Locals prove the big noises

By Russell Baillie, Scott Kara, Russell Bailie

The tenth Auckland Big Day Out didn't quite have the pulling power of its predecessors, but somebody forgot to take notice.

Crowd-wise, it felt as big as ever. Nearly 40,000 spread themselves over and round Ericsson Stadium for more than 12 hours of simultaneous music across six stages.

Weather-wise, it has probably never been hotter.

If the line-up lacked international bands-on-the-brink or height-of-their-powers headliners, then there was something to compensate - us. More specifically, the utter confidence the big-name local acts showed on stage and the reception they received.

Sure it was the year of Slipknot (the scariest thing to hit the BDO since Marilyn whatshisname), the return of fellow American metallers System of a Down and American hip-hop institution the Beastie Boys.

But whether it was fledgling bands such as the Checks going mad in the midday sun on the smaller stages, dance acts such as Shapeshifter bringing the Boiler Room to a scorch, Scribe and P-Money taking hip-hop to the main arena, this was a Big Day Out that didn't feel it lacked for excitement.

So, to the best, worst and oddest of the day ...

BEST REALLY OLD SONG

No Sleep Til Brooklyn by the Beastie Boys is nearly 20 years of age but it was still one of the higher-energy moments in the headlining group's entertaining ramble of performance. Their hour-plus breakdanced a fine line between indulgence, comedy, multiple costume changes and hip-hop that could have been created any time in that past two decades.

BEST CROWD

The 18 (or so) strong Polyphonic Spree who took over the stage in the Boiler Room and, while driving many of the dance fans to seek shelter elsewhere, still entranced with their semi-orchestral (harp, strings, brass, choir) psychedelic pop. They played under a banner offering the word "Hope" . It sure balanced the punters' karma after Slipknot.

WORST POLITICAL BROADCAST

Chicago punk band Rise Against, who got their audience to shout "[expletive] George Bush" on the occasion of Dubya's second inauguration. Everyone feel better now? Good.

WORST WAY TO GET OUR HOPES UP

Those guys in the bunny suits from some battery company. We thought the Flaming Lips had returned. Hope they got really hot.

BEST HAIR BUT ...

The Donnas, the all-women American garage rock outfit, were tressed to impress. But while they threw some rock'n'roll shapes, they had all the power of a portable hairdryer. The phrase "played like a bunch of girls" sprang to mind.

BEST EGO

Howlin' Pelle Almqvist, frontman of Swedish garage rockers the Hives. Not only did the singer offer a hilarious line in self-appreciation in accented English that was somewhere between Stockholm and New Orleans, but his band's mid-afternoon set was probably the single most entertaining performance of the day. Their set also took the prize for how to sell '60s riffs to 16-year-olds, and the band took "best dressed" for their black and white riverboat gambler look. Nice spats that man.

BEST NATIVE DANCE

Who said we are a hip-hop nation? Going by the heaving Boiler Room at 2pm yesterday, we are a drum'n'bass dominion. Shapeshifter made the dance tent sweat and the punters gurn. It was packed. How the drummer plays that fast is anyone's guess. Beautiful live vocals - both female and male - start the songs and then smack! Apart from the Hives about the same time, this was when the Big Day Out started going off.

WORST DANCER BUT ...

 Robert Harvey, the interpretive-dancing singer from the Music, the band with the worst name. But their Led Zep-inspired pomp-rock showed they had toughened up since they were last here, even with the hippy percussion break near the end.

BEST IN A WORST KIND OF WAY

 The maggots - Slipknot's fans - were there for their band. Most others were there just to see this masked band for its novelty value. Was there a song behind all that brutally exquisite noise? Yes, the song is called The Heretic Anthem and it set off the biggest moshpit of the day so far. Until Shihad that is, who were up next.

BEST DUDE

Resplendent in white singlet, wrist-bands, and hanky under his cap, Scribe - with offsider P-Money - was the first local hip-hop guy to play the main stage at the Big Day Out. And the girls were cooing. Yes, we've said it before, but this man is powerful. What other New Zealand song, just from its opening bars, could make the crowd tense up, feel staunch and incite friendly head-butts between mates, other than Not Many.

BEST SUNSET SET

In one of their last performances, Wellingtonians TrinityRoots ushered in dusk with a karakia, a song, and soul-reggae-psychedelic freakout.

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