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

Claremont Showgrounds, Perth
Sunday 31 January 2010


It’s a sunny, happy day as we slump into the cab, fuzzy round the edges and hanging over slightly from Trulie’s birthday party the night before, and head to Claremont for another Big Day Out. The line-up isn’t as exciting for me as in previous years – with the advent of the heavier Soundwave festival catering far better to the harder rocking crowd, BDO line-ups have gone more indie, hip hop and pop. Despite less and less catering to the hard rock and heavy metal audience there’s still enough worth having a look at.


Armed with a belly full of breakfast, ID, camera, phone, cash and our trusty notepads, we collect our wrist bands and start looking for the best music in each timeslot.


BLUEJUICE on the main stage offered a slab of bouncy hip hop flavoured indie pop. If grown men jumping about in yellow jumpsuits whilst MC-ing or rapping (or whatever it’s called this week) is your bag, you’ll have loved a bit of this. We didn’t, but concede that they are energetic and the teenagers in the moshpit looked enthusiastic as they bounced along.


Next to grace the big stages were locals KARNIVOOL, looking very heavy and very none-more-black in the summer sun. Their progressive Tool-esque metal grooves entertained the steadily filling Showgrounds as they announced “It’s a pleasure to be back with our family again”. Ian Kenny’s unique vocals set Karnivool apart, even though their moody & cerebral take on new (NOT “nu”) metal might be better immersed in after dark.


MASTODON followed directly on from Karnivool on the main stages, providing a welcome dose of some of the heaviest music of the day. Another metal band who fully embrace their inner moody, progressive selves, Mastodon have become regular visitors to Australia over the past few years, and there’s no sign of a hair metal change in direction on display here! They pummel the sun drenched crowd with searing and soaring solos, crushing riffs and an unrepentant love for what they do. A genuine highlight, and a tantalising taster for Soundwave in a month.



KASABIAN were next on the main stage, and the crowd had swelled noticeably by their 2pm start time. Blending Oasis-style Britrock with canny dance beats and a pop sensibility has proven a winner for these scruffy dancing gypsies, and they played a shining, vibrant set pitched directly at the sunny afternoon vibe of the crowd, offering a radical change of pace and vibe from the preceding darker two bands.



Bleed from other stages in close proximity and an intermittent wind which buffeted the sound left, right and sideways couldn’t detract from tunes such as ‘Wasting Away’, ‘On Fire’ and set closer ‘LSF’ – a surprisingly anticlimactic ending given it’s not their most upbeat of moments.


Self assured and crowd pleasing, Fremantle locals Kav Temperley and ESKIMO JOE are arguably becoming the Aussie U2 and as such, were born to be lauded on a stadium sized stage, and they stuck to their tested formula and gave the crowd what they most wanted today – upbeat, commercial, radio friendly, not-too-raw rock with a pinch of indie flavouring.



Foreign Land
New York
Older than you
From the sea
Losing Friends over love
Wake up
Don’t let me down
Black fingernails, Red wine


Hip hop overtook the main stages for a couple of hours in the shape of The Hilltop Hoods and Dizzee Rascal, and since we are The ROCKpit, we wandered in search of more appropriate delights.


Over on the Hot Produce stage THE SCARE had a small crowd bopping along to their dancey garage rock tunes. If you can imagine The Stooges genetically crossed with The Stranglers, then made all angular and a large jar of swamp juice from the Kim Salmon laboratories poured in, then you may be getting close to the sound these hyperactive lads pump out. Showing off songs from their Daniel Johns (Silverchair) produced album, they took advantage of their prime mid-afternoon slot, brought plenty of energy and some potential, but were lacking in the memorable song department.


While Dizzee Rascal hipped and hopped to the teeny masses in front of the main stages, local soon-to-be-legend ABBE MAY took to the Local Produce stage with THE ROCKIN’ PNEUMONIA.


Abbe never disappoints, whether playing solo, with the Rockin’ Pneumonia, or as The Devil & Abbe May, and with 3 full albums plus an EP released in 2 short years, as well as a penchant for some of the most smoking blues covers you may ever hear, she has a wealth of material to choose from.


Slow blues is the order of the day on Mays menu for the first half of her set, and her enigmatic, earthy voice is charged with sexual electricity over the band’s loping and stomping blues.


As the Fremantle Doctor blew its cooling kiss across the sunned-up crowd, Abbe upped the heat with tales of misadventures of the heart, spicey and raw and at times plaintive enough to bring a tear to the eye.


‘Cast That Devil Out’ saw the band up the tempo for some near-revivalist gospel tinged blues, and the hundred or so people lucky enough to be dancing here and now must have all wondered the same thing – Why wasn’t this electrifying singer on the main stage?


