Forgive this post if it seems a bit long, but it’s a good yarn.
Two weeks ago I went to the Big Day Out on the Gold Coast in Queensland Australia. It’s a “Lollapalooza” typical music festival for those of you who don’t know.
Two main stages, one band, one hour at a time. The next band is doing soundcheck during this period. But there are also three more smaller “supporting” tents which hold about 1,500 people each - and in these tents, more eclectic, or “up and coming bands” play while the stars are on the main stage.
Two years ago, a young 15 year old Sydney sadly died when she was crushed too much in the mosh pit. So last year, the organisers designed a closed “d-barrier” section which allows about 5,000 people in, and then the other 30,000 people can push up against that barrier. It saves a huge crush on those up the front and it works quite well.
Obviously, to be inside the “d-barrier” is the prize if you’re a concert goer who can brave the mosh pit, so this year, a decision was made (in the interests of fairness) to empty the d-barrier at 5:30 pm and then let a whole new bunch of people go into that prize area.
Well, I was fortunate enough to know some people “in the know” and I was invited to spend the day inside the “mixing tent” - which is where all the spolights, and mixing desks, and TV camera’s were situated. As the day progressed, I was introduced to, and had many rewarding conversations with the “band sound engineers” for The Deftones, Queens of the Stone Age, The Living End, PJ Harvey, Jane’s Addiction, and the Foo Fighters.
At 4:00pm The Vines came onto the main stage, and wow! How illuminating! Just prior to them coming on stage, a PA announcement was made “Appearing now in the Essential Music Tent, Wilco! Don’t miss 'em folks. Tey’re on in 15 minutes!” And this PA announcement was the only time in the entire day that the Main Stage was used to advertise another act elsewhere at the festival.
I asked one of the Band Engineers, “how come The Vines are here on the Main Stage while acts like “You Am I” and “Wilco” are playing on supporting stages?” and they smiled a coy smile and said “Wait and see! Wait and see!”
Well! You wouldn’t believe what happened. This d-barrier area which held 5,000 people - who definitely WANTED to stay in there for the rest of the evening due to it being such a prime position - well, it emptied itself during The Vines performance. Literally, that band was soooooooooooooo bad and non musical and non entertaining that 5,000 people voted with their feet. By the end of their show, only about 200 people tops were left inside the d-barrier area.
So, having witnessed this, and after having watched one of the cameramen turn off his camera after 3 songs announcing “Fuck these guys are bad… we can’t use this footage at all…” we all sat down in the mixing tent and had a few well earned beers on a very hot day and then the band engineers explained what was up. You see, it seems that the festival organisers were TOTALLY aware how unworthy The Vines were to be on such a main stage in the presence of some of the other “headlining” acts, but they also knew it would be the devil’s own job trying to clear that d-barrier with security guys against such large numbers - so they deliberately threw The Vines up there as sacrifical lambs.
But even funnier! As the various legs of the Big Day Out festival rolled on from city to city, the word got out that this was the case, and various media started filming the throngs LEAVING the d-barrier during The Vines set. It was all rather hilarious and rather funny if truth be known.
And the funniest moment of all? Well, as the day rolled on, as a point of honour, each of the band engineers would stick around for the next show and offer any assistance to the next band engineer if it was needed - sort of a cumulative intelligence as it were.
Except for the band engineer for The Vines. Man, was that guy sent to coventry. As the band engineer for Queens of the Stone Age said (rather loudly) during The Vines set… “And these guys are supposed to be the next Nirvana? Listen to that crap… nobody can save those guys…”