So here's my Big Day Out experience.
JANUARY 29, 2012
I had decided that since my interest in music - and in particular, indie and alternative music - has been on the increase since coming to Melbourne three years ago, that I would get out to see more live acts. I especially wanted to see some of these acts before they die, or I die (whichever comes first). Already I've missed Faithless, I don't want to miss too many others. In 2008 I saw the Rogue Traders with my then-girlfriend, 2011 was Ratatat and Cut Copy, and in 2012 I saw Katie Herzig and Butterfly Boucher accompanied by Missy Higgins. I debated going to see Blood Orange as well, but that was based purely on Sutphin Boulevard and his older work as Lightspeed Champion, so I decided against it.
So I figured, late 2011, why not see a bunch of them at once? Someone - I think it was Nic - pointed out that the 2012 Big Day Out lineup was crap and that tickets weren't selling very well as a result. I looked up the lineup myself, and lo and behold, the artists featured were almost exactly my taste (except for Kanye West). Yes, waverider37 is a semi-hipster. Deal with. So I made a snap decision to use the last of my birthday money on a trip to Flemington Racecourse for a bit of fun. A ticket came up for sale on the university's Facebook chatter page, and I snapped it up.
I had a couple of blows, though, when a couple of people that were planning to go along with me pulled out almost last-minute, so after a desperate (but very small-scale) scramble on Facebook to find others, I made the decision to go alone (despite 99% of my friends suggesting I try and find someone anyway). Last-minute, Tom told me it's probably better that I go alone, and lo and behold, I found a few advantages to going by myself.
Woke up at 9, packed a hasty lunch (and tea), filled up my water bottle, made sure I had everything I needed, and walked out the door. I had decided to get there by train, simply because it seemed like the easiest option. Soon as I got to Southern Cross Station, I realised that it probably wasn't going to be easy after all - platform 13 was jam-packed with eighteen-to-twenty-fives. I decided to forego the first train and wait for the next one - after all, there were plenty running, and the first act I wanted to see wasn't until 1:00p. Once I actually got on the train, I sunscreened up, and recited The Owl And The Pussycat to a bunch of people who were wondering "what's that song on Play School with the owl and the pussycat". (For the record, it's one of my favourite poems, simply because it has an owl and a cat, and so naturally I know it back-to-front. But I digress.)
So I arrived there at roughly 11:30a - half an hour after the start time of 11:00a - and took a little bit of time to work out what the go was. There were six stages for music, one for skating, and about half a dozen other carnival- and theme park-style rides and attractions. I made a few mental notes of where everything was, so I could rock up later, and immediately set about buying a T-shirt (I always pick up a souvenir. T-shirts at Rogue Traders and Cut Copy, a poster at Ratatat and photos from the Northcote club). Once that was out of the way, it was time to relax and start getting myself ready for the long day ahead.
I relaxed in the Boiler Room1, the biggest single stage at the venue. The Boiler Room had non-stop action all day (except for a trivial five-minute break between 12:15p and 12:20p), mostly from DJs and electronic producers in an alternating pattern. So, first up for me was Bluejuice at 1:00p. I'd heard a few of their songs and disliked them, and a few others and liked them. Mainly I was in it for Vitriol and Act Yr Age. But even for a hit-and-miss band (IMO) I still found the energy to have a dance and a bit of fun. Of course, the band had their own fun, encouraging the audience to throw objects at them (obviously prepared), and one of the lead singers even went so far as to say "throw up some drugs".2 They finished on a high note at 1:45p.
I didn't have anywhere special to go until past 4, so I went for a little wander. Almost immediately, I came across a very distressed girl who was after some phone credit. After about ten minutes, I'd learned that she was from Merimbula in south-east New South Wales - a good few hundred kilometres from Melbourne - and had been somehow separated from her friends. Unsuccessful attempts to contact her friends finished anticlimactically when we happened across two of her other friends. I left the group and dropped in on The Jezabels - I wasn't that much into it, I was more into lunch and re-fuelling. But it was a nice little distraction.
One of the big problems of any music festival - but especially Big Day Out - is artists whose schedules clash, particularly if one has a wide spectrum of music tastes. I'd heard enough of Kimbra to entice me to go take a quick peek, however schedule clashes meant I only saw the first fifteen minutes or so (which meant I probably missed Cameo Lover, dammit). A band I've liked for many years was finally touring Australia, so I went back to the Boiler Room to watch Röyksopp at 4:15p. My gods was I amazed. They went through practically their entire discography, playing Eple, Poor Leno, Remind Me and What Else Is There?, which were (considering the lack of Erlend Øye and Karin Andersson) were pretty damned impressive. I loved the space-agey theme the light show had, whether that was deliberate or not. Unfortunately they only lasted one hour, and at 5:15p I trudged away, feeling happy-that-I-saw-an-awesome-band-but-disappointed-that-it-didn't-last-longer. As you do.
