Monday, January 31, 2005

"I know, it's only rock n' roll but I like it..." (The Rolling Stones)

Remember those fine and fabulous things that happen when you least expect them? I mentioned them in my ode to New Year's Eve post. Well, they've started. My first cosmic surprise for 2005 came in the form of a late nite text message from a friend who works in PR, and the offer of free tickets to the sold-out Melbourne Big Day Out.

Big Day Out is Australia's -- and New Zealand's, for that matter -- biggest mainstream rock festival. My last one was five years ago; the day before my final year of high school. It's one of those glorious, big, messy, one ticket, over-sixty-bands-on-eight-stages, sweet-corn-on-stick, ride the Catapault until you're sick affairs and it makes appearances across Australia and NZ throughout January and February.

At my last Big Day Out I saw the Red Hot Chilli Peppers on the mainstage.

At my last Big Day Out I rode the Kamikaze as the sun set over the Showgrounds.

At my last Big Day Out I bumped into Tim Wheeler from Ash and had a sweaty photo taken with him before he escaped to the VIP lounge.

At my last Big Day Out I left my friends to see Sydney band The Cruel Sea on one of the smaller stages and discovered how great musicianship can transform a mere skinny mortal into a sex god.

At my last Big Day Out my entire face got sunburned, except for the part the sunglasses covered, and I turned up for my first day of year 12 looking like a bug and still radiating heat, but blissfully happy.

After a five year hiatus, this year is the first in several that I even considered going. I don't know what was different this year, maybe it was nostalgia brought on by an early quarter-life crisis. Maybe it was the line-up which, this year, included the Beastie Boys and The Streets. At any rate, I wasn't going to pay the $110 plus booking fee on my paltry salary. Enter Claire, my fairy rock-mother. With a wave of her VIP Pass she declared, "Cassy, you shall go to the ball..."

First-up on our itinerary was The Donnas on the mainstage. The Donnas, for the uninitiated, hail from the U.S and have been performing together since they were fourteen. They like The Ramones and long walks on the beach, and they brought a welcome shot of oestrogen to the traditionally male-dominated phenomenon that is the rock festival.

Next we scattered. Some of us stuck it out near the mainstage for the slick, polished three-piece that WA band Eskimo Joe has become. Some of us went to the Hothouse in search of beats from RJD2. I made my way to the Essential Stage -- a cattle-shed during Melbourne Show-time -- for Wolfmother (their entrance was heralded by a man wearing a Native American headdress who incited to crowd to howl like, well, wolves) before returning to the mainstage to catch the end of Eskimo Joe. (I still remember the Sweater Song, boys, even if you wish you didn't.)

Apart from the odd tune on my radio, I didn't know much of Swedish rockers, The Hives. They wear retro-lookin suits and are possessed of some fine 70s rock moves, I learned, as well as an endearing -- or at the very least, entertaining -- arrogance which makes their live shows fun. The frontman introduced one song saying, this: "This song is for all those people who hate The Hives. You come here with a closed mind and a tiny brain saying, 'I only like one band at this festival.' You'll wake up one day when you're fifty and realise, 'Man, The Hives were the best thing I ever saw. I should have applauded when I had the chance.'" You go, boy.

The next few hours passed in a blur of rainbow-coloured slurpees that went down like liquid sugar, over-priced souvlakis, reapplications of sunscreen, Little Birdy, The John Butler Trio, Le Tigre (a retro-punk 3-piece from New York that had everybody dancing) and the tail-end of a set by the Blues Explosion.

Then things really got kicking. This year's festival highlight -- for me, anyway, was The Streets. They had the audience in the pocket of their baggy hip hop pants from the moment the engaging Mike Skinner stepped onstage. They sound sensational live and Skinner is every inch the friendly Brummie lad telling you tales over a pint. Whether there's beats in the background or not, its all the same, and "seriously, right? Is everyone 'avin' a good day?"

Regurgitator performed a solid, energetic set of old and new material. If there was one band that best captures my misspent youth of Saturday morning music telly, rock festivals and listening to the tail-end of my fave brekky radio show on my walkman in first period English Lit, then I guess The Gurge are it. They're rock, pop, metal and hip hop. They've won industry awards, but are still laid-back slackers at heart; just one (or 3) of the boys. They're also the only Aussie band I can think of who could record an entire album in a glass bubble in Federation Square and still come out of the experience looking healthily ironic.

Then it was dusk, and time for the Beasties. The Beastie Boys. Maybe it was the hype, maybe it was my seat -- a wimp's seat in the stadium opposite the stage, a hundred metres from the action -- but I didn't dig it. I didn't dig the pre-recorded filler more suitable for concert gigs, than a festival, nor did I go for the long-winded instrumental stuff from an earlier album. Sitting there in the growing twilight, witness to what the grandfathers of white hip hop had to offer, I couldn't help but wish I was on the other side of the Showgrounds at the smaller, Triple R-sponsored Green Stage munching on a jam donut and bathing in the lush orchestral sounds of the Polyphonic Spree who I gave up to see the Beasties.

But you can't have everything, right? As night fell and revellers picked themselves up off the grass I had to be content with that jam donut, a long walk back to the car, ringing ears and a brief but blissful revisitation of one of the better parts of being a teenager.


Blogger transience said...

ah. like nostalgia, but better. never got to do this, though. and i'm turning 25 soon.

Mon. Jan. 31, 05:58:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Calaloola said...

no, trans? well it ain't too late. i urge you to get yourself some comfy shoes and a bottle of water and head to a rock festival near you. what's playing in your corner of the globe? hehe. this particular fest is the scene of some of my best memories, and its nice to know i can slip back for a visit and feel as if i never left...

Tue. Feb. 01, 11:36:00 am 2005  
Blogger transience said...

i'm such a nerd. i've never really gone to concerts and such. maybe because i like lounging in coffee shops listening to bossa nova with old people. waaaaaaaaaaah! i'm such a nerd!

Tue. Feb. 01, 12:34:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Calaloola said...

When the last band had played and the last beer had been guzzled I and my friends were walking back to my car and I inadvertently fell into step with a stoned friend of a friend's who I'd just met that day. He proceeded to grill me about my past and decided that I must've been a nerd in high school and he taunted me with this at random intervals for the rest of the trip. I decided that coming from that dickhead, it was a compliment ;)

Tue. Feb. 01, 12:57:00 pm 2005  
Blogger transience said...

dickheads can be such amusing conversationalists. if the conversation is one-sided.

Tue. Feb. 01, 02:41:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Jay said...

I love big outdoor festivals. And I love love love the Beasties, so I'm so jealous, plus I have the winter blahs, and since you are talking outdoors and sunburns, I'm entirely eaten up by envy.

Tue. Feb. 01, 04:31:00 pm 2005  

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