Review by Lauren Sherritt
The Sunday set for the Gold Coast Big Day Out 2013 dawned hot and sunny as around the state thousands packed themselves into cars, shuttle buses and trains and headed to the Parklands.
There were those who arrived early, queuing eagerly at the gates with tickets in hands and starting the party with top-notch openers like the rocketing-towards-stardom Sydney two piece Toucan and the magnificent DJ Helena, who kick-started the burgeoning crowds’ energy.
Then there were those who waited out the sun to arrive later for the big names on the bill, with Grinspoon’s mid-afternoon efforts pulling the first really big crowd of the day. Hard Act to Follow and Thrills, Kills and Sunday Pills had the crowd singing as one and from a distance the moving sea of hands and bodies seemed to swell with excitement under the masterful conducting of the band’s front man Phil Jamieson.
Big Day Out is as much a chance to people watch as it is to catch great bands, and any moment taken for a break under a shady tree or in the pavilion seating comes complete with a constant stream of passers-by in all states of inebriation and festival exhilaration. From the game family groups consisting of mum and dad with two or three young teenagers trailing behind to the gaggles of girls dressed in matching bikini tops and short shorts, a close inspection of the crowd shows that there just might be something for everyone, or at least most people, available. One young man, sandwich board in tow, was hoping there might be a little more in it for him, the message “Wanted: girlfriend. Send single ladies this way,” making his motives clear.
By the time Band of Horses began their set hundreds of singlet shaped sunburns were well roasted in, the hill above the festival had become a permanent viewing station for those with feet too sore to walk any longer and at least ten port-a-loos were surrounded by squealing women proclaiming the area much too unsanitary for them to enter and pushing their friends inside instead, as if some sort of toileting sacrifice might make a nice sparkling porcelain bowl to appear.
Band of Horses performed superbly and featured one of the most remarkable stage backgrounds of the day. The crystal clear photo of trees and their reflection in a lake gave all big screen footage of singer Ben Bridwell the impression that the band was actually playing in the beautiful natural setting and separated the band’s set from the atmospheric drunkenness and dust that Big Day Out is well known for. Whether this was the intention or whether it was just a carrying on of the band’s marketing scheme, the design gave the set an other-worldly feel that matched their music perfectly.
Vampire Weekend were absolutely delightful on stage, leaving no doubts as to just how much they were enjoying their time there. Playing a selection of songs from both of their albums, all four members gave their all in both musicality and dance moves, charming the audience into singing and moving along. They played their traditional closing song, Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa, as the sun set in front of them, their energy invigorating the audience for the still huge line up of acts to follow.
In traditional rock-star splendour Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs hit the boards wearing a tasselled and sparkling red jacket over a sequined, zebra striped top, her outfit the dazzling cherry on top of a great performance. Starting with Zero and capping it all off with Gold Lion, there wasn’t a moment to rest as she and the band whipped the crowd into a frenzy.
There was no doubt that The Killers monster set was going to be a festival highlight, with the talented group’s five albums providing a huge catalogue of hits to draw from. Even so, as the night began to darken and stars twinkled to life above the masses, they managed to well exceed expectations. Front man Brandon Flowers is the consummate rock star, demanding the audience meet his trademark intensity and pulling them along through the stories of tragic romances gone wrong and hopeful exploration of new horizons that are told through their songs. The Killers’ music has a depth and level of detail that could be off-putting for such a large, tired and, for the most part, semi-drunk crowd, but Flowers had the audience’s full attention for the entire ninety minute set. The band played ferociously as Flowers let loose his deep, pitch perfect voice across a set that did not let up with hit after hit. With fire jets, fireworks and even a screen of raining fire, the design matched the band’s scorching performance and made it easy to forget that there were more acts to follow.
Luckily Red Hot Chili Peppers were closing the night, the seasoned group of performers demonstrating just why they had been chosen to headline the festival. An unparalleled commitment to rock hard set RHCP apart from the rest of the acts and the huge crowd screamed for each hit they began to play. Suck My Kiss, Scar Tissue and Californication were among the well known numbers that had even the people at the back of the Parklands, where sound system issues at times made it difficult to hear, singing along. With shirts off, Anthony Kiedis and his band covered every inch of the stage, giving it their all to bring the festival to a truly explosive close.
The day ended as it had begun, with thousands cramming themselves into different modes of transport, only now they were shivering in the slightly cool breeze as it hit hot sunburn and talking not of who they were going to see, but who they had. With slightly more poignancy this year with the awareness that the future of Big Day Out at the Gold Coast hangs in the balance, yet another festival was made in to memory with stories of musicians and food and maybe that one guy finding a girlfriend at last destined to be retold for years.