Big Day Out 2013

Flea, Red Hot Chili Peppers (Melbourne Big Day Out, 26th January 2013)

Flea, Red Hot Chili Peppers (Melbourne Big Day Out, 26th January 2013)

All the action from Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne for the 2013 edition of the Big Day Out, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gary Clarke Jr, Sleigh Bells, Death Grips, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and a conspicuous lack of pictures of The Killers…

It was a day that didn’t start well.

A truck en route from the previous day’s show in Adelaide had broken down, containing some of opening act House vs Hurricane’s gear, and a whole heap of media accreditation passes and resplendent fluoro yellow vests upon which to wear said passes.

Eventually, after over two hours sitting outside the gate, accreditation was received and whilst a handful of bands high on the must see list had been missed as a result, on the main stage the second half of  Me’s set was being well received by a healthy crowd who enjoyed their impression of Muse meets Queen. Sounding more polished – almost too polished – since last in Melbourne, Luke Ferris and bandmates made the most of the early billing.

Every Time I Die (Big Day Out, Melbourne 2013)

Every Time I Die (Big Day Out, Melbourne 2013)

Following Me on the main stage were a very contrasting Every Time I Die. The metalcore-toting lads from Buffalo screamed, spat, growled and stomped their way through a set that would have been more suited to a Soundwave stage, but with every song merging into the next it wasn’t long until it was time to head over to the smaller Green Stage for a serving of Gary Clarke Jr. It turned out to be one of the best sets of the day, effortless guitar brilliance from the man who has received gushing reviews from all who cross his path in the past fortnight. He may not be the new Hendrix as he’s been simplistically billed, his sound and style differ too greatly for that to be a clear comparison, but his is an engaging stage presence, backed by a tighter-than-a-waterfowl’s-backside band that make this 45 minute offering a standout.

Gary Clarke Jr (Big Day Out, Melbourne 2013)

Gary Clarke Jr (Big Day Out, Melbourne 2013)

Big Day Out staples of the past,  Grinspoon are back again. It’s getting busy at the main stage, though surprisingly there’s not too many shirts off yet. What’s more, the 17 recorded punches thrown by punters is a 12 year low for 3:30pm (put it down to a very moderate low 20s temperature). Those differences aside, Grinspoon delivering a festival set by numbers is business as usual. Make no mistake, they’re solid, and they’ve got the tunes to back it up, opening with Thrills Chills and Sunday Pills, their set also includes Champion, Chemical Heart and No Reason. It’s what the throbbing crowd in front of them want and Phil Jamieson, frequently perched atop his front foldbacks, obliges.

Jeff The Brotherhood drummer Jamin Orrall prowls the Green stage manicly as his brother Jake’s guitar hums through the PA. Making his way through the crowd, and to the stage, the small crowd  laps up the sound and close interaction they’ve just experienced. Whilst comparisons to the Black Keys – purely on the basis of their lineup – are obvious, musically theirs is a more psychedelic avante-garde sound than their Akron, Ohio counterparts. Less structured but still rooted in bluesy riffs, the crowd grows throughout the set and few would leave the Green stage disappointed.

Jeff The Brotherhood (Big Day Out, Melbourne 2013)

Jeff The Brotherhood (Big Day Out, Melbourne 2013)

Visually, Death Grips provide one of the most compelling sets of the day. It’s a packed house at the Vans Essential stage and whilst no one would understand a great deal of what tattooed frontman MC Ride Burnett was putting out there, the energy and madness of a Death Grips set is epic. To listen to though… well, not for me but it’s hard to argue with the reaction up front from those on the rail. Certainly to argue with the mad eyes of Burnett or drumming co-star Zach Hill would be an at-your-own-risk exercise.

Death Grips (Big Day Out, Melbourne 2013)

Death Grips (Big Day Out, Melbourne 2013)

The casual pre-set banter of Off!’s Keith Morris from the Green Stage gives way to the raw punk hardcore for which they’re famous. The ex-Black Flag vocalist won’t win any beauty contests, but that’d be because he doesn’t enter them. Stomping the stage, the energy never dips below 11 and as punters make their way to the Green stage from one of the many others they witness an old-school aural assault. Off!’s set made Every Time I Die from earlier in the day seem a bit pedestrian.

