When Crystal Castles played in the Boiler Room a couple of years ago, the experience of photographing them from the stage was cool. It was nice to have that opportunity and to have a set of photos to provide some variety from the usual “up-nose”view festival photos (even if some photographers hogged the best positions at the front of the stage for the whole time). This time around, there’s a large collection of photographers ready and waiting in the pit when the tour manager (at a guess) comes down, has a small fit, tells us all that no photographers are allowed in the pit and gets security to escort us all out. I’m guessing it was the same story at the other BDO shows. So instead I make use of the time to go and photograph Foals.
Although I’ve seen them a few times now, Foals are one of those bands that I just don’t really get. By the time they play, the sun has set, so there’s no ambient light in the Green Stage tent and it’s totally reliant on the stage lights. As expected, from previous experience, it’s fairly dark so I’m a bit surprised at the quality of the photos that come out. I think the Foals photos that end up getting rated as worth progressing with form one of the largest sets of photos from the day to select from. I’m not sure if the ones in this gallery are the best, but they’re ones that I liked.
Amazingly this is the first time I’ve ever seen The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, it’s just a shame that I’m more than 20 years late. I did come “this” close to seeing them in late 1999. Back in the fairly early days of the internet as a global phenomenon, (…well, the late 1990s when I was at uni doing my PhD), I used to enter loads of online competitions. These were still the Netscape years and so the number of people using the net and entering all these competitions was nowhere near as high as it is now. It was a high successful time for winning stuff, and, of course, DVDs, games, cinema tickets, and music-related competitions were high on my list. So not too long after I’d finished my thesis and moved to London I must have entered a *cough* Feeder *cough* competition (although I don’t think even then I could remember it) and got back from work one Monday to find a parcel containing a few Feeder CDs and a fetching orange Feeder T shirt. The parcel was about to be thrown out when an envelope fell out and inside the envelope were a pair of tickets to see Feeder play at Wembley Arena supporting The Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Brilliant. Except it would have been if the concert hadn’t had been on the Saturday night, two days before the tickets arrived. True story.
But even by the end of 1990s, the Chilli Peppers were a band that I’d more or less left behind. Bizarrely (when compared to most people) they lost me with Blood Sugar Sex Magik. I adored the two albums before that (Mothers Milk and Uplift Mofo Party Plan) really liked the first two albums (The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Freaky Styley ) but just hated BSSM. They’d really lost their sense of fun. It was just a real stodgy and bloated album and far too slick sounding. Thinking about it, I really struggle with a lot of the albums that Rick Rubin is feted for producing. I was such a fan back then, that they were one of the bands where I sought out the singles and 12 inch vinyl releases. These include The Abbey Road EP, a Knock Me Down 7” picture disc and the limited edition Higher Ground and Show Me Your Soul (I think) 12 inch singles. I have enjoyed some of the singles since those reasonably early days (at least pre-stadium gig days before they became massive), but not enough to actually go out and buy anything. That’s probably even more unlikely having now read Anthony Kiedis’s Scar Tissue autobiography, where he basically came over as one of the irritating people ever. The book felt like a never-ending repetition of “Met a beautiful girl, it was love at first sight, got fucked up on drugs, we broke up”. It would be a close-run thing between Kiedis and Slash for who comes off worst from their respective autobiographies.
Even the drawcard of seeing them with John Frusciante has sadly long since passed. Instead the Chilli Peppers on show tonight are one that are big on songs from their BSSM and their most recent album and the big hit singles from the last few albums, totally ignoring those first four albums. The first three songs feel like they go on for hours but, despite that, it’s still a frustrating shoot as they keep standing too far back on the stage, largely hidden from a perfect view thanks to the high stage and the foldback speakers. There’s lot of running around on the stage (although not much jumping) but impossible to actually capture well from the photo pit.
Even though it’s not great, I don’t really want to leave the RHCP for Animal Collective over in the Green Stage tent. It’s a real surprise when I get there to find that the tent is maybe only a third full. It’s not engaging in the slightest so I don’t even make two songs. I would have been quicker but had to wait for them to open their eyes before taking their photo. Usually there’s nothing worse than photographing musicians who keep their eyes shut the whole time.
The frustration continues with Sleigh Bells, the Essential Stage headliners. If you didn’t start their set with photo sensitive epilepsy, it’s highly likely that you had it be the end. On closer inspection of the photos post-festival, Alexis Krauss has her eyes shut in EVERY SINGLE PHOTO. Maybe if they didn’t subject the audience to an hour long strobe show, she wouldn’t have to do this.
I had absolutely no intention of ending at the Boiler Stage tent to photograph Bloody Beetroots but thanks to the frustration of trying to photograph Animal Collective and Sleigh Bells playing in the dark, I feel obliged to try and get some better photos of another of the headline acts. I stay for two songs, hating every minute thanks to the band playing under terrible lighting, before catching a few more numbers from the RHCP on the main stage and then starting on the long trip back to Brisbane.
2013 marks the last time that the Big Day Out will be at the Gold Coast Parklands. Despite some brinksmanship from the organisers it looks like it’ll be back at the Gold Coast next year. I wish they would just have done with it and move it to Brisbane. It would make life a whole lot easier for everyone.
Last year it looked like the festival was on the brink of ending and it’s a surprise to see how busy it is this year compared to the 2012 event. It’s not a sell out but looks close to it. (It’s interesting to consider that last year’s headliner of Kanye West was also one of the headliners for the very under-sold 2011 Splendour In The Grass at Woodford, even if the organisers of Splendour have explained that Coldplay not being a festival band was why their event didn’t sell out. Having seen Coldplay headline Glastonbury twice I would dispute this theory).
Recently I saw some comments from one of the T In The Park organisers who said that there are only 10 acts in the world that they think they could book as a headliner (whether they would need three of these acts for each night or just once of them to play one night each year isn’t clear). The booking of RHCP (and, to a slightly lesser extent, The Killers) seems an obvious choice and suggests that the way to future success is to book a headliner (or two) who have the mainstream appeal and huge commercial radio play, as well as also being acceptable (and I use that word and it’s definition very broadly. Maybe I should use “wouldn’t balk at the thought at being in the same field of a particular mainstream act or other”) to a more alternative crowd. There’s no doubt that the world’s festivals must be keeping close tabs for news that Foo Fighters have decided to record and tour again. They’re the perfect festival headline fodder act if you want your massive event to sell out with minimal effort.