Australia: Your passport to the moshpit

By Scott Kara

New Zealand has it's own music festivals to go to, but with the death of the Big Day Out on these shores, more Kiwis than ever before are heading to Australia for their fix of big gigs. Scott Kara presents a guide to the best of the music festivals from across the ditch.

Karen O with Yeah Yeah Yeahs will be performing at the Big Day Out in cities across Australia. Photo / AP
Karen O with Yeah Yeah Yeahs will be performing at the Big Day Out in cities across Australia. Photo / AP

SOUNDWAVE 2013

Where & when: Brisbane, February 23; Sydney, February 24; Melbourne, March 1; Adelaide, March 2; Perth, March 4

What: Heavy rock, heavy metal, death metal, nu metal, thrash, hardcore, hip hop, punk, and pop punk.

Why go?: If songs like Master of Puppets, Angel of Death, and Green Machine rattle your chain then you should get yourself across the Tasman and beg, steal, or borrow a ticket to what is steadily becoming one of Australia's most popular festivals. Headliners at next year's sold out shows are Metallica, and also playing are thrash kings Slayer and stoner metal heroes Kyuss Lives!. And with Anthrax also on the bill, that means three of "the big four" of thrash metal (minus Megadeth) will be bringing the noise. Also worth checking out are Canadian crazies F****d Up (who supported Foo Fighters at Western Springs last year), Linkin Park (even though nu metal is so dead), and Blink 182 (because singing along to What's My Age Again? will make you feel like a jumped up little brat all over again).

Who goes?: Bogans, mainly. But this festival brings the most diverse bunch of bogans in Australasia together because it caters to all things rock meaning there will be dumb ones, intelligent ones, shy ones, sunburnt ones, comatose ones, female ones, and, of course, sweaty and stinky ones.

Line-up: Metallica, Linkin Park, Blink 182, A Perfect Circle, The Offspring, Paramore, Slayer, Garbage, Cypress Hill, Tomahawk, Stone Sour, Bring Me The Horizon, Kyuss Lives, Anthrax, Killswitch Engage, Dragonforce, F****d Up, Gallows, The Sword, Duff McKagan's Loaded, and many more

Tickets: Sold out

Website: soundwavefestival.com

BIG DAY OUT

Where & when: Sydney, Jan 18; Gold Coast, Jan 20; Adelaide, Jan 25; Melbourne, Jan 26; Perth, Jan 28

What: It's just like that old festival we used to have at Mt Smart Stadium. You know the one? There were toilet and beer queues galore, lots of sweaty moshing, and you wandered from stage to stage checking out your favourite bands and hopefully your new favourite band.

Why go?: Because it doesn't happen in New Zealand any more. And even though promoter Ken West said the New Zealand leg should never have happened - after 18 years, what rot - we won't hold that against the Aussies. Though the headliners in recent years haven't been as attractive as in the past, it is still a solid line-up with some interesting acts, like New York weirdos Animal Collective, saucy noise duo Sleigh Bells, and art rockers Yeah Yeah Yeahs. However, bear in mind many of the acts are doing side shows in New Zealand including headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers, Animal Collective and, best of all, Alabama Shakes, the southern blues rock band led by hootin' and howlin' front woman Brittany Howard.

Who goes?: The same diverse, music-loving crowd that frequented the New Zealand one. So that's sunburnt young men, scantily clad young women, ageing rockers (depending on whether there's an ageing rocker playing), goths, bogans, punks, and normal everyday people.

Line-up: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Killers, Vampire Weekend, Band of Horses, Foals, Crystal Castles, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, B.O.B., Against Me, Alabama Shakes, Gary Clark Jr. Avalanche City, Sleigh Bells, and many more.

Tickets: $210

Website: bigdayout.com

BYRON BAY BLUES FESTIVAL

Where & when: Tyagarah Tea Tree Farm (11km north of Byron Bay), March 28-April 1

What: Blues in its many and varied bastardised forms.

