Joanna Hunkin: And this really is the pits

My poor ears. After 10 hours of non-stop abuse at the Big Day Out, I inflicted further damage on them down in Taupo, where I witnessed two days of roaring race action at the A1 Grand Prix. It's not often I relish the thought of heading to work on a Monday morning, but this week I was all too happy to seek sanctuary in the sedate Herald offices.

While the day-long music fest and the "world cup of motorsport" may seem to have little in common, further investigation reveals they're not as disparate as one might assume. Both featured an impressive number of Portaloos, for a start. Both left their audiences completely deafened, attracted a motley crew of spectators (read bogans) and were disappointingly uneventful.

Despite being promised thrills, spills and adrenalin-inducing action during the main race of the day, all I saw was 70 minutes of the same cars, going round the same track, in the same order that they started in. Shocking.

Likewise, despite a much-hyped sell-out crowd at the Big Day Out, the day was decidedly mellow, full of people who'd "gone to have a look" rather than the die-hard eccentric fans.

For all the complaints about the day's rubbish sound quality (which I wholeheartedly concur with), I still found myself lying in bed on Friday night plagued by a high-pitched whine serenading my brain.

Fortunately, my forward-thinking brother saved me from complete deafness in Taupo, having stolen several pairs of earplugs from his work. Nice one.

As for the amenities, well ... Who knew New Zealand had so many Portaloos? Between the BDO and the Grand Prix, there can't have been a loo left in the country. While the BDO suffered its usual toilet woes - long queues, lack of paper etc - A1GP organisers stepped up to the plate, providing rows of forest-green cubicles that stretched as far as the eye could see.

Both events also managed to ensure no one walked away from them clean. While BDO spectators left caked in their own and others' sweat, those at the A1 found themselves coated in a gritty layer of dust, courtesy of the race circuit's windswept location.

There were, however, several marked differences between the events as well. While not all of the acts at the BDO put on their greatest set, not even the half-arsed efforts of Scribe were as bad as the atrocity that was the A1 theme song. That's right. Theme song. Set to a crashing 80s techno beat, with awkward lyrics like, "The racing cars are all the same, human skills determine victory," it's no wonder the track hasn't made the charts. It even has revving engine sound effects in the background. Ha!

Despite the lack of smashes during the main event, there was still plenty of motoring madness throughout the rest of weekend, thanks to the V8, Porsche and Mini Cooper race series. Compared to the laidback and generally uninspired performances by several of the BDO acts, it has to be said the A1 was actually more interesting.

Plus the two-day event (well actually it's three days but Friday is just practice) means punters can live it up large and check out Taupo's thriving nightlife. As we headed out on Saturday night, the Tuwharetoa St party provided the ultimate highlight of my weekend, as middle-aged men dressed in chinos rocked out to a local covers band, dancing maniacally and - to my intense amusement - throwing the goat.

Now where were they at the Big Day Out?

* Joanna attended the A1 Grand Prix courtesy of Captain Ted's Racing Team.

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