There’s been a lot of criticism about this year’s Big Day Out lineup, in particular just how many acts have been quickly recycled from last year’s festival lineups. It does seem worse than in previous years as the number of quickly recycled overseas acts has increased but (at least to me) it’s always been a issue in terms of Australian acts playing every festival, every year. You only have to look at the Washington v Cloud Control battle for festival supremacy from last year’s festival season or the number of times that the likes of The Living End (playing here yet again today), Bluejuice playing here yet again today) and The Vines (amazingly not playing here today) play each and very festival each and every year. So it’s a quick return for The Vaccines, less than six months after they played at Splendour In The Grass. They’ve got a few catchy songs, there’s no argument with that, but away from the melodic hooks its ultimately it’s fairly bog standard landfill indie guitar music. You can understand why they’re popular, at least to the predominantly 16 – 24 year old demographic that’s packed out the Essential Stage tent today but it isn’t anything that hasn’t already been done before.
Odd Future are one of the bands I’ve really been looking forward to photographing today. I did get to photograph them when they played at The Hi-Fi in Brisbane last year but without a photo pass and had to photograph them from the crowd. As the place was so oversold and the downstairs so packed, I ended up deciding to photograph from the balcony, a million miles away from the stage and the photos weren’t great. Getting to photograph them today means being able to get a lot closer to the action. Heading to the Boiler Room for the first time this year, it’s noticeable that the tent is much smaller than last year year, at least half the size. It’s clearly a contingency for the lower tickets sales and the fact that for the first time in years, the festival hasn’t sold out. From memory, I don’t think any legs of the festival have sold out this year, with the Adelaide and Perth legs being downsized to save money (East Coast headliner Kanye West not making it any further west than Melbourne) and it’s already been announced that they won’t be going back to New Zealand next year. The tent may be a whole lot smaller than last year but it’s uncomfortably packed. From the safe confines of the photo pit it looks really terrible at the front but it does make for some good photos of the crowd. Unless they requested an early slot it seems ridiculously early for them to be playing; they’re the second international act of the day after Best Coast but surely have a higher profile than a lot of the acts playing after them, especially the Australian acts. As would be expected, it’s complete mayhem when the band actually start and although I’m not paying full attention, it sounds a lot better than the show at the Hi-Fi (although is probably not much of a surprise as the Hi-Fi is renowned for its poor sound). Photographing them from the front is hard work as there’s so much going on that you never know quite where to point you camera. It’s a case of really keeping your eyes open to watch what’s happening across the whole width of the stage. I often photograph with both my eyes open which I know a lot of other photographers find really weird but it gives you a wider view than if you’re looking down the camera viewfinder and with your other eye closed. There’s so much carnage and so many people coming over the barrier that the photographers all get kicked out of the photo pit after only two songs. With no LCD screen, I’ve got no immediate idea of how the photos have come out but when I download them and review them, I’m pleasantly surprised. There’s more I could have shown in this post but I was trying to be strict in the number of images on show (but still managed 39…) so they’ll have to go unseen for now.
Although it turns out I hadn’t seen Parkway Drive at Overcranked, I did see Amity Affliction there many years ago. From more humbler beginnings, it must be a whole lot different when the stage is adorned by adverts telling everyone that you’re sponsored by Monster Energy Drink. So much for punk rock. One thing the sponsorship deals haven’t brought is timeliness and the band are really late running although there doesn’t seem to be any reason for it as there’s little activity on stage after the equipment has been set up. As it turns out, late-running acts is one of the real stories of this year’s festival season. Although it just might be coincidence and “one of those things”, some have questioned whether costs have been cut at some of the major festivals by them using crews with less experience and possibly even those still studying at music colleges. However, compared to other acts over the summer, and indeed even later today, Amity Affliction’s delayed start is fairly minor. When they do start it’s nothing exciting and it’s too dark on the stage and a struggle to feel comfortable getting any good shots. The most memorable thing about the band’s set today is probably the Noel Gallagher comment (““It sounds like a dead turd“) and all the fallout from that.
There might be no Washington or Cloud Control at this year’s BDO, but instead there’s this year’s equivalent: Kimbra. Having seen her play at Splendour and Parklife it’s hard to feel enthusiastic about photographing her again. I guess at least she makes an effort with what she’s wearing but that’s the most exciting thing about seeing her play the same set of songs for the third time in less than six months.
I’m surprised by how busy it is back at the Boiler Tent for Royksopp, I didn’t expect it and presumed that the tent would have emptied after OFWGKTA. It sounds great but I don’t stay for very long, choosing to run across the festival site to the Hot Produce stage to catch a bit of Das Racist. It turns out to be a poor decision as Das Racist just aren’t very good. It just doesn’t work on an outstage stage (at least not as well as it would have inside a club-like venue and it doesn’t help that the three MCs roam the stage with a drink in their hand. It gives an impression of not really caring or being focused on the job in hand and to be honest it all sounds and looks fairly amateurish. It doesn’t compare to the Odd Future performance from earlier in the afternoon.
Instead of going back to catch the rest of Royksopp’s set at the Boiler Room as I should have done, I decide to download some photos and keep on top of my memory card management and so find some space in Essential Stage tent to do this. The main problem is that this coincides with Faker playing. Faker are basically everything that’s wrong with Australian music industry and Australian festivals. They’ve been dropped by their record label, have taken to giving their album away for free and yet are still being put on the bills for major festivals and today are playing a good time slot on what has traditionally been Australia’s biggest festival. Six or seven years ago the tent might have been packed, indeed they probably would have been playing on one of the bigger stages, but today the tent is maybe a quarter full and a large proportion of those are sat on the ground and don’t look to be that interested in them anyway. That the festival has sold so poorly this year and that there has been so much criticism of the line-up shows that someone needs to sort out the procurement of acts if the BDO is going to have much of a future.
There’s not much to say about My Chemical Romance. They have songs that go on forever to the point of boredom and, judging from all those in the front few rows, they have a really big female following. It’s never a good sign of a band when you feel bored of photographing them even before the second song has finished but the songs go on for so long that you feel there’s nothing left to capture.