011

"e-cred"? Do you know what year it is?

sarahanne

sarahanne said on the 30th Jan, 2011

Great review! I just loved Rammstein. I can see how their European dramatics wouldn't go down with everyone, but it was like watching a modern German Opera, with lots of fire. As you can see Iggy Pop is my musical Jesus, but I found his set more stageed than Rammstein's. He did the same things he did 7 years ago, nothing was spontaneous, and it seemed too thought out. Last time I saw him he changed my life, this time he just made me smile.

lanesra23

lanesra23 said on the 30th Jan, 2011



I actually had this thought too, despite never seeing him before. It was a bit like going to horror movie and knowing when all the jump-out moments are going to occur. He was still one of the highlights of my day.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 30th Jan, 2011

I agree with your Tool review except for where you said they were tight. I thought Adam Jones' playing was really sloppy and and Danny Carrey's drum solo, whilst enjoyable seemed to come as a suprise to the rest of the band and they came back in together quite messily.

Really good read though!

daveyac8881

daveyac8881 said on the 30th Jan, 2011

Agree with all the bits of this review that I saw

HalfCentaur

HalfCentaur said on the 30th Jan, 2011

A tool show sounds like the most boring thing in existence. The Vines are severley under rated. everyone hangs on to the hope craig might lose it and destroy everything, but I for one am happy to see him get back on track and on top of his autism. They still play an extremely solid show and they were a highlight at splendour. maybe he needs to cut back on guitar smashes though...It's too expected. Hopefully the new album will bring some much needed recognition

afimelb

afimelb said on the 30th Jan, 2011

rammstein were amazing as expected and should of headlined. i still dont understand how that die antwood band. tool were a bit boring and vocals were lower in volume than everything else.

AndyLedHead

AndyLedHead said on the 31st Jan, 2011

I agree with the Vines thing, but I think they were better than the earliest Main Stage slot, even now.

Also, bit of a cheap skate Craig, switching to a squier so you can smash it

lanesra23

lanesra23 said on the 31st Jan, 2011

They didn't do a high amount of evolving between the two occassions that I saw them. That's my problem with Australian bands that smash the local festival and touring schedule. They seem to play every show for the 3-4 people in the crowd that haven't seen them yet.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 31st Jan, 2011

I'd hardly accuse The Vines of smashing touring schedules.

This is their first tour since the one they aborted in 08.

Joe Smiggens

Joe Smiggens said on the 31st Jan, 2011

People don't get Rammstein. It is INTENTIONAL people.

lanesra23

lanesra23 said on the 31st Jan, 2011

I'd hardly accuse The Vines of smashing touring schedules.

This is their first tour since the one they aborted in 08.

The smashing the touring schedules comment was mainly to include a whole bunch of other bands that just seem to do the same thing over and over.

I'm probably picking the wrong band to attack, they are nowhere near as bad as the other culprits.

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 31st Jan, 2011

I just assumed he was talking about Grinspoon.

rockchick65

rockchick65 said on the 1st Feb, 2011

love the bdo. but i may never go again if they get that dreadful iggy pop again. it was just the crappest part of the day.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 1st Feb, 2011



http://images2.memegenerator.net/ImageMacro/5533955/I-care-not-for-these-shenanigans.jpg?imageSize=Medium&generatorName=Redneckindy

Stefan Beck

Stefan Beck said on the 1st Feb, 2011

I'm choking on my own rage!

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 1st Feb, 2011

Probably a fucking Tool fan.

lanesra23

lanesra23 said on the 1st Feb, 2011

More likely a Birds of Tokyo / Bloody Beetroots fan.

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 1st Feb, 2011



You do know there are other stages right?

batdan

batdan said on the 1st Feb, 2011



I like Tool and Iggy. That cuts deep.

Stefan Beck

Stefan Beck said on the 2nd Feb, 2011

That reminds me have The Stooges been getting big crowds or is it more of a Neil Young situation?

grattan

grattan said on the 2nd Feb, 2011

It was a bit Neil Young - first day of Sydney BDO strolled into the D and up front about a minute before the Stooges came on.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 2nd Feb, 2011

John Butler had put all contenders for the front of Iggy asleep prior.

lanesra23

lanesra23 said on the 2nd Feb, 2011

^^ Totally agree.

I would still like to see John Butler playing solo. For some reason I've never been able to get into the JBT records, but I absolutely loved One Small Step.

Braveheart81

Braveheart81 said on the 2nd Feb, 2011

For me, JBT is music for people who think they like music but don't really. Pretty much like Jack Johnson.

It's also for people that loved boy bands when they were a kid but have now refined their tastes into something really sophisticated (or so they think).

I might just be old and jaded though.

random_hero

random_hero said on the 2nd Feb, 2011



go listen to some Amy Meredith you teenybopper

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 2nd Feb, 2011

I don't mind John Butler but he has really become a parody of himself now.

random_hero

random_hero said on the 2nd Feb, 2011

The Vines, Andrew WK, Bloody Beetroots and Rammstein were the best bands of the day at the BDO imo

ThatDude123

ThatDude123 said on the 2nd Feb, 2011



As I was walking towards the mainstage after Reggie Watts on day two, I told my friend whilst pointing at the people who were walking the opposite way "Man I hate all these Bloody Beetroots fans"

One of them said "Who are the Bloody Beetroots?"

Gave me hope for humanity, still.

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 2nd Feb, 2011

For me, JBT is music for people who think they like music but don't really. Pretty much like Jack Johnson.

It's also for people that loved boy bands when they were a kid but have now refined their tastes into something really sophisticated (or so they think).

I might just be old and jaded though.

Haha, you're a little bit old and jaded.

John is a underrated talent - one of the country's best guitarists and a great entertainer. He hasn't got a perfect track record, but I really enjoyed his latest album with the new lineup.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 2nd Feb, 2011

I don't think he's underated. I just don't think he has put put out a good record since Sunrise Over Sea.

daveyac8881

daveyac8881 said on the 2nd Feb, 2011

Not underrated at all, most guitarists love him, along with John Mayer. His recent stuff still sucks though. Songs like Take are brilliant, he should do them.

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 2nd Feb, 2011



He's only made two albums since Sunrise Over Sea! GN was average, but April Uprising is actually mostly quality stuff.

ThatDude123

ThatDude123 said on the 2nd Feb, 2011

Xavier Rudd > JBT

Also only in the dreamworld inhibited by the members of this forum is John Butler "underrated". Dude releases albums and songs that go Number One and headlines festivals in fucking France. If anything we pay his conceited demeanour too much attention.

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 2nd Feb, 2011

Oh come on, Xavier Rudd hasn't made a good record since like 2005.

And just because someone is successful, doesn't mean they can't be underrated. I think Jackson Browne has had a decent amount of success, but I still consider him one of the most underrated songwriters ever.

berlinchair101

berlinchair101 said on the 2nd Feb, 2011

Everyone I know who plays guitar jizzes themselves about him.

And he's not an overrated guitarist either, he's amazing.

I just slept though his last two albums.

MorningAfterboy

MorningAfterboy said on the 2nd Feb, 2011

Guitar players are wankers by nature, though.
Kind of people that still think Santana is relevant and that Satriani ever was.