Big Day Out 2008

Every year the Big Day Out comes around and I think, “Ugh, I’m too old to go this year,” either because I don’t know enough of the music or I think I haven’t got the stamina for it. But then it comes and if if I don’t go, I always regret it.

So this year I just went ahead and bought a ticket as soon as they came on sale, without even knowing (or caring?) who was going to be playing this year.

The weird thing about BDO this year was that I didn’t seem to know many people who were going so I just kinda turned up to Mt Smart Stadium without a posse. Even my boyfriend, the slender gentleman Mr Simon Le Bones, had ditched me (somewhere between Real Groovy and Mt Smart Stadium. I think he’s got work as a roadie for Arcade Fire. Arsehole.).

I caught the very last fading chords of the Checks’ set, dammit, and then Liam Finn started playing on the adjacent stage. I wasn’t ready for a reasonably popular singer with a largish crowd, so I went over to the obscure stage, uh, I mean, the Local Produce stage and saw a bit of The Lookie Loos. You know how some bands can be really competent musicians but not have any of that magical spark that makes a great band? Yeah, they were like that.


I was thinking back to the first Auckland Big Day Out, in 1994. Back then, you couldn’t buy bottled water, so I wonder what people drank back then. I can’t remember. Did we fill an old soda bottle with water? Bring along an old school drink bottle? Did we survive on Diet Coke and those weird “smart drinks” that was en vogue at the time? How did we survive? How did we not dehydrate and wither and crack into a fine powder and be scattered by the wind over the general Penrose area?

Anyway, back over on the Essential/Green stages area, I got the end of Tiki Taane’s set and stuck around for about half of Kate Nash’s. See, there were rumours that the Cribs were going to be playing, but that never happened. But Kate is going out with Ryan Cribs, so that little connection was what kept me there. But I was getting tired in the hot sun, so I went over to the bad old stadium and sat down for a bit.

Kate Nash

The Bleeders (yawn) were finishing up on the Orange stage, and then Spoon played after them. In Australia Spoon will play on the smaller Green stage, and that’s where they should have played in Auckland. They are not a stadium band.

Around the place, I noticed quite a few guys with New Zealand-themed tattoos. The coastline of New Zealand was quite a popular one, as was a variant of the Southern Cross stars from the New Zealand flag. This is a simple and effective way of saying that you went on your OE and got really homesick.

I wandered back up to Green/Essential and caught the end of the Hilltop Hoods, an Australian hip hop group who appear to be hugely popular over there. They have violins and hip hop beats, which is all a bit ’80s novelty act, if you arks me.

Billy Bragg took to the Essential stage. He said he’d left his backing music behind, so it was just him and his guitar, but that was OK with me. He played a number of his old hits (“Greetings To The New Brunette”!) his strong political ones and a Woody Guthrie song (and a free lesson about songwriting). The low point was a reworking of “One Love” to be all about wiping debt of developing nations. It’s a good message, but the song came across like something you’d sing in primary school. The audience seemed to be into it, bloody lefties. He ended with “A New England”, which is one of my favourite songs of all time, and included the extra Kirsty MacColl verse. Nice one.

Billy Bragg

Next was The Nightwatchman, which is the solo project of Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine. I have this feeling that the inclusion of The Nightwatchman was a proviso of RATM’s appearance, because I can’t imagine that it would have been booked otherwise. It was just him playing crappy songs on an acoustic guitar. Through his work in Rage he’s such an influential guitarist, but this didn’t show any of that. The fanboy audience seemed to like it, though. I walked out after a couple of songs.

I saw a bit of Pluto back in the main stadium. I still don’t get Pluto. They seem to make music for themselves. Hm.

And back up the top, I caught the end of SJD. I don’t get SJD either. I know a few people who love SJD, but it also feels like music written for himself rather than for the listener. Alienation ensues.

Then Battles were playing. I started out near the front of the stage, but then I realised that I couldn’t see anything on the stage, I was surrounded by sweaty topless guys, and this girl was smoking in my face. So I moved over to the grassy area by the side of the stage and enjoyed things sitting down. It’s not music you can dance to, so it seemed far better to sit down and just enjoy the wiry sonic journey rather than trying to make it all fit some rock festival template.

A got a little bit of Paul Kelly, but was feeling hungry so I got a a felafel and sat down in the main stadium, where Shihad were playing. Wow, Shihad playing at the Big Day Out. How unusual!

While I was sitting there, I saw a hilarious thing. Two dudes, both wearing different t-shirts with “GUNT” on each of them, saw each other and the t-shirt he was wearing. They got excited and did a manly hug, before wandering off into the crowd, perhaps never to meet again.

Anyway, my time for liking Shihad was about 10 years ago, but I don’t like to think about those times too much. In fact, the whole Shihad set just got me really bummed out. Like, I’d never paid much attention to “Home Again”, other than thinking of it as being their “Wahey! It’s great to be back in New Zealand”, but I suddenly realised that it was one of those songs of the great rock theme where the singer is on the road and misses his sweetie back home. And I then I experienced that feeling – I’d only previously heard other people describe this – of being surrounded by thousands of people but feeling totally alone. Shit!

