Big Day Out @ McCallum Park, Perth (05/02/2012)

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With crowd numbers at the 2012 Big Day Out reportedly at only 12,000 (down from 35,000 in the previous year) there was undoubtedly a backlash in Perth against the stripping of headline act Kanye West and others from the bill. The fact that the changes were announced after tickets had been on sale certainly didn’t go down very well with the public, and many regular attendees decided to give this year a miss.

I was personally excited about the change in venue, having always hated the Claremont Showgrounds – too many bottlenecks, not enough shade and average sound quality. We were fortunate on this day to have much cooler than usual temperatures for a Big Day Out, and there also seemed to be more opportunity to find some shade under a tree than at the former venue.

With the close proximity to the Swan River foreshore, a few enterprising boat owners had moored close by. Some friends of mine wandered down later in the evening and reported that they quite enjoyed both Soundgarden and Nero’s sets for free, with clear views of the stages and great sound, from the cycle path running beside the venue. Perhaps the many fence jumpers earlier in the day should have just stayed outside?

The first act I caught was Kimbra. Given that Kimbra is currently the flavour of the month (owing to a certain duet) I expected a lot of “wow” from her performance that, for me, just wasn’t there. I can’t really put my finger on it – there was nothing wrong with her singing, but perhaps she was lacking in stage presence. Her cover of Bobby Brown’s Every Little Step was an interesting departure from her own material, and she finished her set with Cameo Lover, to the delight of what seemed to be a mostly young, female audience.

Meanwhile in the Boiler Room, local boy Drapht had pulled a huge crowd who were furiously waving their hands in the air, particularly for the final song of his set Jimmy Recard. Quite often I have been to festivals where they just can’t get the mix right for hip hop artists, but I was really impressed with the sound quality today. Even though the tent was open sided there seemed to be minimal sound clashes, and it was great to get some airflow as well.

Boom! Bap! Pow! were playing on the Local Produce Stage, with vocalist Novac Bull decked out in a velvet onesie and giving it her all, despite being in the full glare of the sun. A lot of passers-by were caught up in their soul, doo-whop sound and joined the crowd dancing along. These guys were tight, highly energetic and definitely one of the most fun sets of the day.

Boy & Bear had attracted a huge crowd, both in front of the stage and gathered at the front of the licensed area. I only stuck around for a few songs, long enough to hear their cover of Fall at Your Feet and then moved on to see Battles. I don’t really know how to describe their set apart from it being an intense cacophony of sound that somehow worked. During one song the keyboard player was seemingly striking keys at random; the crowd was lapping it up. They were all wearing long-sleeved, button-up collared shirts and I couldn’t help but think how hot they must have been; the drummer visibly went from dry to soaking wet in the space of one song.

I moved back out to the Green Stage to catch The Jezebels, who delivered a powerful set. Lead singer Hayley Mary absolutely owned the stage and her voice was amazing. I didn’t really know what to expect from this band but obviously I have a lot of catching up to do.

I reluctantly tore myself back to the Boiler Room because I wanted to get a spot down the front for Royksopp, who, for me, were one of the main reasons to attend. I’d been waiting a long time to see them perform, and when they came out with two guitarists in tow to deliver a live set I was overjoyed. Opening with Alpha Male, they quickly moved through Happy Up Here and then long-time collaborator Anneli Drecker came out on the stage for The Girl and the Robot. This was shaping up to be the set of the day for me because I’d always wanted to see them perform with one of their female vocalists.

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