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Live Reviews : Big Day Out @ Sydney Showgrounds, Sydney 26/01/2014

By on January 29, 2014

Images: Neal Walters
Words: Andrew Craig

Click here to view the full Big Day Out Sydney gallery.

Big Day Out. Australia’s longest running touring music festival. Since its inception in 1992, its name has become unanimous with bringing out some of the most varied line-ups our country has ever seen on the one bill, focusing on many different genres and styles. While many would argue that the quality of line-ups has deteriorated over the years, 2014’s edition was truly set to cater to a diverse music-lover’s palette, with bands ranging from the old favourites, the flavours of the month, the up-and-coming and everything in between. Bands and artists such as Pearl Jam, Snoop Dogg, The Hives, and Arcade Fire were all set to grace the stage at this year’s event. But, as you’ve no doubt come to this website to read about the bands who play on the heavier end of the musical spectrum, then I shall let you know about the performances displayed by the surprisingly large amount of heavy metal and hard rock bands present at this year’s festival.


It had been quite a few years since my last Big Day Out. While the last one I attended was on a summer’s day that best resembled a fieldtrip to the fiery lands of Mordor, I was pleasantly surprised to wake up to nice, cool day which promised two things. One, not spending a day dripping in both mine and several thousand litres of other people’s sweat, and two, the desperate need for the typical Australia Day celebrating male who feels the great need to tear off their shirt in a vulgar display of macho-superiority was greatly diminished in the colder climate. So in other words, my festival day was off to a great start.

While the waiting lines for ticket collection left little to be desired, after almost an hour’s wait, I found myself making it to the Headspace Stage just in time for The Algorithm’s set. I have to admit, I was quite curious in how The Algorithm’s music would come across live as the material is heavily electronic based with elements of a djent-style of progressive metal. Upon my arrival to the stage, I was surprised in the absolutely dismal amount of people watching the two-piece who had just taken to the stage. With only several people on the floor, and maybe around a hundred throughout the seats, I thought the band would be bitterly disappointed. But to my astonishment, The Algorithm came out with smiles on their faces, smiles which didn’t disappear throughout their whole set. While performing as if they were in front of a stadium crowd, the two piece, made up of band mastermind Rémi Gallego and drummer Mike Malyan, pummelled through their 45-minute slot with an insanely erratic set filled with some of the craziness progressive drumming I’ve ever seen. Mike Malyan is a machine behind the kit, and you can tell that he relishing every moment up there. It’s quite rare that you’ll see a drum rise up the front of the stage, but as there was plenty of room for the two piece to share, it worked extremely well. A highlight was definitely when Gallego ran from behind his decks to perform a few cymbal catches mid-set as Malyan smashed through his dynamic fills. Who needs coffee to start the day when you’ve got The Algorithm.


 The stage layout at Big Day Out worked really well this year as I only had a short stroll to my next stop. One of the festival’s main stages, The Blue Stage, was my next destination as American wacky rock band, Primus, were up next. I read a few reviews from the other Big Day Outs before heading to today’s event and each of those reviews proclaimed that Primus just didn’t work in a festival environment. Well, I would have to disagree on that one. While they might be completely different to the majority of the other acts on the Big Day Out line-up, I think they were a perfect band to break up the monotony of the other acts on the main stage, bringing a whole different level of zaniness to the stage. The decor of the stage already had the audience knowing they were in for something different as it was decorated with two massive inflatable spacemen at the back of the stage and three bright orange outdoor patio umbrellas up the front.

The zany trio came out to a massive cheer as they kicked into a track for their classic album, Sailing the Seas of Cheese. Throughout the set, band leader and singer/bass extraordinaire delivered his wacky antics in the form of his stage presence on-stage banter. From covering the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory classic track, “Oompa Loopa” which came across perfectly through a well-executed Primus rendition, to bringing out a “busker” they found on the streets of Sydney (actually a member of The Lumineers) to jam on the accordion for a song, Primus kept delivering new surprises throughout their set. For the track Mr. Kringle, he donned a pig mask and played an upright bass, switching between playing with his fingers and using a bow, a technique that created a sound quite unique. Unfortunately they must have been running over time as they had to play a shortened version of “Jerry Was A Racecar Driver”, which Claypool showed just how professional and humble they are as a band proclaiming that they had been doing the festival circuit for a long time now and didn’t wish to step on anyone’s toes (by going over their allocated set time). A great end to a set that, while may have been different to the other bands that shared the same stage that day, was thoroughly enjoyable.

