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Well I survived the Big Day Out – hurrah!

I took the day off and woke late. I think I should get a doctorate in pottering around, as I’m such an expert at it (a PoD perhaps?). Guan came round for lunch. I picked some more bounty from the garden, made a tomatoey tuna pasta with fried zucchini flowers on top, and we fuelled up for the day ahead.

We public-transported it to Olympic Park (“You don’t catch trains much, do you?” G observed as I quietly freaked out about the cacophony of platform announcements. No, I don’t. I’ve never lived anywhere that was on the train line). It was pretty easy to pick who was going to the BDO, and I guess we must have fit the bill too as people asked us which train stop we had to get off at. I guess the only difference between us and them was that we weren’t downing as many bottles of booze as possible before arriving.

I felt monochromatic and ungainly in my grey top, shorts and blundstones, but I figured that it was the most comfortable attire, and if I wore my boots at least my toes wouldn’t get trodden on. If I’d worn my Cons I probably would have been much more fashionable, but didn’t want soggy feet in the event of rain. Actually, more than anything, planning all that practical stuff (what to take? what to wear?) was what made me feel old and boring – not like the young’uns whose biggest concern seemed to be where to stick the Australian flag temporary tattoos. But in the end, I was comfortable all day, didn’t spend an inordinate amount of money on snacking and beverages, and didn’t get sunburned. Yay. I rock.

It started raining as we sped towards Homebush, but had pretty much stopped by the time we arrived. We passed through the security checkpoints and the bag searches without any problems, though witnessed the hordes of police marshalling the perimeter and tackling potential fence-jumpers. There were also a few people looking worse for wear (and it was only 3pm), including a girl who was sprawled out on the concrete, disoriented and distressed. Made me glad we weren’t drinking, but also a little sad that the majority of people who were there could only enjoy it if they were completely off their heads (I liked one of the safety tips on the BDO website that said “Don’t turn up drunk or out of it as you may be refused entry or will probably pass out before you see any of the bands you paid to see” – sadly, I think that went unheeded for the most part).

Neither of us had a map, so we just kind of bumbled around, looking for signs to tell us where to go. Our first port of call was the Boiler Room for UK hip-hop dude Dizzee Rascal. I’d never heard of him before, but enjoyed his set. It was hard to get close at all, so we settled for standing under one of the big speaker stacks and feeling the beats reverberate in our sternums. Love it. Couldn’t really work out what the lyrics were for the most part, but as G’s friend Siv said later on, “all you really need to know is that he was rapping about booty”.

I really liked the staging in the Boiler Room – 24 lit up panels along the back of the stage that alternated between projecting images and coloured light, with lights staggered throughout up to the roof.

We didn’t stay til the end of the set, but navigated our way through the slippery crowd and down to the Green Stage for Spoon. Unfortunately they were having some technical issues, and the sound wasn’t terribly good. The band didn’t seem to be enjoying themselves much either, though I could be wrong.

I think the question that I mentioned in a previous post, about whether or not it’s important to know an artist’s back catalogue before seeing them live becomes more important in a festival context. If I hadn’t already been familiar with Spoon’s stuff I probably wouldn’t have gotten much out of seeing them at BDO (whereas seeing one band, in a context-appropriate venue (eg, The National) allows you to soak up a lot more than when you’re trying to hear them through a bad setup and amidst a crowd who spends the whole time talking). Still, I’m glad we caught them.

We managed to meet up with G’s best friend from school, Siv and his girlfriend, and we all stuck around for a decent, if slightly amusing set from The Nightwatchman (aka Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, who were headlining later that night). He played political folk music (is there such a thing as a-political folk music?) with a guitar and a pointless harmonica. He kept asking the crowd to shout and jump around and whatever, but the music just didn’t seem to warrant that, so it came off (to me) a little bit try-hardy. But I have to say, he is obviously passionate about the causes he champions, and his covers of AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (lyrics altered to be a rant about George W Bush) and Midnight Oil’s Beds Are Burning were excellent, and got the crowd enthused.

