05 February 1999

Big Day Out 99

Geez it's been a while since I wrote a Diatribe. I know how lazy I am, and I hang my head in shame, but here it is: a summation of the return of one of my favourite events, the Big Day Out.

We started off the day with a brief bit of the Dirty Three. We were too far from the stage, so we went to the main stage to see Even.

Even were really good. I've never liked much of Even's work, but I thought that on the main stage they put in a ripsnorter of a set, and it was a shame to leave them for the 3RRR stage where Snout were playing.

But before that, we saw a sterling set from Matt Walker and Ashley Davies, in the hall. These two musicians make acoustic music beautiful again.

We didn't see enough of Snout, but from what I saw, they weren't their usual selves. Usually, they seem to work, but on the day, they were missing something. So we went to catch the Superjesus on the main stage.

This was the only time all day that they got the sound right on the main stage, and the Superjesus were performing well. Frontwoman Sarah McLeod has come a long way from when I last saw them, and their sound was tight and together.

3RRR stage again for Ash. Their thin sound problems grated on us, and we didn't hear them play 'Kung Fu', so we went off to the main stage to catch Regurgitator who I thought were alright, considering the sound problems on the main stage.

On a side note, it seems to be tradition that the sound on the outdoor stages at the BDO is nothing better than appalling. This year, they not only maintained that tradition, they redefined the term 'sonic muck'. Only on the 'Essentials' stage was the sound any good, probably because it was in a hall, and thus not subject to the noise restrictions of the outdoor stages.

But it was the Essentials stage where we went for the next band, Brisbane's Not From There.

Not From There have a sound that has been described as 'industrial', 'thrashy', 'dissonant', 'discordant' and 'arty' amongst others. I call it incredible. Even though the guitarist sings most of their material in German, you don't have to understand a word to get the general gist of this music, as I found. We watched in awe until they played Sich Offnen, and then went off to the main stage where Soulfly were playing.

Now, who would you expect to be louder, an arty noise band such as Not From There, or a sick Brazilian 'tribal metal' band? It certainly weren't Soulfly, and I could see metalheads shaking their heads in disbelief, not banging them, you understand, as the only parts of the mix that we could hear were the double kick drum and Max Cavalera's tortured metal vocals. We left after one song for a bit of a wander around.

Now, I know people who didn't go, as the price was a little steep. Up $20, in fact, on previous BDOs. But on walking around, we worked out that that was because they had included an extra stage (the new Skate stage) and an extra dance floor (the Hot House). Not being into canned music (the topic of conversation amongst us who are not boom-chi-boom-chi literate was whether it would be worthwhile checking out Fatboy Slim later in the day, as he might be "playing live". He wasn't), we spent most of the day moving from stage to stage.

And so it was back to the main stage for the Living End. And don't the kiddies love them. They sound a little bit like the Clash beating up members of the Stray Cats, but I thought they were good, plus, the thought of Topper Heddon and Slim Jim Phantom engaging in fisticuffs intrigues me. Possibly the biggest mosh of the day, next to Korn.

We went off to the hall to see Sparklehorse, who were, quite simply, breathtaking. Think country-pop, without getting phony Nashville, or folky, and were worthy replacements for Wilco, who pulled out.

On to the 3RRR stage for a brief spot of the Mavis's. Personally, I think they did well considering that Becky had to spend the gig sitting down on account of the fact that she had apparently slipped a disc.

Then it was back to the hall for Antenna, a band featuring Australian music legends Dave Fawkner (ex-Hoodoo Gurus) and Kim Salmon (ex-Scientists, Beasts of Bourbon and current Surrealist) as well as most of Sydney electronic crew Frontside. I thought they were very good. Chrissie Amphlett didn't make an appearance, but Matt from the Mavis's did.

Off again, we were, this time for a little bit of the Fun Loving Criminals on the 3RRR stage. They were, quite simply, lame, although, I could see the potential there for enjoyment. Indeed, after the event, all the reviews that I've read of the Fun Loving Criminals at the BDO have praised them incessantly, but we had to move on to see a little bit of Korn on the main stage.

Possibly the biggest mosh of the day, the sound, I noticed was a little better here, but still not good enough, and what was the echo off the stand? Most uncool, I thought. Anyway, I thought Korn played competently, and the kids loved them, and showed their appreciation in the mosh pit.

What is it with 'moshing' anyway? I liked it better when it was called 'slamming'. It was less gratuitous, ie people only slammed when the music was fast and loud, not all the time, and if people fell down, people made room so that that person could be helped to safety. Now it's just a session of aggression therapy featuring your average Moe babysitter and his mates, and if you're female, then be prepared to have your breasts ripped off in the most un-called for and obvious display of gropage I have yet to bear witness to. Bring back the honour system, oh, and by the way, it is most hard to see the band through a hundred bodies all crowd surfing at the same time. If someone tries to use my back to get up on top of everyone again, I will deliberately move out of the way at the right moment, just in time to have them come crashing to their death.

After we had seen enough of Korn, we moved off to the 3RRR stage again to catch a brief glimpse of Happyland. What we saw was actually good, and I welcome the chance to see a full set from them, preferably inside, and properly soundchecked.

Only after two songs of theirs, we went off to the Skate Stage to see The Mark of Cain, but the sound on this stage was possibly the poorest of the day, rendering TMOC's sound laughable, and you do not laugh at The Mark Of Cain.

Loss of respect for legends due to poor sound quality is one thing, but we went and saw Marilyn Manson's full set, as we'd been promised controversy. Alas, Manson didn't provide, however, he did provide a very professionally executed glam rock show, complete with the word 'DRUGS' in 5 metre high neon letters.

At this point, allow me to have a whinge at the kiddies who found it necessary to throw their empty (or, sometimes, not quite so empty…) water bottles at the performers. This is just plain deplorable. I have read numerous stories of how Kram from Spiderbait and Daniel Johns from Silverchair have been injured by flying missiles hurled from the audience. In Kram's case, it was an unopened can of beer. One day, a band is just going to walk off the stage two songs in, and the audience, being as aggressive as it is these days, is going to find the person responsible and beat them to a pulp.

Hole on the main stage to finish off the evening. I saw about five songs, and thought they were about 4000% improved on the putrid performance that they put in at the BDO about three or four years ago. But we left to catch TISM on the 3RRR stage after this, and apparently they went downhill after this because you know who talks too much and doesn't play enough music.

As always, TISM put in a superb set, marred only by, yes, you guessed it, sound problems. Ron Hitler-Barassi's poem was about how he took Marilyn Manson out to the suburbs, and how Manson despaired at the fact that there were people there more grotesque than him. Hitler-Barassi also claimed to have slept with Courtney Love.


Antenna, Matt Walker and Ashley Davies, Even, the Superjesus and Not From There

Standout Highlight



The sound quality, Fun Loving Criminals, bottle throwing yobbos, gratuitous crowd surfers, drinks prices

Worth the price?

As always, the answer is a resounding 'yes', and I am unanimous in that.