Festival Giants

It’s a massive weekend for music, as we celebrate 20 years of the Big Day Out and remember the Sunbury Music Festival on its 40th anniversary.

Now an institution in the Australian music calendar, the Big Day Out began in 1992 as a Sydney-only show featuring the Violent Femmes and Nirvana at the Hordern Pavilion. The day was a hit, and since 1994 the Big Day Out has travelled annually throughout Australia and to New Zealand, eventually reaching the 100 shows milestone in 2010.

Big Day Out 1996
The Big Day Out, Melbourne Showgrounds, 28 January 1996. Photograph by Shellie Tonkin. Purchased, 1996, Performing Arts Collection.

Over the last 20 years, the Big Day Out has hosted some of the biggest names in rock, including Metallica, Bjork, the Ramones, Tool and the Beastie Boys. The festival has also been a platform for many Australian artists such as Silverchair, Powderfinger, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.

Nick Cave, the Big Day Out, 1996
Nick Cave at the Big Day Out, Melbourne Showgrounds, 28 January 1996. Photograph by Shellie Tonkin. Purchased, 1996, Performing Arts Collection.

This weekend also marks the 40th anniversary of the Sunbury Music Festival, staged over the Australia Day long weekend from 1972-1975. Sunbury became one of Australia’s most well known music festivals and is often compared to the Woodstock Festival in the United States (1969). For three days the audience, numbering around 40,000 each year, experienced the heady mixture of rock, blues, soul and R&B music, while living communally and camping outdoors. The festival eventually folded in 1975 due to financial losses incurred when the concert was rained out.