Auckland and Big Day Out

I had a fascinating conversation with a lieutenant commander of the New Zealand Navy on the airport shuttle on my way to the North Shore. The discussion ranged from World War Two battles; unmanned drones making automated strikes against human targets and the Geneva Convention; neural networks (my research); Network latency and how it effects combat management, both for the military and in World of Warcraft; computer security, leaked diplomatic cables and Bruce Schneier’s research on the human weak-points of cryptology and secrecy. It was brilliant.

I’ll say this for Big Day Out. It got wet.

The rain started bucketing down during Shihad’s complete rendition of The General Electric.  Down in the pit it didn’t matter much. I had planned far enough ahead to have my cellphone and wallet and stuff in ziplock plastic bags — but I had no other protection for myself whatsoever. I got saturated.

It was very considerate of Rammstein to dry us all out, using flamethrowers. Seriously, I’ve never seen so much pyrotechnics, rockets, and firewords being detonated on a stage with a fabric roof in my life. The Rammstein performance included, amongst other things. Starburst firewords being fired straight down at the stage (and the band members) from the ceiling; Face-mask flamethrowers being worn by both guitarists; rocket fireworks launched from crossbows at the sound tower, where rockets were fired right back at the stage along guide-wires. Oh, and of course they were playing during all this too.

The best moment of their show had to be when someone from the crowd apparently managed to get up on the stage, running around and waving at the crowd. The lead singer waited till he turned his back and nailed him with the flamethrower, setting him alight. He ran off in apparent fear and alarm, and it wasn’t until he ran back again, still on fire, that it was completely clear that it was staged. I had certainly hoped so from the moment he was set ablaze though. As much as they must be tempted, bands probably shouldn’t be allowed to napalm their fans, as a rule.

And of course, Rammstein weren’t even the headliners — half way through the set I made my way over to the other stage to get in a good spot for Tool. It was a perfect performance, with an awesome and sureal light/lazer show which was brilliant, if not as ridiculously over-the-top as Rammstein’s.  Tool (I thought) finished their set with Lateralus, their 10 minute magnum opus, only to then break into Third Eye, their thirteen minute massive closer to Aenima, completely destroying what energy I had left. I started making my way to the exit as they were finishing to try and get a bus before hypothermia really set in, only to have to turn back when they started playing Stinkfist, they’re real final song of the evening. It was maddening and awesome at the same time.

Other highlights from my day included:

  • Shihad’s perfect rendition of The General Electric. They played the whole album through, giving me a massive flashback since the last Big Day Out I went to (2000) was just after they released it. Still one of the greatest albums ever. Oh man, one of their roadies totally screwed up during their last song, and Jon had to finish it without his guitar, and Phil stormed off in a huff. Bet someone got fired two minutes later.
    Actually, I got to have a chat with Shihad earlier in the day in the signing tent. I thanked them for doing the Killjoy tour, and explained that I had been waiting 15 years to hear them play ‘For What You Burn’ again. Jon was suprised and said they’d never actually played it live. But I knew better, I heard it for the first time when they played it at The River Inn in Takaka back when I was fourteen. This must be how Star Trek fans feel when they correct the writers on some trivial point — that is, like an asshole.
  • Seeing the John Butler Trio live was amazing. I’ve never heard anyone play the guitaThe lead singer for Airbourne playing his solo from the top of the tower having just skulled a bottle of wine.r the way he does. I have a 12-string Maton guitar (his signature instrument), seeing him play makes me ashamed to even try playing mine.
  • Airbourne and Wolfmother, between them, played all of their songs that my band covers (in other words, about half our set). It turns out they play them pretty well too. I suppose. The singer for Airbourne is fucking insane (See picture).
  • Yes, I skipped the Deftones to see Andrew WK. Deftones are awesome, but Andrew is just plain fun. Plus, he had a crazy bald bass-player playing a G&L, so they get even more cool points right there.
  • Rammstein again, Du Hast in a stadium is just mind-blowing.

Tell you what, though. The rain sucked. Ankle deep in mud and dripping wet and had two hours of bus rides before getting home to a hot shower. Luckily, someone was selling illicit Tool shirts near the gate, so I fished out some cash and was able to buy a dry(ish) shirt to put on for the ride home.

Oh well, tomorrow I fly to Brisbane, I’m sure I’ll be free of mud and rain there, right?