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

Sand, shoes

I spent most of yesterday trying to figure out if I wanted to go to the Big Day Out. There were a few moments where I almost went off and bought a ticket, but in the end I decided to leave it until today.

And today I decided not to go. I was worried that maybe I was getting olde and didn’t want to go because I didn’t want to have to deal with all the 15-year-old punk-arses, but then I realised that I’ve not gone to the BDO before and I’ve been dealing with 15-year-old punk-arses ever since the first BDO.

It came down to the basic fact that there weren’t enough bands performing this year that I really wanted to see, so it wasn’t worth the $100+ ticket to see a bunch of bands I’m not really into. And I also realised that wanting to see the Beastie Boys because I was really into them when I was 12 (Oh, how I was hot for Ad Rock. Oh, how I lovingly fondled the LP of “Licensed to Ill” in a local record store.), is not quite the best reason.

But I had taken today off work in case of the BDO, so I decided to go to the beach. The nearest nice beachy place to me is Mission Bay. I bussed into town and walked along Tamaki Drive, forgetting that it’s a good 6km along there. But it was a lovely day and the walk didn’t feel like 6km.

You know what happened at Mission Bay? Kids played in the fountain, people sunbathed on the beach, friends threw frisbees, dogs rolled in the grass, mothers wiped up melting ice cream and pigeons battled it out with sparrows for crumbs.

I was going to get the bus back to the city, but I’d just had an ice cream extravaganza and was all hyped up on its ice creamularity, so I decided to go for a walk up to Bastion Point. But once I got back to Tamaki Drive, I just kept on walking and didn’t stop until I was back in the city. Oh, so that’s 12km in a day. Behold my stamina!

Big Day Out Observations

At the Big Day Out I was sitting up in the stands being disappointed by some band. So instead of trying to enjoy their mediocre set, I looked around at all the people and noticed what was going on.

Among the items of Metallica merchandise was a bandanna. Various bogan guys could be seen around the stadium with the bandannas tied around their heads. However, it was a more difficult look to pull of for girls. I saw one petite girl walking along with her boyfriend. He had the bandanna around his head, and it looked ok on him. She had also tied hers around her head and it looked terrible. Her small head meant that the bandanna was all out of proportion, and coupled with her hair sticking out the top of it, it looked more like a head bandage than a cool bandanna. Shortly after another chick walked past me. She had the bandanna tied around her hips, and it looked so cool that I heard some guys behind me commenting on its hotness.

Dehydration is a legitimate concern, but compulsive sucking of a bottle of water is freaky. There’s the baby bottle aspect of it, the gross sucking noise it makes, and the undeniable fact that seeing someone sucking on a water bottle just isn’t attractive. To use the sipper-top requires screwing your mouth into a nasty sneering position. But people have started to pick up on this and I noticed more than a few people unscrewing the sipper-top and drinking out of the bottle. It’s, like, the cool thing for 2004.

In the Black Eyed Peas “Shut Up” video, Fergie wears an boobtube with a bra underneath. This look was all over the Big Day Out. It’s cool because it means that girls who need the support of a bra can now wear a boobtube, and girls with a small bosom can wear a boobtube without it looking like they’re wearing a support bandage. But there’s one sort of girl who shouldn’t do this look: the extremely obese girl. There’s a difference between celebrating your body, not hating your wobbly bits and putting on a freak show. Boobtubes do not normally come in size 20 so the few girls like this I saw had squeezed themselves into probably a size 16. People looked, but it wasn’t a “wow, there’s someone who isn’t afraid to dress how she pleases”, but more like “Oh my God… look at that!”.

Thanks to mentions over the last year on “Space” and C4, jester hats have now moved into the category of fashionably uncool. Normally there’s a stall selling them, but I didn’t see one this year. I did actually see two jester hats, but one had beer logos on it (which probably makes it worse). Quietly on the way out is dyed hair. Back in ’94 at the first Auckland Big Day Out I remember all these incredibly cool guys who’d dyed their hair blue or green especially for the occasion (and had the stained hands to prove it). This year I didn’t see anyone who had done BDO dye job. There was a stall run by some hairdressers who were doing spray-in colours, but hardly anyone seemed to have gone there. The few people I did see with the spray-in colours looked like they were living in the past.

Big Day Out 2004

First I will complain about the train. My brother and I got to the Mt Eden station and waited. I heard other people saying they’d been waiting for over an hour. After about half an hour the train showed up, but it was completely full so no one could get on. I said, “this is fucking bullshit, maaaan,” and felt really angry with society. We walked on into Queen Street and caught the bus.

This time ten years ago I was 19 years old and excitedly exploring the very first Auckland Big Day Out. Now I’m older and I think my gig-going stamina may be waning slightly. After last year’s BDO I felt really worn out. But I don’t want to be one of those elderly people who ends up only being able to survive the Big Day Out from the air conditioned comfort of a corporate box, enjoying cold beer. Yeah, it’s about being hardcore, man.

The Darkness
I’ve somehow managed to avoid hearing many of their songs, so I didn’t have much to cling to, but the big, fun rockness was really fun. I think this is what the Datsuns would like to be, but won’t because they also want to be taken more seriously.

