Ahhh, I love the smell of sweat drenched teens in the morning. Yes, the short-shorts were high, and the temperatures were even higher at the Melbourne leg of Australia’s premiere summer music festival, Big Day Out. Despite the mercury reaching boiling point, a whopping 42,000 punters traveled down to Flemington Racecourse last Sunday to put their SPF 30+ sunscreen to the test whilst reveling in the glow of national and international musical genius.
The main stage kicked things off with the rock stylings of Papa Vs Pretty. Their set – which was peppered with an array of high energy songs from their debut album – got the primarily subdued fans gearing for what the rest of the day had to offer.
As the crowd started to thicken, so too did the noises coming off the stage.
Cage the Elephant was next on the agenda and presented a rip-roaring set of hyperactivity that saw lead singer, Matthew Shultz, stage diving into the audience – an always pleasing sight to BDO patrons. As crowd favourite tune ‘Around My Head’ started to play, fans “oooo-ed” along with Shultz as he blitzed out the sing-along single.
Over at the Converse stage, the soothing sounds of summer were ringing in the crowd’s ears as Best Coast cooed their surfy tunes. The LA band tried its best to bring down the temp underneath the big top with their cooling melodies, but the sweltering heat persisted.
After consuming a variable smorgasbord of overseas acts, it was time to check out what the local talent had to offer, with the Hot Produce tent providing our next course.
Whilst the crowd for Melbourne band Loon Lake was sizably smaller than for the acts witnessed prior, their sound certainly rivaled, if not topped, the higher billed bands. Sam Nolan’s husky garage rock voice led the quintet in a set that caused one lively crowd member to strip down to his undies and dance uncontrollably. When the unmistakable drum intro of ‘Bad to Me’ began to play, the whole crowd followed the wild dancer’s lead – fists pumping to the catchy tune.
Next on the agenda – the whimsy folk melodies of Sydney indie band, Boy & Bear. When approaching their set at the main stage, it was clear that their crowd would be one of the biggest for the day. A finger-pickingly good set was presented by the boys, who performed a haunting rendition of Crowded House’s ‘Fall At Your Feet’. A collective growl rang out from the crowd as the band disappeared from the stage; it was now lunch time and the teens were hungry.
After a nibble on some greasy festival food, the audience’s energy levels were replenished – time to soldier on.
Our New Zealand neighbours welcomed the full-bellied patrons after lunch, with Kimbra and King Cannons both pulling impressive crowds with their energetic sets. Whilst pop princess Kimbra wowed with her cover of Bobbi Brown’s ‘Every Little Step’ at the Converse stage, lead singer of King Cannons, Luke Yeoward, shook the Hot Produce stage with his raspy, bluesy voice.
A surprisingly courageous set for the day came from rambunctious Sydney rock band, Faker. Well known for his height-defying on-stage antics, lead singer Nathan Hudson delighted audiences as he ascended the lighting rigging side of stage during crowd pleaser tune ‘Hurricane’. Despite the band’s 2011 album receiving little airplay of late, their set proved the band are risk takers in more than one sense.
The rest of the afternoon belonged to the main stages, as the international musical heavyweights hit the stage.
Despite the heat, alt-rockers My Chemical Romance graced the stage in their traditional black attire. Ripping out hit after hit, Gerard Way commanded the crowd to sing along to the band’s songs. The audience obliged, chanting the entire opening verse of ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’, a stunning final song to end the set. As the MCR boys disappeared from sight, another clan of black clad rockers emerged on the opposite stage.
Brit rockers Kasabian delighted fans when they welcomed their set with the fist-pumping phrase, ‘We are the mighty Kasabian’. This egotistical quip only heightened the enjoyment from the crowd as the band did what they do best – rock. They were harsh, loud and fast – presenting a brazen performance that perfectly showcased lead singer Tom Meighan’s extravagant showmanship. Despite the sharp performance from the Leicestershire boys, the crowds were eager to leave, if only to get a good spot for one of the most anticipated acts for the day, Foster the People.
After a quick run over to the Converse stage, it was clear that the majority of festival-goers were keen to see the band, with the audience spilling out from underneath the big top tent. Whilst the three-piece presented a cavalcade of hits – ‘Houdini’, ‘Helena Beat’ and ‘Call It What You Want’ just to name a few – it was their #1 smash hit ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ that saw audiences reveling in the dubstep inspired remix of the song.
And of course, who could leave the festival without witnessing the awe-inspiring spectacle that is Kanye West? Even haters of West cannot deny his power over an audience. His almost 2-hour long set featured dancers, laser, pyrotechnics and an elaborate use of a scissor lift. Well, what else was to be expected? After his Rocky-esque entrance, he charmed the mammoth crowd with a string of never ending hits. After listening to them collectively, it’s easy to understand why his fans think of him as the God of modern rap – and it’s also easy to see why he was selected as the festival’s headliner. West managed to present a set that will most probably be unrivaled for some time to come.
The festival’s ability to bring such an amazing array of international, national and local talent to our doorstep is what makes Big Day Out a veritable spectacle. May it continue on strong for another glorious 20 years.