Big Day Out Almost a Big Washout

Jesus Lizard at last year's Lollapalooza/ Photo by Jay Blakesberg.

ATN New Zealand correspondent Marty Duda attended the

opening of the Big Day Out. Here is his report: For those of us in the Southern

Hemisphere, the Big Day Out is our version of Lollapalooza. This year the event

featured one date in Auckland, New Zealand, with five more (the first of which

takes place today) In Australia. The line-up here was impressive even with P.J.

Harvey pulling out because of health reasons, including Jesus Lizard, Elastica,

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Rancid, Tricky, Rage Against The Machine and Porno

For Pyros along with over 20 additional local acts.

New Zealand might as

well make The Big Day Out day a national holiday. The show was on a Friday, so

a lot of folks had to weasel their way out of work to make it. The promoters

figure about 20,000 "punters" showed up at Ericsson Stadium on Jan. 19 to make

the scene, the biggest turnout yet for a Big Day Out. Five stages were set up

in and around the stadium to accommodate the almost 50 artists due to perform.

Since it's impossible to see all the acts in one day some hard choices had to

be made: Rancid or Nick Cave? Elastica or Chris Knox?

It looked to be a

perfect day, the sun shining, and New Zealand's Martin Phillipps & The Chills

kicked things off on the main stage at about 12:45 PM with some typically

catchy Kiwi pop. From there it was time to roam around and see what was

happening on the smaller stages. My efforts were rewarded immediately as I

caught the last few songs from the unfortunately named Pet Rocks, whose sound

reminded me of Crazy Horse. But the band had an energy all their own and things

came to a climax when an over excited fan ran on stage and pulled the

guitarists pants down around his ankles. I'll make a point of catching these

guys in a club sometime soon.

Next was another Kiwi band, Second Child,

over on Stage 4, making their mark with some moody pop songs. I wandered over

to Stage 5 where Blossom were about to start up. The band, led by two women on

guitars and vocals have been getting local airplay with "Butterflys," a tune

reminiscent of the Velvet Underground with Moe Tucker on vocals. The sound was

a little ragged, but the attitude was right. Back at the main stage I caught

Jesus Lizard. David Yow was leading the band through a gloriously noisy set

when the rain started. The Lizard persevered as most of us ran for cover. I

spent most of the set holding a piece of plywood over my head with about six

other very wet rockers. As Jesus Lizard ended their set, so ended the downpour

and Bailter Space took the stage.

Bailter Space originally hail from New

Zealand but moved to New York City a couple of years ago to "make it." The BDO

marked their return. Their unique mix of grunge, pop and techno seemed

perfectly suited for a stadium show as they treated the crowd to a good portion

of their newest CD Wammo.

As Bailter Space wound down their set I

decided to get into a prime position to enjoy Elastica. Just as I found my

place in front of the stage where Elastica were due to perform, the rain began

in earnest. Initially, this was no problem as the stage roof protected us from

the weather. Bailter Space finished their set and the crowd filled in around

us. Just then the wind changed and suddenly it felt like someone was pouring

buckets of cold water down my back. I decided to stick it out (I had little

choice, the crowd had me locked in at the front of the stage) and in about 10

minutes Elastica appeared.

After the first two songs it was clear the band

was having technical problems, Justine Frischmann's vocals were inaudible.

After a quick group meeting, they cleared the stage. The audience, now more of

a mob, was not happy. Plastic bottles and shoes were hurled on-stage. Within

minutes the band returned, the vocal problem ironed out. The crowd went back to

the business of rocking out. Elastica, however, seemed to merely run through

their set though the crowd didn't notice, especially when the first notes of

"Connection" were heard. At last, the rain let up.

Well, I was soaked to

the skin. Billy Bragg was up on Stage 3, under a tent, thank God, a perfect

opportunity to sit down, mellow out and regroup. Billy has been doing his

political non-folk folk singing since the late 70's. It was just him with an

electric guitar and, although it's probably been at least ten years since I

last saw him, this set sounded surprisingly familiar. Old stand-bys like "Levi

Stubbs' Tears" and the more recent "Sexuality" were mixed with overly long

spoken intros and politically charged preaching. I'm all for communicating with

the audience, but old Billy needs a little more humor and could stand to lose

the middle-aged dad references to make it with this crowd.

I realized that

if I was going to enjoy the rest of the day I was going to need to dry out. I

made a mad dash home (20 minutes away, where of course, no rain had fallen all

day) and was back in time to catch Rage Against The Machine. I admit I've never

been particularly fond of their brand of abrasive ranting and they did little

to change my mind, although the rest of the audience clearly enjoyed

themselves.

Nick Cave as photographed by Jay Blakesberg.