Then were went off to get some food and ate that in front of the Lily Pad stage. There was a thing possibly called “Straight eye for a queer bloke” which seemed to involved dressing up a fellow from the audience as a typical Aussie bloke. I like how the Lily Pad provides entertainment for people eating their Hari Krishna vegetarian real meal deal plates.

Something for Kate
This was totally not on my schedule. We were checking out the Green and Essential stages. Zed was just finishing off their set, then Something For Kate were on. (Most people were off seeing the Black Eyed Peas, but they can kiss my arse. They had a ton of goodwill from “Where is the love” but they blew it with that terrible “Shut up” song. Maybe hearing “Weekend” would have make it ok, but it wasn’t appealing.). Paul from Something For Kate thanked the audience for choosing to be in front of that stage. They were surprisingly rockier than I had expected. They did a cool cover of REM’s “The one I love”, and they played “Three dimensions”, which is probably my favourite Something For Kate song.

Then it was time to get hot and sweaty in the techno tent with Peaches. It was pretty much the same as last night’s show, only with a whole lot more people. I noticed a few bogans craning their necks looking for rudie nudie girlie bits. The virtual duet with Iggy Pop seemed to work much better in the tent. Oh, it was only two years ago that I saw Peaches performing in front of a tiny audience on the Lily Pad stage.

Dandy Warhols
I was looking forward to seeing them, but somehow it just didn’t work out. Their coolness in recorded form was not quite coming across live. They didn’t suck, but they just didn’t engage me enough to please me.

The Datsuns
I don’t like the Datsuns music. It’s like there’s one kind of song they know how to write, and they just keep doing variations of that. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. They had a huge crowd and I realised that they pretty much had the position that Shihad normally have, the big, cool New Zealand rock band that everyone loves. Ye olde Shihad should note this.

By this stage I was getting a little disillusioned. I sent my brother away to get some food, and tried to find an angle to dig Muse’s set. They that That Song and The Other Song, which were both cool. And there was some nice keyboard stuff. But that was about it. Ok.

The Strokes
I was sitting down, starting on my curry and rice when The Strokes started played. Suddenly I realised that I there was no way I could sit through their set over on the other side of the stadium. I scoffed down the curry and quickly made my way over to the Strokes side. As well as having a pretty good view of the stage, there was also a giant video screen showing various scenes from the stage. Occasionally the video operators got overexcited and used cheesy video effects, and sometimes they mistakenly thought that the audience would rather see stuff like a guy in the audience with a Cat In The Hat hat instead of the Strokes, but most times they got it right.

The Strokes were brilliant. Everyone around me was dancing around and singing and being happy. The Strokes sounded like they do on their albums and they looked like they do in their videos. Julian claimed to be drunk, and he was charming and funny. He taunted the Metallica fans waiting over on the other stage, causing them to give him the finger en masse.

They played “Together Alone” which is my favourite Strokes tune. I felt very glad to have been in the audience for a such an enjoyable show. Finally, finally, the Big Day Out was picking up the pace.

I wasn’t planning on seeing Metallica, but then they started playing and they were so cool. There had been heaps of guys walking around all day with Metallica t-shirts on. They were all packed up the front of the stage, but the rest of the stadium was full of people who maybe weren’t Metallica fans, but were interested in these metal godz.

They worked through a number of songs from their older albums and new ones from “St Anger”. Lighters were waved during “Nothing else matters”. The grand finale involved massive fireworks, explosion and GIGANTIC FIREBALLS. And then they played “One” and it was good. But there was more. “Enter Sandman” was played, with a huge burst of fireworks when the loud bit kicks in at the start.

Metallica were so rockingly great that I have totally forgiven them for that Napster business a few years ago.

I got home expecting to be completely worn out, but oddly enough I feel about the same as I normally do at the end of the day. Could it be that I’m in much better shape than I was last year, and that I’m not so old and haggered?

Big Day Out 2002

There I was, 10.17 am on the morning of the Big Day Out, puking in the gutter on K’ Road (or something like that). I diagnosed that I was indeed ill, probably brought on by eating at that horrible cafe at the bus depot.

Of course this meant that I couldn’t go to the Big Day Out. No, I would have to curl up on a couch and feel miserable, especially since at that moment I was missing Blindspott and/or Augustino. I was getting ready to do this when I realised that I was feeling better and could probably handle nine hours of music festival madness.

So I showed up at Ericsson Stadium, was randomly abused by this lame-arse dude handing out flyers for some corporate rave, but once I got inside I caught the last few songs of Sommerset’s set. A few seconds into their punk-arse sonic assault, I realised that I had made the right decision in coming.

After Sommerset, I met up with the fellows who had peer-pressured me into buying a ticket in the first place, Mr Satan and Mr Titboy.

First stop was the booze area. DB Export Gold was the only beverage available, which I think is actually a good thing. It means all the 18 year olds who can legally drink won’t drink because they don’t like beer. But of course that didn’t stop the girls sitting near us from sneaking in a bottle of peach schnapps.

Teenage girl bum crack cleavage a go-go. (Sorry, I just wanted to write that.)

