I think it was something like 46000 (confirmed on BDO webby) I heard mentioned on the local radio on my ride to the airport as I left Melbourne. Big Day Out was my main event and it was not to disappoint.

I smelt more spliffs and joints @ Flemington race course than I did regular cigarettes which was a good thing. The beer (Toohey’s extra dry) was pretty awful. I somehow remember almost enjoying them in bottle form when I was in Sydney but the cans sold @ BDO were fucking awful. Piss could pass off better as beer. The food was ok I suppose. I didn’t expect nor wanted restaurant fare. This stall that sold Dutch pancakes (essentially mini pancakes) was not too bad even if the dough was slightly undercooked. The toilets were ok though. Better than expected although I went once only and I went early. The crowd getting home was quite mad really. Imagine 46000 people squeezing onto the trains and a cut off time of 11.15. Carl Cox’s set finished at 11 by the by. Still, it wasn’t anything remotely close to Shanghai’s trains on a daily basis. Something about Australians being polite and stuff I suppose. Plenty of kids did climb fences and fall in pursuit of getting on the first train but nothing offensive really. The worst thing though might’ve been the venue itself. Flemington race course is fucking dusty. In the middle, right where they have amusement rides, its like a fucking desert, chomped off Las Vegas and dropped onto Melbourne. My Skulls were khaki from the knee down.

Water sprinkling tower helped to keep temperatures in check.

Still, nothing would detract from the show that was to unfold. And what a show! We went a little late, at round 2. Some acts started at 10 or 11. The only thing I can say I would have missed was Kate Nash‘s set, although I got some consolation for that.

5 mins in and I’d gotten all the essentials. Drink tickets, drinking age wristband and show program with map and timetable. Efficiency is the key.

First act we checked out turned out to be none other than the UK’s finest, Dizzee Rascal. Rascal rocked the place I thought, spitfire rhymin and grimin. It was pretty awesome, even if the “act” was a little scripted in feel, like when DJ Semtex said the crowd don’t want no more and then Rascal says yes they still got time for one more song and the crowd cheers.

The UK’s finest, Mr. Rascal.

Next up, were Gyroscope, who were quite ok. We left when my mate wanted to hit the loo. At that point my ears pricked up when I heard a crowd laughing. Then I checked my program and realized Billy Bragg was playing none too far away. In between songs, the man laid out his mantras on world peace and how Howard sucked and hopefully Australia will do better under Rudd, how Aussies should support Rudd and remember Howard was awful etc. He was quite a bit preachy and I think this set the tone for the entire festival really. Still, he did his political folk/punk thing which was quite good. The highlight was when Bragg introduced Kate Nash on stage and they sang a duet of sorts. Woowee, she’s so cute, especially when she did the most adorable “muak” kiss. Oh and her voice was awesome as well.

The lovely Kate Nash and Mr. Bragg.

Next, we headed for Pnau. Along the way, we chanced on a pretty good soulstress singing on top of a van with a DJ and 4 gyrating, half naked girls. Also, there was some sort of mad band that played at the Lilyworld stage that had guys in puffy, neu-rave suits with oversized glasses, top hats and assorted miscellany. I think they played some kind of kitschy dance music but I can’t remember. Think Henrik Vibskov’s most unwearable pieces come to life only without the style.

Pnau was fabulous. Very danceable. They also had a lot of colorful mascots on stage to add to the fun factor. Throughout the show, they also did a “get the crowd to go low and then rise up as the music got red hot” thing. Rockin’. Some dude did try to storm the stage but was denied by 4 or 5 security personnel who flung him onto the floor inches from me. The poor guy clutched onto his wayfarers, clearly showing where his priorities lay. The only bad thing was, after that, this very cute chick next to me left before anything really fun happened. Damn. Must go to Pnau shows more.

One half of Pnau & Friends.

At 530 , we realized suddenly that Arcade Fire was taking the stage like half a click away, so we left the funny mascots, ran across the dust covered desert and managed to get to a half decent view of the place. They’d only just started which was fine but they were at the main stage area, which was freaking crowded. Sort of poignant when they started to play “No Cars Go”. At which point, I realized that we had to pretty much stick around here or be completely fucked when Bjork was on show, or Rage for that matter. Fire were fantastic though and comparetively, quite minimal in their political mentions.

