Review: Big Day Out, Melbourne

Big Day Out has provided great experiences for me over the past three years with memories that will live on. But I found this year’s event was not what it was in 2011. Each year Big Day Out attracts a bigger crowd of people with different tastes in music, which does increase excitement and broaden our musical culture.

In 2011 I noticed a spectrum of alternative egos and free spirits; 2012 I saw a more youthful crowd of hip-hop lovers. This year the hipsters and “Indie kids” who thought they were too cool to cut loose let down the bands that played.

The 2011 Big Day Out was wild: the mosh pits were mosh pits; the ring of death was an event in itself and the sense of freedom to just “be” was liberating. It wasn’t the same this year but based on past experience, it will change next year and the year after.

I’ve come to the conclusion that there are great moments you share with others that become a foundation for music lovers – and moments that are not so good.

If the crowd response isn’t great, your experience of it won’t be either. In an over-populated and illogically barricaded environment, it’s hard to let loose when the crowd is being herded like cattle.

If possible, try to catch a sideshow of your favourite bands. If there is no alternative, accept that you may enjoy your Big Day Out – or not – based on the particular mix in the crowd that year.

The Gary Clark Experience

I have seen many artists live – including Iggy pop, The Black Keys and Wolfmother – who have transcended this earthly realm to create an other-worldly musical vision for their audiences. I am happy to say Gary Clark Jnr is now on that elite list.  One of the best artists to see live, his show is a must-see for anyone who appreciates classic American Blues.

Gary interacted with his audience after every song; it made me happy to see an artist who was consistently communicating with the crowd, sadly a rare thing these days.

He is the uncrowned prince of blues in modern times. Born In 1984, in Texas USA, the iconic Texas blues are an obvious influence that may have propelled a young Gary to revolutionise the authentic rhythm of American blues.

The passion and soul in his lyrics and electrifying guitar made this a knock out show.

Vampire weekend, Band of Horses and the Chili Willies

The line-up for the two main stages was excellent: Vampire Weekend are great live, which got people bouncing around and singing along to every word. Vocals and instruments sounded as though I was playing the music through my iPod. Their show was simply awesome!

Earlier the Band of Horses was on the blue stage and really enticed the crowd to the main stages. They have been one of my favorite bands, and the main reasons I went to the Big Day Out this year. My concerns about how their unique music would be received disappeared the second they began to play.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers – where to begin? They have been around for almost three decades and have rocked wherever they played. Before Big Day Out came to Melbourne, I heard some disappointing criticism so I’m glad I had the chance to check them out myself.

As I waited for the grand finale, I was optimistic. When they finally came out, a roar shook the ground beneath my feet. I couldn’t get close enough to get a good photo but I heard them – loud and clear.

The vocals by Anthony Keidis were excellent; Flea on bass was phenomenal, Chad rocked the drums but new guitarist Josh didn’t rise to where John Frusciante had set the bar. The Chilis started their set with a new song, which wasn’t great because most of the crowd didn’t know the new album and just wanted to sing along to the classics.

I could see Anthony was getting frustrated but Flea saved the day saying, “Thank you to Melbourne my hometown and happy Australia Day.” The crowd went wild over the classics, even though Josh the main guitarist spontaneously changed the riffs and solos, leaving the songs sounding dull with the bass slapped over the lead guitar. I don’t blame Josh; I think he knows he is no John Frusciante and wanted to put his own stamp on the songs.

The Chili Peppers have entered rock glory but they can’t simply recreate the glory of their past albums with a dynamic that has clearly changed. I’m not saying they should stop playing but if they keep making new music it could ruin a reputation they have worked 30 years to establish.

Despite this they have a razor edge that sends punters wild. People were in awe of Chad’s skills, Flea’s intensity and Anthony’s vocal ability. I loved them and still do.



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