live review

Big Day Out 2012

Big Day Out 2012

January 20 2012
Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland

Any doubts about whether Big Day Out 2012 would indeed be the last for Auckland were cleared up after just a couple of hours at the festival on Friday. For anyone that had been to even one previous Big Day Out, the drop in numbers was severe, confirming rumours that tickets sales had barely cracked 10,000 by the morning of the festival. The official attendence figure announced the following day was nearer 20,000 bolstered by a last minute promotion where people could get in for free till 8pm if they showed an old BDO ticket or piece of BDO merch.

Initially at least it was really hard not to reflect with some sadness on the festival that once was, which even up to last year had an attendance of 40,0000+, and feel bad for promoter Ken West and local organisers who had put so much into the festival year after year since 1994 to have to go out in this way.

BUT the show went on and the festival from a punters perspective at least was a complete success. All the acts we saw performed as if the festival was a sell out, low numbers meant getting around was a breeze and queues were short if they existed at all. It was a relaxed intimate affair and was as always a BIG day out.


A bunch of us went along to the festival, here are our thoughts on the acts in order of the days proceedings...


Long time favourites Wilberforces opened our final Big Day Out,  deservedly winning the annual bnet comp to do so, and it was a proud moment to walk into the festival with this talented duo lead by the inimitable Thom Burton as our soundtrack. As always they belted out their aggressive jangly hits with passion and humour, setting the tone for the day which saw local acts dominate with impressive performances all round. (AW)

Ghost Wave

Ghost Wave took to the new skate stage which looked dwarfed by the neighbouring skate ramp – a welcome addition to the festival and one that was sadly overshadowed by downsizing and Kanye-removing news. Their summery jams certainly suit a festival atmosphere and we wish they’d been on a little later to soundtrack the international skating action lead by the legendary Tony Hawk.(AW)

David Dallas

Winning my personal “what a nice guy” award: David Dallas. Sincere and fun, and especially nice to see a guy so stoked to be playing a major NZ festival in front of all his friends. I’ve never been particularly fond of the music, but there was enough to move around to – and he provided a good reason for a large chunk of people to make it through the gates early enough to catch him. (MM)

Cut Off Your Hands

Cut Off Your Hands are always so impressive live, so much so that it suprises me every time I see them that they aren't bigger. Nick Johnston’s vocals really soared, on par with classic crooners like Morrissey and Rowland S. Howard (RIP), and the band overall were real standouts of the day. They played all the hits with singles such as ‘You Should Do Better’ from their latest album Hollow being the highlights.(AW)


Cult Aussie band Regurgitator warmed up the new Skate stage nicely with their anti-social anthems. When you peddle songs called ‘Bong In My Eye’ or ‘I Will Lick Your Asshole’ it is pretty safe to say that tongue in cheek is your modus operandi. The crowd were lapping up the band’s idiosyncratic rap-rock-cum-kitchen-sink approach to live music. Hit single ‘Black Bugs’ still has as much clout with the Big Day Out goers as it did when it was released back in 1998. (RK)

Das Racist

The three Indian-American rappers strutted around the stage in overalls, basketball shirts and leather jackets (apparently immune to the heat?), and delivered their rhymes in their signature lethargic drawl. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one that was disappointed by the fact that Das Racist played neither “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” nor “hahahaha jk?” Though “Michael Jackson” provided a comical call and response moment: “Michael Jackson/One million dollars/You feel me?/Holler!” (LCM)


After spotting the bearded Beastwars singer Matt Hyde catching some decent zen time in the field earlier in the day the evangelical transformation he took to stage was astounding. Hyde morphed into a possessed preacher delivering a doom metal sermon to the crowd. He took his guttural vocals and thew them at the crowd, as he writhed around the stage and rolled his eyes. Beastwars delivered an epic sound that was far beyond the realms of the skate stage they performed on, and the heavy-metal flock responded by throwing their great lengths of hair back and forward. Almost certainly they managed to gather a few converts by the end of their set. (DS)

