We’re sure you’re all probably suffering from a bit of Big Day Out overload at the moment but we just had to write something about comments recently made by the festival’s promoter Ken West during an interview with FasterLouder.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months all of you by now will no doubt be aware of the problems Big Day Out have faced this year.
From over-hyped rumours, an underwhelming lineup announcement, lacklustre ticket sales, downgrading and reshuffling of events and artists, co-promoter Vivian Lees quitting amongst the carnage, the shock announcement yesterday they were abandoning New Zealand, and increased competition from Soundwave it sure has been a tough year for what is Australia’s most legendary festival.
But all good things must come to an end, as apparently they did for three days when unofficially the Big Day Out was cancelled, and now Ken West has been offering his pearls of wisdom on everything from why the festival market has been so volatile, and why Big Day Out will be back bigger and ever.
Responding to criticism that the event has become overrun with bogans West replies “The people who came to the smaller original BDOs were hardcore alternative scene people – they knew everything, they wanted to watch every band and weren’t interested in missing anything.”
“They wanted maximum value and would run from stage to stage like in a military operation until they got too drunk. We were outsiders, so the police didn’t know much about it and nobody really got hurt that much – everybody got along.”
“When we came back after 1997,” he continued. “That was the time it was most important and a lot more people came to the show who were less preoccupied with the music, which meant it was a lot harder to enjoy your day if you haven’t done your homework and you’d have a rougher crowd – the whole “I’m just here for the vibe” thing.”
“At least we don’t have a problem that dance festivals have where everyone takes their shirt off and some of them are on steroids and are picking fights,” West says with what we can only imagine is a straight face. But it wasn’t the vibe that has kept people away from Big Day Out with many pointing towards the lineup as the real problem the festival faces.
After all Soundwave, who’s promoter West had a go at last week accusing him of not caring about the local music industry, is hardly known for a fantastic atmosphere or interesting diversions away from the stages. Yet Soundwave have sold out three of their five dates.
West blames the over-saturation of the market for making it difficult for the festival to source new headliners. “It takes 10 years for a band to get to a level where they can headline a festival – even if they’re awesome,” he declares. “Things are over-fished at the moment, if you want to call it in fishing terms – they won’t remain special.”
“There’s no money here; where do we find money? It’s like a gold rush, and you know what happens to gold rushes? They finish.”
In the interview West is also asked about New Order, who in an apparent coup dance promoters Future Entertainment booked to headline their flagship event Future Music Festival. In stark contrast to the Big Day Out, the festival is now enjoying generally good feedback to their lineup.
But West isn’t fazed about the buzz surrounding New Order’s visit. “New Order was where it all started,” he says. “I was 22 when I first went to Manchester, stayed at Mark E. Smith’s place, went to Hacienda and met with Rob Gretton – I managed to get a tour by skulling a cocktail backstage!”
“New Order are amazing,” he continues. “But without Peter Hook they’re not New Order – simple as that, so I don’t know what Future were thinking. I couldn’t do it because I’m Hooky’s mate; I like Bernard [Sumner] and Gillian [Gilbert], but it’s like “damn, that’s a shame” – it’s not as bad as INXS, but they should have just called it a day.”
“It was a legacy there – don’t ruin it. I was in the studios when they were rehearsing Blue Monday – that hasn’t yet been released anywhere, and I thought “that’s all right – that might sell!”
The Big Day Out kicks off nationally this Sunday on the Gold Coast. Tickets are still available to every date.
In the meantime check out some footage of the crowd at the Sydney Big Day Out last year below. Also, don’t forget to check out our slideshow where we chronicle the last 12 months of the festival market in ‘The Year The Festival Died’.