The Big Day Out’s 15+ age restriction undoubtedly made it a rite of passage for music-obsessed teens in this country. Year after year, when the Big Day Out lineup dropped it felt like every single one of our fave bands, both local and international, appeared on the poster all at once!

If you’ve never wondered why it’s raining inside Mix-Up Tent (hello, regurgitated sweat drops!) or sacrificed a shoe to the festival gods while upside-down and deep in the mosh, were you even doing Big Day Out right? 

The festival ran for 21 years (taking a single year off in 1998) and even employed a full-time “Ambience Director”, ferchrissakes. Bryget Chrisfield counts down her Top 10 lineups (which was no easy task, BTW). 

#10: I’ll Ride The Wave Where It Takes Me (2014)

Locking in Pearl Jam was a dovetail moment for Big Day Out. Pearl Jam were basically locked-in to headline the 2001 BDO, via a handshake deal. But then someone tragically died during the band’s set at Roskilde – just weeks before the BDO lineup announcement was scheduled to drop – and Pearl Jam vowed to never play a festival again. Frantically searching for a replacement, Big Day Out enlisted Limp Bizkit (and we all know how that turned out…). So securing Pearl Jam was a massive deal.

Recommended listening: Inside The Big Day Out podcast (particularly Episode 3: The Age Of Innocence Is Over, which pays tribute to Jessica Michalik, who tragically died during Limp Bizkit’s Sydney BDO set in 2001).

Also on the bill: Arcade Fire, Major Lazer, CSS, Deftones, The Lumineers, Flume, Tame Impala.

#9: Fight For Your Right To Paaaaaaarty (2005)

Big Day Out’s bookers really nailed it the year Beastie Boys closed the main stage – taking a risk by closing with a hip-hop act instead of the usual tried-and-tested stadium-rock acts –  while Chemical Brothers galvanised the Boiler Room. Those present witnessed the “three MCs and one DJ” spitting rhymes on a rotating stage, there were goofy skits aplenty plus back-to-back party-starting smash hits including No Sleep Till Brooklyn, Sabotage, Ch-check It Out and, of course, (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party!). RIP Adam “MCA” Yauch.

Also on the bill: System Of A Down, The Streets, The Donnas, Freestylers, Slipknot, The Hives, Le Tigre, Happy Mondays, Eskimo Joe.

#8: Rock ‘n’ Roll High School (1994)

Continuing Big Day Out’s upstanding tradition of educating the masses by presenting undisputed rock’n’roll legends to the masses, 1994 served Ramones (if you were lucky enough to attend the Melbourne or Sydney editions). Also in 1994, a Gold Coast site was added and Big Day Out went international as well, with the festival crossing the ditch into Auckland for the first time. 

Also on the bill: Soundgarden, Teenage Fanclub, The Breeders, Powderfinger, Severed Heads, The Meanies, Itch-E & Scratch-E. 

#7: The Greatest View (2002)

Booking Silverchair just before they got massive is a jewel in BDO’s crown. The teenaged band members were often sighted drinking milkshakes and eating burgers with their parents backstage. Daniel Johns would’ve been just 15 at the time. 

Silverchair’s chart-topping debut album Frogstomp dropped a couple of months after they toured with Big Day Out in 1995 and The Mighty Chair also returned to grace BDO stages in 2002 and 2008. 

Also on the bill: Ministry, Primal Scream, The Cult, The Offspring, Screaming Trees, Tumbleweed, Headless Chickens, Cosmic Psychos.

#6: Magic People, Voodoo People! (1997)

The Prodigy brought intriguing theatre to proceedings in 1997 with Keith Flint (RIP) as our simultaneously terrifying and captivating ringmaster, conducting our panting breath: “Come play my game/ Inhale, inhale, you’re the victim… Exhale, exhale, exhale!” 

Also on the bill: Soundgarden, The Offspring, Supergrass, Shonen Knife, Patti Smith, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Rocket From The Crypt, Aphex Twin, The Mavis’s, The Lemonheads.

#5: F*Ck You, I Won’t Do What You Tell Me! (2008)

The year Rage Against The Machine headlined Big Day Out, tickets sold out in three minutes! RATM had played this festival previously, in 1996 (before releasing their second album, Evil Empire), but 2008 was when back-to-back belters ‘Killing In The Name’ and ‘Bulls On Parade’ sent audiences loopy and caused some actual riots. Can you imagine around 50,000 punters pogoing and chanting, “F*CK YOU, I WON’T DO WHAT YOU TELL ME!!!” in unison (AND ALLCAPS, OBVS), with not a single mobile phone in sight!? Now that’s the exact kind of chaotic vibe we can get behind. 

Also on the bill: Billy Bragg, LCD Soundsystem, UNKLE, Grinspoon, Paul Kelly, Sarah Blasko, Hilltop Hoods.

#4: 2000: Suck My Kiss

We survived the Y2K bug and then BDO ushered in the new century with a stacked lineup chock full of global superstars: the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nine Inch Nails and Foo Fighters graced the colour-coded Orange and Blue stages, going up against a slew of dance music giants – such as Basement Jaxx (I mean, Where’s Your Head At in the thick of the Boiler Room? Priceless), Goldie and Chemical Brothers – in the Boiler Room.

NIN scored the coveted sunset slot, commencing their set in the still-bright early summer evening, but finishing under the cover of darkness, which is when light shows really pop. Their setlists included stone cold classics such as Head Like A Hole, Hurt, Closer and Starfuckers, Inc..

Also on the bill: Blink-182, Primal Scream, Gerling, Spiderbait, Icecream Hands, Shihad, Killing Heidi.

#3: Shouting Lager, Lager, Lager! (1999)

After one year off, Big Day Out’s comeback year – (“Tonight I’m gonna party like it’s…”) 1999 – was when Boiler Room truly peaked, with Fatboy Slim followed up by the mighty Underworld. With main stages closing at 10.30pm and the Boiler Room staying upon for that precious extra hour, the entire festival converged on this sweaty Mix-Up tent to prolong the party for as long as possible. 

Also on the bill: Hole, Korn, Manic Street Preachers, Sean Lennon, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Warumpi Band, Regurgitator, Bad Boys Batucada. 

#2: Lust For Life (1993)

In 1993, Big Day Out extended its reach by adding events in Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide. Pretty hard to top a lineup featuring Nirvana at their peak, so it was decided very early on the piece that BDO just had to secure Iggy Pop (aka The Godfather Of Punk) as the following year’s headliner. Iggy returned to play Big Day Out with his OG band The Stooges, one of punk’s true progenitors, in both 2006 and 2011, as well. 

Also on the bill: Sonic Youth, The Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy, Mudhoney, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, Helmet, TISM. 

#1: Smells Like Teen Spirit (1992)

The inaugural Big Day Out is a clear contender for most enviable “I was there when…” concert moment ever (I wasn’t *curses*). The sold-out Sydney-only event (working title: Kenfest after festival founder, Ken West) wasn’t actually built around Nirvana. Their name wasn’t bandied about until Lees & West were looking to book a cool band to support Violent Femmes at The Hordern Pavilion. 

Having grown up on Violent Femmes, Nirvana immediately agreed to join the bill. But no one could have anticipated that Nirvana’s Nevermind album would top the US album charts before this iconic band had even made their maiden Australian voyage. 

Fun fact: Michael Hutchence rocked up backstage, calling out to a festival organiser from outside a chickenwire fence in order to get in. He was immediately granted access. 

Also on the bill: Yothu Yindi, Hard-Ons (with Henry Rollins), Smudge, Ratcat, Falling Joys, You Am I. 

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