Unknown Mortal Orchestra

I’d far rather watch UMO in a grassy field with a handful of likeminded individuals than in a sweltery heap of bodies packed into a boiling Auckland venue. I’ve experienced both, the latter being their NZ debut at the King’s Arms, and I can say without any doubt at all that yesterday was a lot more chilled out for this returning act and the small crowd that came to check them out. The massive wall of speakers crammed onto the Green Stage worked great for these guys, too. (MM)

Cavalera Conspiracy

This year played host to the first family of Brazilian heavy metal, Max and Igor: the Cavalera Conspiracy. The brothers are of course best known for founding seminal thrashers Sepultura back in 1984. The Cavaleras, along with Soulfly’s Mark Rizzo on guitar, knew exactly what the crowd wanted. As well as material from their own two albums they could not resist blasting out some Sepultura classics. ‘Refuse / Resist’, ‘Attitude’, and the circle-pit inducing ‘Roots Bloody Roots’ left many a metal head satisfied. (RK)

Best Coast

California-based Best Coast managed some impeccable timing for their mid-afternoon set on the Green Stage. The sun had broken through its grey cloud blanket and draped delicate tentacles of light down on the modest crowd as the threesome of Bethany Cosentino, Bobb Bruno and their ring-in drummer delivered a dreamy west coast set. Bethany, with her hair flowing and floral dress perfectly epitomized summer. The small standing audience of around 150, was content to drift on the surf-esque guitar riffs and enjoy Best Coast's hazy soundtrack to the day. The set was rounded off sweetly with favourite 'When I'm With You', making for one very content crowd. (DS)


Three pastel shirts that changed to dark, sweat-drenched versions of their former selves; this phenomenon was representative of Battles’ explosive Big Day Out set more generally. Visually faultless, the colour co-ordinated outfits were a simple precursor to a series of exemplary accompanying visuals. Ultimate crowd-pleaser ‘Atlas’ was complimented by that signature rotating glass box as backdrop, which dissolved into a triptych of dripping ice cream for the song of the same name. The band resolved the issue of vocals (every track on Gloss Drop has a different vocalist, none of whom tour with the band) by pre-recording slow motion videos of the faces of each singer. Matias Aguayo looked appropriately relaxed and swoony for his role in ‘Ice Cream’, Kazu Makino (Blonde Redhead) was all removed slow-motion artistry for ‘Sweetie and Shag’ and Gary Numan on set-closer (and Gloss Drop stand-out) ‘My Machines’ looked like an ageing gothic creep. The band barely stopped the entire time, an inherent understanding of each other and the set the glue that held such an impressively tight performance together. (CS)

My Chemical Romance

My Chemical Romance took the main stage at 5:30 sharp, and looked much less emo than their 2007 BDO performance. Though it seems their audience hasn’t changed that much. The stage was swamped by black-clad teens, wearing way too much eyeliner, who put their fists in the air and pumped along to the anthemic songs. “Teenagers” got the whole crowd singing along, and frontman Gerard Way tunelessly made his way through a selection of aural teenage angst. (LCM)

Girl Talk

One-man mashup Girl Talk certainly had to be one of the more intense acts of the day. Within approximately 10-minutes of observation a whole New Year's Eve party worth of tricks had been crammed in. Dozens of people crammed up on the Boiler Room stage surrounding the hairy-chested DJ, flexing their bodies and throwing tangles of toilet paper to and fro. Meanwhile the audience on the ground are throwing beachballs and dancing in every kind of demented manner to the sonic train-wreck of everything from Iggy Pop to Missy Elliot. Then Girl Talk jumps up on a platform, wearing only crimson sweatpants and white trainers and tells everyone to "turn this party up" as blasts of confetti shoot out from cannons beside the stage. (DS)

Foster The People

Foster the People putting on what I thought was easily the best show of the night. They were tight, solid and despite their relative lack of experience, looked completely comfortable on stage. “Pumped Up Kicks” has the entire crowd belting out the radio hit. The show definitely proved that Mark Foster and his People are headed for stardom… (LCM)