We drank through Tadpole and The Feelers. Tadpole were really nice. They made the grey, overcast sky feel a little bit sunny. The Feelers, however, have an almost terminal uncoolness about them. There’s a bit of good pop in there, but I could see that the crowd was getting a bit bored when the set when on too long. We sat around for a bit of System Of A Down, then trekked over to the green stage for the White Stripes.

Having listened to the White Stripes quite a bit lately, I realised that they kind of remind me of the late Darcy Clay. There are similarities between Jack White and Darcy Clay’s singing style and guitar playing, but it’s more like that if Darcy Clay was still around today maybe he’d be sounding a bit like the White Stripes. I wasn’t going to pay much more mind to my Darcy Stripes theory, but then the White Stripes launched into a cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”, a song that Mr Clay also covered. It was at this point I had to run away and throw up. This really annoyed me because I was really enjoying the White Stripes.

I emerged from the portaloo to some really heavy rain. I got soaked, but I didn’t care because I’d just thrown up so I was feeling pretty good. I met up with the boys and we discovered that Shihad had just finished playing and System Of A Down were starting again after previously being stopped because the crowd had gone wild.

It was still raining, but the mosh pit and the stands were packed with thousands of people who wanted to see System Of A Down. About halfway through the set the opening chords of “Chop Suey” were played and the crowd went mental with excitement. I’ve heard the lyrics many times before, but it was the first time that, “wake up! Grab a brush and put a little make up,” really made any sense. The crowd surged with energy.

(Y’know, there were these System Of A Down t-shirts for girls. They were white baby doll tees with “System Of A Down” in pink and silver. How cute.)

By then the schedule for the main stages was out of sync with the timetable. Silverchair were next on stage. We watched them for a bit then left and saw Jurassic 5. A week ago I vaguely remember seeing a Jurassic 5 video and declaring, “this isn’t rap. It’s pop.” But standing there on wet, muddy grass, I realised that no matter what genre it was, I was diggin’ it.

Next we headed over to the Lilypad to see Peaches. The rain had slowed the schedule down, so we had to wait until Bambi Slut’s Allstars had finished. We were just sitting around, waiting, when some police came over. One of them invoked section 18 of the Misuse of Drugs Act (1975) and insisted that Mr Titboy empty out his pockets and prove that he didn’t have anything on him. Mr Satan was also asked if he’d been smoking pot. They didn’t talk to me about anything, which was disappointing. I listen to gangsta rap, I try to cultivate this hardcore image, but it would appear that it’s just not working. The police found, surprise, surprise, nothing illegal on Mr Titboy, so we were free to continue loitering until it was time for Peaches.

The first time I heard of Peaches was when I was in New Caledonia. I was watching an interview with her on a German arts TV show. It was dubbed into German with French subtitles. Through all that I thought she seemed pretty interesting.

So on stage she comes with her big hair, aviator glasses, black pants and a pink jacket. By the end of the show she was wearing red stockings, red hotpants and a black bra. What happened in between was very entertaining.

There was a CD providing the backing music. Peaches would rap and/or sing the vocals. She was also joined by Mignon and the Cobrakillers, who also took turns at performing their own songs. There was bondage stuff, wobbly strap-ons, latex nurses uniforms, and I think she was the only performer I’ve seen who not only told the audience her bra size, but performed a song about it.

There were times when she finished a song and would need to leave the stage so the other girls could come on and do another song, and she’d just drop the mic on the ground and split. Thunk. That’s more punk than smashing a guitar.

Peaches: “Licky, licky sucky, no one here can tell me they don’t want a fucky fucky.” Audience: “Yeah!”

Obviously after that wondrous performance nothing else was going to be as good. I noticed that walking in mud all over the place had turned my blue Vans into brown Vans. But I like swamps and I’m happy to hang out in one for a while. We returned to the stadium seats and were just in time for the Prodigy.

I’d forgotten how much fun and how rockin’ they could be. “Change my pitch up,” Keith Flint chanted. “Smack my bitch up,” the audience responded. That song and “Firestarter” were the ones that really got the huge crows moving. Steam from the pit was rising high, and there was love out there, man.

There were quite a few radio stations along for the ride. BFM is cool because they play music like Peaches and the White Stripes and it felt more like they were there for the music, not just to promote the station. It was really fun mocking the other radio stations there, especially the one that was playing Nsync as I walked past it. The ‘Sync has its place but the Big Day Out is not it.

We wandered around for a bit and Mr Satan revealed that he’d found some guy’s wallet. I was looking through it and as well as finding a selection of cards, some receipts and a little bit of cash, there, tucked away in a little pocket was something that looked not unlike an eighth of a tab of acid. We guessed the wallet’s owner probably wouldn’t be reporting it missing to the police.

It was getting late – a Big Day Out day gets late earlier. We considered squeezing into the big, hot, dripping tent to see Basement Jaxx, but we decided to call it a night and got a bus back to the city, then caught a taxi back to Mr Titboy’s place. The taxi fare was paid for out of the lost wallet.

Despite all the incidental annoyances it turned out to be a pretty good day. Hooray for live music.