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Review - Big Day Out 2008 - Gold Coast

Author: Patricia Escalon
Wednesday, 23 January 2008
The Big Day Out has lost its mojo. It has become an unwieldy monster, too large for its own good. The complexities of organising an event of this magnitude were evident in the details.

Sprinkled around the grounds were eight stages. Wedged in between stages and market stalls were mechanical rides. An array of identical carvery food demountables dominated the culinary landscape. One lone coffee cart dispensed sanity to 52,000 punters.

The first act we caught were the Hilltop Hoods playing their brand of catchy hip hoppy tunes to a nonchalant audience. However, the punters were more interested in showing off their carefully crafted costumes than in dancing.

Billy Bragg, on the other hand, managed to pull a large crowd of left wing, alternative, diverse Gen Xers. His anti-Bush comments received enthusiastic hoops and cheers. The audience cherished his songs reverently, a rare thing in a music festival.

From Billy Bragg, it was off to Augie March. Dreadlocked surfies, clean-cut yuppies and random uni students flocked to sway to their fast percussion. Their psychedelic, '80s New Wave, Springsteen-influenced, melodic, wistful lyrics uplifted the audience. They shattered the pied piper effect playing a rockabilly song, scaring the dancers away.

The next stop was the Orange Stage, where the hordes were ignoring Arcade Fire. As their New Romantic influence faded into Meatloaf style bellows, the crowds continued to flirt and imbibe more alcohol.

Even Silverchair had a hard time. Their deep vocals moved into heavy metal territory but elicited no response from the crowd. They even attempted dedicating one track to the infamous 16-year-old from Narre Warren.

Only Bjork commanded everyone's attention. She entered the stage, leading a full horn instrument band, playing Transylvanian music. The band was draped in flowing tie-dye striped tunics, cinched at the waist. Their hairstyles resembled an African headdress. The low horns, tinkling triangles and African drums lifted the soul, preparing the audience for what was to come.

Bjork insinuated her soft, pulsing beats into our eardrums, warming our hearts. Thousands of voices joined in the lyrics. She mesmerised tall blokey men, petite girls and all manner of unbelievers. Everyone absorbed the enormous love she emanated. Her voice was an instrument and the audience were the music. She created her own spectacle: grand, colourful, ritualistic and deeply spiritual. She finished her act with her new single 'Independence', paying homage to Indigenous Australians.

Listening to Sarah Blasko after Bjork was like glassy surf on a clear day after a monsoonal typhoon. Her soothing voice, soft sweet ballads and her unassuming manner were soft waves lapping at the foreshore. Despite playing to a small audience, she failed to arouse the same ecstasy.

We finished the night with Carl Cox, who kept it light and airy in the beginning. He played tribal techno with deep tones and fast beats. His metal percussion loops drew the crowds with Caribbean drums and deep bass. He clapped his hands, involving the crowd in keeping the beat. He alternated between primal African beats and airy techno, layered over spiral loops of synth. As he blended into deeper notes, CS had to leave. Thankfully the Gold Coast City Council had organised an endless fleet of buses to ferry everyone to various locations.

Snagging a seat in an air-conditioned bus was the perfect ending to a great day out.