Royksopp hit the Boiler Stage, named so because there was no tent this year, as we were taking a breather in the grassy area that once housed the lilyworld. An act I know of but not well, their ambient electronica made for the perfect soundtrack for a sunset beer. Thinking of them as an electronic only act it was a pleasant surprise to see they perform as a live band. (AW)

Mariachi El Bronx

In your time off you might collect stamps or catch up on TV shows. If you are part of L.A. punk band The Bronx what you do in your time off is make gorgeously faithful mariachi music. The band, complete with a horn section and charro outfits, seemed genuinely grateful to travel all the way to our little corner of the world to play some acoustic Mexican fare. Apparently due to a medical emergency on their flight it took the band 36 hours to make it to New Zealand but you wouldn’t know it by their immaculate performance. Opening song ’48 Roses’ was every bit as bittersweet as its album counterpart. Seeing these gentlemen playing acoustic bass guitars, accordions, and violins right before rock heavyweights Soundgarden hit the stage was a surreal but pleasant surprise. (RK)


The crowd had swelled to its largest in anticipation of the arrival of Soundgarden. The grunge icons disbanded in 1997 but reformed to hit the reunion tour circuit in 2010. The rigours of middle-age had clearly started to set in; guitarist Kim Thayil is looking an awful lot like a pirate these days and singer Chris Cornell was apparently using a peddle to manipulate his voice to hit some of the high notes. Even still the crowd was loving it. They blasted out powerful renditions of practically all of their singles. ‘Jesus Christ Pose’ exploded with heavy metal thunder, ‘Rusty Cage’ caused a spontaneous sing along, and the ubiquitous ‘Black Hole Sun’ has every hand swaying in the air. They even showed a cursory knowledge of recent local events by dedicating ‘Blow Up The Outside World’ to the people of Christchurch. Considering that Soundgarden played at the very first New Zealand Big Day Out in 1994 it was a fitting close to an end of an era. (RK)


I arrived a little late for Jakob after catching the beginning of Soundgarden. Has there ever been a worse clash in the BDO history?

Jakob were immense. Their rolling swirling guitar noises were shimmering and they were without a doubt the best sounding thing at the BDO that day. The bands ability to play so deep inside their music ultimately lifts them from their counterparts, and today was no exception. They were intense, subtle, monstrous and superb. (DF)

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Like the 2012 Big Day Out itself, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Bird’s set was divided between a lot stuff you either didn’t know or didn’t care for and a few euphoric, unforgettable moments. The closing act usually draws a sizeable crowd but The Green Stage at 11pm was packed with people presumably waiting for and Oasis set-filler or two. Knowing Gallagher’s predisposition for well, annoying people, our expectations were minimal until – three songs in – he began chatting to the crowd. His conversation – “are you sad about it being the last one? Are you really? - seemed so amicably spirited that when the High Flying Birds exited the stage and the chords of ‘Wonderwall’ began ring out, Big Day Out 2012 felt like it had closed in the same way as any other: thousands of hands – and lighters – in the air singing along to a mutual, timeless favourite. Gallagher followed that up with ‘Supersonic’, launched back into a bunch of nameless High Flying Birds songs – many of which share melodies with Oasis tracks – before closing with ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’. At least I think that’s what he closed with. We were halfway down the street by this stage only to sprint back to the car park to hear the final two minutes of a brilliant song close a brilliant festival run. (CS)

So that’s it – the end of the Big Day Out NZ ‘as we know it’. A BIG thank you to Ken West and the NZ organisers for all the great memories and for treating us to so many amazing bands over the years. Undertheradar would not be where it is today without the festival and we really hope it returns in some shape or form again one day.


AW - Angela Windust
CS - Courtney Sanders
DF - Daryl Fincham
DS - Danielle Street
LCM - Lukas Clark-Memler
MM - Michael McClelland
RK- Ricardo Kerr

Big Day Out crowd

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