Big Day Out: Back to good old days and name checks from all eras

By Russell Baillie, Scott Kara, Rebecca Barry Hill

This annual gathering of the music tribes was a little less tribal than previous years. Maybe it was the heat. Maybe it was the lack of a mass-market headliner.

Maybe it was the combined effect of less hip-hop in the day's diet along with a dance tent line-up that shouted very few must-sees. And less metal too (though as their vests told us, the Waitakere Team Policing Unit was there in case any westies turned up).

The numbers seemed back down to comfortable levels and the music ... well it felt like a festival of what we used to call "alternative rock". Just like the good old Big Out Days.

Actually, the days must seem to stretch further back than that. Name a rock era and there was a BDO band referencing it - or in the case of Iggy and Stooges, reliving it in wild style.

In his penultimate slot the Igster and band (two-thirds of the original Detroit outfit which originally split in 1974) all but stole the show with a happily unhinged performance of their primitive but influential early works (TV Eye, I Wanna Be Your Dog among others).

And Mr Pop, as shirtless as ever, was in fabulously disgraceful form throughout, even arranging for a minor stage invasion.

He was the day's best guess-you-had-to-be-there moment.

So, having set our attention-spans on "shuffle" as is the yearly habit, we offer some impressions - good, bad and otherwise of the day's musical overload ...

Our new favourite band: The Greenhornes - the rock trio with White Stripes connections out of Ohio who delivered a cracking set showing a definite influence of the 60s British blues explosion. Well, the Yardbirds cover kind of confirmed it.

Best local comeback: Veteran southern janglers The Bats, who set up their own chugging grooves in what could have been an audio argument with the next-door Boiler Room.

Most demanding clap-along: Pluto's set-closer Dance Stamina with its Radio Ga-Ga-like manual percussion requirements. The song capped off a surprisingly muscular set for the Auckland band on the main stage.

Best of British I: The Magic Numbers, whose harmonies and summer-struck pop were a balm for the ears. Yes they do look like Peter Jackson and his co-writers (before the money) but they sure could play too. Especially the bassist. For employing a melodica, they also win best use of an instrument we last saw at primary school.

Best of British II: The guttersnipe punk metal of young English trio The Subways who delivered many a disaffected teenage anthem. Funny to hear a punk band singing in an English accent who are actually from England.

Best blot on the landscape: Mudvayne. This year's sole visitor from the now ancient land of nu-metal. Played like demons of course. But the usual double kick-drum ritual aggression which felt out of place on a sunstruck afternoon.

Best outfit: Apart from Jack and Meg from the White Stripes of course and the guy down front in the green speedos. It was Ninja from the Go! Team in her cheerleader-meets-double dutch uniform. But, after all the hype, shame about the chaotic mess of music the Brits inflicted upon us.

Best sample: DJ James Murphy gets the Boiler Room sweaty with a snippet of the Bee Gees' You Should Be Dancin', Yeah. Reminded us what that big sweaty tent is all about.

Best no name: Blindspott have some new songs but they don't have names. Singer Damian Alexander asked fans to email their suggestions. Yeah the dog ate my homework too.

Best band of brothers: Savage and the Deceptikonz (and other members of the Dawn Raid entourage) didn't have much competition in the tough guy stakes. Hip-hop they might have been but "bang your head" they did.

Best hair: Shihad's Jon Toogood. Seriously, how did he grow it so fast? Did he perhaps borrow and dye the leftovers from Phil Knight's old mop? We had a sweepstake on how many songs it would take before Toogood ended up in the front row. He left it until after the last song so no one won. But Shihad's greatest hits set was a mighty thing. Only the Warriors dig deeper at Ericsson Stadium.

Best close shave: Kings of Leon. The formerly hirsute US southern men were barely recognisable with their new clean-shaven visages. But their set - which caused the first big main stage crowd surges of the day - was ruggedly handsome all the same, care of their weird and wiry songs.

Best use of furniture: Breaks Co-Op's all-seated performance (memo: use bar stools next time so more of us can see). Unfortunately, something was amiss in their live sound and those rich folk-soul harmonies were a mite flat and Gregorian for much of their set.

Best scull: The frontman from Wolfmother who said cheers and we made him scull his beer and he spilled most of it down himself. Those Aussies can't hold their liquor.

Best dance song not in the dance tent: Take Me Out by Franz Ferdinand, which caused one of the day's most uplifting moments in the main stadium - their rock music didn't bludgeon like so much of the day's offerings.

Best way to clear a room: The sustained feedback of a particularly filling-rattling frequency near the end of the White Stripes' oddly indulgent performance. Sure, it scorched with Jack White's flamethrower guitar fired on the big numbers, but care of two takes on Dolly Parton's Joelene among other perplexing tangents, it was never in danger of finding its own momentum. Often brilliant but frequently baffling.

Best brothers from another planet: The Mars Volta. Psychedelic Santana-esque Latino styles mixed up with a spot of space metal. As only they can do. With that sort of sound you can imagine why they were half an hour late coming on. But like the rest of the day, worth the fried neurons.

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