The Age

Summer’s Biggest Day Out Rolls Into Melbourne

Author: James Norman, Patrick Donovan

While safety dominates the news, this year’s Big Day Out line-up is being touted as the best ever, writes James Norman and Patrick Donovan.

Roll up! Roll up! With what is being touted as the biggest line-up ever, the Big Day Out kicks off on Australia Day for its 11th rockin’ year at the Melbourne Showgrounds, boasting the best contemporary local and international musical entertainment.

Chris Cheney from local punk/Oz rock band the Living End, who played two Big Day Out shows last week in Auckland and the Gold Coast, says Melbourne audiences can expect a “more relaxed atmosphere” than previous Big Day Outs.

“The vibes are better this year than in recent years because there’s no real angry bands on the tour – there’s not a crowd full of macho-ness,” he said.

Big Day Out organisers Vivian Lees and Ken West have instituted rigorous safety and crowd control plans.

Safety measures include a “D” barricade in front of the main arena stages, creating an alcohol-free zone in which security staff will have the power to remove crowd surfers, moshers or people who are intoxicated or aggressive. The area will be cleared at 4.30pm to allow a fresh group of moshers in.

Water will be sprayed on the audience to minimise the risk of dehydration.

“People are there to see damn good music,” Cheney said. “The line-up is awesome … PJ Harvey, Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters, Pacifier, Rocket Science, You Am I and Us, a great blend of Australian and international bands.”

The Living End formed in 1992 in Melbourne fresh out of high school. They released their first self-titled CD in 1998 and have made a name for themselves worldwide, touring America and Europe in in 2000-01.

But success has not come without its hiccups.

“All our plans were put on hold after I had a bad car accident in September, 2001, and smashed up my leg,” says vocalist Chris Cheney.

“But I think we’re a better band now than we’ve ever been.

“We’re a good little rock show. We go out there and give it our all – it feels really positive for us. People know us; we just have to do our stuff.”

Big Day Out organisers have also reminded people to wear sunscreen and a hat and to keep up their consumption of food and water throughout the day.

The first two shows of the 2003 Big Day Out tour, which took place in Auckland and the Gold Coast last week, were incident-free.

“There’s no room for macho guys with tops off muscling in on other people’s space,” said Living End drummer Andy Strachan.

“At the Gold Coast and Auckland shows people were really looking after each other . . . everyone is there to enjoy the music.

“It’s just a matter of being aware of whose around you and making sure everyone has the opportunity to enjoy it as much as you,” he said.

Mr Lees said the hardest part about the Big Day Out was squeezing so many good acts into the bill.

“We have a lot of bands who want to come to Australia in the summer, and we often find ourselves with too many bands,” he said.

For the bands, it’s the No. 1 gig on the festival circuit.

Dave Grohl, singer with the Foo Fighters, said: “We play the Big Day Out because it’s the best tour in the world. You ask any band in the world – they all want to play the Big Day Out, every single one of them.”

The Big Day Out will also see the return of Perry Farrell, whose band Jane’s Addiction has recently re-formed.

Farrell is credited with conceiving the first modern day alternative rock festival, Lollapalooza, in the US in the early 1990s.

Mr Lees said: “I’m pleased to have Perry back. He’s one of the great characters of rock. Some of the stories that came out of last time he was here, I can’t even speak about them.

“Perry is the creative spirit behind Lollapolooza, so he really knows what it takes to produce a festival and to actually be the inspiration behind a festival and I felt that when he came out with his band Porno for Pyros in 1996.”