Why go?: Because it's five days of solid music, starting around midday and running until midnight each day. And it's not just a bunch of guys singing the blues, with the likes of original punks Iggy and the Stooges and foot-stomping First Lady of rockabilly Wanda Jackson, through to Detroit folk minstrel Rodriguez and New Orleans' music godfather Allen Toussaint on next year's bill.

The big thing about Blues Fest is that it has history since it started way back in 1990 and has become a main drawcard for music legends, even if they're not playing in the bands you want to see them in. Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant plays with his new band the Sensational Space Shifters, and then there's Jon Anderson, the former singer from prog rock survivors Yes, and, er, Roger Hodgson of Supertramp.

Who goes?: Everyone from hardcore blues lovers to the surfers and hippies who hang out in Byron Bay.

Line-up: Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters, Iggy and the Stooges, Status Quo, Roger Hodgson (Supertramp), Jon Anderson (Yes), Madness, Jimmy Cliff, Joan Armatrading, Rodriguez, Robert Cray, Mavis Staples, Wanda Jackson, Michael Kiwanuka, Bettye LaVette, Allen Toussaint, Ben Harper, Santana, Bonnie Raitt, Chris Isaak, Steve Miller Band, Wilco, Dropkick Murphys, and many more.

Tickets: $139-$545

Website: bluesfest.com.au

LANEWAY

Where & when: Footscray Community Arts Centre, 45 Moreland St, Melbourne, February 3. Also held in Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, Auckland and Singapore.

What: A classy, inner city boutique festival for music's cool kids. So the cool kids tag is a vast generalisation, but, rest assured, the majority of people who go to Laneway are pretty damn cool because you have to be cool to have heard of most of the bands on the bill.

Why go?: Yes, we have it in New Zealand but Melbourne was where this festival originated back in 2004 when a couple of blokes, Jerome Borazio and Danny Rogers, decided the lanes of Melbourne needed livening up with some top notch music. Back then they got the Avalanches to headline and pulled in 1400 punters. Now, although still reasonably boutique in terms of crowd size, the Laneway empire has expanded to take in six other cities. But Melbourne will always be its spiritual home.

Who goes?: No, not just cool kids. But young, middle-aged, and old hipsters and scenesters who like standing round as a delightful indie band plays their delightfully dulcet, sometimes maudlin, and occasionally noisy songs.

Line-up: Alt-J, Bat For Lashes, El-P, Japandroids, Jessie Ware, Kings of Convenience, Nicolas Jaar, Yeasayer, Of Monsters and Men, the Rubens, and many more.

Tickets: $184

Website: lanewayfestival.com.au

SPLENDOUR IN THE GRASS

Where & when: Belongil Fields, Byron Bay. Held over three days in July.

What: For want of a better term, alternative music, but with popular mainstream acts too that cover all genres from rock to hip-hop and pop to dance.

Why go?: Because it's held during the winter when most music lovers are starved for concerts, let alone festivals of this kind - and you will also be able to say you've been to "Splendour". It also has major pulling power, like getting Jack White down to Australia especially for the show this year (though it helped he had his first solo album to promote), and enticing the reformed At the Drive-In to play, who though not a huge band have a hardcore following nonetheless, making it a coup. In the past everyone from the Pixies and Coldplay to the Strokes and Kanye West have headlined.

Who goes?: A similar diverse crowd to the Big Day Out because it covers its bases with big-name headliners along with more unusual acts and up and comers (like Mumford & Sons who played in 2010).

Line-up: The 2013 bill is yet to be announced but last year White headlined the first night and Smashing Pumpkins were the third night finale. The line-up also included indie favourites the Shins, Swedish trio Miike Snow, and sultry pop hottie Lana Del Rey, as well as New Zealand acts Kimbra, Ladyhawke and Shihad.

Tickets: $445 three days, $171 single day (2012 prices)

Website: splendourinthegrass.com

- NZ Herald

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