First published on 31 Jan 2012. Updated on 31 Jan 2012.
FESTIVAL TIP: When smuggling alcohol into the Big Day Out, be sure to exhibit some low-level boogieing as you go through the gates; that way you won’t get checked too thoroughly and most of the workers simply give you a that-guy’s-got-the-right-idea smile. Damn straight, fools!
Anyways, enough about the contraband and more about five particular artists at the 20th anniversary of the Big Day Out. And then five of the most memorable T-shirts.
Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All are like a Gen Y Wu-Tang Clan who haven't paid their dues. Wolf Gang is an appropriate name at least – they all have each other's backs and when a glass bottle is thrown on stage they threaten to beat up everyone of us. Could take a while, but it’s nice they're so inclusive. Starting with 64 and melding into ‘Transylvania’, the vocals are waaaay high up in the mix, while the beats – read nuances – are muffled and ruffled. Tyler the Creator’s appearance on stage gets the biggest cheers, and when ‘Yonkers’ sputters out late in their set you can see plenty of peeps mouthing each and every word. They hoist a wheelchaired fan wearing a Wu-Tang Clan T-shirt on stage to rock back and forth and generally look stoked, just as a towering glamazon lady bum-rushes the stage, too. For 15 seconds they look baffled and security ignores her, assuming she's part of the act, before some clumsy high fives are exchanged and the set resumes. All the shouty braggadocio and lewd Aussie flag-wearing gets in the way of their music, but their fans lap it up, proudly shouting "Kill People Burn Shit Fuck School"… Will they still matter in five years time? Yep. They'll blossom beyond their embryonic state once they've experienced tragedy and flagging sales. For now, though, Tyler’s droopy lower lip is anatomically correct. Why? Because OFWGKTA are either sounding lackadaisical and dopey or firing rimshots while slamming slamming juvenile delinquent beats. Nothing in between.
We catch the end of Miss Kittin’s clever electro set, to see the pigtailed princess respectfully drop Röyksopp’s remix of Felix Da Housecat’s ‘What Does It Feel Like?’ and ends on an ethereal, K-heavy high.
Röyksopp are a reviewer’s dream/nightmare. Dreamy, because of the breathless, bountiful opening that sees the two main guys behind Korgs, keys and effects units plus two KLF-looking members throwing shapes and metal signs while wearing metal sieves, bunny-like heads and Eyes Wide Shut robes. Nightmarish, because the first percussive drop of ‘Alpha Male’ sends the crowd (NB: He is I and I an him) ape droppings and it’s nigh impossible to type jittery notes into my smudge-screened iPhone. ‘Eple’ hits the nerve centres next and is my first subtle sob of the day. It’s just so boootyful! (Wrings out handkerchief headband.) They segue into ‘The Girl and the Robot’, replete with female vocals from a guest who looks like a cross between Robyn and Karin Dreijer Andersson of the Knife. She helms ‘What Else is There?’ with aplomb, too, and then the Norwegian funsters do another costume change into a Where The Wild Things Are-meets-Cillian Murphy’s Batman Scarecrow for a stomping, bases-loaded-and-*SMASH*-that’s-a-homerun version of ‘This Must Be It’.
No, Kimbra will not be singing Triple J Hottest 100’s number one song sans Gotye. Like you don’t know how it goes by now. This presents a neat challenge for the once-Kiwi-now-definitely-Australian: can she engage a festival crowd for 45 minutes on the strength of her jazzy, pop-tinged record Vows? Duh. It’s a sans brainer. For a start, her Jamie Lee Major dress is an eyesore, I mean, eye-catching number – part Julius Caesar laurel wreath, part bananas, all cray cray Wonder Woman. And as soon as she opens her mouth you know her pipes are smoking – she’s soon scatting her way into our hearts like Louis Armstrong. ‘Good Intent’ wails out like an ominous fire siren as the temperatures claw into the mid-30s. Pausing for a moment, Kimbra spins like a jewel box fairy and then takes us back to blue light discos with the lyrics “I can’t sleep at night, I toss and turn, listening for the telephone”. Yep, it’s ‘Every Little Step I Take’ by Bobby Brown. Inspired and inspiring.
Chris Cornell looks like he’s been on a ten-year holiday. He’s a very handsome chap and the years have been kinder to him than, say, Frank Black. Having seen Soundgarden play their last shows on the 1997 tour it’s hard not to feel conflicted. Will this sully their legacy? What if we’ve forgotten how to mosh? Why did Kim Thayil cut his hair off; does he think he’s joined Metallica? Luckily, these fears are allayed as soon as they begin with ‘Searching With My Good Eye Closed’ from Badmotorfinger and then pole-vault into Uri Geller’s eulogy (maybe), ‘Spoonman’. With great riffs comes great reward, and the Seattle lynchpins outshine their contemporaries by a) still being around and b) playing ‘Outshined’ loud and fast. ‘Fell On Black Days’ gently builds into a cathartic climax, allowing Cornell to really unleash his best instrument: his voice. All Audioslave sins are now forgotten.
Best five T-shirts:
Man Punching Wizard in Face – It did what it said on the tin
Sade tour T-shirt – a rather brave choice
TO/FU – In AC/DC writing. Worn by a roadie, no less!
Beethoven Masterpieces – Worn by your Time Out scribe. My Aussie flag was in the wash
Will Wear Chicken Suit For Rack – Worn by Dan Sultan