Thursday, 19 April 2012

It's All Coming Back To Me Now - Festival Memories

You'll always remember seeing The Flaming Lips live!

by Jo Michelmore

It’s true, I’ve been to a few festivals in my time. On one hand, I love the concept of the festival, lots and lots and lots of different music being played all day and all night and if things are so inclined, over and over again for a couple of days. Music; lots of it, all day. I said it before, festivals are where you get to see bands you hate and love it and see bands you love and love it. What a great idea. Then there’s the other side of festivals; the dirt and the heat and the mud and the lines and the stinky, stinky portable toilets after standing in the stinky, stinky line for hours on end, the festival with the caged drinking concept, the festival with not enough vegetarian options at the dodgy caravans selling slightly off food, missing part of your favourite band while you wait in line for some sweet, sweet refreshing watermelon before the guy in front of you buys the very last piece, the kid at the end of the day, lying on the soggy grass while his friends beg passers-by for a spare pair of pants (wait a minute, that should have been in the ‘positives to festivals’ list, shouldn’t it?). Music festivals truly are an experience. Some good, some bad. When they’re good, they seem to be amazing. When they’re bad, let’s not even talk about that. So, in celebration of today’s announcement of this year’s Splendour line-up and since this is Vintage Thursday, I’m going to try and cast my mind back, to anything before 2006 to a couple of my favourite (and maybe not so favourite) festival memories*.

Big Day Out - 2004
The Flaming Lips

This is one festival act I will never forget. I barely knew who the Flaming Lips were, just a song here or there, but a friend of mine convinced me we needed to go to this tent and see them. I am so, so glad I followed their advice. This was amazing. The Flaming Lips are known for their live shows and everything you hear should be believed, they’re fantastic. I just remember colour, lots and lots of colour, huge balloons floating all through the air and so many happy people. Everyone bouncing around and lots and lots and lots of fun. That was The Flaming Lips. I was lucky enough to see them again at the Harvest Festival last year and they were exactly the same (and that’s not a bad thing) so much fun. Every time I see them, they come off the bucket list then go straight back on because they’re just so good I want to see them over and over again. Greatest festival gig.

 Big Day Out - 2000
Atari Teenage Riot

I was reminded of this the other day, after a conversation about Atari Teenage Riot. This is what I remember about them. It was the middle of the day, in January, on the Gold Coast. The middle of the day, sun beating down upon us all. They played one of the main stages, which are located in a giant dust bowl. Atari Teenage Riot were on stage screaming and running around like they do, yelling at the crowd to go mental, start a riot. Here’s the thing ATR. You may not have known much about climate in Australia. On the Gold Coast, it’s almost sub-tropical. It was hot. It was unbearably hot. It was the middle of the day. Most hadn’t had enough alcohol yet to cope, let alone any other substances they may or may not have chosen to participate in. There will be no rioting in the middle of summer in the middle of the day in sub-tropical Queensland. Your crowd were so tired, it was hilarious watching the half-hearted try and gather some energy to start said riot, they all wanted to, but just couldn’t be bothered. Most humorous festival gig.

Under The Stars - sometime between 1999-2003
Someone played, but who knows who?

I went to this festival, I think. It was a one off. Some Australian bands played there, but I don’t remember who. It was cold and rainy and I was tired. I have absolutely no memory of who I saw there. I remember being hungry, if that counts for anything. I think Frenzal Rhomb played, but I don’t remember seeing them. It was pretty dull. I remember wearing khaki pants and boots. Why do I remember that? Who knows. What happened? I don’t know. You know what? I’m sure it was great though. Fantastic. Best night ever, that week. Now though? Most forgettable festival gig, ever.

Livid - 2000 
The Cure

This one saddens me. It took me a long time to get over it. I couldn’t listen to The Cure for a long while after this. They just, well, they weren’t very good, they didn’t grab me by the shoulders and make me watch, which is what I love in musicians. They were disinterested, a bit old and a bit tired. I hate giving bad reviews, but they just weren’t the greatest. Thankfully, everything I’ve heard since has suggested they are amazing. The regular writer of this blog saw them last year at Bestival and said they were fantastic. He has good taste, so I believe him [Editor's Note - Rookie error.]. I just didn’t get to see it back in the day. There is always the hope I will get to see them again and they’re such an incredible band, I’m willing to give them a second chance. Most uninteresting festival gig.