The band - KT Rumble on guitar, Pete Stone on bass, Alex Archer on violin and drummer Todd Pickett – lurched into a spine chilling ‘Amazing Grace’, followed by a lethargically slow version of blues standard ‘Spoonful’, and once again May’s magical, gritty, emotive voice made it work.


Abbe’s 45 minutes were up way too soon, and as every single person there danced to set closer ‘Howl & Moan’ we wondered if any of the bigger band on today’s bill could beat this powerhouse performance. (They couldn’t)



Can’t Find Love
A Blackout In Your Town
O Babylon
Cast That Devil Out
Amazing Grace
We Had A Real Good Time Together
Howl & Moan


We wandered back to the VIP bar to use the conveniences (there’s nothing worse than a portaloo at a rock festival on a sunny day!), refresh ourselves with a cool beverage, and caught the last half of LILY ALLEN’s set on the main stage.


Allen has already made quite a career out of being a lippy gobsh*te with an ear for melody and a quirky knack with words, striking a chord with legions of empowered women who approve of her message, and younger girls who aspire to be her.


Onstage, however, the thinness of her voice is accentuated and today she struggles to be heard above her band. Her ‘performance’, such as is was, seemed to exclusively revolve around her slowly strolling from one side of the stage to the other, then sitting down for a song or two. Hardly the most engaging of performers, and following directly on from the wonderful Ms May, we really were struggling to see what all the fuss was about – yet another triumph of style over substance, is my guess, but I am the first to acknowledge that I’m not her target market!


The sea of barely pubescent youngsters bouncing around in the sun didn’t seem to mind though – but then, I wonder how many exciting performers they’ve seen to compare this to?


The downside of any multi-stage festival is the clashes of cool bands on different stages, and after lacklustre Lily we had some tough choices to make. I usually prefer to pick a clear favourite and stick with their whole set in order to get a real feel for the ebb and flow of a performance, but today we decided to see as many of the bands as we could for the next couple of hours.


First up was Main Stagers THE MARS VOLTA, a Mexican/US bunch of ex-junkie psychedelic art experimentalists – progressive and confronting as always, with a jazz/metal bent here, a nod to Led Zeppelin there and a latin flavour throughout.



No strangers to the BDO, The Mars Volta knew what their people expected and threw it at them from the get go, working themselves and their faithful into a lather in just the first three songs.


Alas, we had to leave them to it, and managed to catch one song by WAGONS, a raucous alt-country bunch from Melbourne who, on the strength of this brief listen, had some good potential, even if they were milking the “chewing on a blade of straw” country sound a bit overmuch.


Onwards we went to catch a few songs by Aussie’s JET over on the Green Stage. The grass offered very little available space and the bar was at capacity with a long queue awaiting entry, proving that their lacklustre 2009 album “Shaka Rock” hadn’t lost them too many fans.


We arrived just in time to see three young scamps clamber onto a nearby roof to moon the Jet crowd, as the familiar intro to ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl’ raised a huge cheer. Still their most popular song and as perfect a festival crowd-pleaser as they are ever likely to write, the sea of dancing people loved this one.



Next up was a brand new song, apparently, and it sounded better than any of the generic Kings Of Leon stylised numbers on their latest album, so hopefully there is some life left in this old dog yet. ‘Get Me Out Of Here’ followed, again from their 2003 debut, and again a great rocking festival tune.


I’d love to see Jet get back onto the vibe of their debut album for their next release – and back onto the main stages where they perhaps belong - they’ve obviously got it in ‘em and just need to be themselves instead of trying to be someone else.


We dashed across the grounds to the Essential Stage for an old favourite of ours, MAGIC DIRT. Adalita and the boys are back rocking again after the brave but tragic passing of their long time friend and bassist Dean Turner last year, and we arrived in time for the classic ‘Dirty Jeans’ and garage wigout of ‘Wasted’, before the whole band proclaimed a proud toast “to our friend – to our BEST friend”. It was heady and emotional stuff.




Adalita remains a tragically under appreciated rock goddess, her voice cutting like a diamond on glass as she threw herself around the stage like a woman possessed.


Setlist (excerpt)

Dirty Jeans
Not a Party Girl
Plastic Loveless Letter
White Boy


If only we could have stayed and watched more, but a quick sidestep next door to the Local Stage brought us to local independent power-pop quartet THE CHEVELLES.



Hugely popular throughout Spain & South America, and with a recent compilation issued in the States on Little Steven’s (Springsteen’s E-Street Band) own indie label, The Chevelles are one of the best (and most successful) bands Perth has ever produced, yet once again they are practically anonymous in their home town except in cult circles.


“Do you think we have more people watching us than Powderfinger?” asked bassist Jeff Halley at one stage. Well, sadly no, and they weren’t the first band today to be under appreciated, but rest assured those of us who were watching loved every minute of it.


