The Big Day Out Returns…Again
In January 1994 I embarked on an outing with a group of friends. I don’t think any of us knew what we were in for on that day. We knew we were going to a rock festival. We knew that some of our favourite bands would be there but other than that the ‘Big Day Out’ was a new phenomenon.
Now it wasn’t the three day tripping fest that say Woodstock was in 1969 or any of those historic festivals in far flung locations like the Isle of Wight or pretty much anywhere that Jimi Hendrix had decided to turn up. No this was a single day, a work day, a day to call the boss and say you ‘had the flu’ in the middle of summer. It was held from 11am to 11pm and as we all know that’s the best part of the day. Sure we’d had rock festivals in New Zealand before. There was Nambassa in 1979 and then Sweetwaters through the eighties. They were probably a bit copycat of festivals running in Europe and North America but what those festivals did do was showcase New Zealand artists who got to play the same stage as recognised international acts. The Big Day Out was different though. You didn’t have to wear Stubbies unless you really wanted to.
The Big Day Out debuted in Sydney in 1992 and timing was everything. They headlined with a band called Nirvana who had just released Nevermind. They had gone global in the months leading up to the festival and the signing up of the latest and greatest band in rock seemed a masterstroke and sent the Antipodean music festival in a new direction.
The BDO as we called it debuted in Auckland in 1994 and the line-up included Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins and a ton of other acts on multiple stages. I would have paid the price of admission for Soundgarden alone, yet we were treated to dozens of other acts and the best of New Zealand Music. To a pauper like myself it was a way of seeing all the half-decent acts out there without breaking the bank. In fairness though the tickets were fifty bucks then and they ain’t that now.
From 1994-1997 the BDO was a must attend event. The more friends in the traveling party the better ( if you lost some you would find others in some mass reunion at mainstage at the end of the night), The crazier the outfit the better (one year a mate of mine wore cow shorts…don’t get me to describe them) and finally the more weed the better (if you didn’t have any you just headed to the big tent and inhaled). Of course I didn’t have any weed but that’s what Bill Clinton would have done had he attended.
In 1998 the festival took a break and we didn’t know what to do with ourselves. It didn’t feel right at all. What is this break they speak of and what do they expect us to do? Fortunately they were back the following year and I continued to attend from 1999 to 2001. They had kept signing the latest and greatest acts year on year but there was something about those first four festivals that outshone the others. Nu-Metal was the flavour of new headline acts and when Limp Bizkit came to Australasia they created the sort of mosh pits that killed people, literally. It was some sight to see 50,000 people jumping in unison but it wasn’t safe…and I’m no granddad.
From 2002 onwards I was in Europe and could only live on the feedback. There is no doubt I missed it. In 2014 after another one year hiatus the Big Day Out is back and kicking off in a matter of hours. It’s being held at a new venue right in my old neighbourhood in the Western Bays of Auckland. Pearl Jam are headlining, another band of idols from my youth. I have been fortunate to see them a couple of times so I shall grin and bear this (185 Bucks!). Don’t get me wrong, I’ve attended some awesome festivals in Ireland but there is something about the way us Kiwi’s do the summer festival. It’s got nothing to do with the strange green smoke and everything to do with spirit. No not the alcoholic kind nor the vengeful ghost of Kurt Cobain but that festive spirit a ‘Kiwi Fulla’ (or Fullessa) experiences in January when he’s listening to his favourite band instead of the ramblings of his boss.