Big Day Out: Rock of ages for everyone

By Russell Baillie, Scott Kara

Jon Toogood from Kiwi rock royalty Shihad owned the main stage at Big Day Out. Photo / Richard Robinson
Jon Toogood from Kiwi rock royalty Shihad owned the main stage at Big Day Out. Photo / Richard Robinson

This year's Big Day Out was one for the ages.

Where in past years it's been a festival reflecting the current obsessions of that year's rock generation, this year's slightly damp affair was an all-encompassing time warp.

There were no mass armies of metallers, goths, or miserable-looking emos as in years previous.

It was a show, more than any other in the Big Day Out's 16-year run, where there was something for everyone.

And the crowd who ended up wandering from stage to stage - and from decade to decade - in the drizzle had one of the most diverse, and as it turns out best line-ups yet to choose from.

And that's whether it was Iggy and the Stooges churning out the Raw Power-era songs of the early 70s; Shihad playing their classic 1999 album The General Electric; or Primal Scream doing the same to their 1991 Screamadelica album.

Yes, there was a heavy dose of nostalgia, but no one seemed to mind because there was plenty of everything else.

From the South African hip-hop rave freak show of Die Antwoord to the camp metal of Rammstein and the arty heaviness of Tool, and, to end, the unhinged explosions of Nick Cave's Grinderman.

So it rained, no one seemed to mind that either, and here are the rest of the best bits...

Best group hug
The stage invaders who shared the floor with Iggy Pop and then embraced the veteran wild man early on in the set by the reunited (sort of) Stooges.

Best morning crowd surf and guitar throw
Andrew Wilson from bratty Dunedin trio Die!Die!Die! who looked and sounded like they were still waking up during their late morning set. But with the onslaught of We Built Our Own Oppressors he launched himself into the crowd and then lobbed his axe back on stage.

Best time travel experience
The 1968 to 1958 flashback between the side-by-side sets of the Greenhornes (Americans playing British blues-rock really well) to the Jim Jones Revue (Brits playing American rock 'n' roll with a Gene Vincent/Jerry Lee Lewis swagger). Both largely terrific too.

Best first-up party
Kids of 88 were just a little bit of what the Boiler Room masses needed with their songs about sugar pills, S&M, and doing naughty things back at their house much later than their midday slot.

Best stage move
Having no sides on the new Boiler Room tent. We can breathe. Bliss.

Best who knew?
That psychedelic instrumental dance rock was so big. New York duo Ratatat got a rowdy early afternoon welcome and, to quote the title of their best song, the long-haired crazies sure were some pretty Wild Cats. Reeooww!

Best public nuisance
Andrew WK, what with songs like the charming Party Til You Puke and his eye-popping leotard-clad wife dancing aerobics-meets-Flashdance style and singing backing vocals, the guy is a party animal. Party hard.

Best dressed
Lovefoxxx from Brazilian party band CSS in her manly looking Strictly Ballroom dancing costume, then she stripped down to hot pants and a crop top, and then...well, it was off the hook.

Best undressed
The wily banshee Yo-Landi from South African freak show Die Antwoord who revealed glimpses of every private part of her body. Not that it detracted from the band's fun, educational (we learned a little South African slang), and rude set of banging party tunes. And special mention in the undressed category goes to the girls lifting their tops during Airbourne.

Best unashamed Oz rock
The big-hearted, no-shirt hard rock of Airbourne, whose frontman Joel O'Keefe clambered dangerously high up the stage scaffolding to deliver a guitar solo before declaring Auckland was the "home of rock 'n' roll" among other endearing statements to the throng, who probably thought they were the best band to hit town since AC/DC. And in many ways they were.

Best set you didn't see
Grayson Gilmour, the Wellington artpop wonderboy with his keyboards, cello accompaniment, and rhythm section who made lovely live work of the songs from this terrific 2010 album.

Best post punk revival by a duo known for other things
Kody and Bic. Bic Runga and the Mint Chicks' frontman Kody Nielson in their mid-afternoon set with a cover of Siouxsie and the Banshees' Hong Kong Garden was a nice touch to their oddball dreampop duets. Yes, quite a beautiful collision.

Best soul in the afternoon
Plan B, the Brit white boy who started his set beatboxing better than the guy on Police Academy before unleashing his blue-eyed soul on the unsuspecting cruisers on the top field.

Best rendition of a horror movie
German terror-industrialists Rammstein's stage show which kind of became Saw III: The Musical when they dragged out that vat and set fire to it.

With their singer in it.

Just one of many guess-you-had-to-be-there Alice Cooper moments in their pile-driving set which came with more pyrotechnics than (insert gratuitous World War II reference here). A teutonic for the troops, those guys.

Best cover band II
The Naked and Famous for their redo of the Mint Chicks' Crazy? Yes! Dumb? No! played amid a surging set which also took songs from their breakthrough debut album and created something grandly atmospheric in the rainy setting.

And played last, anthemic hit Young Blood brought kids from the Class of 2011 running across the top field to join the party.

Best surprise
That after their shambolic but fun performance in the early days of the festival, Primal Scream and frontman Bobby Gillespie delivered a passionate and stirring Damaged (the guy can actually sing), and trippy dance hit Don't Fight It, Feel It.

And that pretty much summed up the mood of the day.

Best undies
Ninja from Die Antwoord's Dark Side of the Moon boxers. And boy, did he shake his, er, thing for the front row.

Best shadow boxing
The perpetually silhouetted frontman of Tool, Maynard James Keenan who preferred to do his lizard king thing on a riser at the back of the stage as the band's highbrow art metal crashed about him.

On their second headlining BDO appearance, Tool ruled, again.

Best covers band
Wolfmother. The retro-rock Aussie outfit not only inserted The Who's Baba O'Riley and the Beatles' Dear Prudence into their set but the opening bars of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (y'know, the horror movie organ music). Yes, Wolfmother's Bach is worse than its bite. Nice tassles on the front guy's jacket but jeez, another Oz act who rock.

Best lull before the storm
John Butler Trio. If the plan was to calm the main stadium down for headliners, mission accomplished. His set featured the first incidence of banjo or busking on the main stage.

Best trip from the hospital
Alice Glass from Crystal Castles who broke her ankle in Japan a few days ago and skulked out on crutches to dish up some digital hardcore.

- NZ Herald

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