Big Day Out
Friday, 12 April 2002
Now in its 10th year, Big Day Out is an Australian touring festival that visits Auckland, the Gold Coast, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth every January. It is unique in its design, scale and complexity and attracts many headline acts - the 2002 event featured The Prodigy, Garbage, New Order and Basement Jaxx.

This year, security was tightened following the tragic death of 16-year-old Jessica Michalik last year: organizers West & Lees made changes to audience safety provisions and introduced volunteer safety teams, increased audience lighting and erected a new, alcohol-free, D barricade area (from Mojo Barriers) in front of the main stages. The audience was given free water bottles and sun-block, and crowd surfing was banned. "We also carefully considered the time certain bands take to the stage," explained Matt Dougherty, one of three production managers on the tour. "The crowds are getting bigger (52,000 in Sydney) and some music makes them boisterous. Consequently this year we put System of the Down on at 4pm rather than late in the night. Darkness just exacerbates any problem we’ve had in the past."

Other measures include new agreements with artists to stop performances if requested, and paramedics working in the pit. Whilst necessary, all of these extra measures have added to the management’s problems. The added difficulty of unusually tight turnarounds between shows was met with two identical sets of staging, although only one production team and set of equipment was available.

Jands Production Services supplied the audio, in particular a V-Dosc system, for the twin main stages. Following the sale of Jands’ lighting business to Bytecraft last year, it was the latter who supplied the main stage equipment. Peripheral stages and venues used local production companies with six different PA companies employed in Sydney alone. "We always try to split up as much work as we can and so there are a lot of companies involved," explained Dougherty. "It makes for a paperwork nightmare, but we feel that the show has to give something back. It’s a good earning time for the production companies."

Unlike other festivals, The Big Day Out is quite unique in that every act on the main stage has its own set and lighting rig, thus there is no reliance on a standard festival rig. Dougherty explains: "If Silverchair take to the stage, it looks like Silverchair at any venue on one of their tours, not playing a festival set. That’s what makes this show different. However, the changeovers are an immense headache . . . but it’s a good thing because the kids get value for money and get to see the show that the band wants them to see."

Catriona Strom

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