I learned from going to the Big Day Out
I must admit
to being a BDO virgin prior to January 2003 so had not a lot to go on when preparing
for the outing. My students were amused that I would even consider going - I
guess because I am officially past being capable of enjoying music at 42. Nonetheless
I was resolved to go, if for nothing else than to catch Kraftwerk (one of my
all time favourite bands). Little did I realise what I was getting myself into.
I chose to reflect on my adventure - please understand, for me, on my own, this
was an adventure, a journey, a rite of passage which I survived. These reflections
are NOT ordered in any hierarchy, nor are they winges or fatuous moaning. They
represent the detached observations of someone who was there.
- If you've
got it, flaunt it.
Those who know me will attest to my physical prowess, the classic washboard
abs, the rippling biceps, the buff and taut bum and all that goes with this.
On a hot summer day, what better idea than to bare all to the sun, all day.
My underwear was also particularly attractive - boxers from CK made so, when
worn properly, protrude over the top of my oversized baggy shorts. Although
the nipple piercings were painful at the outset, they look really cool now
(well, the swelling is nearly gone as the last of the infection clears). I
could only manage 4 colours through my hair, and was relieved it didn't rain
as I think the orange was not colour-fast - it certainly stained my pillow
the night before. I wore enough gel to ensure my hair would lacerate anyone
I accidentally nutted whilst moshing. Fashion is a curious thing. Tiny little
latex straps covering bulging breasts, skimpy skirts and long, tight boots
and that was just the blokes :)
- I can't dance.
Dancing in my day was usually with a girl. Dancing these days is not even
at a girl but I am sure I cannot do it. Whether it is the BPM, or the obligatory
arms in the air, I just feel silly going on with it. The bobbing and foot
tapping I am driven to do seems very pedestrian by even conservative standards
- I am going to have to come to terms with this. Dancing is not to be confused
with MOSHING - see below. I am, however, relieved to see that dancing does
still involve rhythmic movements of various bits of the body that correspond
to parts of the music's rhythm so it is all good.
- Moshing can
Moshing is an autonomic reaction to the crush of the crowd near the crash
barrier at the front of a stage. You get caught in the rhythmic bobbing that
is almost exactly a little bit behind the actual beat of the music, but this
syncopated jumping around is a lot of fun. The side-effects of moshing are
many and various. Immediately you become communal with bodily excretions -
you share the collective sweat of all around you. There is a reason why most
mosh without their shirt on (boys that is) and I discovered it inadvertantly
by moshing to "Machine Gun Fellatio" for the oldies that read this,
that is a band, not a service at a massage parlour, although...). I emerged
at the end of the set drenched as my shirt effectively absorbed all the sweat
around me. Yeah, I know, "horses sweat, men perspire, ladies glow"
but in a mosh pit all polite social rules go out the window and everyone gushes.
Hydration is important. I have also a theory on why so many women are hoisted
onto the shoulders of their beaus - to escape the bath in other's sweat -
I think I would do that as well. There is something cathartic being moved
by the music and the crowd - it is great fun. You forget yourself, go out
of body (or was that the chemical imbalances happening all around me) and
just do it. After the set, your body allows you to catch up and mine barely
allowed me to move the day after. 'Nuff said.
- Toilet to
punter ratios matter.
I will not dwell for long on male public toilets, suffice to say that I find
them revolting to the extreem. Most of us blokes have been blessed (or cursed)
with the equipment to aim our liquid excretions so why is it that it seems
so many do not bother to take that option? I can only surmise that female
toilet facilities at such gigs must be worse, the number of girls in the line
up to the male toilets was interesting. That they can put up with what they
find in there makes them mostly braver than me. At least it must be amusing
for them as male genitals are, after all, one bit of enduring proof that God
must have a sense of humour.
- Getting there
and getting into the venue is the last great frontier.
I left home, in my car, at 9.30am - figuring the first act I was interested
in was at 11.45am. I thought this was tons of time - trip to the Gold Coast
from home, yada yada. All said and done, I got through the venue gates just
after 2pm (that it was the same day was a blessing). Traffic was banked, parking
was impossible and I have the second worse geographic sense of anyone in the
known universe so I was not able to be creative and go through the back streets
or trust public transport. I lined up to get in, having been warned not to
take recording media (I reluctantly left my MiniDisk and Digicam at home)
only to be barely searched as I went in - not a rubber glove to be seen. Plan,
plan, plan then go earlier is my advice. My only other piece of advice is
remember where you parked, in relation to the gate you entered as it will
be dark and you will be shagged out when you emerge - why did no one explain
this to me? Staggering around in the dark in entirely the wrong suburb is
- 45000 people
can co-exist on a postage stamp-sized plot of dust.
It amazes me that riots and serious injury do not result considering the mix:
sun, alcohol (or the chemical of your choice), hard bodies and loud music.
Massive crowds self manage themselves and people are tolerant of conditions
that would make concentration camp residents cringe. It works and I celebrate
the diversity of the human spirit for cumulatively cancelling each others
I never thought I would see these veteran electonic pioneers live in my lifetime
- such style, such vision and the idiot audience for the most part were confused
by sounds they sort-of recognised, styles they more-or-less subscribed to
and beats they more-or-less got off on. Connections between Kraftwerk and
modern dance music are many and varied - those who got it enjoyed it, bugger
the rest of 'em is what I say. I saw lots of acts on that day - from all genres
and styles and loved it all. I must admit going primarily to see Kraftwerk
though and was delighted with the other bands I saw but then again, what would
- Fans are
fools, Yobs are tools.
We all do strange stuff to be near things we like. Fandom is bizarre but probably
tribal and therefore fashion and behaviour can probably be explained by such
association. As all fans are individual, it is interesting to note how similar
they look to each other, how often they are clones of band members or cultural
stereotypes. Yobs, on the other hand follow no set conventions, abuse everything
(usually substances first) and are thankfully less tolerated than they used
to be. I guess the general masses are less concerned with yobs as they will
be asleep in a pool of their own excreta by the time their favourite act is
- Volume is
I am a fan of lots of forms of music, enjoy the relentless doof of bass detonation
and the wail of a guitar/synthesiser/piano accordian (well, maybe not the
piano accordian). Being in the crowd and being beside a speaker stack during
a set is something else again. It is interesting that even the band members
these days plug their ears with sound-absorbing stuff so they can hear what
they are playing - what chance do we have. You adjust and conversations at
top yell are common even when the band has finished playing. I must be getting
on a bit but it took a couple of days before my failing hearing returned.
Thankfully my tinitis is tuned to the music I like to listen to so it happily
plays along as an invited instrumentation most things these days.
- We get what
Dame Nellie Melba (a famous opera singer with nothing to do with the BDO,
and therefore a useless analogy..) once said words to the effect of "sing
'em trash, it is all they understand". As a fan I am picky about
sound quality, mixing, vocal diction and intonation, musicianship (yeah, I
can forgive bands like the Sex Pistols for not knowing how to play the instruments
but getting in there and giving it a whirl) but when I come to see a band
live, I want it to be live. Some bands do not seem to understand that there
are a set or working parameters through which their live gig can actually
be enjoyed by the punters - sadly bands like 'The Vines' disappoint their
fans by being plain terrible. Most fans are a tolerant bunch - many feel honored
to merely be in the presence of their idols. For my money, I want a band to
be able to perform - it is not too much to ask is it?
What do you
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