Saturday, January 26, 2008

Big Day Out Wrap

Gig: Big Day Out, Sydney Showgrounds 25/01/08

For me, this year's Big Day Out was a different experience to all of those I had been to before. It was my sixth in total and, although the music was great, it didn't have the same spark as all of those in the past. The last one I attended was in 2003 - I'm now wondering whether it's the festival or whether it's me that's changed in that time.

The best thing about the Big Day Out in the past has been the vibe. Back in Perth (where my last five BDO experiences have been) I knew hundreds of people in the crowd. Growing up there, I always seemed to bump into a familiar face, in the pit, at the bar, anywhere in the crowd really. I kept on thinking that it would be the same this year. I knew it wouldn't, but just like Pavlov's Dogs, it is something ingrained in me - and when it didn't materialise it felt like something was missing.

My personal highlights of the day were all off the main stage. Enter Shikari were brilliant. A young band from St Albans in England, they rocked. I'd been talking them up all week - so I was expecting alot - but they delivered. It was raw, innovative, fast and strong - and I loved it.

Brilliance also came in the form of Tom Morello (the Nightwatchman) and Billy Bragg.

I had seen Billy Bragg once before, back in Perth in 2002 (I think) at a theatre show. I had been a fan for a while, and the show was my first real experience of modern folk/protest singing. Watching him perform at the Big Day Out reminded me of Bob Dylan and the other protest singers of the 60's and 70's. One man, with a guitar on stage singing about issues that affect us all. It was pretty powerful - and I'm looking for a bootleg of his alternate version of 'The Great Leap Forward' if anyone has it.

Tom Morello peformed with all of the passion and anger we have come to expect from him in all of the years he has been with Rage Against the Machine. Like Billy Bragg he performed solo, belting out brilliant songs, with the crowd eating out of the palm of his hands the entire time. Probably the highlight of the day was the version of Midnight Oil's 'Beds are Burning' with two of the member of Anti-Flag - they nailed it - and it fitted in perfectly with the day.

Unsurprisingly the Arcade Fire and Rage Against the Machine were both outstanding. Rage came out strong, and with a heaving crowd played all the hits. I made it to the front of the pit for the entire Arcade Fire set, which was a thrill. More band members than you can count on two hands on stage at any one time, they embody enthusiasm in music. They bounce around, share instruments, sing along to every tune - if I could see them play everyday I would certainly be a happier man.

Looking back I guess the Big Day Out is still the same festival it has always been. But for me it has certainly changed. The bands are still great, but I guess enjoy more when I'm there with all of my friends. Getting crushed in the pit together, fighting our way to the bar together and randomly bumping into each other in the most unlikely of situations throughout the day. That's what makes it a Big Day Out.

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