I then trekked over to the indoor JBL Essential Stage, where I would be spending the remainder of my festival day. The next five bands to grace the stage were all within the hard rock and heavy metal genre, therefore making it easy for fans of those genres to just park themselves at the one place for the majority of the day. The first band I caught was an American band called Mudhoney. Dabbling in the heavier end of grunge, the band had a modest crowd filling around half the shed covered area. While Mudhoney were playing with an energetic conviction worthy of such a crowd, I just couldn’t find myself enjoying their music as I find it a style that has been overdone and never been that interesting in the first place. But to be fair, this band has been around since the 80’s and are from the home of grunge, Seattle, Washington, so all the best to them as I’m sure they’re up there with the originators of the genre. They definitely knew how to work a crowd, but I found my attention waning after a few tracks and just wanting the set to end so I could catch the following bands.

Next band to grace the JBL stage were Sydney locals, metalcore band Northlane. I’ve got to admit, metalcore is definitely not a genre I’m a big fan of, so I wasn’t expecting much from the 5 piece. But when I saw what was probably the largest crowd I witnessed within the shed covered JBL Stage all day, I knew that there was going to be something about the band worth witnessing. Northlane were definitely within their element playing to an extremely energetic crowd, which was made up by many locals evident from when band vocalist asked how many people there were from Western Sydney. The singer definitely knew how to work the crowd, even when the set was put on hold after the drummer broke the skin on his snare. It might have been the few minutes without music, but when the next song finally started, the band had a circle pit that would have covered at least one third of the entire crowd in the shed. While the band themselves even admitted that they felt a touch out of place on the line-up, it didn’t stop them from playing a tight set with a crushing heaviness that seemed to please all those in attendance.

Next up on the JBL Stage were Vista Chino. Essentially a remodelled version of Kyuss, Vista Chino features mainly members that have been dominant forces within Kyuss or the Kyuss Lives! monkier. Featuring legendary vocalist John Garcia, who was making his third trip to Australia within a one year period, Vista Chino came out to quite a decent crowd who were obviously made up of countless Kyuss fans as the average age of the crowd would have easily been mid-30s. John Garcia, clad in sunglasses and singlet top, a usual trademark for the man, grabbed the microphone in his usual muscular stance, and remained in position for the majority of their slot while they belted out a set consisting of primarily Kyuss material, with a couple of Vista Chino songs from their 2013 album thrown in for good measure. The Kyuss material definitely got the best reaction, with some die-hard fans singing along to the material at the top of their lungs. There was a heavy feel of nostalgia in the air throughout this set.

After seeing them several times at European festivals in 2013, I was eagerly awaiting the next band as I find their live shows quite captivating. Sweden’s Ghost were the next band to hit the JBL Stage with Papa Emeritus and the five Nameless Ghouls taking to the stage clad in their iconic costumes. The crowd was pretty small for such a great band, but I put it down to a few factors, mainly sharing the same stage time as two of the headliners, Pearl Jam and Snopp Dogg, who were performing on other stages at the same time. Small crowd aside, Ghost put on an absolutely enchanting live performance, creating a ritualistic show which delivered tracks from both their two albums as well as their cover of the Roky Erickson song, “If You Have Ghosts”, which translated exceptionally well live. Being the first time I’ve caught Ghost live within an indoor stage environment, I can definitely say that they excel in this format as they definitely don’t suit an outdoor stage during the day like their last visit down under. Unlike the previous times I saw them, the Nameless Ghouls seem to be making the most of their stage room and working the crowd much more rather than just standing in the one spot for their set. Also, it was the first time I’ve seen Papa Emeritus entice the crowd into singing along to one of the tracks, this one being their encore track, “Monstrance Clock”. Definitely my highlight of the festival and I just wish they had both a longer set and bigger crowd to witness the mightiness that is Ghost live.


The last band of the day to grace the JBL Stage were a band who are almost becoming a local act with the amount of times they’ve toured here recently. It was no surprise that American act, Deftones, drew a larger crowd than the last couple of acts who played on the stage, even with the fact that headliner Pearl Jam were still playing on one of the main stages. Deftones needed no extended intro tape or individual members coming out one at a time. Within a flash of the lights, all the members of Deftones were out on the stage kicking straight into their track, “Diamond Eyes”. It was met with one of the best crowd responses I’d heard all day. Deftones played a great range of their material, spanning throughout their entire lengthy career. My highlights would easily be the two tracks they played from their Around the Fur album, an album which I still remember buying while on holidays in my early teens and loving every minute of it. The 60 minute set just flew by, ending my experience at Big Day Out 2014 on a high note.