The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world



With ‘Definitely the last Perth Big Day Out’ ringing in everyone’s ears, this year’s event – hastily relocated to Joondalup Arena from Claremont Showgrounds, at least musically went out with a bang. Whatever your thoughts might be on the reasons for the demise of Australia’s first great Festival the sad truth is that there just aren’t enough people coming through the gates, though this year’s crowd was boosted by an influx of late ticket buying Pearl Jam fans.

BDO has always provided an eclectic mix of acts and this year was certainly no exception with everything from punk to hip-hop providing ear candy for a largely younger demographic (it really did seem that all the over thirties were camped out at the stage where Primus and Pearl Jam would hold sway later in the day).   


If you knew your stuff you were there early to check out local noisy punk popsters Loon Lake, who drew a decent crowd to the JBL stage and managed to make some sweet noise despite it only just being after midday.

Over on the main stages Bluejuice preached to a very young audience, all moustaches, gold lame and ‘heard it all before’ synth-laden dance pop. It was all writ larger than life on the backdrop ‘Bluejuice supports gay marriage’. Ironic that bands like this, talking to a very young crowd, can preach such things in one sentence with burning indignation then make rather tasteless jokes about oral sex and chlamydia in the next. Still if you like that sort of camp gay disco vibe that’s cool, but to our ears the banter was far better than the music.


Far better on the Orange stage were Alaskans Portugal the Man, who have a surprisingly good grasp of rock sensibilities and even tackled the Floyd classic – ‘Another Brick in the Wall’ and doing it rather well actually. Indeed the band turn out to be one of the triumphs of the day appealing to even the older end of the crowd spectrum that looked across from their hill hangouts.

Back on the JBL it was Melbourne’s finest Kingswood who were making some fine noise with a dose of great gritty hard rock, as well as displaying some lighter touches at times too. If you liked it down and dirty their set got the old heart pounding of those who believe hard rock will rise again.


The Naked and Famous, a New Zealand band who so far have found more fame overseas in the UK and US were good, but rather more slick than essential. They looked immaculately groomed, rather like they had just been to an expensive salon and stepped out into the street. Their songs sort of matched, in that the sound was rather rich but the sheen a little superficial. I had imagined them far different and the crowd seemed to agree, drifting away piece by piece. They did play their hit though which brings a cheer of recognition, but overall it’s all a little too aloof for the majority of the crowd.

The Drones on the other hand are pretty much the antithesis of what just went down on the main stage. Distinctly Australian punk noise, these BDO regulars let the music do the talking with ‘Shark Fin Blues’ our personal highlight.

It’s Perth locals Tame Impala though that bring the first really sizeable crowd of the day. Some bands really surprise me when I see them live for the first time but Tame Impala sound a little duller live than I’d imagined, like they listened to all the worst seventies Prog rock and decided to recycle it with the addition of a few hooks here and there.  The crowd though seems to love it even if Kevin Parker misses the high notes on ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’ by some distance.

Primus lurks in the wings on the stage opposite, with their big inflatable spacemen Neil and Buzz, and sundry stage detritus from horse’s heads to giant umbrellas for the sun. Primus really never does much on stage and that hasn’t changed over the years. The Music of course forgives anything and Les Claypole and Larry Lalonde along with returning original drummer Tim Alexander rock considerably in a quirky and funky, Jazzy way.


‘We’re just here to kill some some time before The Hives’ is a decent enough opening line and the set proves to be a killer, even if no Primus set ever seems long enough. They do roll out the usual suspects though and as usual its songs like ‘Southbound Pachyderm’ and ‘Jerry Was A Race Car Driver’ that underline the importance of these guys in the annals of Rock.

The Hives have brought their mariachi outfits to Australia for the first time, and setting up their ‘stage ninjas’ look rather hot in their all black attire, it’s rather a lot of black all round for a day like today... As usual with The Hives this is a show you have to strap yourself in for. If ever there was a band that understood the words ‘entertainment’ and ‘show business’ it’s The Hives and in particular their hyperactive lead singer Pelle Almqvist. It takes less than half of the first song to get down in the pit and into the crowd much to the love of those who have staked out their place front of stage and the mass of photographers in the pit.


Musically The Hives has it all, short sharp garage rock that’s over in a flash, tight musicianship and a frontman that never knows when to stop. At one point he puts his hand to his ear ‘There’s a band playing over there somewhere’ he tells us ‘We may not be able to get them to stop, but we can get you to make enough noise so we can’t hear them’. It works a treat. The Hives holds the crowd in the palm of its hand, and whether Big Day Out comes to Perth again or not you get a feeling these guys will. It’s certainly a contender for the feel good set of the day.

