Having only finally been accredited to photograph Big Day Out for the first time last year, at the seventh attempt of trying, 2012 finds me back there again with little difficulty. Maybe the heavily-criticised line-up helped dissuade photographers from applying this year to cover it. With there being no Sunset Sounds this year, after the pre-Brisbane flooding deluge of last year, Big Day Out marks the first festival of the new year. Having been using a broken camera since the start of December, it’s also the first time that I’ve had to use it in its current state for a festival. Not having a working LCD screen to review and edit photos, not being able to monitor how many photos I’ve taken until the memory card is full and not knowing how much battery life is left until it goes flat has not been much of a problem in the shows I’ve photographed since the Mudoney gig when the screen was broken. I’ve got enough memory cards and batteries for it not to impact and have been able to get away with it by taking up to a card’s worth of photos over the night (160ish photos). Anyone who says that digital hasn’t made photographing easier is a big fat liar; knowing that I only really need to get one photo to send through to accompany the review,even a blind monkey could manage that hit rate and come away with a useable photo out of maybe 100 shots of the headline act. Photographing a festival for web publication, needing to submit 80 – 100 photos, photographing around 20 acts over the day makes managing memory cards and battery life is a completely different prospect and a whole lot more problematic. However, as the exposure can be set through the viewfinder and with what should be more than enough batteries, making sure I don’t run out of memory by the time the headlining acts take to the stage is the only real problem to deal with. The solution is fairly simple: to take my notebook in my camera bag and download batches of memory cards during the day to make sure that this doesn’t happen.
Being the first festival of the year and the first of a number that I’ve been accredited for, I’m also interested to find out just how far I walk in the day and so download a GPS tracker app to my phone. The results of this are covered in my Quick Round Up post for the day.
Although 2011 was the first time I got to photograph the festival, I’ve been a number of times as a punter, and there’s a familiarity about the train journey down to the Gold Coast. As usual I feel like I’m one of the eldest people on the train and one of the few not in shorts and a wife-beater. As ever, despite being mid-morning, pre-festival binge drinking is fully evident and conversations bragging about being wasted, even though it’s barely 10am, can be overheard. Although I think I’m heading down a bit earlier than usual, to make sure I can pick my photo vest up before the first bands start, the train doesn’t seem anywhere near as full as I remember it being in previous years. The train trip is the more straightforward and easy part of the journey and it’s always the bus from Helensvale station to the Gold Coast Parklands that is more problematic, with essentially the whole train heading for the bus stop as soon as they leave the station and huge queues and waiting for buses meaning that it’s harder to predict just how long it’s going to take to get from Helensvale to the Parklands. This year, luckily, it doesn’t take too long to get on a bus. The bus fills up and turns into standing room only. A group of guys gets on and then debates getting off and waiting for the next bus as there’s no seats left and they’re going to have to stand up for the ten minute bus journey. Once again I’m thinking about what would happen to the younger generation if there was a war.
Getting into the festival is no problem. I’m running late and the music has already started so I head straight to pick up my attractive orange fluoro vest for the day and then have time to photograph one song of the fairly non-descript and generic Abbe May. I forgot to turn on the GPS tracker when getting off the bus and although I thought I had started it when picking up my vest, I realise that it hasn’t started properly and so it doesn’t start recording my movements until after I’ve finished photographing Abbe May. The terribly named Papa Vs Pretty are next and are fairly terrible; the UK doesn’t have the stranglehold on landfill indie, the flag is proudly being flown in Australia with support from triple j.
Over in the Green Tent Stonefield are really late starting, more than 15 minutes after their start time. They’re quite good, particularly their singing drummer who has a great voice, but they’ve got their work cut out to show that they’re not just a one-trick novelty act – See The Flairz.
Lunchtime brings with it the worst clash of the day and four bands that I wanted to see/photograph playing on four different stages around the festival site. I really enjoy photographing Cage The Elephant, there’s a lot of energy that Australian bands playing festivals rarely put in although with a broken camera it’s hard to know whether I’m actually getting any decent photos or not as I haven’t got a screen to review anything I take [I guess in the end some of the photos ended up being ok, but probably not as good as I would have liked]. I can’t remember if I’ve photographed Parkway Drive before, if I have it was a long time ago at one of the really good Overcranked festivals that used to take place at the RNA Showgrounds, in the same spaces as Laneway takes place now [I've checked and I don't think they played either of the Overcranked festivals I photographed]. I’ve been wanting to photograph them for a while now, having never had the chance to photograph any of their massive Riverstage shows over the last few years but find it a bit boring and annoying to photograph. The BDO main stages are just too high and it would have been so much better to have photograph them at The Riverstage with its knee-high stage. How old are PWD anyway? They look really old, like a generation older than most of the people who are watching them.
From the main stage, it’s back to the Green Stage for Best Coast. It’s the third time I’ve seen them play (after ATP’s Bowlie 2 at Minehead and their Brisbane show at Woodland last year, but as with those two shows, the band are really disappointing. They might have a new drummer and added a bassist to their line-up, but it hasn’t resulted in any improvement it their live show and once again they’re just very flat and don’t do justice to their really-quite-good debut album. Bethany had tweeted the night before about drinking Long Island Ice Teas on the Gold Coast and they play like a band nursing a hangover on a hot day. The day after the Gold Coast leg of the festival she tweets about how good she thinks Australian TV programming is, which only reinforces her stoner reputation. With two new male members in the band, they’ve missed the chance (at least for now) of getting a female drummer and bassist that can sing and add backing vocals and harmonies to make the live band sound closer to the recorded band.
After photographing Best Coast, I run across to the Hot Produce stage to see a bit of Dune Rats, one of my favourite new Brisbane bands of the last year. As they’re playing on an outside stage and in front of a not too big crowd, I take a few quick photos from the other side of the photo pit as it’s well after the first three songs. The band are timetabled to play for 40 minutes but barely play for 25 minutes (assuming they started on time) and in the end I get to see less than a minute of the band and barely have time to take half a dozen photos before it’s all over. With nothing else to do, I head back and see the rest of Best Coast to see if there’s any improvement but they continue to disappoint for the rest of their set.