And so, the travelling indie circus known as the Big Day Out arrives in town once more, thankfully just preceding an expected heatwave. In the Boiler Room, local hip-hop crew TZU deliver their consciousness-raising rhymes to an adoring crowd. After the churning guitar riffs of ‘In Front Of Me’, singer Joel Ma says, “I’m very overjoyed that Barack Obama is the president of the United States,” to cheers, before tempering this with a reflection on the meaning of Australia Day, saying, “But I’m waiting for an Aboriginal Prime Minister,” to even more screams. Certainly, in keeping with the anti-establishment history of the festival, this year’s instalment signifies a long-awaited celebration that a worldwide change is finally here. Over on the Blue Stage, The Grates launch into their joyous guitar mayhem, with singer Patience Hodgson resplendent in a marching girl-style blue hat with a red ostrich feather, white military-style jacket and shorts. Sporting a shock of newly bleached blonde hair, she announces, “Let’s get sexy!” before attempting to partake in the twist, while the band delivers a triumphant rendition of ‘Trampoline’. During the indie-pop anthem ’19-20-20’, an exuberant Patience launches into a dancing frenzy, wildly kicking about.
On the Green Stage, newly appointed pop-electro saviours The Ting Tings attract the most eagerly anticipated reception, with punters stretching afar, straining to catch a glimpse of the dynamic duo. Their rather delayed arrival is met with a huge roar, as singer Katie White picks up a guitar, delivering searing guitar riffs amidst pumping beats. “How you doing?” she says, in a crisp lilt, to delighted cheers. “We’re The Ting Tings, nice to meet you!” Dressed in a fetching green dress and wide black belt, Katie exudes a rather glamorous presence, as the band launches into ‘We Walk’. During the title-track of their album, ‘We Started Nothing’, Katie throws her fists in the air, standing on the drum riser, imploring punters to clap, in all of her glorious feistiness. The funky guitars of ‘Shut Up And Let Me Go’, have the crowd singing along gleefully. After bashing a cowbell, Katie introduces the “final song’, as the crowd claps in unison to the familiar throbbing beats of ‘That’s Not My Name’, while they sing along to the line, “Are you calling me darling?” after Katie requests them to do so. “Thank you very much!” she exclaims. “Have a great day!” And with that, they leave the stage, to an enraptured audience.
Over on the Essential Stage, Black Kids hold fort, as singer Reggie Youngblood says, “I wanna see everyone grooving, yeah?” before the band launches into ‘I Wanna Be Your Limousine’. Charming the ladies, Reggie says, “Alright, this is a song I wrote about an Australian girl,” as screams of delight abound, before the crew deliver an exhilarating version of ‘I’m Making Eyes At You’. Then, the ‘nyah-nyah’ keyboard refrains of their monster hit ‘I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You’ have the crowd singing along in raptures. Back in the Boiler Room, Chicago’s finest Lupe Fiasco has the area positively steaming as he and his spectacular jazz-funk band launch into an explosive version of ‘Kick, Push’, which has punters singing along enthusiastically. Displaying his rapid-fire rhyming skills, he delivers a sterling rendition of ‘Hip-Hop Saved My Life’, followed by a song “for the ladies”, the romantic ‘Sunshine’. He then launches into a stadium hip-hop number ‘Superstar’, as the crowd sings along in choir-style fashion. Pacing the stage, with an Australian flag draped over his shoulders as a cape, he appears very much like a hip-hop superhero, as his band continues to deliver free-form jazz-rock improvisations, leaving the stage to rapturous cheers. Magnificent.
On the Green Stage, local electro-pop favourites Cut Copy deliver their ‘80s-style wailing trumpets and shimmering synths on ‘Hearts On Fire’. Amidst breezy guitar riffs, singer Dan Whitford displays his ethereal vocals during a stunning version of ‘Lights And Music. Arctic Monkeys appear on the Orange stage, swaggering around whilst collectively emitting groaning bass-lines, buzzing, angular guitar-lines and furious drumming. “Good afternoon, Melbourne!” says singer Alex Turner. “How ya feeling?” Observing the rather dehydrated, yet cheering crowd in the front rows, Alex says, “You look dangerous!” With the words, ‘AGILE BEAST’ emblazoned on the drum-kit, the band certainly exhibit a ferocious intensity on ‘The View From The Afternoon’, before launching into the tribal-style drumming of ‘Dancing Shoes’, their breakthrough hit ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’, and the manic ‘Brianstorm’. “I hope you have a great evening!” says Alex. “And stay dangerous!” he adds, with a wink. A wall of crashing guitars precedes the cacophonic ‘If You Were There, Beware’ before a blistering wall of feedback emanates from the stage. Ever the festival highlight, they wave at the enthralled crowd before leaving the stage, the all-conquering indie rock heroes cementing their winning status once again.
Back in the Boiler Room, the rapturous roar of the crowd can only mean one thing; the pioneers of Stadium Rave The Prodigy are in the building. Indeed, the crew swiftly appears, with mastermind Liam Howlett delivering driving electronic riffs, as manic cyber-punk MCs Keith Flint and Maxim Reality prowl the stage like men possessed. MC Maxim asks, “Where are all my sweet Prodigy warriors?” to a delirious crowd, before the buzzing mayhem of ‘Breathe’ reverberates through the venue, whipping punters into a veritable dancing frenzy. As the MCs glower and strut around the stage defiantly, it is clear that this revolutionary crew is back with a majestic vengeance. Indeed, their recent single ‘Omen’ has punters thrashing about hysterically. After blitzing through an the incendiary guitars of ‘Firestarter’, the howling harmonica of ‘Voodoo People’, and the Atari-style bleeps of ‘Invaders Must Die’, they launch into the deep bass grooves of ‘Smack My Bitch Up’ which has the crowd chanting along. They finish with the electronic bleeps of ‘Out Of Space’. Quite fitting really, as tonight, The Prodigy quite literally propel this crowd into “another dimension,” reclaiming their title as the comeback kings of Rave.