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Review - Big Day Out 2008 - Melbourne

Author: Amanda Storey
Monday, 11 February 2008
Although some may say size doesn't matter in the bedroom, it most certainly does when it comes to headliners.

That's why Big Day Out - the Godzilla of festivals - satisfies better than a Snickers bar. This year, the King Kong carnival had moved to Flemington Racecourse which, on the whole, was a rather disappointing change. The grounds were extremely dusty and generally aesthetically unappealing, and walking through the bottleneck leading to the Boiler Room felt like we were cattle being led into an abattoir. Fortunately, the music and sound levels were near flawless!

T-Rek played a surprisingly good set at the Boiler Room. Surprising, because T-Rek and his three-piece ensemble indulged in a big jam session, rather than simply playing tracks from his latest artist album, Freakshow Disco Volume 1. Special mention must also go to the percussionist who kept the crowd entertained by flailing his arms and legs like a back-up dancer to a Jane Fonda video.

Dizzee Rascal played to a jam-packed crowd and was solid from go-to-whoa. Sirens was well versed and full of gusto while Fix Up Look Sharp had the crowd embroiled in an enthusiastic sing-a-long. DJ Semtex's scratching on 'Stand Up Tall' was impressively tight - especially given that Semtex only has one arm and used his nose and mouth to move the crossfader.

The festival highlight was Bjork who burst onto the stage in a kaleidoscope of dizzying colours and movements: gold tribal face paint; an outlandish gold sequined smock; crimson feathered gloves; exploding confetti; and charmingly awkward dancing. Although the Icelandic pixie apologised for her 'rubbish voice', all was easily forgiven - after all, how could anyone stay angry with someone with such an adorable Icelandic accent- Bjork drew from her extensive oeuvre and flaunted her diverse talents: from the sublime and delicate vocals in 'Pagan Poetry' and 'Unravel', to the boisterous 'Earth Intruders' and 'Army of Me', to the cacophonous 'Pluto' and 'Cover Me'. Bjork translated her songs well to a festival crowd through the use of her 10-member female brass section and her whizz bang electro-acoustic instruments, the Lemur and the ReacTable.

LCD Soundsystem played a refreshingly unpretentious set, with James Murphy having a palpable stage presence. The group moved fluently between each track with punchy enthusiasm, with the songs like 'Tribulations', 'Movement' and the sombre 'New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down' being particularly memorable.

The only act which failed to live up to expectations was UNKLE. For although the group performed a feisty set, it was disappointing to see James Lavelle - the mastermind behind the masterful outfit - play such a diminutive role, occasionally twiddling knobs in the background whilst nonchalantly smoking his cigarette. UNKLE also seemed ill-suited to the Boiler Room because their latest album, War Stories, is so heavily rock-based. Despite the group performing tracks like 'Burn My Shadow' and 'Lonely Soul well', I personally felt the show lacked a certain je ne sais qua that you would expect from such a revered outfit.

However, aside from UNKLE and the post-BDO uniform of sunburn and blisters, the 2008 Big Day Out was a thoroughly enjoyable event.