Big Day Out 1997, Bassendean Oval, February 2, 1997

A compilation of reviews for a bigger coverage assembled from several writers.

For several thousand music fans, ravers and simple masochists, the first belly laughs of this final Big Day Out were to be had before reaching the ground. Note the frantic screams of the woman station guard as hundreds of kids tried to pile into the two train carriages graciously provided by Westrail. Note the bouncers pouring out the day’s liquid gold – water – at your feet. And note the impenetrable labyrinth of mazes inside the ground which stood solidly for WA’s aggressive liquor licensing laws.

While the anti-youth cronies point their boney fingers at the promoters, and kids in general, for the 400 casualties of the day (including one fatal overdose – you can’t put another fence up for that), there is no doubt that the bloodshed and impenetrable crowding as 35,000 people tried to circulate was caused fundamentally by these security barriers, a governmental boob of an idea which was not present in any other state of the tour. Send those medical bills to your local MP.

Greeted by such testing trials, the calming sooth of Apartment 99 could have well been the aural Prozac one needed. But as A99, Automatic and Martian Radio all discovered, a 92 decibel limit on Stage 4 turned any semblance of music into something akin to listening to a transistor radio with someone belching over the top. The sound guy squirmed and pointed to the little “keep ratepayers happy” meter stuck to his desk while shouldering threats. The true fans lined the railing to hear the musician’s foldback instead.

Sadly, it was best on this huge day out to stay within the ‘safety’ barriers of Stages 1 and 2, the sound and spaciousness being magnificent early on for Adelaide’s The Superjesus and The Clouds. The super Sarah McLoud is certainly a star on the rise, her husky gaity and in-between song banter immediately won her a legion of Superjesuits as the slower-paced format of the Eight Step Rail EP proved to be simply a taster to the cracking pace and power of their live show. The Clouds proved otherwise, their selections for this festival occasion – a large portion of their sweet though slower numbers – was a little awry when they have such a huge battery of fast showstoppers.

A case in point: Frenzal Rhomb came dangerously close to stealing the show as their 1pm, Stage 3 slot evolved into a furiously frenzied punk and primal mosh masterpiece. With most of the crowd airborne at one stage or another, Punch In The Face and Pants looked set to give The Offspring a bit of a run – but maybe not Shonen Knife. The glitz and giggling of The Knife’s naivity came through like a good rub with a moist towlette in the steaming conditions, their delicate axe wrestling of Ramones-style thrash somewhat akin to a musical reading of the cooking instructions for instant noodles.

From join-the-dots to a sprawling masterwork, Supergrass had the songs and sounds to lay down and touch the earth to. With Going Out and Alright evolving from simple singalongs to enormous and warm all-hugging epics, these sole Britpop reps raised the goosebumps and highlighted again the simple gruel of our Americanised leanings. And strangely, Fear Factory were the perfect follow-up, their similarly grandiose structures towered high and mighty, their double kick drumming and bladder-rumbling bass made Scumgrief a darkly-magical moment.

“The worst thing about playing last is having to drink all day while waiting,” slurred a prowling Perkins, The Beasts of Bourbon firing the final guitar assault of the final Big Day Out. Far from their alternate personas, The Beasts combined to thrash out some of the dirtiest swamp outrage known in the business, Tex Perkins causing his own bodily injury during the final fling with Ben Shepherd (Soundgarden) and ‘ol King of Pop Dave Graney for Iggy’s I Don’t Wanna Be Your Dog.

Adam Connors