Some Canadian goodness called Arcade Fire.

After Arcade Fire, I popped over to the merch and bought an Arcade Fire tee. I actually wanted one with their Neon Bible artwork but stumped for the one with my size, with the organ pipes instead. There was also a monochrome version of the Battles tee I was wearing and a nuns Rage tee I wanted that didn’t have my size. We had a quick dinner, which included the Dutch pancakes earlier and then tried our best to squeeze back to the main stage area and get a place for Bjork. It was fucking hard to find anywhere. The area closest to the stage had been closed off by the time Arcade Fire were playing so basically, we were on the outside of that, which was still packed. All this means I was sacrificing LCD Soundsystem, who I like immensely, and also Battles, who I’d seen before at least. Sad but true. The ethical dilemma of music festivals I suppose.

Token Silverchair pic. They played after Arcade Fire and apparently, some of the crowd didn’t like them too much.

Bjork had me worried though. I had no idea if she would take the stage even, although no one said anything about so I assumed it was gonna happen. And happen she did. A marching band came out and soon after, the Princess of Pixies bust out “Earth Intruders”. When she finished, she said the most awesomest, cutest, thank you ever on the face of earth. She was also incredibly beautiful and cute. And beautiful. Next up were some tracks off Homogenic, which basically left me completely mesmerized. You could tell her voice was on edge, particularly when she croaked a bit on “Cover Me”. Still she was fucking mesmerizing. I was and continue to be blown away by her voice, its still ringing in my ears like. She was amazing and busted out her political bend when she dedicated “Declare Independence” to the indigenous peoples of Australia. The mostly white crowd cheered, somewhat oblivious to the irony or perhaps in support of her intentions. I had my doubts and laughed nervously, quietly. The music was what triumphed in the end I guess. And how spectacular it was. The video walls proffered a better view from my location, stuck behind some old, sideways shaking twit with a hat.

The goddess herself.

The wizards behind the sound. The guy in the video manipulated the sound as he dragged bits and pieces from the side in a show of interactive art and music. Awesome.

Finally, the main event for much of the crowd arrived, at round 9. Rage Against The Machine, reformed and revived. Ok, so LCD Soundsystem and later Carl Cox (seriously, why the fuck did LCD have to play then?) were to perform around the same time as well but almost everyone was at Rage. We tried our best to snake our way from the top end of the Bjork stage to the bottom end of the Rage one next to it, one big bloody circle. Along the way, some loofy bird was taking her kit off on the roof of one of the nearby structures. Then some dude climbed a tree in hopes of a better view, only to be pelted with empty drink bottles. Ultimately the place was seriously crowded and the trees were as well. Everywhere, people just chanting “rage! rage! rage!” or “we want rage!”.

Homo Rageus.

Apparently that’s RATM, although it could possibly be Alvin & The Chipmunks from this range.

They were true to form. Anarchic, political. Zach de la Rocha bust out his rhymes in typically venomous fashion and the kids were going nuts. I couldn’t quite see the mosh from where I was but from what has been said, it was insane. I was close-ish to the stage and video wall for arcade fire. Slightly less than that for Bjork and lost at sea for Rage. I think the extent and gravity of the situation was made known to me as I felt these vibrations under the soles of my feet. It was like a mini earthquake and I was a little itty bitty part of it. When de la Rocha did his manifesto preaching bit, I couldn’t actually quite hear what the fuck he said exactly but hey, the crowd certainly dug it. The climax was probably “Killing In The Name Of”, which had like everyone going bonkers.

Zapatista Zach de la Rocha.

Guitar God Tom Morello.

All in all, I’d say I had an awesome time and it was definitely a Big day out for me. I wish I had a better videocam. Much of the vids I shot came out complete crap. I could barely make out any members of Arcade Fire nevermind RATM. I was just too damn far away. The sound is ok but there’s nothing to see, which is kinda sad! Anyway, I’ll always have my memories like Bjork’s uber cute thank yous or that moment when Morello bust out some finger tricks on his guitar or Zach shouting, Bragg dissing Bush and Howard in a revised version of Waiting For The Great Leap Forwards and Kate Nash blowing me a kiss (I can dream can’t I?).