Neither of us felt much like listening to Augie March who were up next, so we headed off to find some dinner. The food options at festivals (much like the Easter show) are along the lines of fried, random meat, fried random meat, or questionable sausage-inna-bun. Luckily we had spotted a Nandos stall earlier on, and figuring that at least we’d know what we were getting, we got our dinner from there ($24 for two burgers, one serve of chips and one drink…sheesh!). We found a quiet-ish spot in a marquee and sat down for a while to eat and chat.

It was good going to a festival with someone who knew my health limitations (and who has a fairly sensible approach to his own). G apologised if I felt like he was patronising me by asking if I needed to rest, etc, but honestly it was nice to have someone who asked! Normally when I go out with a bunch of people to things like this, everyone is focused on having A Good Time, and they don’t want to think about the need for rest or food or quiet or time out from the crowd. I’m usually okay at calibrating it for myself, but it helps to have someone who is keeping an eye out for when I start to look vague. Well, vaguer than usual.

After our recharge, we headed back down to the Green Stage for Battles. This is one of G’s favourite bands, and I’d only heard a few of their songs but liked what I had heard. They’re referred to as ‘math rockers’, which was initially puzzling and a little offputting for me (I have a built-in aversion to all things mathematical), but seeing them live was fairly mindblowing. Each of the four members sets up some sort of intricate riff or pattern, and gradually the music shifts and changes, but none of them falter for a second. They keep pushing and pushing each other, layering and weaving and meshing each of their lines together to create this unbelievable sound. It’s very impressive.

G braved the crowd to find his friend Colin, who apparently had a good vantage point. I found a railing quite close to the stage, so climbed up and watched from there. It was a great position, actually, as I was above the crowd, but could still see and hear everything perfectly. I got to watch some funky dancing on the sidelines, too, from this guy with gorgeous long dreadlocks, who moved and whirled with complete abandon. Also I thought this couple with their homemade BDO t-shirts were cute:

After Battles, I probably would have been trying to get a good spot to see Bjork at the main stages. But of course she wasn’t on. Although I was quite happy to take in the BDO without her, it definitely didn’t feel as exciting knowing that there wasn’t going to be a major, ‘big bang’ type experience to end the day. I’m not much of a Rage Against the Machine fan (they were the other big drawcard), so seeing them probably wouldn’t have added much to my day.

As the sun set we went and sat up in the stadium to watch Arcade Fire, who were playing in Bjork’s slot – I say watch, because at that distance the sound wasn’t fantastic. I know they’re a band I would probably love, but I haven’t had a chance to get into them yet, so just appreciated the scope and size of the show, but not so much the music. The crowd was absolutely overwhelming, a total seething mass of people, surging and swirling. From our seats high above I was kind of glad I wasn’t down there – I know it would have been an amazing experience, but at the end of the day of running around I don’t think I would have had the energy to be in there.

But I heard enough to know I want to check Arcade Fire out properly.

Our last band for the day was back in the Boiler Room, where we started off. LCD Soundsystem also had a couple of technical difficulties (they blew the bass amp up after the second song), but once they got going they were fantastic. Energetic, tight, wry, stompy and fun. I danced around and really enjoyed it.

We slipped out and made a break for the train, talking about what parts we’d play if we had a band (G would do everything, except in the background. I think I’d sing and play piano, if necessary. Gothic Cupcake, unite!). The whole public transport aspect of going to gigs is horrible because the music seeps away in the fluorescent light of the train or bus, and you have to listen to the prattle of drunkards and idiots. But by the time we got to Central, we had managed to connect with Joe and Carly, who we’d been trying to find all day, so the boys got to debrief about what they thought the best/worst bits of the day were, and Carly and I stared dreamily off into the distance.

One by one they got off the bus, and I made the last bit of my journey home alone. I walked down the darkened street, my ears buzzing, my feet sore, my mind racing with all I had seen that day. I got home in one piece, but it was a while before my brain slowed down enough to go to sleep.