The next tricky decision was what to see next? Bassnectar clashed with the band I eventually went to the outskirts of - Architecture In Helsinki - a decision I regretted a little, as that decision was based purely on Contact High and their remix of Cut Copy's song Need You Now. So it became a break in the day that was slowly becoming a marathon effort. (Hell, I'm getting tired just thinking about it.) I forewent seeing the bulk of Kasabian, of whom I had no opinion, and endured the half-hour wait with no sunglasses for a three-second drop down a water slide. Worth it, though, as the day was a scorcher. Not even the humidity combined with wet clothes later on made me regret it. I ended up eating tea in front of Kasabian, in almost exactly the same spot as I'd been for The Jezabels.
The final sprint in this marathon was two-and-a-half hours of my favourite artists for the day, short of Röyksopp. I went back to the Boiler Room (which could have well and truly been my base for the day) to watch Tonite Only's DJ act. Slightly to my dismay, the music was fast and furious. Not in the sense of thousand-beats-per-minute, but more in the sense of each-song-lasts-ninety-seconds. I am accustomed to four-minute tracks, so this threw me off. Having said that, I still enjoyed the variety they put into the show, and the way that they managed to make a DJ act very entertaining. The video show in the background, the streamer cannons that they fired every so often, and the gigantic red dancing peace-sign hands behind them made me feel like I was at a Twenty20 cricket match. Hell, anything to get me through the huge effort I needed to stay on my feet.
Art Vs. Science was next. They were by far the most interesting act to see live, as the audience participation they encouraged was huge. At one point during Bumblebee the entire audience was asked to get down on their knees. Reluctant at first, I was half-pulled down by the girl to my left, so I obliged. A minute or so later, the music hit a climax and everyone jumped to their feet to begin dancing again. Never before had I seen such a huge crowd doing something like that in unison; not long after and at two or three other points during the show, the crowd looked like a giant metronome as they waved their hands (sans cigarette lighters) back and forth. During Parlez-Vous Français?, the volume of the crowd as they responded "OUAIS!" to every "Parlez-vous Français?" was enough to deafen almost everyone. Finally, there was almost no encouragement needed for everyone to "use their flippers to get down". Art Vs. Science: I am impress.
My last act for the day followed immediately after Art Vs. Science. I could tell that ShockOne was going to be a DJ act, mainly because of the format but also the fact that ShockOne specialises in drum and bass. Unfortunately, I was somewhat disappointed - not because ShockOne himself was a terrible DJ, but due to his copious use of dubstep (a genre I have come to dislike in general), the fact that he split his set up into four distinctive parts3, and his co-conspirator MC Shureshock yammering on over pretty much every song he played. Having said that, he did play the three songs I was hanging out for most: Crucify Me, The Sun and my personal favourite Polygon. Being borderline exhausted, I decided to scoot out of the Boiler Room and sit outside for the rest of the set. I needed to save what little energy I had left for actually getting home.
When Nero came on, I left the venue, and hopped on the trains back to the uni. I had a little time to reflect on how my day had gone. As I blocked out the sounds of a Big Day Out worker asking a multitude of questions to a Swiss couple who had been to see the tennis, I mentally mapped out the pros and cons of going alone versus (what I imagined of) going with people. Pros: you get to be your own person, no complaining about different music tastes (or being complained to about same), making your own schedule, nobody trying to encourage you into drinking or taking drugs, and the many many cute girls (mind, that's a pro whether or not you've got mates there or not). Cons: loneliness, and nobody to give you a mental energy boost4. That is all.
Bizarrely enough, on the train ride back, I had Love Less Love by Sparkadia in my head. Sparkadia weren't even there...
At 2:07a next morning, I got a call. I recognised the number immediately, and explained to the person on the other end that "I found your friend early this afternoon, she was a bit lost and we were trying to find you". She gave a hurried thanks, and headed off.
Update 23-02-2012: today I received a tablet. Apparently, Motorola had a competition going: if you rode that water slide I mentioned earlier you could enter a competition to in a tablet PC. I figured "nobody ever wins these things but I may as well give it a crack. And guess what...! Winning, hard.
1 A misnomer, of sorts. Most of the stages were more like huge marquees, except the Orange and Blue Stages, which were side-by-side semi-domes with huge areas of open space in front of them. Having said that, the Boiler Room was almost always full, and given the weather, was almost always boiling.
2 For the record, I didn't see any drugs being taken, though I could smell it at a few points throughout the day.
3 A DJ friend of mine maintains that sets need to be small and broken up by "drinking songs" - i.e. songs that are boring enough to make people want to quickly go to the bar and grab a drink. I disagree with this concept. Drinking songs are a myth, because people will go for a drink if they feel thirsty or sober, whether they like the song or not. This view I have is reflected in my own mixing efforts - for eighty minutes, I refuse to let the music let up. True, 80 minutes of flat out dancing is hell on a stick (as I discovered today), but that lets people decide when they want a drink, and not when the DJ wants them to take a drink. Ergo, less chance of huge queues at the bar; ergo, less chance of overworked and whiny bar staff. Smaller profit is not a problem as at bars I frequent, there are always huge numbers of people rocking up throughout the night. No worries at all in that respect.
4 A huge problem for extroverts such as myself. Having said that, though, I spent a long time being much more introverted - namely, the first 19 years of my life, along with smaller intervals throughout the next three years sprinkled throughout.