The Big Day Out Auckland always arrives on the Friday of the 3rd week of January. It’s a date I look forward to in my calendar every year. Just a day in the sun watching bands – some old favourites and hopefully making some new discoveries as well.

This year leading into the week was the news that this would be the last time I’d be able to look forward to the festival in Auckland. Due to the lack of support this year, Auckland will be left out of the festival tour henceforth. Very sad news indeed, but completely fair. If New Zealanders can’t make the show viable, then there isn’t much point in putting on a show that can’t cover it’s own costs.

The show was dramatically re-aligned this year. Less stages, no Boiler Room tent at Mt Smart, and only one main stage. I wasn’t sure how this would play out over the course of the day, but I was optimistic that the streamlined approach might be a good thing for the show.

Sure enough it was definitely the least attended Big Day Out I’ve ever been to. It hardly came to a point where it felt like the volumes of people were even close to that of previous years. This was bittersweet. On the one hand, it’s total shit because it means hardly anyone there for the artists to play for. Not to mention this is exactly the reason why the show won’t be continuing on in Auckland. On the other side of the coin though, all the annoyances that usually exist with a festival environment weren’t at all present this year.

It was easy to get around. Queues were manageable. The lack of volume on the mobile networks meant it was easy to communicate. It made for a very pleasant day. Those of us attending the show were making the most of the reduced capacity.

Onto the music!

Cage the Elephant were the first band we saw. Their enthusiasm was great. I haven’t heard too much of their stuff, so I’m going to check out more for sure.

Das Racist were having fun during their Boiler Room set. The AV visuals they brought with them were pretty damn hilarious. With mash-ups of television intros from 90’s X-Men cartoons and Law and Order, through to Kindergarten Cop and Bart Simpson. Awesome stuff.

We snuck away early to catch Wellington’s Beastwars playing the Skate stage. I’m glad we did, as they played an impressive live show. I’ve been playing their album for a while now, so it was good to catch them live, finally.

Right after on the main stage the Cavalera Conspiracy came on to rip through some metal numbers. They were tight and heavy as shit. It was pretty fantastic. They played some old school Sepultura songs and that really got the mosh pit going. These guys were the welcome surprise of the day. Blisteringly awesome.

Time for another wander around the festival, which allowed us to take in some Best Coast. I had time to give them because they had a video with kittens in it. I guess you could shelve them under inoffensive sunny pop music.

Then we went to the Boiler Room again (weird calling it that seeing as there was no super top tent any more and it was just an open stage like the other stages. Where was the room?). We caught Battles, whom we had high expectations for, but found completely boring. It just wasn’t working for me. Maybe after that Cavalera Conspiracy set I was critiquing a little differently? Who knows? Other people there seemed to be enjoying though, so it wasn’t a complete loss.

Resting our feet in the late afternoon seemed necessary. The crowd had gotten larger from earlier in the day, and that was a good sign that there might be a respectable crowd once we had reached the finale of the show with the headliners.

Eventually we made our way down to the main stage and position ourselves in to see Kasabian and Soundgarden. We were in pretty close, which generally means you can expect some aggression from folks who also want a good vantage point at the front and will do some pretty awful things to get there. I have to say, I was surprised that all the bad behavior in our immediate area came from women this year. They weren’t just being annoying either, some were outright bitches. As always, I burrowed in tighter when people tried to challenge me for my spot. It’s a simple rule. First in first serve. Nothing else matters.

Kasabian were fun, and worthy of their spot on the main stage.

However Soundgarden was who we came for. I’ve been a fan for a long time and never seen them, so I was pretty excited for them. They didn’t disappoint. The band was very tight, Chris’ vocals were sharp. It was just a great performance. Loved it. They dedicated a song to Christchurch as well, so extra brownie points for the consideration there too.

Awesome day out. Sad to see an old friend go, but a lot of great memories, this year included. I put together a small collection of photos and some short video clips as a Big Day Out retrospective Set on my Flickr. If you want to go check that out, you can do so here.

Thanks for reading,
Marc