• Mark Fraser

Big Day Out Sydney 2009

The display read 39°C on the roadside thermometer, as I drove my air condition-less car and passengers along Parramatta Rd. It was set to be another Big Day Out. As was evident with my two previous visits to this festival, this festivals energy is as frantic as ant nest before a rainy day. Full of boozed up and drugged up munters and bogans, all attempting to fit as much as they can into one day....

Once through the gates and all wrist-banded up, it was time to get my bearings, consult the schedule and give myself to the day. My priority was to see Neil Young, an inspiration to many, and to enjoy the acts leading up to his late performance.


First up were The Birds of Tokyo, who, already entrenched in their set, were rocking out to the much appreciative mid day crowd.

Ian Kenny, their vocalist, was leading the way with his strong presence and explosive delivery.

It was obvious to see how they have earned the reputation that “The Birds of Tokyo are always good!”

Next up, only seconds after the boys from The Birds of Tokyo had left the Orange stage, The Grates popped their way onto the Blue stage, ‘Aw Yeah!’ Bouncing around clad in a marching band costume singer Patience Hudson and her band alike had as much fun as of those before them.

Keeping their intensity high and their own enjoyment higher, The Grates unrolled their repertoire of pop tunes, getting the crowd bouncing as high as a kangaroo on a pogo stick.

Leaving the Red stage to catch my breath and to look around I wandered through the Lilly Pad.

A stage where last year I was able to see some unknown and up and coming bands get some Big  Day Out stage time.

Unfortunately, this year, it seemed to be reserved to a cabaret like existence, being more of a safe and shady spot for dilating eyes to take shelter from the sun, than a showcase stage. I say bring back the unknowns, this is where a festival gets its teeth.


Little Red was into the back end of their set when I arrived at the converse stage.

These guys were my pick for the day playing and sharing their good vibes. I was captured by their harmonies and their arrangements.

Big smiles and just plain happy grooves, you could see they were having a good time. The drummers head was bouncing from side to side as if he just heard the ice cream truck and knew his momma was going to slip him some coins for a well deserved softy. I look forward to checking them out in the future.

Next to their stage, a big crowd had already gathered in anticipation for The Ting Tings. They came out with their pop sounds blazing.

I was in awe as to how they could create so much sound as a two piece...well… a two and a half piece.

Katie White took the courtesy to introduce her loop pedal during the performance, as the valuable member of the band that it is.

These guys were entertaining, inviting and familiar, playing some new songs and their better known material. They kept the crowd pumped, satisfied and wanting more.

It was time for me to have a break from the sonic indulgences and catch my breath. 

I wandered past the silent disco. What an entertaining spectacle! A couple of hundred pairs of ears sporting yellow headphones as their bodies jiggled, gyrated and grooved to the sounds within. Looked like a whole lot of fun!

Sneaky Sound System was next on the Orange stage, they got the crowd moving and grooving.

I stayed in zone out mode taking a breather in the Guest Bar upper side stage.

This was a welcome space to take refuge from the swarming crowd. Enjoying the spectacle of cricket matches, dancing groups and wrestles all happening on the showground dance floor.

Next on, Pendulum, had the greatest impact out of any act I witnessed that day.


The crowd pumped to their beats all the way around the ground, from the front of the stage to the stands the crowd was jumping.

I had seen them stripped back style show before, but for this one they had the full ensemble. “Everyone likes Pendulum” someone said near to me, and they sure did.

Some friends of mine were on their way to see The Drones next.

In hadn’t heard of them before but I tagged along. Apparently these guys have a sort of cult following, most likely it is driven along by their attitude.

My apologies if you are into them, but I couldn’t work them out, they seemed to be not quite folk and not quite rock. Just loud guitar, seemingly to be out of the 80s, reminding me of the guitar from the score to Top Gun.

I had to leave after a three songs and I’m glad I did. It gave me a chance to see The Living End.

These guys were having almost as big an impact on the crowd as Pendulum.

I was impressed that this three-piece playing mostly Aussie Rock was able to penetrate the crowd so extensively.

Playing their catalogue of hits, targeted to the young mind and their highly energetic stage personas was the perfect combination for the day.

Doing their own rendition of ‘Once a jolly swagman’ stimulated the crowd to break into song; I would’ve liked to have witnessed that part of the show on Australia Day in Melbourne.

The Sydney patriotism was certainly strongly represented.

Finally it was time for Neil Young to take the stage.


I once heard him quoted as saying, ‘if an artist is to bare his soul as much as possible, then you can’t ask for any more than that.’ This is precisely what we witnessed.

He is mature, but he can still do it and with such a rich catalogue, it was great to be in audience of this accomplished artist.


A large majority of the BDO crowd were attempting to get into the Boiler room to see The Prodigy, who were apparently awesome!

Those who stayed got to hear first hand all the songs that brought Neil young to the world.


The day was now mostly over, much, much cooler and I trundled my way back to the car to wait for those in my party able to get in to see The Prodigy.

Upon my return, my car park neighbors had unwound a fire hose and were cooling down any passerby within reach of their stream.

They were having an awesome time until the riot police showed up below.

Turning on their lights which it seemed they assumed would be enough to put a stop to this misuse of property, classic BDO balls out behavior!.

However, this only spurred the cannon to be fired on them.


Forcing the force to quickly wind up their windows and drive out of streams reach.

Jumping out of their car the riot squad didn’t know which way to chase these characters, who high tailed it as soon as the police had stopped.

The culprits, I’m happy to say, got a safe though somewhat disjointed get away. The police were left all red faced pointing their fingers in my direction… “no boys it wasn’t me…” and so another Big Day Out was closed.


Tim Stokes - redbackrock.com

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