Words and Images by: Alex Anastas
Big Day Out :: 01.22.10 - 01.23.10 :: Olympic Park Showgrounds :: Sydney, Australia
The Big Day Out traveling music and arts festival rolled into Sydney for its only two-day stand of the whole tour. Annually playing in six cities across Australia and New Zealand since 1992 (there wasn't a festival in 1998), past BDOs have featured a veritable who's who of the rock and alternative music scene in the vein of Lollapalooza, including but not limited to such headliners as Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters, Sonic Youth, Primus, Rage Against the Machine, Beastie Boys and The Chemical Brothers. The Big Day Out stage has also seen Australian acts exposed to a much larger audience and helped launch the now successful careers of bands like Silverchair, John Butler, Jet and Powderfinger. Loaded with great hard rock, 2010's lineup of 70+ acts across eight stages was no different, with some experienced Big Day Outers like headliners Muse, The Mars Volta and Powderfinger, as well as a few true heavy metal gods to keep the headbangers happy, including Mastodon and fest closer Fear Factory.
| Muse :: 01.22 :: Big Day Out :: Australia|
Friday, January 22
Normally in Sydney if the old mercury pushed over 100-degrees on a long holiday weekend, rest assured most of the 53,000+ fans that turned up ready to party at the Olympic Park Showgrounds would have been pool or oceanside, Aussie beer clutched firm in hand. Being the Big Day Out, however, this was a party that would not be deterred even by the multitude of cops with sniffer dogs at the main gates. Infiltrating inner city bus and train stops from the early hours of Friday and Saturday, scantily clad hipsters and young music fans flocked in droves to the venue. Annually the host of Sydney's Royal Easter Show, the animal habitat Showgrounds surround the state-of-the-art park built for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney.
Entering these grounds at midday was like being thrown into an inner city back street blender without a map (they had already run out of those by this point). Having been to the previous three Sydney BDOs, I pretty much knew the drill of where to look for drinking wristbands and other key facets of the day such as free potable water stations, but I pitied the newbies. Signs were fairly non-existent and the rising temperatures definitely helped to play tricks on one's mind. After meeting my friends at the outdoor Green Stage for the final shimmering melodies of British pop upstarts The Temper Trap, I decided we should heed the bannered message one fan was displaying high and proud to "soldier on" through the incredible heat. We instantly sought refuge in the spacious dance party Boiler Room venue for some tech savvy spinning by the prolific DJ MDX, otherwise known as Mark Dynamix. Armed with an assortment of breakbeat mixes, MDX and the four LED panels flanking the huge airline-hanger space really got the party going. Not in any rush to leave the comforting shadows of the indoor Ferris wheel, we stuck around the Boiler Room for Itch-E and Scratch E featuring MC Scribe on guest vocals. Playing 16 years after first debuting on the Big Day Out stage, DJs Paul Mac and Andy Rantzen threw out lusciously danceable techno beats while New Zealand's Scribe rapped "Fresh" over the top, much to the delight of the now packed room. And packed in they were, awaiting the highly anticipated, often over-hyped spasmodic A.D.D. mash-up artist Girl Talk. The crowds surged towards the stage for a better look at the musician otherwise born as Gregg Gillis. As his (paid?) stage-riding freaks and geeks shot toilet paper and confetti out of leaf blowers, Girl Talk blended in a lot of Australian shout-outs, including Crowded House's "Don't Dream It's Over" with Snoop Dogg's "What's My Name," as well as AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" with Rihanna's "Umbrella."
| DJ MDX :: 01.22 :: Big Day Out :: Australia|
Having had our fill of the start-stop Girl Talk work-out, we sought late afternoon refuge at the Hot Produce outdoor stage for a little plucking from folk outfit The Middle East. The mellow five-piece delighted with sparkling harmonies and several stories from the road providing a welcome juxtaposition to the frenetic dance party in the Boiler Room. This proved to be a quick stop-over on our way to the main stage for East-London "Rude Boy" Dizzee Rascal. With his gold-capped teeth glimmering in the hot Aussie summer sun, many a bikini-topped girl rode the shoulders of her respective fella while taking in some of Dizzee's old-skool sounding hit singles, including "Dance Wiv Me," "Dirtee Cash" and "Holiday."
| Lily Allen :: 01.22 :: Big Day Out :: Australia|
Both the outdoor main showground stages (titled Blue and Orange this year) as well as two of the other outdoor side stages (named Green and Essential) always had an act going, with stage hands frantically preparing the next stage for musicians to begin the second the previous act finished up. This aspect of the Big Day Out makes the experience extremely stimulating and action packed. Thus, as soon as Dizzee Rascal finished his performance at 6 p.m. on the nose, the infamous Lily Allen was ready to get going. The sunset arrived, much to the delight of the heat exhausted crowd, as Allen launched into her MySpace sensation "Smile." Dancing wildly in bare feet around the stage in a gaudy silk dress, Allen sang her bubble-gum pop numbers like "Fuck You" in double time, taking the occasional break to sit coyly on the edge of the stage and tease the crowd with "Littlest Things," proclaiming, "Us English are not used to this shit-hot heat."
Forgoing the now intensely packed Boiler Room's Calvin Harris show for The Mars Volta, I was not sorry at all. Playing to an intimate audience crowded right up to the main stage, the Volta played this first day a bit safe, perhaps still a bit woozy from their barn burner of a show at the Hordern Pavilion two nights before. However, the band did not disappoint at Saturday's gig.
Escaping to some much-appreciated respite in the VIP air-conditioned bar high above the main stage in the venue's skyboxes, I watched Powderfinger's show from a distance. Even though the devoted fan base sang along to every track and drank up every sobering minute of the experienced band's one-hour set, our crew just couldn't get into it. Perhaps it was the long day's sun finally catching up or my eager anticipation of the final main stage act.
| The Mars Volta :: 01.22 :: Big Day Out :: Australia|
Muse did not disappoint. Playing many tunes off of their recent award-winning fifth studio album, The Resistance, the world dominators also displayed proficient chops on fan-favorite tracks off hit Haarp. Offering far and away the most advanced light show of the night, Muse used the speaker stacks to their immediate left and right to project live video feeds from the stage as well as clips from their innovative music videos. Adding irresistible icing to the cake, the English trio also employed sharp green lasers. This visual eye candy, the very special tribute encore to Aussie legends AC/DC, combined with their revolutionary anthems like opener "Uprising" and "United States of Eurasia" provided an amazing soundtrack to march out of the festival grounds to.
Muse Setlist: Uprising, Supermassive Black Hole, New Born, Undisclosed Desires, Interlude, Hysteria, Nishe, United States Of Eurasia, Helsinki Jam, Resistance, Starlight, Time Is Running Out, Unnatural Selection
E: Back In Black (AC/DC cover with Nic Cester of JET), Plug In Baby, Knights of Cydonia
Continue reading for Saturday's coverage of Big Day Out...