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Chris Schulz: Goodbye Big Day Out, you will be missed

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Dave Grohl performs with the Foo Fighters at the 2000 Big Day Out. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Dave Grohl performs with the Foo Fighters at the 2000 Big Day Out. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Chris Cornell was screaming, "Save me!" at the top of his lungs. Kim Thayil was ripping through that brutal lead riff. And the rhythm section, Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd, were rattling my chest and savaging my ear drums as Soundgarden belted out their classic anthem Spoonman.

It was 1997, and I was at my first Big Day Out, grinning from ear to ear in the middle of the moshpit as Cornell's grunge heroes headlined the main stage.

I'd found my musical nirvana, and I vowed to return each and every year.

And I did. I've been to every Big Day Out since. Whether I was unemployed and broke, living in a different city, winning tickets through magazine competitions or annoying my family as I skipped out on summer holidays early, I've always found a way to go.

For me, the New Year hasn't really kicked off until I've spent 12 hours in the sweltering heat, the seething masses and the occasional moshpit at Mt Smart Stadium.

Sure, the Big Day Out has its critics - and I agree that the venue's never been great, the sound is often mediocre, and by 2pm the men's toilets are cess pits of filth.

And they sure botched things this year. From the way they announced the line-up - social media fail, anyone? - to the axing of Kanye West and the banning of Odd Future, the Big Day Out proved it had run its course.

But I love it. And I'm sad that we won't see the Big Day Out at its best this Friday. The poor line-up, downsized venue and slow ticket sales have seen to that.

Add to that the goodwill factor that's been lost over the past few months, and this year's Big Day Out isn't looking that big at all.

So let's remember the festival at its peak. Like the time Courtney Love got naked in 1999 while the Hole singer shouted obscenities at fans in the front row. The same year, Marilyn Manson performed under a giant neon sign that simply said, 'Drugs', tearing pages from a bible while standing at a church pulpit dressed in some kind of devilish bikini creation. With feathers.

Who can forget that jampacked 2000 show, which hosted Foo Fighters, Nine Inch Nails, Blink 182, Red Hot Chili Peppers and The Chemical Brothers - all bands that can, and have, filled Vector Arena on their own. There was a half-hour travel delay between stages that year.

There was the night the Rammstein front man rowed around the main stage moshpit in an inflatable row boat in 2001 as fireworks went off overhead. Or the time Julian Casablancas was completely off his face during the band's haphazard 2004 performance.

Remember when the Mint Chicks destroyed an advertising hoarding board and reportedly got banned?

And there were plenty of highlights in recent years too. The Beastie Boys were great fun in 2005, Rage Against the Machine brought my angsty teenage years back in 2008, Neil Young was like a museum display bought to life in 2009, and seeing an entire stadium go completely bonkers as Dizzee Rascal played - yep - Bonkers in 2010 was insane.

And let's not forget the crowds the Big Day Out delivered for our own bands. Would Shihad be where they are without those adrenalised mid-afternoon Big Day Out sets to their name?

Sure, there are always plenty of bands on offer. But some of my favourite Big Day Out memories aren't at all music related. Like watching the clowns at the silent disco pretend to have the time of their lives while everyone else laughs at their daggy dancing.

Or the year they introduced a women's wrestling ring that attracted a large, mostly male, and very vocal audience. I can't understand why they didn't make it a mainstay.

Then, in 2004, when Metallica headlined the main stage, the Lily World was hosted by two camp pajama-clad Aussies running an event called 'Bogan Makeovers'. Metallica fans were offered $100 to shave their mullets and exchange their shirts for a pink one. Some of them even did it. Genius.

And the Big Day Out is the only place I'll ever eat those delicious combo plates from the Hare Krishna chefs. I usually get two of them, they're so good. If anyone knows where I can find them outside of the Big Day Out, I'll give you a free hug.

But come this Friday, the music will stop. The Boiler Room will be taken down. The ferris wheel will stop turning. The Green Stage won't exist. And the crazy computer lady telling us to wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water will stop talking.

So excuse me if I shed a small tear as Soundgarden finish up their set, because this is one music fan who sure will miss the Big Day Out.

- Herald online

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