Big Day Out 2003: Perth Review

The monsterous Big Day Out Festival thundered into its final destination, bringing its debauched rock circus to a close, for another year. We think you'll agree - it's been quite a ride!

[r-zone1]For me, the Big Day Out is no longer a 12 hour day of great bands, non-stop dancing and a magical atmosphere. It’s a long, long day full of oversized crowds, overpriced food and overdressed attention-seeking 15 yr old girls in matching nurse outfits [sounds ok to me –Ed]. My negative thoughts were reflected by the weather, as the usual scorching sun had been replaced with grey clouds. However, I tried to put this cynicism behind me and enjoy what I paid $95 to see – the bands.

First up for me, were Melbourne-based Rocket Science, who had surprisingly been given an early slot on one of the smaller stages. This didn’t seem to bother them though, or the crowd which, was one of the biggest I’ve seen for an early performance on the Green Stage. With their raw, unrelenting, bass-heavy rock n’ roll and now trademark organ which is the centerpiece of the band, Rocket Science belted out songs from their 2 albums, including favourites ‘Copycat’, ‘Burn In Hell’ and ‘Being Followed’, and once again proved why they are one of Australia’s best live bands.

Over to the Lilypad, a small, side stage which features random, novelty activities to provide a bit of light-hearted entertainment. This year the theme for the Lilypad was ‘turning Japanese’, which was shown by the Japanese-styled backdrop and two huge Sumo mascots. I must have walked in at the right time, because there were two girls onstage doing nude karaoke to ‘Billie Jean’. Next up it was time for the guys. Time to move on…

Chicks On Speed were the first group I saw in the Boiler Room, and I went in with mixed feelings. I’ve always thought of their trashy, feminist, techno, art-punk, synth-pop etc etc as being somewhat snobbish. I also find their music highly addictive. So not knowing what to expect, they surpassed my expectations with their great stage presence and an amazing audio/visual show. I sacrificed the last 15 minutes of their set to catch the end of The Music, who judging by the crowd reaction, had lived up to the hype.

[l-zone2]The Deftones were up next on the Main Stage, and were definitely one of the most anticipated bands on the bill. I was fortunate enough to see them on their last tour of Oz in 1999, where they gave one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. This time, they were twice as big as they were then (not just in popularity, but in weight). They came onstage to a large reception from a packed crowd, going through material from their previous albums and what sounded like a couple of new tracks from their forthcoming album. Unfortunately, for many they failed to live up to expectations, giving a fairly mediocre performance.

Sparta were another highly anticipated band, and, again, seemed quite average. No doubt that the hype was due to the fact that Sparta is made up of members from now-defunct At The Drive-In. Perhaps they deserve more credit than I am giving them as its not their fault that the sound system was extremely bad, but I can’t help feeling that Sparta are merely living on the success of their former band (who in contrast were gave one of the best performances at the 2001 Big Day Out).

[r-zone3]Queens Of The Stone Age are definitely the band of the moment. With their latest masterpiece ‘Songs For The Deaf’, they’ve gained much deserved popularity, and it was hard to believe that I was watching the same band that at the 2001 Big Day Out was only familiar to a select few. Casually walking onstage to a huge reception, the Queens effortlessly steamrolled through songs from ‘Rated R’ and ‘Songs For The Deaf’, all of which sound like hits. ‘No One Knows’ received the biggest applause, and Mark Lanegan even came onstage, looking characteristically expressionless, to sing on a few songs. Rock n’ Roll at its finest. Craig Nicholls should be taking notes

[l-zone4]I sacrificed the lovely PJ Harvey, to catch Australian punk legends the Hard-Ons at the Essential Stage. These BDO veterans played at the first Big Day Out in 1992, when they were at their peak. Unfamiliar to most of younger faces in the audience, the now middle-aged Hard-Ons were here to have fun, plain and simple. Taking time in between songs to rip into bands such as the Murderdolls, they delivered some memorable lines such as “turn up the kick drum a bit, see if we can drown out that bitch PJ Harvey”. They even invited Chicks On Speed onstage for a song. Seeing this crude, shirtless, longhaired band play balls-out rock with 3 feminist activists on vocals was definitely a sight to see.

[r-zonee5]Jane’s Addiction gave a mesmerizing performance on the Main Stage, and were well received by the crowd. Along with Perry and Dave’s great stage presence, they had an amazing stage show, which included a woman dancing in a giant steel ball which hung from the roof. They finished with a rendition of ‘Jane Says’ which had the crowd hollering in unison.

Much deserved Boiler Room headliners Kraftwerk closed the night, and the whole tour. The curtains were drawn back to reveal four 50 year old men in matching black suits, standing still behind their laptops. Of course, it was much more than just this. These four men just happened to be THE pioneers of electronic music, and the crowd respected this. In return, we were given a stunning audio/visual show as they rolled out hit after hit, and for 1 hour and 30 minutes, we were in a futuristic world run by computers.