If you kept up with all of the controversies and catastrophes that occurred in the lead up to the Big Day Out 2012, including the very public backlash over the line-up from punters threatening to never go to another Big Day Out again, then it was difficult to step over the threshold of the Gold Coast Parklands without some amount of apprehension and, let’s face it, curiosity.
Ticket sales are marginally lower across the whole tour than past years and it’s a noticeable difference when trekking from one stage to the next. It seems the days of staying up until midnight with parents’ credit card clutched in hand, praying to a God you don’t even believe in that you’re one of the people to nab a ticket within twelve seconds, are gone. Gone with those days also are the older punters (who don’t need their parents’ credit card to buy a ticket) who roam the grounds after good live music. In their place are, of course, the loose singlet-wearing lads and denim cut-off bottomed girls who seemed to have multiplied since last I visited.
No matter, though, as there is still very good music to be heard, despite the communal outcry over the headlining acts brought out. First-time visitors Cage the Elephant are genuinely stoked to be here and their well-known high energy live shows pull an impressive and hectic mosh to the Essential Stage. It’s an exhilarating way to start the already-sweltering day, with lead singer Matt Schultz constantly in the hands of his fans as he favours crowd surfing, breathlessly requesting, “If I get knocked unconscious, just pass my body around for the rest of the show.” With a set list covering two albums, their hit “Ain’t’ No Rest For The Wicked” proved a favourite as the mass shout along with the chorus to a visibly chuffed band. These guys will be back for a tour for sure after the reception they received.
Up next on the same stage is the UK’s band of the moment, The Vaccines. The size of the crowd has grown and is a stark difference to their modest gathering of fans from last year’s Splendour in the Grass. Their bright and simple rock is hard to dislike as they play a large chunk of their songs (with a debut album barely making half an hour’s worth of music, they have no excuse to leave much out) including a couple of new tracks. Opening with the anthem-like “Blow It Up” and closing with “Nørgaard” they prove how well they’ve got the rock song down pat. They sound good and they satisfy their fans to some extent but they play it far too safe on stage, relying too much on the effortless genius of their songs.
Hilltop Hoods grace the Orange Stage next and, complete with live drumming from Plutonic Lab of fellow hip hop outfit Muph and Plutonic, they conduct the crowd with generous serves of arm waving and fist pumping. Though an impressive live act, the new material they performed didn’t hint at anything too inspiring from their upcoming album release.
Over at the Boiler Stage, the early afternoon bands have moved on for Miss Kittin to run the show. Looping her voice throughout, her deftness on the synthesizer gets the audience going and if it weren’t for the next act playing after her, they wouldn’t want this remarkable DJ lady to stop.
The path was officially paved for the electronic-laced evening ahead in the Boiler Room as Norway’s Röyksopp perform what will end up being the day’s surprisingly best set. Their first time to Australia they’ve brought their entire show along for the solid one hour set. They banter with each other, with the crowd and bring out an unidentified female singer for “Girl and the Robot”, “What Else Is There?” and “This Must Be It”. She performs them all faithfully, particularly recapturing The Knife’s Karin Dreijer Andersson’s distinctive vocal style in the latter two songs – complete with a Knife-inspired bird mask. One can only imagine how far more intense their light show, performance and costumes would be if they had a nighttime slot.
Straight over to the packed out Converse Green Stage to catch Architecture in Helsinki and it’s hard to believe that this is the first Big Day Out for pop darlings from Melbourne. They’re all Cheshire cat grins and exuberant dancing, they play an incredibly tight set and the crowd shovels them love. From “Heart, It Races” to latest hits “Contact High” and “Escapee”, they are simply a pleasure to hear and watch and have surely cemented themselves as a festival favourite.
Returning to the Orange Stage in time for My Chemical Romance’s last two songs ensured the fourteen year old emo inside was kept happy (or rather, unhappy) and also served as a reminder for why the fourteen year old emo inside will never resurface again. “Famous” and “Welcome to the Black Parade” were met by shrill screams from the decent-sized audience, a large portion of whom were wearing My Chem band shirts, but the wrap-up of their set was decidedly lacklustre. Although, hearing later on that the majority of their performance was plagued with mix troubles, they may have had valid reason.
The rain has been remained mostly a threat for the whole day and only decides to see its full potential when the lads of Kasabian swagger onto the Blue Stage. “Days Are Forgotten” proves a smooth opener with the equally slick Tom Meighan and Serge Pizzorno leading the stage. It’s not until the opening chords of “Shoot the Runner”, which they quickly slip into next, do the crowd really react to the Leicestershire rock kings en masse. Somewhere between “Underdog” and “Clubfoot” there is a striking moment as the grey sky splits above an arms outstretched Meighan giving us a glimpse of a weak sunset complete with rainbow. Somewhere between “Empire” and “L.S.F” it becomes night and the whole Kasabian spectacle can be appreciated. They close with the explosive “Fire” – the horde being urged to kneel, leaping to their feet at the songs’ climax – walking off stage knowing their position in rock music is untarnished.
Next door, Soundgarden battle the now-bucketing rain and Kanye West’s soundcheck. They are fantastic, all four members of the Seattle grunge band are into it and their fans – young and old – are ecstatic. Chris Cornell’s equally fantastic stage banter carries as we walk away, “Steal all the records, seriously, steal all of the records!”
Foster the People have punters spilling out from all corners of the Converse Green Stage, all dancing and all singing along. Mark Foster looks more comfortable on stage than ever before and his band play through past pieces, with bursts of contagious energy despite the day almost drawing to a close, and a couple of new ones (though they aren’t that far removed from their “Torches” tracks). They close with an extended version of “Pumped Up Kicks”, with twists and turns of dub step and jazz before expressing their love one more time for Australian audiences over their homeland. Touching stuff.
You can hear the pounding Boiler Tent a mile away (or is it the incessant V Energy Green Room?) and we get there in time for Art vs. Science’s original hit “Flippers”. Another band playing under the Boiler Tent with an amazing lightshow, Art vs. Science wear their metallic space suits and have the whole place dancing. They cover The Chemical Brothers’ classic “Block Rockin’ Beats” and of course close with “Parlez-Vous Francais?”, borrowing a move from Kasabian and demanding the mass of sweaty bodies to crouch before leaping into more frenzied action.
Walking back to the Converse Green Stage, we take note of the loyal followers at Cavalera Conspiracy. The Essential Stage wasn’t full of them, certainly not, but a most admirable effort for a band up against Kanye West. Now, arriving just in time for the start of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, halve that imagined capacity. Although it’s a surprisingly intimate crowd, they sing all the words and often drown Gallagher out. Gallagher himself has a very calm, collected, borderline bored stage presence and his trademark humility shines through in between songs: “this next song is another one off my fucking brilliant new record”. The High Flying Birds carry no charisma alongside Gallagher, and they close the set somewhat cheaply with Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger.”
We glimpse Kanye West on the way out (along with half the festival on what seemed like a mass exodus to escape the rain). Ken West will never procure a lineup that pleases everyone but, ignoring the throngs of wasted youths and disappointing big names, most weary punters left the Gold Coast Parklands satisfied and wondering about the future of what was once Australia’s most popular festival of the year.
– Louie Hill