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We Grew Here, You Flew Here (And Played Our Festival)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times: it was the Sydney Big Day Out, write Jack Gow and James O’Doherty.

Every Australia Day a throng of boozed-up, thong-wearing, adolescent munters make their annual pilgrimage to Sydney Olympic Park for the Big Day Out (BDO).

The reputation of the BDO precedes it, and for good reason. Year in, year out, the festival manages to attract the highest concentration of the biggest names to tour Australian shores whilst also being in a horrible location, which seems to be exclusively populated by douchebags. So this year, we thought we’d check it out.

The day begins at Central station, where the Australian citizen de jour was the drunk hoon running amuck, yelling racist epithets. Standing in line for train tickets, the sunburnt semblance of a man standing before us wears the Australian flag draped across his shoulders like some kind of horrible, bogan Caesar. His shirtless back is adorned with a Southern Cross encircled with the motto: “Courage. Mateship. Sacrifice. Endurance.” Already, things were looking decidedly bleak.

A sweaty, over-populated train ride later and the festival atmosphere of Olympic Park was there for the taking, but there was little relief. An official police warning later, and with all our stashed alcohol confiscated by an overzealous i-Sec employee, we entered the muggy greenhouse that was the Big Day Out.

Arriving to the sounds of Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino, we had high expectations for the day. The dulcet lo-fi tones of the bona fidé Indie goddess had the crowd entranced. ‘When I’m With You’ had young lovers embracing, and ‘Boyfriend’ had the outdoor stage singing along in reverence. Whether the experience was more worthwhile than an inexpensive side-show ticket, however, is debatable.

The experience consisted almost exclusively of old leathery-skinned rockers, muscle-bound twenty-something munters, and teens using the opportunity as an excuse to get completely rat-fucked.

That is, until we saw Architecture in Helsinki. The Sydney five-piece demonstrated just why they are heartthrobs for the entire Indie population. They pranced around on-stage in pastel suits and played irreverently with their props – gigantic blue polystyrene scrotums hanging from the ceiling. The live experience of ‘Hold Music’ and ‘Heart it Races’ was overwhelming, with everyone in the packed crowd losing their shit – whether or not they were older than the band themselves.

The progression to the aptly named ‘Boiler Room’ kept the enthusiasm high; we entered to the closing tracks of the Purple Sneakers DJs, just before Girl Talk began. For the same reason Architecture was so good, the Sneakers DJs and Girl Talk were somewhat of a disappointment. The music was fine, and the environment was fun, but it provided nothing a Thursday night at World Bar or a Friday at Oxford Arts wouldn’t. The exorbitantly high drink prices, monsoonal humidity and bar queues for days made it decidedly worse.

Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All took to the stage in a blaze of adolescent, testosterone-fuelled glory only to be hamstrung by arguably the worst sound engineer in history. For all but two of the group’s songs the backing track was so loud it rendered Tyler the Creator’s mic utterly inaudible. Despite their repeated requests to “turn up the motherfuckin’ mics yo”, it wasn’t until their second last, and most well-known, track ‘Yonkers’ dropped that we could finally hear half of what was being rapped.

In spite of all this, the raw, chaotic energy that Odd Future bring to their live performances shone through, with their howling, visceral rendition of ‘Radicals’ sending the crowd into an animalistic lather. The set was well-received but the point was missed: as Mike G put it, “c’mon I know you niggas is drunk as fuck but let me feel some energy for the last song!” Tellingly, the crowd responded by one punter throwing a beer can at Tyler’s head.

The biggest drawcard for the festival was undoubtedly headliner Kanye West; his audience began congregating almost a full hour before he took to the stage. This is what everyone had come to see; everything else was just killing time. Unless, of course, you liked Soundgarden.

True to form, Kanye delivered a filibuster to make the most stalwart of congressmen blush. But twenty-five minutes of ‘Runaway’, blatantly self-indulgent arpeggios and an almost perverse penchant for auto-tune had BDO patrons disgruntled. The extended refrain of “if you love someone tonight, hold them tight” showcased that Kanye, like the modern day Shakespeare he is, had finally mastered the art of the rhyming couplet. However, before too long drug-addled calls rang out to get to the Boiler Room stage quick smart. “Oi Kanye wrap it up! I’m dinging off my head and I’m fucking chargin’ to get to Nero!”

We tried to have fun at the Big Day Out – we really did – but ultimately we were thwarted. The weather was awful, the acts weren’t excellent, and the crowd (to put it bluntly) was shithouse. Kanye was almost enough to save the festival with his two-and-a-half hour blockbuster – but only almost. With eight hours to kill before the main event, something really needed to justify the heat, frustration, and money-sap the day provided. There were times when the enjoyment took over and we could legitimately have an unqualified good time. Standouts, whilst notable, were few and far between.

But there comes a time when you question the existence of humanity, when a guy with neck-tatts, ear stretchers and septum piercing strikes up a conversation with the words “Oi, I mean, how easy would life be if you were a chick?” He continued: “You get on the Slingshot for free if you get your tits out… this chick was like ‘nah’, but the dude was like ‘come ooon’… Then she FULL DID!”

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