New song ‘Summer Fun’ bodes very well indeed for the forthcoming album “Accelerator”, and older tracks like ‘C’mon Everybody’ and ‘Girl God’ are just about perfect slabs of guitar pop, impossibly catchy and shiny and glittery, conjuring up sunny days and steamy nights. Fantastic stuff.


Gotta Get It On
C’mon Everybody
Girl God
Out Of My Mind
Summer Fun
Girl For Me
Show Me Your Love


Once again we reluctantly pulled ourselves away, in order to catch the last few songs from crowd favourites POWDERFINGER.


We entered the arena as the still-full moon was just rising above the stage, and lead singer Bernard Fanning was sat behind the keys for a plaintive but a little dull ‘These Days’, which only picked up towards the end when 20,000 or so punters joined in on the chorus and the band upped the energy levels.


I know Powderfinger are a big commercial concern who write big commercial arena filling rock anthems which get played on big commercial radio stations, but for my money they only rise above the mediocre when they rub off some of the studio polish and allow themselves to get raw and show a bit of a harder edge.



Powderfinger's last two songs were a perfect example: ‘My Happiness’ is a HUGE rock song to which 20,000 plus people here sung along on the chorus (including me). But at the end, I don’t recall much about it other than the moon above the stage! Commercial radio may dictate what the people at large appreciate, but the sooner they loosen their hold and let some more diverse music through the sooner the people will start to appreciate something a little more real!


Set closer, however, ‘Got You On My Mind’ was a stomper, with the guitars allowed off the dial and the band showing some real energy for the first time (remembering we only caught the last few songs, however). If the whole set had been storming like this it would’ve been well worth watching from the start.



Special mention should be made of the freaky eyeball backdrop during this song too, made doubly effective by the full moon floating ever higher just above.


We skipped across to the other side of the stage and experienced the first real delay of the night. Headliners DO love to make the crowd wait…


When MUSE finally did take to the stage it was in a flurry of lights, 3 huge video backdrops projecting the trio out to their adoring crowd like a fascistic propaganda rally of rock and roll. The sheer scale upon which Muse do things is mind boggling, and if all this really does come out of the mind of Matt Bellamy, then I sincerely hope he has a good mental health plan!



A Muse live show is a spectacle, and consists of more than the sum of its parts. The sheer depth and layering of the sound is massive and it’s hard to believe it is created by just the 3 men on stage. The lighting is a work of art and the video backdrops must rival a full blown movie production.


The music itself is intense, throbbing and if anything, like a psychotic U2 that forgot to take its medicine. Bellamy’s guitar playing is masterfully bonkers, and instantly fears that the live show would be as neutered as their disappointing latest album are dispelled, despite the solos not being as twiddly-diddly as in the past.


Photo by Sarah Hilton


All these elements work in unison to dazzle and impress the eagerly receptive and partially stunned audience. Quite simply, as befitting the tour headliner, their show outshone all other comers by a long shot.


Opening with ‘Uprising’ then diving straight into ‘Supermassive Black Hole’, they showed early they weren’t here to chat, but to stun all present with the sheer scale of their show.


But it had been a long day, and the indulgences of the previous night had caught up with us, so we bade farewell to Bellamy’s boys and went hunting for a cab home.




Ahhh yes, it was time to bid farewell to the BDO for another year.


Highlights of the day for us were ABBE MAY & THE ROCKIN PNEUMONIA, THE CHEVELLES and MAGIC DIRT.


She’s an institution, this old girl, and this was my 12th of the 18 events (The first didn’t make it to Perth, and I was overseas for 3!). It didn’t rate as the best line-up in my book by a long shot (1994 or 2004 were favourites), or the best day of performances, but there is something about the BDO which ensures a good time regardless.


I doubt the line-up will ever again rival the great ones of the past – possibly because the organisers are trying to make the festival appeal to as wide an audience as possible, and if it teaches the young-uns a bit more musical and social tolerance once a year then bravo for that! And anyway, the metalheads do have Soundwave to look forward to in a month!


Every BDO I’ve ever attended has been full of sun, fun and laughs, exciting music, random people and constant entertainment.


The day now has a life and a character all of it’s own – sure it’s a music festival, but it’s also an institution, an industry, and a revolution. Regardless of the line-up each year, I know there will be a few bands I really like, and a few I will be surprised at if I give ‘em a go. And regardless of the music, I know I will bump into some familiar faces, have a great day, and leave smiling – and in this way the organisers have created a little bit of magic.


Thankyou to them for putting the show on so well each year, and thankyou to the crowd – nearly 40,000 of you dancing, rocking, boogieing, drinking, moving from stage to stage, and not one altercation as far as we could see over the entire day.


Thanks for another BIG day out!

By Shane Rockpit
Additional words Trulie Rockpit