Big Day Out By Christine Lan
As the morning sun cast its merciless gaze upon brave early attendees, The Vines tore through a solid set in front of an impressively large gathering. In a set that oscillated between vigorous and anthemic, The Vines were focused and in form - unleashing all their fan favourites, Highly Evolved, Outtathaway, Don't Listen To The Radio, He's A Rocker and Winning Days, as well as new songs, Gimme Love and Future Primitive (from their forthcoming fifth album of the same name). The seemingly reborn Vines still delighted with their slowed-down cover of Outkast's Ms. Jackson, but everyone was awaiting the culminating execution of Get Free,- the set brought to a fittingly vigorous and volatile close with Craig Nicholls smashing his guitar into a myriad of pieces.
There's no doubt that BDO organisers purposely scheduled early slots for The Vines and Little Red to draw in a strong early crowd. Walking next door to the Blue Stage for Little Red, it was endearing to witness a mass gathering blissfully awaiting the emergence of Melbourne's indie success story of 2010. Little Red's self-titled debut album may've ignited a flame, but their sophomore album, Midnight Remember, elicited a fireball effect on the local music scene. Dominic Byrne's vocals shone through on the gorgeous piano-laden Slow Motion, while Tom Hartney unleashed his hip-shaking swagger in Jackie Cooper. Hearing thousands of fans singing the chorus cry of Rock It, "Rock it to the break of day / Don't stop rocking now, no way", was a euphoric experience, followed delightfully by the delectable jangle-pop of Coca Cola. Drummer Taka Honda raised the spirits of all attendees with his unabashed cheerfulness. The eternally smile-ridden drummer stood atop his stool between drum parts, waving his arms deliriously and clapping wildly. Whatever Honda's taking, digesting, reading or sleeping on, we want it ... now.
On the Converse Essential Stage, Melbourne's zealously adored Children Collide were whipping restless attendees into a manic frenzy with their compelling arsenal of neo-grunge. Of the songs from their sophomore album Theory Of Everything, Jellylegs invoked - easily - the loudest and most fevered response. But My Eagle came close with its hypnotising riffs and driving, riotous propensity, while Farewell Rocketship and Skeleton Dance - from the trio's debut album, The Long Now - drew massive crowd sing-a-longs. With high-octane jams and fearless veracity continuing to define their live shows, Children Collide remain one of our best live bands.
I managed to catch the last few songs of The Greenhornes' set, after the exasperating walk from the Converse Essential Stage to the Hot Produce tent. With the disappointing cancellation of The Black Keys, The Greenhornes were the closest thing to hearty, soulful blues-rock at this year's BDO, and they were a standout fixture with their visceral, heart-rending garage-blues. Their cover of James Brown's I'll Go Crazy - which, obviously, doesn't sound anything like its original - was phenomenal.
So Boomgates were my "how did I not know about the awesomeness of this band already?!" moment. Luckily, the decision to eat lunch in the shade of the Hot Produce tent prior to Gareth Liddiard's set afforded me the pleasure of witnessing Boomgates' dynamic set. The mere fact that Boomgates is comprised of Brendan Huntley (Eddy Current Suppression Ring), Steph Hughes (Dick Diver), Gus Lord (Teen Archer), Rick Milovanovic (The Twerps) and Shaun Gionis (Trial Kennedy) is brilliant in itself; my only regret lies in not revelling in the glory of their performance up-close (having been in a seated position with my immensely disappointing lunch). Though, judging by the excitement of the performance and audience, the aforementioned meal would've, no doubt, been thrust out of my grip, which - in hindsight - would've been a good thing.
Performing solo at the country's biggest music festival would seem an impossibly daunting task, but if there was anyone equipped for the task, it would be The Drones' frontman, Gareth Liddiard - one of Australia's most exceptional talents and arguably our greatest lyricist. Armed with only an acoustic guitar (and his reliably sharp, bizarre wit), Liddiard treated fans to a set evenly split between songs from his debut solo album, Strange Tourist (Blondin Makes An Omelette opened his set while Highplains Mailman and Strange Tourist were all passionately executed) and Drones material (I Don't Ever Want To Change, Shark Fin Blues and Jezebel were all greeted by vehement applause).
It's rare that one has the fortune of witnessing an artist perform twice in a week, but I experienced such a case with Paul Dempsey, having caught his solo set at the Australian Open prior to his performance at BDO (replacing The Black Keys' slot on the Green Stage). Joined by drummer Mike Noga, guitarist John Hedigan and bassist Patrick Bourke, Dempsey performed all the gems from his debut solo album, Everything Is True, including Theme From Nice Guy, Bats and Ramona Was A Waitress. The Something For Kate frontman thanked the crowd profusely, stating: "I can't believe you guys are standing under this sun watching me". The sun was, indeed, almost unbearable, but Dempsey had more than a few ardent fans willing to bear the torturous heat for him.