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Review: Big Day Out 2013

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The day was cool, the acts were cooler. Does anyone else remember the borderline tragic 2012 Adelaide Big Day Out tour? Well this was a return to form that put other years to shame. 2013 featured one of the most diverse lineups in years, and sadly, sans one of Hermione’s Time-Turners, I couldn’t split myself into two or three and make it to see every act I wanted to. Still, those whose eardrum-bursting glory I did manage to bask in made it all worthwhile.

Between veteran festival stalwarts Red Hot Chili Peppers and Grinspoon, the uber-cool The Killers, Crystal Castles and Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and artists like Childish Gambino, Vampire Weekend, Animal Collective and Sleigh Bells that could only thrive in a post-Tumblr, social media-obsessed kind of world, the day was as varied as they come. Did I mention there was Mexican wrestling and a focus on “gourmet” festival food? If Big Day Out wasn’t trying to reinvent itself after last years less-than-successful venture, it sure felt like it. Here’s my pick of 2013’s most noteworthy Big Day Out moments:

ChowTown

I won’t lie, the vegan-friendly haloumi burger from Veggie Velo was worth the 15 minute wait. Had I been in a rush to actually see someone noteworthy performing, I’d probably have given it a miss and braved the hunger pangs (which we’ve all done at least once during a music festival), but during the quieter moments of the day, the long lines at the pop-up eateries for Grace the Establishment, Devour and The Vendor were proof enough that the greasy, carnival-esque food that the Showgrounds is so guilty of feeding us is so 2012.

Band of Horses

Main stage worthy? Definitely not. Here’s a tip: playing extended outros and yelling like a hyena does not a rock star make*. If that’s what Ken West really wanted, he should have just booked Björk (again).

Vampire Weekend

Despite not having that one massive indie/pop crossover hit ala Foster the People, Vampire Weekend are a big deal, and rightly so. Ezra Koenig has always seemed too clean and babyfaced to be a real rocker, but lord knows he tried as best he could, and towards the end of their set pretty much got there. Tracks from the band’s latest ARIA #2 album Contra ‘Cousins’ and ‘Holiday’ were crowd pleasers, with their slightly more obscure and older material managing to make even the jaded hipsters feet move. And their constant mentions as to how much better we were than Melbourne were fun, too. Sure I didn’t believe them, but it was still nice.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

It’s sad that it took going to Big Day Out to remind me just how amazing ‘Maps’ or ‘Gold Lion’ are, but luckily I’ve snapped right back into fan-mode for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. *And what I mentioned about Band of Horses? Well, I take that back after seeing Karen O own the stage. I couldn’t decide what I loved the most about their set – encore ‘Heads Will Roll’? The mellowed-out ‘Maps’? Karen O deep-throating her microphone? No, it was all good, but probably the most exciting thing was new song ‘Mosquito’, from their upcoming album of the same name. The edgy electronic track made me a little mad that it’s taken so long for the band to make more music following It’s Blitz, but knowing just how good their new material will sound made it all better. And props to Karen O for having a sense of humour; bursting into random laughing fits during songs, and yelling out “Yeah, yeah, yeah… love!” at the top of her lungs. Also, was I the only one who thought that the blonde-ambition Karen O could almost pass for Adelaide’s Sia’s half-Korean sister?

Childish Gambino

Props to Donald Glover for eschewing the too-cool stigma. The rapper was seen spotted floating through the crowds at the Adelaide Showgrounds not long before his set. His debut album Camp is amazing and his live sets have set the blogosphere alight too.

The Killers

I’ve always loved The Killers, although that may have less to do with their music and more with the fact that I want to grow up to be Brandon Flowers. The Vegas natives aren’t quite as rock and roll as they’d like to think they are, but when the opening chords to ‘Mr Brightside’ kicked off their hour-long set, who cares? The absence of dreamy synths that make songs ‘Smile Like You Mean It’ and ‘Human’ so amazing was more than noticeable, but piling the guitar riffs on one another was almost enough to make me forget (…almost). Flowers reaffirmed his status as one of the nicest men in rock, telling a group of fighting crowd members that it was “all about peace and love, brother”, while a cover of Crowded House’s ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ went down well with the crowd on the Australia Day-eve.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Allow me to get nostalgic here, but RHCP’s ‘By the Way’ was one of the first songs I ever learned to play (on the piano, not guitar), so for that reason alone, the group holds a cross that no other band performing on the day could quite match. Sure, they’ve aged (considerably), but on the stage, Anthony Kiedis is still the virile rock god whom Madonna once wanted to father her babies. Missing just a few notable hits like ‘Suck my Kiss’, ‘Califonication’, ‘Higher Ground’ and ‘Dani California’, their set was less of the obligatory music festival ‘greatest hits’ live show and more of the band following their own bliss. Nearly 7 years since their last Australian tour, the crowd lapped up ‘Californication’, ‘Can’t Stop’ and encore ‘Give It Away’, while the biggest surprise of the night came with a cover of David Bowie’s ‘What In The World’, which promised to “stimulate our testicles and lift up our labias” (Flea’s words, not mine). And on that note, no one does preachy, enlightened festival talk quite like Flea does. I could write down everything he said, but since I can’t swear, just imagine a bunch of “@#*%&” on your screen. A slightly crazy crowd at the main stages brought to a halt by the funk-rock legends. Only Chili Willy could.

Sleigh Bells, Animal Collective & Crystal Castles

A shoutout to three amazing bands who sadly clashed with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. When you’re at the front of the barricade for one of the biggest rock acts of the last 20 years, moving is not an option. Until the next festival!

Check Glam Adelaide for social photos and gallery!
Photo by John Goodridge

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