Keith Morris of Off! (Big Day Out, Melbourne 2013)

Keith Morris of Off! (Big Day Out, Melbourne 2013)

Aussie pub rock was back on the menu, and The Smith St Band are its chefs. Before even uttering a word, front man Wil Wagner is dripping with sweat. Bare foot and active, he leads a band who play to an almost full house on the Red stage. Young Drunk may be the song everyone knows, but their following of predominantly 18-25 year olds up front know every word to every song. These guys work hard with a hectic gigging schedule, and you know what you’re going to get. They do it well.

Wil Wagner of the Smith Street Band (Big Day Out, Melbourne 2013)

Wil Wagner of the Smith Street Band (Big Day Out, Melbourne 2013)

There’s surprisingly a fair bit of time left to wander on over to the main stage to catch resident crazybitch Karen O and her band so good they named them thrice. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs burst on to the Blue stage with – courageously – a new song. Earth  is well received and Ms O, decked out in red with bleached hair and dark roots flapping wails her way through the hour long set. Mosquito gets the crowd going, but it’s not until their closer, Heads Will Roll that the crowd really peak. With only an hour, it’s proving tough today for many of the bands to engage their crowds much, it seems each act delivers a flurry of tunes and then gets off. It’s great for content but it does make the bands at times simply seem a soundtrack to the day rather than the reason for the day.

Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Big Day Out, Melbourne 2013)

Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Big Day Out, Melbourne 2013)

A bit of Las Vegas glitz is starting to appear on the neighbouring Orange stage ahead of The Killers, and from the minute the chiming intro of Mr Brightside kicks in the festival has suddenly gone to another level. With less time to play with that their own shows (75 minutes) and the fact that they were actually late coming on, it’s a set that barely stops for breath. Spaceman and Smile Like You Mean It follow and frontman Brandon Flowers has the crowd eating from the palm of his hand. Drummer Ronnie Vanucci had seemingly spent the morning at the Queen Victoria Market, shopping for an Australian flag singlet, and when the band belt out Waltzing Matilda there’s a massed singalong at the Bono-esque contrived-yet-ultimately-enjoyable local endearment. When you can close a set with All These Things That I’ve Done and When You Were Young, you’re going to make a lot of people very, very happy.

If you want to read about The Killers set in Melbourne on Wednesday night, and see a few shots, head on over here.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers hadn’t been receiving such kind reviews from previous legs of the festival. Mostly, this was due to heavy criticism of their sound mix, but an also at times lacklustre performance from frontman Anthony Kiedis. Tonight though there didn’t seem to be such problems, even though opening with a track from 2011’s I’m With You didn’t quite get the reaction that the two tunes to follow – Dani California and Other Side – did. Flea was his usual active self, though he did look to have taken a ride in Marty McFly’s DeLorean: some of those tatts are not quite what they used to be.

Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Big Day Out, Melbourne 2013)

Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Big Day Out, Melbourne 2013)

Their cover of Bowie’s What In The World is surprisingly good, but closing out the main set with Under The Bridge (despite some scratchy vocals from Kiedis), Suck My Kiss, Californication and By The Way is a festival pleasing move. Stevie Wonder’s Higher Ground is Flea’s moment to really shine, before the night closes with the massed madness of Give It Away.

Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Big Day Out, Melbourne 2013)

Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Big Day Out, Melbourne 2013)

The Big Day Out has undergone some changes – sadly the meathead bogan factor remains strong – and witnessing some of the physicality in the pit, along with tales of people being physically dragged aside as other punters barged their way to the front in their place means there’s still a way to go. The site layout still needs work, the D-barriers seem to be creating more angst than they’re relieving, but under new management and with seemingly a new brief, the future for the Big Day Out will at least raise some eyebrows. Whether they’re nicely manicured plucked eyebrows or hairy out of control bushy ones remains to be seen.

- AB

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