Big Day Out @ Sydney Showground, Sydney (22/01/10)
Mon 1st Feb, 2010 Event Reviewsin
I had my reservations. A combination of cynicism and a distaste for crowds left me non-plussed at having missed out on a ticket for the Big Day Out 2010. The idea of sweating and grinding with 50,000 delirious beat junkies didn’t immediately appeal, and besides, it’s all so commercial nowadays!
Then, an email from my editor asked me if I wanted the review spot, suddenly my cynicism dissolved. Sasha, Kasabian, Simian Mobile Disco, Girl Talk – fuck yes!
After a breakfast of cocktails we were on the train heading west. Clad in singlets and neon zinc the carriages throbbed with anticipation, cheap vodka and testosterone.
Tame Impala were playing at 12:30, this was an hour far too early for their greatness. I heard the end of their set as I shuffled through the main gate. I was gutted to have missed them, but to those readers who haven’t experienced their live show, I can assure you that they put on an amazing performance. Tame Impala are going to take over the world – if they ever drop their album.
First stop was Oh Mercy. Their lilting brand of shoe-gaze harmonies were soulful and mellow. Alas, they really didn’t look like they were having much fun on stage. The sun combined with the soaring vocals to send me into a dreamy sleep. I stumbled out dazed and disorientated.
I bumped into a guy wearing a T-shirt that read “Get out ya schedgy!” it had a copy of the festival timetable printed under it. His left nipple announced that Kasabian were on the main stage.
Off we went and of course Kasabian fuckin’ rocked. They’re like Oasis but with with more rhythm, they are the English answer to Kings of Leon. The drums laid a heavy break-beat, distorted guitars, a subtely whining synth and soaring vocals all combined to get the crowd moving. The sun was relentless. They opened with Vlad the Impaler, so funky, yet loud and un-compromising. The guitarist looked like Bob Dylan in all black, the bass player looked like Joe Cocker at Woodstock and Tom Meighan had his pants pulled up high and wore a Burberry shirt.
I watched Eskimo Joe from the VIP bar, the air conditioning being the the only thing that made it tolerable. I’d heard their made-for-radio pop ballads so many times before and hoped that perhaps their live show would take it up a notch, it didn’t.
Passion Pit called and so I headed back out. They filled the Converse stage, they clearly had a strong following. Relentless synths grooves and squelchy bass gave way to vocals full of hope and optimism. It was sickly sweet good times. Little Secrets sent hands into the air, the crowd loved it, but as the set wore on the beat didn’t really change, the monotony of the ‘80s synth set-in, I fled the harsh sun for the womb like safety of the Boiler Room, my old adversary, how I love you.
Girl Talk has hit on a popular formula and he’s sticking to it. He smashes together the most obscure tracks with pounding beats; to rousing approval from the audience. His most successful mash ups were old rock tracks and funk tunes ground into submission by a completely dis-associated beat. He had a throng of beautiful people on the stage behind him, they gradually lost their clothes. Arcade Fire’s Wake Up with a phat break was epic.
Dizzee Rascal has brought grime to the massses, the irony had me enthrawled. The BDO is predominantly a rock festival and yet Dizzee filled the main-stage with adoring fans. As the consummate performer he brought out some classics, dividing the crowd in two and having them compete in exuberance. He dropped all the party bomb’s that have shot him to stardom, Dance Wiv Me, Bonkers and Holiday. I was stoked to hear Fix-Up Look Sharp, the uber-deep grime bass line shook the entire stadium.
Lily Allen’s rise to mainstream has fame followed a similar timeline to Dizzee’s, it is unfortunate, however, that her stage presence couldn’t keep up. Dizzee is a hard act to follow but Miss Allen didn’t even try. She sauntered on stage and drove straight into one of her melodic tales of heart break and masturbation. She floated around the stage in a technicolour Kaftan with an air of detachment. I’m sure her die-hard fans revelled in the catchy pop tunes, but that staccato back-beat became so mundane. Sorry Lily, it’s not me, it’s you.
The BDO organisers should be commended this year, beer lines were short, toilets were plentiful and water hoses and sprinklers were keeping revelers cool. The sea of plastic bottles was a little concerning, the lack of recycling bins was non-sensical. I would be interested to know what happens to all that plastic.
Back over to Converse and I wandered into the sparse crowd soaking up Devendra Banhart’s folky goodness. I took a seat to be enthralled. The sun was setting to the west and the grass was dry and soft, like Devendra. His live show lived up to all the hype, it was four guys jamming on a balmy Friday afternoon. He joked with the crowd and strummed and reminisced, he spoke of his home in Mexico and took as all on a sonic trip. From the sublime to the ridiculous, Devendra gave way to Jet, I made a very rapid exit.
The Mars Volta sure can play them guitars. Their fans are perhaps the most devoted you’ll find and it was a tight pack within the D barrier. They are uncompromising rockers, those wailing vocals and impossibly erratic drums, the riffs are so abrasive and yet it all tumbles together in a mountain of sound. You can’t help but be intoxicated by it. Cedric Bixer Zevala’s flowing locks floated over the stage as he crooned, the set was a multi-layered combination of improvisational interludes and the rousing builds of their best known tracks, the set was too short.
I dashed back to the Boiler Room to see the Simian Mobile Disco pair hunched over the turntables. They delivered a heavyweight serve of pounding tech house. They dropped in tracks off their latest album and kept a small but appreciative crowd moving.
Muse was the word on everybody’s lips. They revealed towering screens and a blinding light show. The sound was crisp, like Matthew Bellamy’s hair. They paraded an arsenal of instruments and gave their adoring fans everything they could have hoped for. The main stadium was filled to capacity, it was quite a site from up high. I was mesmerised by the lights and the rousing delivery of Uprising. Apparently they brought NickCester from Jet on stage, I’m glad I had fled for the Boiler Room by then.
Sasha played a house set, it was loud and transcendent. The laser show was spellbinding. His hour long set seemed to last for only a few moments.
I came back to Earth in time to see the Groove Armada massive take the stage. Their re-birth was led by the gorgeous SaintSaviour, she appears as some sort of Goddess; or perhaps a robot from the future. Tracks like I Won’t Kneel were delivered with energy and soaring vocals. SaintSaviour pranced around the stage, gyrating and twisting, she showed us her flexibility both physically and sonically. They brought their older tracks, My Friends offered a mellow interlude. The finale of Superstylin’ blew the roof off the cavernous Boiler Room, the bass was deep and the rhymes booming. Groove Armada are back!