Promoter on failed Big Day Out: 'I took it personally'

By Paula Yeoman

Campbell Smith knows better than anyone just how disappointed music fans were when the plug was pulled on the Big Day Out last year.

Having headed the team behind the Auckland leg of the travelling extravaganza for the past decade, Smith shared their pain. He took it hard when the critics voiced their venom and the crowds stayed away in droves from what many considered was a less than stellar line-up.

"It was emotionally really, really tough. Obviously, it didn't sell well and it was my first experience of social media attack. I took it personally."

But Smith knew it was something worth fighting for. And early this year, after spending his first January in years at the beach instead of at work, he set about bringing the Big Day Out back.

And not just that - bigger and better than it's ever been, with a new home, Western Springs.

In its 20-year stretch at Mt Smart, the Big Day Out brought some of the biggest names in music to our shores, from Red Hot Chili Peppers and Coldplay to Queens of the Stone Age and Kings of Leon.

Smith concedes that last year's line-up, which included only one or two big names, like headliners Soundgarden, perhaps wasn't the strongest. He says if that year has taught him anything, it's that the talent is the key.

"You can't just rely on people to go to the show just because it's a great event. The line-up always rules."

So it was with much anticipation, and after weeks of speculation, that on Thursday, organisers revealed the bands that will be bringing Big Day Out back to life next year. They include two of the biggest bands of the 90s, Pearl Jam and Blur. Joining them as headliners is the formidable Arcade Fire.

And it seems most boxes are ticked. Flying the flag for hip-hop - or should that be reggae - is Snoop Dogg AKA Snoop Lion. For dance fanatics there's Major Lazer and Steve Angello. Indie kids should be pleased with Portugal. The Man, Tame Impala, DIIV and Grouplove. The rockers and grungers get Ghost, local band Beastwars and Mudhoney. Other Kiwi acts include The Naked and Famous, Ladi 6, P Money and Clap Clap Riot.

"When you're putting together a new show, and coming back into the market, the line-up is crucial and I think it's a very strong one.

"Of the 10 years that I've been producing the show here, I'd say it's the strongest line-up we've ever had," says Smith.

With its new home at Western Springs, which holds 50,000 people - 5000 more than Mt Smart - Smith is promising much more than music.

"There will be five stages and they will run like they always have, but we want to try to see what we can do in every nook and cranny of the venue, maybe more art and culture-based activations.

"I'm also hoping we might have some access into the Motat area, so hopefully we can use that space," he adds.

For long-suffering Big Day Out fans who braved the concrete jungle of Mt Smart for two decades, finally, some inner-city greenery.

"Grass is great and Western Springs is loaded with grass - the stuff on the ground," he laughs.

The Big Day Out will be held at Western Springs, Auckland on January 17 next year.

- Herald on Sunday

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