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A Nostalgic Look At One Of Australia’s Longest Running Festivals

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The vast array of acts at this years Big Day Out attracted a corresponding diverse crowd. Whilst there were the younger female demographic all dressed up in glitter, daisy chain headbands and short shorts, there were 60 year old men in cowboy hats, the token metal heads in King Parrot, Carcass, Metallica and Pantera shirts, those that looked as if they’d come strictly for the drum and bass and Matthew Richardson. It turned out to be a trouble free day with multiple bands putting on excellent performances

After a somewhat worrisome morning of showers and a dismal looking forecast, the music gods seemed to have deemed the festival just and provided an umbrella for patrons as any unwanted high sky waters ended up bypassing the festival altogether. BDO’s layout showed that it was not only a music festival but a festival in a broader sense of the word. With many market stalls, more rides I’ve seen at any other festival and more miscellaneous activity areas to keep ones self entertained, perhaps whilst waiting for your next favorite band to start. Which to me is usually the purpose of these attractions. But instead of being there to simply fill that void, the ‘extra features’ took a more prominent role.

Upon entering the festival I caught a glimpse of a band I later found out was called Bluejuice. Their very tight, gold spandex was reminiscent of the late Freddy Mercury. There really is only one man I can honestly bare to see in such a costume. There was no time to spare gawking at the bizarre spectacle though as Brisbane’s Violent Soho had already begun their reign on the Red Stage. It was a great to start the day with some headbanging to kickstart things off. There was certainly a generous crowd for one of the opening bands of the day. As they tore into Jesus Stole My Girlfriend, singer/guitarist Luke Boerdam let the crowd know “Security is obviously cool, so you can do what you want, go for it!!”. The audience took this quite literally, and thus the act of ‘crowd walking’ was born. It couldn’t have been more befitting as the song revolved somewhat around Jesus, and well, you know how Jesus supposedly did that whole walking on water thing, turns out humans can walk on other humans, provided there is a mosh pit.

The next two bands I went and saw were certainly more on the chilled side of the spectrum. Previous Heavy feature artist Kingswood were the first to mellow me out a little. I was not the only one feeling this way either as the smell of marijuana was increasingly evident throughout the crowd. Kingswood has some tasty solos in the bag and it would serve them well to flex that muscle just a little more. Next up was Tame Impala. I am a fan of their very ’60s sounding fusions, catchy melodies and The Beatles style vocals (ironic as my favourite Tame Impala track is the instrumental Jeremy’s Storm), but the absence of any sort of backdrop or accompanying visuals on stage forced you to carefully watch the band. Unfortunately they don’t do much and the crowd was wary of this. If you refuse to have any sort of stage show, pyrotechnics or visuals and have the the audience attention solely on you, make it interesting and don’t just stand there. Do that thing musicians do when they’re on stage and flail about a little.

The most recognizably zany band of the whole lineup certainly lived up to the expectations. Primus stole the attention of Tame Impalas onlookers with their distinctive stage setup which comprised of inflatable spacemen and two peculiar umbrellas. At least this gave something for people to look at. The reason for the umbrellas was revealed later on in the set, after countless amounts of staccato bass shred. It turns out Les Claypool can’t quite handle the Australian sun and humorously mentions how he’s such a pussy and quickly follows up his own self statement with an out of nowhere bass line to which he also comments “by the way, that bass riff was just bullshit, complete nonsense.”

A virgin to The Cosmic Psychos but in no way a virgin to the Australian hard/pub/punk rock, The Cosmic Psychos delivered the goods with crude humour, punk attitude and absolute hilariousness. Lead singer and bass player Ross Knight had a charisma to him like no other on the day. At one point guitarist John McKeering lifted up his guitar to do a hammer on solo to which he also provided the crowd with a front on view of his massive beer belly. This all happened in the midst of a crowd that included Matthew ‘Richo’ Richardson in a Virtual X Iron Maiden T-shirt, who was loving every minute of it. The set concluded and John McKeering gave the crowd a good buy waive using his butt-cheeks. A great way to finish off their Melbourne set in true yob rock fashion.

Finally the time had come for my personally most anticipated band of Big Day Out, Ghost. Having seen them at last years Soundwave, and been blown away, I now had a years worth of Ghost inside me and was yearning for some satanic early ’70s era metal. But it was almost Ghost O’clock and I grew worrisome. The band that had made the biggest impression on both Heavy Magazine and myself, had minimal support only ten minutes away from unholy initiation. Their time slot fell between the cracks of juggernauts Pearl Jam, Snoop Dog (Lion?) and the recently catapaulted Flume. With only four bands to choose from at this point in the day, the crowd had gone the other away. Not to worry though as Ghost put on a standout performance with Papa Emeritus II at the forefront in all his dark glory. His five nameless ghouls backing him in every way. All six members use their body language in such an interesting and unscrupulous manner. It is both eerily creepy and at the same time highly fun and entertaining. Standing at the very front of the barriers allowed me to gaze into the frightening eyes of Papa Emeritus II and his nameless Ghouls. Getting up close and personal with this band is so worth it as Ghost feed off of the energy the crowd emits and interacts in a way that allows the audience to feel engaged with what is going on onstage. But even with their enigmatic abnormality Ghost was ultimately misplaced among the BDO fray.

All in all, BDO 2014 was a solid day with an interesting mix of both bands, people, stalls, rides and an atmosphere that has retained some of Big Day Out’s charm as an Australian focused music festival. This was evident as many of the Australian acts that played had some of the biggest crowds of any which included Violent Soho, The Cosmic Psychos, Kingswood, Northlane, The Drones, Tame Impala and Flume. What the future holds for BDO I do not know. But if the festival can retain its identity as a multi-faceted entertainment festival, with a focus on big Australian bands and a diverse range of crowd, the festival may have some longevity and life left in it still.

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