January 25, 2005

Debrief: You Had To Be There

Olivia Kember writes...

Ah, the Big Day Out. You had to be there. It was explosive. It was mind-blowing. Best day of my life, ever, since last year's Big Day Out.

Really, just amazing.

The Hives and Le Tigre were my highlights. At first I thought it was incompetence on the part of the organisers to put on two major international acts that would probably appeal to a similar audience at the same time. How wrong I was. To stand midway between them, soaking up the glorious mélange of sounds, was very heaven. As I said to Russell Brown, it was "Le Hivres". He guffawed mightily and told me he had his own carpark. Good on him, too. The organisers must have remembered his gout.

And kudos to them. What a line-up! The Beastie Boys, and the Chemical Brothers! One group cool from the last decade, and the other from the decade before that - how audacious to flout superficial trends and recognise the ancient masters.

Apart from Scribe, of course. Such passion, such soul. Such fine local product. It made me proud to be a white girl who does hip hop classes at the gym.

Such lies. I didn't go. I went to Devonport. Oddly, the streets were filled with people not at the Big Day Out. We kept our gazes averted, silently recognizing each other's shame. Rightly so, too. The media coverage has been extensive, as if, across the nation, journalists decided the Big Day Out would make a nice antidote to the tsunami stories. After all, we're a bit light on local activity at the moment.

And it's easy, you just play a lot of music videos and interview a few bands. If you're trying to make it a bit newsier you turn up at Ericsson Stadium and persuade a St John's Ambulance person to make a statement about the importance of drinking water and not taking too many party pills.

It must be infuriating if you're not at all interested. It must be even more annoying if you are interested and you can't go. I'm guilty. I did my bit, putting together a vacuous little piece for Breakfast TV, which featured snippets of bands selected on the availability of their videos and perhaps the most asinine conclusion I've ever written ("with so much to choose from, the only problem is how to see them all!", or something). It wasn't much, I know. It wasn't a live cross at 8am to see how the set-up crew were getting on; it didn't even carry a sunblock warning. It wasn't enough to get me a carpark. But then, it takes more than a single promo piece to get a pass and others have years of ligging on me.

Hence, Devo. And my day was not without adventure. We ate posh bakery goods under a tree in the park. Around us people did all the things you're supposed to do in parks. My friend bought an ASB Bank 7 inch, a double A-side entitled Bank on the Move: "We're the Bank going up/ Gonna shine like the sun/ We're the Bank on the move / You're number one", etc. A stirring ballad and a piece of history for fifty cents.

The Hard to Find Bookshop's $2 trolley produced something by Rabelais which I eventually intend to read, and a small book called Killer Pine. We looked up my father in the New Zealand Rugby almanac of 1974, but didn't find him. He might not have been in it; I can't remember when he played or what position. We climbed up Mt Victoria, pausing halfway to sit on a bench and admire the view. Auckland really was looking unusually pretty. We pondered briefly why looking at water is so pleasant, and it occurred to me that sitting in the sun and enjoying the view would feel much the same when you're sixty as twenty-five, and therefore I was perhaps engaging in an experience prematurely, and should really be at Ericsson Stadium right then because when I'm sixty I probably won't enjoy concert crowds much at all... but the heat and the apple tart made the thought rather hard to focus on, and eventually I forgot it.

Up the mountain I was told the red and white toadstools surrounding the shipping station had been painted so as a prank, but thereafter absent-mindedly maintained by the local authorities. I hope it's true. We bought ice creams. On the ferry home I started to read Killer Pine: the story of micro-agent Matthew Dilke, his "luscious African mistress", and a "miniaturized Scots ecologist with a valuable genius for mountaineering". They have to figure out why Canadian pine trees have blight. As the SundayTelegraph said: "ingenious, gripping and entertaining".

At home, I discovered my second sunburn of the summer. Truly, it had been a big day out.

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