Over on the stage you can hear when The Hives pause between songs, Mudhoney is holding court. Pulling a sizeable crowd of the die-hards and the curious Mudhoney never fails to sound effortlessly cool and today the band sound like the band everyone tells you they are – absolutely essential.


Beady Eye’s Liam Gallagher has the manic stare of a man capable of any kind of madness, and with his closely cropped hair and propensity for just stopping still and fixing his unblinking gaze in the distance it’s rather disconcerting (especially as he does it first midway through the very first song).  Permanent scowls aside, musically Beady Eye as you might imagine, are a ridiculously tight unit and while they come as a complete contract to the utter relentlessness of The Hives there is a certain something about them that’s not just confined to the Oasis songs. “I’m getting a good vibe here maybe ‘cos it's a little closer to England” is Gallagher’s opening gambit and most are too scared not to applaud. The band’s finest moment though might just be a cover of The Stones ‘Gimme Shelter’ which is impeccably played if a little subdued for this time of day.


Arcade Fire lights up the Blue stage for their second headliner set and it would be an understatement to say there was a lot going on onstage. Drawing mainly from the Reflektor album it was a full hour and a half of mayhem starting off with the band walking onstage in large papier-mache heads (rather sheepishly in some cases) before being revealed to an audience who must surely have seen this before. Its entertainment I guess, even if it is rather more self-consciously so than The Hives, their predecessors on this stage.  


It’s a set that lights up the crowd though and tracks like ‘Keep the Car Running’ and ‘The Suburbs’ translate well live and Win Butler is in great form again joining the crowd more than once to bring everyone together inside the music.   


Vista Chino is for us one of the highlights of the day, and we were not quite sure what to expect either looking at the previous festival dates: we knew we were going to get a lot of Kyuss though from those setlists. Coming on early evening didn’t seem to dismay the band either who were full of energy in the heat of the day and opened with Vista Chino originals ‘Dargona Dargona’ and “Adara’ along with the solid Kyuss staples: ‘One Inch Man’, ‘Gardenia’ and others. It was a shame there was no Planets 1&2 like in Melbourne, but hey, it’s a festival set and you can’t have it all!

Sadly we meant to go to see Snoop and people at The Deftones tell us he kicked ass, but the lure of Pearl Jam was just too great…


PEARL JAM SETLIST: Go | Do the Evolution | Last Exit | Animal | Mind Your Manners | Corduroy | Lightning Bolt | Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town | Faithfull | Even Flow | Deep | Unthought Known | Sirens | Getaway | Jeremy | Lukin | Satan's Bed | Rearviewmirror

Encore: Throw Your Arms Around Me | Crazy Mary | Comatose | Given to Fly | Black | Porch | Rockin' in the Free World


The Festival and the day though clearly belong to one band alone: Pearl Jam. Taking to the stage in their usual low key manner with the lights dimmed, the roar that goes up from the crowd when they emerge into the light tells you all you need to know about who the majority of BDO-goers are here to see.


Pearl Jam is an enigma, and many waiting see if they were going to play the Melbourne, Sydney or Adelaide setlist of course already know that they will do neither, they will play a different set built around the dozen or so songs they seem to be favouring this time round.  


My first exposure to Pearl Jam was too long ago to mention coming in front of a couple of hundred people on their very first date in Europe, and every time I see them it’s different and always hits the spot. Tonight though there’s an unexpected energy I can’t recall seeing in years.


Eddie Vedder seems like a man on a mission tonight, which is great news for those catching his solo tour which starts after this final date, and the band seems almost serene. Eddie is, as usual, in a talkative mood that most casual listeners hate and most fans love but it brings to the set something that few bands do particularly well and has become a trademark over the years.


Opening with the salvo of ‘Go’, ‘Do the Evolution’ and ‘Last Exit’ the crowd is moving in unison from the off and you can see the crowds flooding in late to catch the show taking up the last minute after 6PM entry for $100 offer.    


It’s a great set and a great performance by a band that have a huge place in the heart of so many Australians and while of course debating the setlist is one of the side-effects of a Pearl Jam show (there was no ‘Alive’ for example) no one seemed to walk away anything less than happy. While down under of course we get the traditional Hunters and Collectors cover – ‘Throw your arms around me’ which makes up one of three covers in the encore along with Victoria Williams ‘Crazy Mary’ and Neil Young’s “Rocking in the Free World’ which sees Arcade Fire’s Win Butler join the band on stage for a final goodbye.


If this is Perth’s last BIG DAY OUT it went out in style. There will be a few thousand west Australians flying East next year…



by Mark Diggins with Dave Concrete and Maisy | Photos by Mark Diggins February 2014


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