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Friday, January 17, 2014

Groove At the Big Day Out

So far Portugal the Man has impressed.  It's a slightly windy 22 degrees at Western Springs.  The stages are both open and intimate depending on the acts, so whether the wind affects is hard to say at this stage.  Opening act Prowler barely had their kit set up when they finished but the played with guston.  Villany added a level of angst required befor the mellower Beastwars took the stage over at the Tui end (mellow - Not) Gwaaaah.

I won't be the first to say that this old event felt brand new.  Compared to the concrete jungle of Mount Smart Western Springs' grassy plains and undulating knolls had a relaxing festive atmosphere about them.  CSS's LoveFoxxx told me several times how "cool" it was to gig down on the "Water-eee Stage" (The Lakeside Stage). This one in particular was cool.  As the temp moved towards the mid 20's it was welcome relief to walk through the "rain forest" (an overhead canopy of ferns with a secret water mist). Those in search of adventure could have a crack at the "Undead Wall", a zombie adventure space, or go down Lipton Tea's blow up helter-skelter tower.  I did miss the paintball, fairground rides, skate show and zip-line of previous years. 

Musically, this one ticked all the boxes for me.  Whilst Blur could not attend, their replacements more than made up for it.  Beady Eye's Chris Sharrock found it ironic that they'd subbed in, recalling the old fake rivalry of the 90's.  Their sludgy rock set was a mostly mix of stuff from the BE album and Oasis' back catalogue.  Old schoolers from the 90's very happy. Swedish garage-men The Hives were the most fun on stage. Pelle Alnquist was an awesome reincarnate-blend of Jerry Lee Lewis showmanship and ringmaster antics.  Towards the end of the set he coiled the whole crowd down, spring like in anticipation of their climactic, crashing finale'. Pure, unadulterated theatre.
Much more and photo's...

I lost count of how many were in Arcade Fire's posse.  Bedecked in artistic representations of black and white they flew out of the Tui stage in a Kaleidoscope of musical colour.  Their tunes from the latest album, Reflektor, and their earlier suburban era were the most satisfying.  At times there seemed to be some kind of artistic confusion in their output partially due to the set choice. But, for the loyal. they were the shiznit - no question. 

CSS were 'cool' on the Lakeside stage.  I loved their immense girl power and the geeky and hairbrush-in-the mirror charm of lead singer LoveFoxxx.  She was a highlight simply by being there.  P-Money was on just prior and while his crowd was smaller it was staunch.  Aotearoa Reprazent!  Nobody can roll like him.

CSS' sometimes tour partners The Naked and Famous were a welcome return pulling out the crowd pleasers from their two efforts Passive Me Aggressive You and In Rolling Waves

I heard good reports of Mudhoney, staying true to their garage aesthetic and bringing the bar room to the field - sweaty, smoky intimacy for a large field.

Later in the evening I was utterly torn - between checking Snoop Lion's way-to-short set and Pearl Jam's slightly over two hour mini-concert.  Snoop was interesting, especially when he 'did something special for the ladies' (Flight of the Conchords came !o mind) but Eddie Vedder's crew had the pulling power.  No surprise that the previously invisible, older factions of the audience were now making themselves known.  Perhaps they were hiding in the virtually inaccessible bar areas or in the eternally long port-a-loo queues.  I couldn't tell you about the bar, though because for the entire gig the line to get in was eternal.  Sobriety was a definite option! 

Earlier in the day I had a chance to get around the Metro cube which featured some more intimate acts.  First up Anika Moa and Don McGlashan talked about their Music from the Inside project, or 'Prison Idol as Moa called it, which featured on Maori TV earlier this year. Bat Country, Jesse Sheehan, Tom Lark and Lydia Cole all produced nifty little performances in amongst the chitchat from the grown-ups like RNZ's (Summer) Noel McCarthy and David Farrier.  I had to prise apart the crowd to get a glimpse of my mate Iva Lankum playing a delicious little acoustic soul set, a real treat.

Speakin' of the celebs: Radar was smitten by the Cube action; Lorde recommended I try the 'Betty' (beetroot and ginger) at the crew's juice bar, Which was also endorsed by LoveFoxxx (CSS), Diplo hung with Ella later and ever got her up for the Major Lazer set later in the evening; Liam smiled once at me - a weak moment, I'm sure; RNZ’s Noel McCarthy and Sam Wicks lurked back stage and 3 New’s David Farrier hung with A System Of A Down’s Serj Tankian on the couches in catering and the boys from The 1975 swooned all the ladies with their pasty, English pretty boy charm.

I did get a moment to scale the hill during Pearl Jam's set and investigate "Chowtown", where the serious catering resided.  A variety of high street eateries  were serving up quality street food at good prices, though the token for purchase system seemed oddly out of place.  After all this wasn't a wine festival.  But my Sam Campbell Po Boy was worth the wait.

If there were any regrets, it was missing the performances of Grouplove, Mudhoney, Primus and Phoenix Foundation, all acts I've seen before but never at this festival.  I had good reports that Grouplove's hippy, art set might have been the event's best understated delight.

Final praise goes to the security guards who, despite being more present than the riot squad at Tiananmen Square were both friendly and helpful, especially around the maze of gating options down at the Kowhai and Tui stages.  The unsung heroes were the backstage crew (quietly cleaning up) unobtrusively and, of course St.John and their endless supply of slip, slop, slap products - well appreciated. 

Best Rock moment? Eddie Vedder -swinging from one of the oversized buoy lights that dropped from the ceiling during their finale.

Biggest absence? Where was Shihad?

Most looked forward to (and delivered): Portugal the Man - clean, crisp, alternative pop funk.

Overall verdict:- Better venue, good rounding of acts, a thoroughly fun, entertaining Big Day Out. 
Here's a few Photos: 

Beady Eye (w Liam Gallagher)

Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam)



LoveFoxxx (CC)
Portugal The Man

These 'Arty Bins' were available for aution

Snoop Lion - 'Doin' something special for the ladies"

The 1975

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