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Live Review: Big Day Out, Sydney

Monday 27 January 2014

Live Review: Big Day Out, Sydney

Sunday January 26                                                                                             Photo Credit: Kane Hibberd
Sydney Showgrounds, NSW

The month of January is saturated in Big Day Out’s hyperactive escalation; as each date creates a domino-esque build up to the next and its stars share their ride on social media, punters grow impatient waiting to become a part of it. But while last year’s Sydney edition was the hottest on record, the city’s Australia Day on Sunday began grey and intermittently spitting.

Unsurprising given the current festival market, Sydney Showgrounds was compacted in areas to better house the expected 35,000 fans. One sound technician told The Music Network the festival had only sold about 25,000 tickets to the 65,000 capacity venue, but sold-out or not, the festival’s organisers delivered once again on an impressive lineup and minimal punter stupidity.

Multi-ARIA winners and Grammy nominees Tame Impala awakened the flower crowned, booty-shorted females who didn’t seem to care that the Perth band were static and two-dimensional onstage. Kevin Parker floated through tracks like Elephant and Jam while most were transfixed on the psychedelic visual accompaniment.

When Californian funk-thrash trio Primus took the Blue Stage under orange beach umbrellas and before 30’-tall inflatable astronauts, the cult following was largely unresponsive. One mega-fan in a Primus tour shirt from the early noughties stood hands-in-pockets for bass virtuoso Les Claypool’s springing solo in Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver. Newcomers like this reviewer had to be reminded this was part of the band’s shtick; Primus is their own breed, a left-of-centre beast that evokes more admiration than participation

Mac Miller made $6.5 million in 2012. The 22-year-old was included in Forbes’ Hip Hop’s Top Earners list and is fast becoming the latest collaboration king. His set on the Red Stage proved why. With call-and-response successions, remixes of popular tracks like Objects In The Mirror and Gees to involve the humbled crowd and a stint at the piano for Youforia (“I just wanna play the piano so I can be John Lennon and shit”), Miller was the stand-out of the day, even if technical problems forced him to cut his set short.

From world tours to a #3 ARIA Chart placing, Sydney metalcore band Northlane had an incredible 2013 and their set on the Purple Stage – inside a tin shed essentially – proffered a more matured beast. Frontman Adrian Fitipaldes has a stage presence to be reckoned with; his energy was mimicked by the impressive turn out. His inconsistency didn’t go unnoticed however, clean vocals during tracks like Worldeater and Quantum Flux were honeyed wash-overs while his screaming parts were half-spoken and buried under guitars.

Snoop Dogg aka Snoop Lion captured the biggest crowd at the Red Stage. With a full band, rap-entourage and one member dressed in a dog suit holding a neon green penis, the 42-year-old rap legend may have entered the stage to his Reincarnated track Here Comes The King, but Snoop is a gangster through and through.

Some closed their 2014 edition with Arcade Fire and Pearl Jam but a select few of us chose Californian alt-metal heroes Deftones. A seamless set of raucous energy ensued from the gasping dispatch of the Diamond Eyes’ title track to the nostalgic bubble of Change, frontman Chino Moreno roared ferociously through each song, muddied by the tin walls that restricted it.

Organisers may not have seen the numbers they had hoped for this year, but with an uneasy festival market and ridiculous booking prices for mid-level acts and headliners, Big Day Out was a unanimous success to anyone attending the Sydney leg. And if every year emulated the 2014 traditions: an eclectic lineup, an interactive ethos, a 35,000 crowd in a 65,000 capacity venue, and punters concerned more with making it to the next band than whether their fake tan was washing off in the rain, then the music fan will always pay $140+ to stand for hours enveloped by the collective odor of enthusiasm.

- Poppy Reid