February 4th, 2008

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The Big Day Out 2008

I've attended my first BDO. Since the BDO started in the early 90s, I have managed to deamonise the event more and more in my head with each passing year. Up until yesterday, I was convinced that its basically a gathering of drunk yobbos walking around without shirts on. I always assumed that the intoxicated crowd would be enough to ruin any act that I might want to see. As such, the whole event has never appealed to me.

This year however, the combination of Bjork and Unkle (both without separate sideshows in Perth) was enough to entice me to take the tip and experience the festival atmosphere.

The line-up was reasonably extensive, though most failed to instil enough excitement in me to bother going out of my way to watch them. My original plan was to arrive in time for the Midnight Juggernauts, then watch a bit of Regurgitator, before heading to the Green Stage to see Battles. But after eating a late lunch at the Lebbo place in the city, we only arrived in time to see the last band in that line-up.

Blake is quite fond of Battles, while I had not listen to them enough to really know what to expect. At first, I was a little confused by what I was hearing... what the hell is Math Rock anyway? But after a while, the music becomes surprisingly 'interesting' to listen to. The music sounded constrained and frustrated, as through it wanted to jump out of its Math Rock shackles. It was not until this morning that I realised that that was what made the music so fantastic. Listening to this music is more like reading, or looking at a pattern. Quite fascinating really.

You cant really see them.... but on that stage, Battles are in progress.

After Battles finished at 16:50 there was a bit of a lul. The next, and first (for me), must-see act was not on until 18:30, in the form of Unkle. We took the opportunity to walk around the grounds, looking at Merchandising (we both wanted a Unkle t-shirt.. but couldn't find one(?)) and trying to find Marie, whom was working in one of the Coke stands. We failed to find Marie, but luckily my 2ltr bottle of water lasted long enough for us not to have to worry about buying water.

The crowds gathering around the Blue/Orange Stages

During the wait, we walked and listened to a little bit of Spoon, Grinspoon and the beginnings of the Arcade Fire set. We also coped an earful of the god-awful Pnau - WFT was up with that shit? Utter garbage in my view, though I respect that some people like it.

We headed up to the Boiler Room (a outdoor stage) with about 20min to spare in order to get a good spot. Unfortunately this move forced us to endure 20min of Goodwill... quite possibly the worst DJ I've ever heard at a professional music event. The man was just terrible. Crap choice of songs, and no ability to read the crowd. As a matter of fact, his 'teasing' with Born Slippy by Underworld was so arrogant that I'm surprised no one beat the crap out of him. Had he actually played it, the crowd would have been reasonably happy. Instead the man finished his set on such a low, and with such contempt for his audience, that I hope that bad things happen to him. Yes.

Finally Unkle came onstage, with a full band in support. Most of the audience seemed to have little idea who this man was, nor did they care. A lot of people seemed a little annoyed that their little techno party was being interrupted by 'rock'. None the less, the band played - and they played well. James Lavelle sang a few of the songs, while another guy (who's name I'm sure I'm supposed to know) sang most others. The live versions of the Unkleworks worked very well. I even enjoyed 'Burn my Shadow' A LOT, though it is traditionally not a song I overly like.

James Lavelle and the band, doing their thing. Photo courtesy of haze

I really think Unkle and the band did a fantastic job. But I think they were put on the wrong stage. They should have been on the Green Stage, or the Essential stage, along with the other bands. As a result, the crowd was not as responsive as it could have been. There were a handful of other Unkle fans in the mix, which was nice to see, but not enough to really create the atmosphere I was hoping for. I'm hoping they'll come back sometime and do a separate concert. The thought of a venue crammed full of Unkle fans delights me.

Much like at the Crowded House concert a few weeks ago, it was the audience that let the show down... though I'm sure people will claim that blame laid with Unkle as well. I disagree!

Next up was our main even - Björk!
We managed to get a reasonably spot about 120m from the stage. I had a pretty clear line of sight to the stage, as well as the large screens to the left of it.

Yes, Björk is on that stage somewhere. These photos are from the start of the set when the sun was still up (...obviously)

I was a little nervous about seeing her. There was no doubt that she was going to put on a great show for her fans, but I was unsure how the people that weren't would react... and I was worried that an unresponsive crowd my potentially remove some of the enjoyment. Luckily that fear was removed very quickly and most people were either dancing, or simply watching the stage in amazement. She really is a little bundle of bursting energy, and its hard not to be slightly spellbound by her accent when she talks to the audience :-) Stand-out tracks for me where Wunderlust, Army of Me, Bachelorette, Hyperballed and Declare Independence (though I founds it's dedication to the plight of the aboriginal people a little off-putting). I normally hate when artists change their songs too much during live concerts, but the hung beat-fest and lightshow that concluded Hyperballed was just fantastic.

The sound-quality was fantastic also, and there is nothing like listening to Björk at that volume and sound-pressure to make you appreciate how fantastic some of her bass-lines really are. Furthermore, the reactable (thank you for the name Blake) that was occasionally shown on the big screen was almost hypnotic. I could have happily just stared at it for the whole show, so I guess it was a good thing that it was not shown all the time. I urge you to watch these youtube vids - reactable: basic demo #1 | reactable: basic demo #2

When Björk finished, Blake and I pretty much decided to head home immediately. We figured we might as well finish the night on a high. None the less, we took in the sounds of RATM from the train platform, feeling ever so slightly glad that we were not down there with the masses. We were not the only ones, as the platform quickly filled with like-minded people.

The whole day was a lot 'easier' than I thought it would be. In my head, I always assumed that the BDO is just a huge party full of drunk people I would never want to associate with. This was not the case at all, though there were a lot of dickheads about none the less... but not enough to actually hamper my enjoyment of the even - with the exception of those idiots during the Björk set... luckily they moved on after a few minutes.