Big Day Out @ Gold Coast Parklands, 23.01.2011: Part 1

It finally happened.  At the seventh attempt I finally got put in and accredited to photograph Big Day Out.  There had been a few years in the previous six that had acts that I really wanted to photograph and which I was disappointed not to have gotten.  Most of those years I just bought a ticket and went anyway and despite all the talk about the festival, and especially the punters, I’d always enjoyed going.  The last time I went I had taken a different approach and gone in later in the day and just gone and seen the acts I wanted to see rather than run around and catch as much as possible.  But armed with a photo pass after all this time of missing out I was always going to make the most of it.

It’s a case of getting up early and getting the train down to Helensvale to get there in time for the very start.  For once I actually make it and with the choice of The Vines opening the main stage (how the mighty have fallen….) or going to see up and coming Gold Coast two piece Bleeding Knees over at the Boiler Room it’s an easy decision to make.  Bleeding Knees Club are a similar sounding band to Brisbane’s DZ, maybe a bit less heavy and more poppy/surf.  Although there are some similarities, DZ are the much more superior band, with what I hear of Bleeding Knees Club sounding underdeveloped, as well as having the emptiness of a two piece drums and guitar.  Obviously it shows what I know, as they’ve made a name for themselves in the last six months [when this post was first drafted], including making it into the NME’s Top 50 Best New Bands of 2011 list.

On the way to my next official port of call, I stumble across Founds on the New Produce stage.  I don’t really pay them a whole lot of attention, only staying for a couple of songs, but they sound like another one of those Australian bands that really wants to be Arcade Fire, with a smattering of something like Sigur Ros for good measure.  Since the festival I have read some positive things about the band so maybe I need to check them out again, but maybe it’s just the Australian music media doing their usual trick of praising everything.

Founds were a detour on the way to catch The Naked and Famous on the Converse Stage.  I’d first seen the band at last year’s BigSound, when they were one of the bands on the New Zealand industry showcase, only open to delegates and before the evening was open up to the public ticket holders.  Industry showcases are the worst; playing to a bunch of people who have little to no interest in your band, instead making the most of the free bar and food on offer.  Watching The Naked And Famous play their BigSound set, I’d struggle to recall ever seeing a band who seemed so disinterested and bored at playing on a stage.  The BigSound delegates were paying little attention and the band played knowing this.  It was amazing over the course of the next few months to see the band suddenly become massive and gain so much exposure and attention, including winning the Philip Hall Radar Award at the NME’s annual awards and selling out nights at Shepherd’s Bush Empire.  Today in front of a packed tent they put in far more effort than they did at their BigSound Showcase but I’m still not convinced about them musically in the slightest.  Despite every review I’ve ever read about them mentions MGMT somewhere, there’s something about ‘Punching In A Dream that just reminds me of late 1980s/early 1990s Swedish mega band Roxette.  Seriously.  It’s the combined male/female vocals and something about their whole 1980s sound and the ‘woahs’ that just remind me of something like ‘The Look.  Maybe it’s just me. They also have some other songs but none of them really sound like MGMT if you ask me.  The crowd go wild but it leaves me cold.  That MGMT are always mentioned, a big band from only a few short years ago, seems wrong to me.  If we’re looking for new bands that sound like old bands but only looking to go back such a short time it seems a bit pointless.  Why do we need a new MGMT when the original one is still around?  Maybe this is more about needing a new MGMT that sounds like their first album (i.e. the popular one that sold well) rather than their second album (i.e. the unpopular one that no one bought).

Although I’ve seen Blonde On Blonde’s name in Brisbane’s street press plenty of times in the last year, I’d never seen them before.  Despite clashing with the seemingly more glamorous and ‘so hot right now’ Naked and Famous, there’s a healthy crowd to see them.  They’ve got that classic Oz Rock sort of sound and whilst it’s a genre that never really going to win me over into a complete convert, I enjoy what I see of their set and enjoy my time in the pit photographing them; bands who give you something to work with rather than stand there and stare at their shows always get a thumbs up from me and bonus points even without taking the music into consideration. 

Dead Letter Circus mark my first time in the Big Day Out main stage photo pit.   While I can appreciate something about the more classic Oz Rock sounds of Blonde On Blonde, there’s a modern strand that has much more of a Bogan Prog sound that I can’t stand, and includes the likes of Birds Of Tokyo and Dead Letter Circus.  It’s like rock music without the rock; all empty posturing and five string basses. Just horrible stuff.

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