Big Day Out @ Parklands, Gold Coast (22/01/2012)

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20 years ago, Macaulay Culkin was once again left home alone, however this time in New York. Kurt Cobain married Courtney Love, Bill Clinton was elected the 42nd president of the United States and the Nicotene patch was created. All that aside, 1992 was also the first year that Australia welcomed the now annual festival Big Day Out. Set in Sydney, featuring the Violent Femmes and Nirvana, the brain child of Vivan Lees and Ken West has now since grown into the most respected and desired traveling festival within the southern hemisphere.

Though despite increasing popularity in the previous years (seeing Sydney host double bills three times) 2012 has sadly received the most negative response to date. Ridiculed online, blasted by critics and laughed at by fans, the once powerful and strong pull of this prestigious festival has now been left battered and bruised. With failed contracts between Eminem, Prince and Blink 182, and the highly controversial Odd Future taken off the Auckland leg of the tour, 2012 also saw the final guitar strung for New Zealand music lovers due to finical constraints. To be blunt, the old girl is suffering.

Behind the scenes madness aside, an estimated crowd of 38,000 rolled into Parkland Showgrounds to celebrate the 20th year of Australia’s favourite tradition. Despite the lower than usual numbers, the excited crowd did not appear any different to previous years. All speculation of the failing festival was not replicated by the audience either: The only thing really noticeable was the great amount of room now on offer around the area. With smaller numbers, comes greater stage hopping abilities.

Catching the last handful of tunes from Aussie heroes Bluejuice, front men Jake and Stavros impressed the moist crowds with a typically shirtless summer set. Idols of the sunburnt country, the Juice are known for their outrageous and often over-the-top on stage performances and this was no difference. Absolutely wasted hidden away inside the boiler room, unofficial Australian anthems Vitriol and Broken Leg echoed throughout the 3-quarter full tent, surprising for the early time slot.

Next cab off the rank, and perhaps the most in demand act of the day, Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All saw the most intense crowd surge ever witnessed. Predominantly underage children, somehow these guys just ‘speak to them’, Tyler The Creator and his boys flowed through the set, accompanied by low driving bass lines and vulgar vocal outbursts. Filled with stage diving, cussing and attacking camera men, other highlights such as Yonkers saw the overcapacity front section result to anarchy and mayhem. Needless to say, the Odd Future following is one not to fuck with.

Norwegian electronic duo Royksopp have teased Australia for too long now. Practically the Radiohead of dance, this always rumoured act is one of the most wished for tour by us Australians. So, finally gracing our shores all these years later, the very synth pop infused electronica understandably drew one of the largest crowds. Incorporating the beautiful genres of ambient, house music and downtempo, the unique duo won them critical acclaim with everyone in attendance. Including their trademark eccentric costumes and masks, crowd favourites such as Happy Up Here, Poor Leno and What Else Is There saw the greatest of applause.

As the heavens opened, and the rain began to poor on the originally steaming hot day, bass friendly DJ and all-round hairy beast Bassnectar embraced the drowned ravers. Speaking recently of just what he will bring to his set, Bassnectar delivered a performance that held up to the promise of an electric in-your-face set. Never light on the heavy, the Californian face-melter also wowed the ravers with his stunning visual light show. Having half the Gold Coast shaking with every drop, the sheer intensity and passion witnessed almost overshadowed the amazing performance this producer gave.

Next up, and a personal favourite, American mashup king and copyright legend Girl Talk welcomed his guests to the best party of the their lives. Decked in tracksuit pants, and quick to remove his shirt, this environmentalists nightmare packed his stage with the most beautifully hyper locals the coast has to offer. Firing toilet paper guns into the crowd throughout, with hundreds of balloons and confetti cannons exploding, Girl Talk and his posse turned the once clean boiler room into an absolute dump site. However, it was the music that saw the most sweat produced all day. As expected, powerhouse acts like Phoenix, Jay Z, Queen, Kelly Clarkson and Ludacris were violated from the get go, as vocals and instrumentals looped throughout the show to give that ‘28 songs squashed into one’ feel. Quite possibly the most fun you could have without it being illegal, the vibe and atmosphere of any Girl Talk gig is one you simple cannot explain, no matter how much confetti you have in your hair after.

Sadly delayed over 40 minutes due to the often unexpected and horizontal rain, headliner Kanye West had a lot of making up to do. As chants and boo’s echoed around the ground, the quintessential pop superstar Mr West eventually rose from the crowd, glowing in the spotlight, after a magical H.A.M instrumental intro. With almost everyone in attendance to witness the god like figure, Kanye’s set held the highest expectations of any concert possible. Swallowed by an enormous set, featuring a throng of stunning and incredibly flexible dancers, West belted out classics such as Through The Wire, Hell of a Life, Gold Digger and All of the Lights in true style.

Throwing his voice more than usual, often singing new verses and free styling to loops, the historical headline choice also indulged the audience with several extended versions of classic tracks. His fantastic on stage banter, claiming that the show was ‘worth the wait, the hate, and will be the best to date’, Kanye treated the lucky Gold Coasters to a rare acapella rendition of Touch The Sky. Openly out and proud about his stance on sponsorship or paid opinions, West also embraced his perceived ego by calling himself an ‘arrogant, conceded, crazy ass, self-centred, motherfucking monster’ during the climax of Stronger. However, it was the sneak peak first verse acapella of Niggas in Paris that saw the crowd go wild. ‘I can’t do it without my brother. Just wait for the tour’, West later hinted.

Even if ticket sales didn’t fare all too well for promoters and the line-up felt well unappreciated, the Big Day Out still provides that authentic and inimitable festival vibe. So, while it may be having a bit of a mid-life crises and drowning in the great sea of Australian live music, expect the traveling festival to bounce back harder, better, faster and stronger than ever before next year. Just you watch.

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