BIG DAY OUT
Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne
January 30, 2011
Word by IAN "Wizard" DAVIS
Photos by PAUL WINDOW
If you don’t like festivals, the Big Day Out is on the third rung in Dante’s downward path to hell. A crowd voluminous enough to populate a mid-sized regional centre, a rabble of over-sexed bogans clad in tank tops and Bolle sunglasses, the odd Australian flag and a social world founded on self-indulgent twits and Mark Zuckerberg’s invasive technology. Add to that the first genuinely scorching day of the New Year, and you’re left with a social and entertainment scenario that’s potentially as enjoyable as bamboo sticks prized underneath fingernails.
So given all of that, why put yourself through all of that when you could be somewhere less offensive with a beer and a low dickhead count? Iggy, that’s why. Iggy.
But first there were other events to check out. It was 1.45pm by the time we cleared BDO customs, with the attendants kindly allowing me to bring my 1.25 litre bottle of frozen water into the event. We wandered around aimlessly for 15 minutes trying to find the Local Produce stage to see Boomgates – the wait was worth it. Bits of Television, Raw Power, Modern Lovers, surf rock and a pop sensibility to die for.
A beer later, and we were watching Gareth Liddiard take his laconic racconteur act to a generally suspecting audience; geographical proximity allowed us to skive off for a short time to catch UV Race at Lilyworld. Marcus threw caution to the wind, and was clad only in his sweaty red jocks and black basketball boots for the entire set. There’s absolutely no-one on Earth like Marcus, and UV Race is way up on the garage bandmeter.
After catching the end of Gareth’s set, it was food and beer time. The local constabularly came over and chatted with us, admired the contents of our pockets and wished us well for the rest of the day. At 5.30pm we were in the line for the D Barrier to see Iggy; 15 minutes later, and we were enduring the pain of John Butler Trio for the gain of proximity to Iggy and his Stooges.
At 6.30pm, with the sun bearing down on us like a metallurgist’s blowtorch, Iggy bounded onto stage, defying – yet again – his advancing (63) years. Iggy’s body has taken a battering beyond belief over the years, yet his torso has barely deviated in shape and size since 1969. The skin is weathered and stretched, like an old leather seat cover that’s been lost in the shed. He gesticulates, sneers and grimaces like the perennial kid he is.
James Williamson – the juvenile delinquent made good in the corporate world – is enigmatic, and on (metaphorically thankfully, given the ridiculous heat) fire. Scott Asheton is looking fitter than ever, and Steve Mackay’s drawn features betray more of his '70shard living than his bandmates. Mike Watt’s facial expressions are a mixture of excitement and child-lik mania, his bass playing a measure of brilliance. The let down – if there is one – is the sound. For the first few minutes Iggy seems to be shouting to himself, and even 10 rows back in the crowd we’re only hearing brief snippets of his nihilistic vocals.
The setlist is weighted heavily to 1973 and beyond: Raw Power, Search and Destroy, Gimme Danger, Shake Appeal, through to Kill City, Johanna and Night Theme. After dipping back into the first Stooges record for No Fun and I Wanna Be Your Dog, the band returns for a blazing encore of Your Pretty Face is Going to Hell. The set finishes, and we’re still alive – only just – battered, slightly bruised and pretty damn happy.
So where do you go from there? Down to Lilyworld to see three-piece Japanese girl punk band Red Bacteria Vaccuum, the absolutely perfect follow-up and counter-point to The Stooges. This was the hidden gem of the day, and we all cherished its appearance (and thank the knowledgable punter who’d tipped us off on the previous Friday night). Over on the Green Stage Primal Scream took us back to the heady days of acid and 1991 with Screamadelica, with Bobby Gillespie thankfully still sufficiently compos mentus to pull off a set replete with druggy pop sensibility.
Twenty minutes later, and Grinderman thrashed out dirty punk blues riffs with mad abandon, as Nick Cave and Warren Ellis salivated and fellated at the feet of the original rock’n’roll tradition.
And then it was time to brave the slow moving eddies of tired punters to head home to more attractive domestic surroundings. Outside the venue a particularly provocative attendee slapped the rump of a police horse and darted into the streets of Flemington. It was more symbolic of the crowd’s general mentality than genuinely amusing, and confirmed why the Big Day Out is a festival with its own demographic challenges. Save for Sly Stone’s return to the big stage – and even then I’d need a certificate signed by a notorary public – this is probably the last Big Day Out worth attending.