Reflecting on festival milestone

AL WILLIAMS
Last updated 12:01 20/01/2014
Big Day Out 2014
Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder perform at the Big Day Out,

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REVIEW: "It was 20 years ago today" - an opening lyric from The Beatles' seminal Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

The announcement of a new direction in popular music. A milestone. That was 1967.

And so it was in 1994 when the Big Day Out reached the shores of New Zealand. A tide of indie rock inspired by the explosion of grunge. I was 21.

Fast forward to 2014 and a coming of age.

A change of venue and clashing timetable. I wasn't sure. Perhaps my expectations were high. It was drizzling on Friday morning and at 42, I was contemplating a mac and pair of gumboots. In 1995 when Nick Cave took the stage it was bucketing down and I didn't give the mud and rain a second thought.

I wasn't at the Springs when Bob Marley took the stage in 1980, or when Bowie broke attendance records in 83, but I did anticipate Gen X propping up the festival as punters gathered for Pearl Jam's two-hour set. Marketing genius? I was willing to wager a bet that one of the Finn boys would make an appearance with Eddie Vedder.

The wind and rain subsided, and it turned out a beautiful day. Some of us were better prepared than others, with plenty of sunscreen and water.

Public transport was free for festival goers and dozens of buses lined up outside the venue.

I made it through the gate with no hassles, my backpack not even searched.

Western Springs offered a lot more green space than Mt Smart. Plenty of rolling banks and trees.

With a map in hand, I made my way around the site. Six stages, Kowhai, Tui, Aroha, Tamaki, Lakeside and the Cube.

The 1975 were mid set on Aroha with their blend of indie rock. Tame Impala were blasting through a set on Kowhai sharing "a steady flowing psychedelic groove that emphasizes dream-like melody".

I made my way up the grassy banks of the main stadium to a perch where I could observe the four main stages. The sound was conflicting at times but fine for those daring to enter the pit.

The Naked and Famous got things warmed up with a mish-mash of arena bombast.

The lines were getting longer for the toilets and the drinks. One hour long. A word to organisers perhaps?

Old favourites Primus were fantastic. Even for entertainment value.

Bassist/vocalist Les Claypool is an enigmatic figure on stage. Their style is difficult to define and a sense of humour is always present.

The Hives then offered a manic dose of indie rock, but the banter between songs was too much.

I wandered off and walked past two security guards to find myself backstage with Beady Eye. But no sign of the infamous Liam Gallagher. It was about 15 minutes before someone asked what I was doing backstage and I was asked to move on - easier to get backstage than to get a beer - a word to organisers perhaps?

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I didn't know I was backstage with Beady Eye members until they took to the stage, Mr Gallagher offering his usual disdain and muttering, "This next song is for the Oasis fans." I didn't think there were any Beady Eye fans there and had already missed my opportunity to tell him what a great songwriter his brother Noel is.

Arcade Fire. Magic. A huge band in terms of membership and loads of fun in the arena. They were great, I thought.

Then the headlining acts, Pearl Jam and Snoop Dogg aka Snoop Lion.

Snoop Lion stole the day with his infectious humour. Just so funny and so groovy.

Pearl Jam were taking the whole thing seriously but not to take away anything from a tight and polished two-hour set. Liam Finn joined them on stage for a song.

I was knackered as it neared the end and jumped a bus before the crowds started to swell.

Cheers for 20 years, Big Day Out.

- The Timaru Herald

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