Watching Shihad

Something had to be done, and fast, so I quickly went up to the Green stage in time for the Phoenix Foundation. They were just what I needed. The crowd was small, but loving and when the band played “Nest Egg” and the whole crowd swayed along. And then when the “It’s a lie!” bit came, everyone shouted it out. Yeah, it’s a lie that you gotta be the big man.

It's a lie!

Again I went back to the main stadium and saw about half of Bjork. Actually, I only heard it, because my view was obscured by a promo tent. I’m not really a Bjork fan, but an old flatmate of my used to play “Debut” all the time, so I ended up knowing a lot of the songs she played. At one point green lasers shot out of the stage, and then a confetti bomb went off, showering everywhere with little bits of paper.

Then it was time for the antithesis of Bjork – Rage Against The Machine. I had (have?) their first album (on tape!). I know it well, and it was just fun to sit back and revel in all the fire and anger. Bullet in your heeeeeead! Bullet in your heeeeeeeeead! Yeah. But I realised after a while that RATM have no shadows and light. It’s all rage, all the time. And after a while it gets a bit tiresome and their songs all start to feel the same.

I thought about going up to see the Clean, but I realised that I really really wanted to hear Rage play “Killing In The Name”, so I stuck around for that, the final song of their encore. It was rool awesome. It’s just so well structured and it builds to the massive climax where virtually everyone’s jumping around, middle finger in the air, yelling out, “Fuck you! I won’t do what you tell me!” You can look for irony and say things about conformity, but sometimes it’s just fun to yell along to angry political songs and party like it’s 1993.

Killing In The Name

It’s kind of strange, though, how the two big headline bands were big in the ’90s. In fact, they both played at BDOs in the ’90s. Where are the big new bands of today?

And keeping with that theme, stars of Big Day Out 1995, the reformed Supergroove, were playing the last timeslot of the night up on the Green stage. I was never a Supergroove fan cos they were my age – they just seemed liked a bunch of dorky guys in a band, not cool rock dudes. I saw a couple of their songs, but the thought of going home appealed much more.

It’s strange. Like, I had a good time, but it was just really bittersweet this year – almost enough to make be not want to go next year. Oh, but I probably will. (It’s always better as a memory than as an experience.)

More of my BDO photos can be found over at Flickr.

What I saw

14 thoughts on “Big Day Out 2008”

  1. And I then I experienced that feeling – I’d only previously heard other people describe this – of being surrounded by thousands of people but feeling totally alone. Shit!

    I’m not proud of this, but on occasions when I feel that way, I hum this to myself for a bit of ironic distancey goodness. It usually helps.

  2. “It’s kind of strange, though, how the two big headline bands were big in the ’90s. In fact, they both played at BDOs in the ’90s. Where are the big new bands of today?”

    Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem….surely both qualify as big new bands of today. Sound of Silver was arguably the most critically acclaimed album of 2007, Arcade Fire need no qualification, clearly the most acclaimed live band of the last couple of years……..reason enough to go to BDO especially as they were doing no side gigs in Auckland as they are in Sydney.

    And neither you or Russell went out of your way to see them. Extraordinary! Here in Sydney their 2 side gigs in a 3,000 seat theatre sold out instantly…..the buzz is palpable.

    Seems very odd that they are a non event in NZ. I wonder if Sufjan would have gone down like a lead balloon as well.

    3 sold out concerts to adoring fans here in Sydney this week. He was brilliant.

    Whatever you do don’t miss Wilco!!!!!!

    Sydney is still buzzing from last years gig. Best band in the world….until I see Arcade Fire.

  3. Heh, I did very much the same as you Robyn, instead of agonising over ‘should I stay or go’ I simply bought a ticket and decided to go whoever was playing.

    And going with a small posse makes you much more mobile and decisive, plus its easier to get into great spots!

    Didn’t get away from work that early, so first band I saw, other than some amusing Maynard v Maynard at Lilyworld, was Spoon (great, odd time for them to be on – a bit like the Killers from a couple of years ago, and they really put their backs into it).

    From there it was on to Billys Socialist Rally (I liked it, but it felt kinda twee. Loved the Kirsty McColl tribute).

    Onto UNKLE in the Boiler Room. Loved these guys, buzzing guitars mixed with thumping dance music. One of my highlights.

    Back to Arcade Fire – disappointed I couldn’t get back into the front section ‘funnel’, but I was well impressed. A band that delivered on the hype, great rollicking tunes (it might be sacrilege but they reminded me a little of a mix of early REM and the Pogues, with Canadian accents) and a live personae that suggested they were really enjoying themselves.

    Checked out Paul Kelly, which I loved – a consumate pro who felt like a warm hug from an old friend.

    Then possibly my fave for the whole day, a band I’d never seen before, Phoenix Foundation. I’d heard a lot of good things but never really listened to them, now I’m a convert. Smart, sophisticated music with killer hooks hidden everywhere. I’ll be searching them out now.

    Time for a few more – caught the end of Krafty Kuts and MC Dynamite who had the Boiler Room rocking and sweating, and stayed for all of LCD Soundsystem to have my head blown off. They seem to have the same punk/dance ethos as the Lo-Fidelity Allstars.

    By then I was full of music – exited to my waiting scooter to the strains of the Clean.

    Always a good day out.

  4. “Sound of Silver was arguably the most critically acclaimed album of 2007”

    Not being mean and critical but I love it when people use “arguably”.
    Anything can be arguably true.
    I am arguably the best thing since sliced bread.

    I have never been to BDO – I am one of those people who always thinks, oh yeah, I should go, but I never do.
    BDO is arguably a waste of time anyway.

  5. Arcade Fire, LCD Soundsystem….surely both qualify as big new bands of today.

    Yes, they do. I tend to stay away from the Boiler Room (Anglo-Saxon heat aversion issues), but I see that LCD Soundsystem played at the very respectable timeslot of 9pm, and I heard it was really good.

    My issue was mainly with the last three acts on the main stage (Shihad, Bjork, Rage) being these artists who were arguably at their peak 10 years ago. But maybe the fringe is where it’s at.

    How could you not go to the Arcade Fire? Don’t you listen to me talk ever?

    I’ve tried to get into the Arcade Fire. I really like that one song they did for the penultimate Six Feet Under episode (“Cold Wind”), but beyond that it just all seemed a bit overwhelming. So when it came to Arcade Fire time, I was up by the Green stage, lyin’ on the grass, enjoying the last of the afternoon sun with Battles.

    Richard, thanks for your BDO story. I’m glad you liked the Phoenix Foundation. I haven’t seen them live nearly enough. That’s going to be one of my things for 2008, I reckon.

    Mel, you have arguably missed out on many great live performances over the last 14 years. You have also arguably missed out on sunburn and sweaty manbacks in your face. Also, OMG, no one must know of our secret love, arguably!

  6. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who don’t get SJD, and those who don’t get those who don’t get SJD. It’s difficult, but I won’t hold it against you.

  7. I’ve never been to the BDO either. Not that I would have gone, but seen Rage as a headliner this year and the Stooges last year really puts me off.

    That said, I would have liked to have seen Spoon and Billy Bragg.

  8. I thought the Stooges were the year before? Those old fuckers rocked! I didn’t go last year, and therefore missed Lily Allen, which I rather regret now. (I had a severe My Chemical Romance allergy and, erm, *arguably* couldn’t quite handle them.)

    LCD Soundsystem, Dizzee Rascal and Bjork were my 2008 winners. Arcade Fire *would* have been awesome if I could a) hear them and b) see them. I was obviously in the wrong spot.

  9. Hey Robyn
    I got the same feeling as you – kinda bittersweet. Too much 90s music as headliners, and many crap local bands with no sense of humour or showmanship. I bought a ticket cos I HAD to see LCD Sound System, and they were fantastic, but I was sitting down in the stadium at midday thinking, gosh, I’ve got 9 hours to kill before they come on, what will I do? That bummed me out for a minute, and then I remembered I could have been at work, and it wasn’t so bad. Surprise of the day – Arcade Fire, very impressed.

    Richard L – it was Mayall and Mayall at Lilyworld – John Mayall’s sons djing.

  10. “Richard L – it was Mayall and Mayall at Lilyworld – John Mayall’s sons djing.”

    Thanks Peter – I’m not sure where my Maynard and Maynard came into it, obviously some kind of freudian slip 🙂 But they were very funny!

  11. Jesus Christ the Auckland big day out must suck the next thing down from donkey balls,the way you guys talk about it!,im thinking about Sydneys next big day out the moment I leave the gate on the way back to my friggen hotel!,for Christsake it could have no internationals at all and be filled with just local acts and I gaurantee the large majority would have a bloody ball,I mean how many partys with 75’000 do you get to attend a year?(im going on Sydneys numbers there and i might be a little of with the numbers,correct me if im wrong)not only that but……RAGE RAGE RAGE HOLY FUCK!,the band that is the friggen beatles to 20-35 yr olds has reformed and there here!!! in our two wonderful countries!I mean evan the fucking “im so above electric guitars,loud music,and energetic performances,id rather put strange colored ribbons and flowers in my hair,look at clouds,and sleep on the grass at the main stage rather than dance on it”,crowd has been placated with their eskimo nutjob godess Bjork,kate nash and those bloody dafodils playing accoustic guitars with no back up,crikey evan the bloody old but loveable todgers like my dad are catered for,with Billy Bragg and Paul Kelley!


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