'Is it just me - or is it louder this year?'

By Alan Perrott

Motorbikes flying between trees, a circling aircraft towing a sign touting condoms, and what sounded like a pig being stuck in front of a large audience: welcome to the 10th Auckland Big Day Out.

While the total of 40,000 who rolled up to Ericsson Stadium yesterday for the annual music extravaganza was down on recent years, the smaller crowd made life a lot more comfortable for the sunsoaked punters.

And a Nobel Prize for crowd control should go to the clever clogs who put lanes on the stairways.

"Is it me, or is it louder this year?" asked Gloria Morris, 25, of Hamilton.

Like many, the office receptionist had taken the day off for her annual musical fix and had a full agenda planned with her mates.

"I'm not really too fussed about any of the bands. I always have a great time just people-watching. Checking out the fashion and strange people. Tonight we'll be out on the town for a big night out."

As she spoke, a girl walked past wearing some jury-rigged fishnet stockings topped off with a pair of men's red Y-fronts.

Say what you will about her, there's no denying it - sordid fleshpot Paris Hilton is very big among the ladies.

For guys it was same old, same old. Rain, hail or shine, you ain't dressed without a black T-shirt, and masked metallers Slipknot were clear winners on the day judging by the number clad in their wares.

"I've been a big fan for five years," said Andrew, a 40-something BDO regular from Auckland's salubrious western suburbs. "I don't get people who don't turn out. I find that really weird. It's only once a year and there is something for everyone."

While the 60-band lineup stretched over six stages changes every year, there is one constant - long queues for the women's toilets.

"There are never enough," said Tessa Prebble, 21, from Wellington.

She and two friends were dead keen on catching American all-woman group Le Tigre and had hoped for a loo stop before their set.

"I thought planning ahead would be a good idea, but we need twice as many loos."

Despite the delay, she was uncertain about the standing toilets for women that will be tested during the Australian legs of the BDO tour.

Whether she likes the loos or not, Sydneysider Dave Klein, 27, was sure Ms Prebble would find more space to move across the Tasman.

"This is my first Big Day Out in Auckland, and I can't believe how much more squashed it is than the ones back home."

Even so, he was more than happy to have seen what he came for. "I'm just here for the chicks," he grinned.

* Two people were taken to Auckland City Hospital in a serious condition. Both were said to have taken herbal party pills.

Hospital duty manager Ben Basevi said the condition of one, an 18-year-old youth, had improved to stable two hours after admission.

The condition of the second person was not known late last night.

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