Big Day Out - 2005 
Polyphonic Spree/Jon Spencer Blues Explosion/Beastie Boys

I’m including three acts in this review, because I really remember loving them all. The Big Day Out can be a really long day and sometimes there are massive amounts of time in the hot, hot sun that can get really boring. This Big Day Out I didn’t have that issue. Jon Spencer Blues Explosion were fantastic live, lots of filthy blues and growling voices and dirty guitar. Amazing. The Polyphonic Spree were fabulous, similar to The Flaming Lips, I just remember lots and lots of colour, the technicolour costumes and lots and lots of happiness, much bouncing and laughter. The Beastie Boys, they’re one of those acts you really must see live, just to say you’ve seen them. They were a bucket list act for me, and I wasn’t disappointed. So great. Least boring festival gigs.

Big Day Out - 2004 
Aphex Twin

This one will stay in my memory banks for a long time. Even if I make it to old and frail I’m sure I’ll still laugh about this one. It had been an interesting day (read many beverages and other intoxicating substances) and my group of friends had split (which they would regret later), it was just me and my bestie by the end of the evening. Aphex Twin were playing the dance tent and we made our way in, clawing our way through crowds of people to get about half way into the tent, next to the sound desk. Aphex Twin did what Aphex Twin does, loud and obnoxious, he was fine. It was the interesting show that the people standing next to us were participating in which made this gig one I will never forget. It’s not something you see in public every day. All I’m going to say is, I hope they were safe. An Aphex Twin induced offspring would not be pretty. Most WTF festival gig, ever.

Byron Bay Bluesfest (East Coast Blues and Roots Festival) - 2004 (?)
Little Milton

I don’t actually remember who I went to see at this festival. I do have one lasting memory though. It was a long day. It had rained. It was cold. I remember sitting in the main stage area, off to stage right, waiting for the headline act to appear. Before they came on was a guy by the name of Little Milton. How do I remember his name so easily? It was the band before him who insured I would never forget it. For 30 minutes or more (no exaggeration) before Little Milton appeared, this band (whose name I can’t remember) insisted on signing his name, over and over and over and over again, with a bluesy feel. Just imagine it; “Little Milton, Little Milton, Little Milton, Little Milton, Little Milton, Little Milton, Little Milton, Little Milton, Little Milton, Little Milton, Little Milton, Little Milton, Little Milton, Little Milton, Little Milton, Little Milton….”, see how annoying that was, having to read that so many times? Is there anyone sitting next to you? Say it to them out loud, say it to them twice. Ask them how annoying that is, then times it by a thousand and a thousand again. It was even more annoying than that. Little Milton, I’m sure you were great, and RIP by the way, but that band before you had a lot to answer for. Most annoying festival gig.

Livid - 1996

Since we’re currently doing the Garbage top 20, it seemed appropriate to include the first Garbage show I saw, in 1996, touring on the back of their first album Garbage. They were incredible. I remember Shirley’s red, red hair, her sexy short skirt, her rock attitude, the sound they had then, so different to anything that was happening at the time. They played straight after Silverchair, who were wee little boys at the time, fresh faced and cute and so rock. It was Garbage who stole the festival that night, playing on a stage under some giant trees in a beautiful park at the start of summer. I remember ‘Only Happy When It Rains’ and being so blown away, it still remains one of my favourite Garbage songs now. I remember ‘Queer’ and just how hot it was, in every way. I remember watching Butch and being so impressed I’d seen the one and only Butch Vig in the flesh. It was fantastic and the start of my long, long, adoration of Garbage. I’m so glad I can say I saw that one. (One of) my favourite festival gigs, ever.

*Festivals are strange events. Weird things can happen. Memories can be tainted by time and other things. Some or some more of these memories may or may not be accurate. Which bits are accurate is up to the reader. Except the Aphex Twin bit. Yeah, that happened.

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