Exclusive: BDO 2014 Review

I'm pretty lucky to have this exclusive access to the 2014 Big Day Out in Auckland - most people will only get to see the show tomorrow, and by most I mean the 357 of you that have bought tickets. Many more of you, about 917 or so, will have to wait all the way until Saturday morning to read what they think is the first review - in it, Chris Schulz will lament the lack of bands he can compare to Smashing Pumpkins and/or Nine Inch Nails. But given I'm in big time with the Big Day Out organisers - and they're so sure that this time, finally, will be the actual last event - they wanted some early reviews. So, here we go then. The 2014 Big Day Out. A day before it actually happens...

Beastwars are jerkin' the curtain on one of the main stages at the leisurely time of 12.25. No pre-lunchtime gig for anyone this time. The one headlining act pulled out and was replaced by three others but that leaves the organisers with just 17 acts in total, so there's no way the gig can start at 11.30 this year. But, hey, Beastwars is a good thing to see - a bit of a shame they couldn't have been on later in the day, they probably deserved a 5pm or 6pm slot. But instead they had five - or was it six? - people watching them. Lucky!

Tame Impala is one of the best Beatles cover bands in the business. And to show just how respected they are in New Zealand the organiser of the Big Day Out has given them three quarters of an hour to hurtle through the best bits of their two albums so far.

The Naked And Famous is easily the best Naked And Famous cover band in the world. So they deserve the full hour. The first 45 minutes was a tough-sell, but once they figured out how to change the drum-pattern and add in a new pre-setting that wasn't labelled "euphoric overtones" that left them with 15 minutes to play their hit song twice. A girl with a rainbow painted across her face announced that, "this band just summed up my entire life right now!" Yes. Yes, they did.

Primus agreed to do this festival but is usually better suited to playing The Sausage Fest - and this appearance is actually no exception. I tried to party like it was 1996 all over again - just as well most of the rest of the bill has the same idea.

The Phoenix Foundation is playing over on one of the smaller stages - I duck over for a quick look. They only have 45 minutes to play and someone has told them that I'm heading over. Oh no. They've dedicated the entire set to me, as a thank you for the years of support. This is embarrassing. They're playing just one song, an extended version of Friendly Society. They play it through once. All the way. Then are left on the stage with the roadies working around them to clean up for the next act; the band still searching, now with torches and scroggin, hoping they'll find the chorus.

Wait, I'm sure I missed something on the main stage? What? The Hives played? Oh, that's good - I didn't.

Beady Eye starts off sounding abysmal and then manages to sound even worse. They insult pub-rock's barefoot sophistication. A guy next to me is chanting, "Noel Gallagher! Noel Gallagher! Noel Gallagher!" I look directly at the caterpillar above his eyes and realise it is Noel Gallagher. I ask him what he's doing here. He's still waiting to be paid for the time his High Flying Birds played to 87 people. He says he looks back with a lot of anger.

Arcade Fire has 90 minutes up its sleeve. And just as well because 20 minutes into the opening bongo solo the percussionist spontaneously combusts. There was soft applause from the discerning film festival audience - mostly impressed that it was done without a green screen, so true to the spirit of indie, so pure. The band plays 11 songs that David Byrne did not write and never would. Four of the songs share the same title because that's, like, amazing. Another three of the songs are about the time lead singer Win Butler bought a new suit made from melted down spatulas and then ate a sandwich. The remaining four songs are not LCD Soundsystem covers but one day they'd quite like to be! Andrew Tidball of Cheese on Toast is overheard declaring it the greatest thing that has ever happened to music.

Snoop Dogg - aka Snoop Lion aka Snoop Sghuishgiusaghsghsdkulgsdgkhsg smokes a joint and receives huge applause. Chris Schulz compares it to the time Trent Reznor played the Big Day Out and did not smoke a joint. And then Snoop DoggLion throws the j into the crowd. Russell Brown is in the moshpit and goes to pick it up because he is instantly reminded of the time he used to flat with a keyboardist from a Flying Nun band who is never being reissued and they used to think about smoking joints all the time. He has it in his hand - er, the joint, I mean - but just at that moment he sees it is still blazing. And drops it. Because it was hot.

Pearl Jam closes out what has been an epic day - a truly wondrous event. I marvel, just as Eddie Vedder throat-chokes his way through the ultimate Big Day Out statement, "why go home, why go home, why go home..." he gurgles. He gargles. And I am amazed that in a whole day I was able to see over half a dozen acts, including one I wanted to see - and can only ever see in my hometown for a fraction of this price most weeks. So this was definitely worth it! Nick Bollinger of The Listener reminds me that if you can't say anything nice...but he trails off before finishing that thought because he doesn't want to use the word 'don't' because it might be perceived as a negative. So instead I just watch a seasoned group, a class act, a band that's been going for over 20 years now and still know how to deliver the goods. Yes, thank god the cell coverage that plagues this event is finally fixed and I'm able to catch a few Yo La Tengo clips on my phone while Eddie Vedder howls about the double-curse of laryngitis and constipation.

Well, thanks so much Big Day Out 2014. I imagine you'll be wanting to take 2015 off after all that. You must be very tired.

Blog on the Tracks is on Facebook and Twitter.

You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts.