Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Festival Of Tired Ideas: Fuck The Big Day Out

Fuck The Big Day Out.

Seriously ever year it gets worse and even if this years line-up is one of the strongest in recent memory, most of the acts have played before, a lot of them very recently. One of the major problems with the festival is that no matter how good some of the bands are there is always more shit than quality. There is always some point in the day where there is nothing good on, and you're left to pick through the refuse of what's been put on the side stages (or god forbid watch Birds Of Tokyo), when there are so many quality local acts who would kill to be on the bill and who would deliver much more interesting material. I mean sure Bridezilla played Lilyworld a few years ago, but that local produce stage they have is usually fucking rubbish.

What quality there is is then usually ruined by poor sound or drowned out by a sea of fuckwits more concerned about 'getting their mosh on' than anything else. Bjork being booed off stage in 2008 pretty much sums it up.

While this year's line up is a vast improvement on last years yawn-fest with Grinderman, Die Antwoord and Primal Scream breathing some life into the festival, for the most part the line-up is a case of leftovers from past line-ups. Sure Rammstein and Iggy & The Stooges are great leftovers, leftovers I would eat out of a dog bowl using a used cricket cup as a utensil and leftovers I am thankful to have a chance to taste having missed them in previous years, but they are rare birds next to pigeons like Lupe Fiasco who was out here only a few months ago for Playground Weekender, while Bloody Beetroots Death Crew 77 were also here not too long ago. And Tool as headliners again, I'm sorry but repeating a headliner that quickly can only amount to laziness. This is a festival of tired ideas.

Add to this LCD Soundsystem, Booka Shade and CSS, and The Big Day Out seems like a refuge for every band out there that are whoring themselves on the festival scene. I mean who gives a shit about Booka Shade, they've played here so often they may as well get Southern Cross tattoos. Why aren't we seeing more headliners like Neil Young, something that challenges the increasingly Channel V appearance of the festival.

Meanwhile people are buying more and more tickets each year despite the line-ups growing staler, everyone caught up in the experience of The Big Day Out, an expereince which realistically amounts to not much more than getting sunburned while waiting in long lines for overprices beer after almost dieing in an oven of a train car and having to run the gauntlet of sniffer dogs only to watch a series of bands you've probably seen before play mediocre sets with poor sound while a frothing horde of mindless drunks drown out the band as they holler at the stage as if they're part of some twisted pagan ritual. Really that's all the Big Day Out has become, it's a ritual for those people who's lives are so empty they have turned to worshiping musicians rather than Jesus.

Whenever I go, I feel afraid of what might happen considering the amount of aggression and lack of responsibility exhibited by most of the punters. There is a palpable sense of danger and blood-lust in that crowd, everyone so eager to get to the front to see some band, which will somehow give their life more meaning. It's idol worship in it's most frightening form. Even Hillsong pales in comparison, no ones ever been crushed to death at one of their services.

However I think it is this very cult like nature of the festival that makes is so popular. People go to let go of social inhibitions and release their inner animal, to essentially act like adolescents again. No matter what piss-poor line-up they throw at us we seem to lap it up like a starved cat does vomit, because we are so eager for an excuse to escape our pointless and soul crushing lives of tedium and mediocrity. The musicians serve as Dionysian priests, presiding over this primitive celebration of intoxication and conformity.

Now I believe letting go of social inhibitions every now and again is a very good thing, but The Big Day Out seems to bring out a darker and more aggressive side than is healthy, while at the same time inundating these empty vessels with the talismans of commercial culture. Rather than channeling people's need for release into such mass marketed and mass produced avenue, which favours giving money to big name international acts over supporting up coming local talent (unless you play one of those joke Unearthed slots to no one at 11am on some V branded side stage), the promoters would do well to find a way to promote a calmer and less aggressive atmosphere, as well as focusing on delivering a better live experience, better sound, better lighting, a broader range of bands on offer. To bring it back to the music rather than the ritual.

"But where are they supposed to get the money" I hear you say? The backstage area. Having been backstage on numerous occasions over the years I can tel you that a lot of money goes into keeping the artists happy. Not only does each band have their own air conditioned trailer, rider and ridiculous demands (for instance lat year Lily Allen had a beach made of sand, a palm or two and a kiddie pool constructed in front of her trailer, even though she spent almost no time there), but they also have a games section, a swimming pool, a free Tiki Bar, an open buffet with fresh seafood, multiple jumping castles and even fucking dodgem cars. Considering how much pay for your ticket you might expect some of this decadence to be swung your way, but alas all the punters are usually left with is Lilyworld, which is getting more and more pathetic with each year.

But who cares, the punters keep coming anyway. The music seems almost secondary, the bands serving as bait to get the wild animals into the cage to spend all their cash on alcohol, cheap merchandise and terrible food. You can't really blame the promoters though, they're just businessmen out to make a buck, no more. We should demand more from them, we should choose to patronise other festivals like All Tomorrow Parties or Days Like This that go out of their way to offer a mixture of big name headliners and quality lesser known acts, but we don't. The truth is, as a culture, we want the cheap thrill. We want the porn star over the homegrown beauty. We want the fast food over the well cooked steak. We like going to the supermarket rather than the farmers market because it's easy, and even if we're getting ripped off for sub par products we don't care. That's what Big Day Out has become, a fucking musical supermarket.