I’ve seen some wonderful things at the BDO – first chance to see Neil Young (for me, in my lifetime); introduction to The Tall Dwarfs as a live act (loved them!) and one of few decent efforts from Evan Dando. But this is a column about the worst – and there was one terrible thing I saw (the worst!) as part of the Big Day Out – it was the time the Dandy Warhols almost completed a set as part of the BDO’s main stage entertainment in 2004.
Man, it was the fucking worst.
The Dandy Warhols, I know now, are a sad embarrassment of jerkoffs posing as posers pretending to be musicians. But I can’t lie, the first two albums had things I liked about them. The third album was the best set of ad-jingles this side of a Moby album and even the Warhol-banana-rip-off album was one of the better Duran Duran records. So Dandys in early 2004 were part of the reason you’d go to the Big Day Out. The other reasons that year were to see The Strokes at the only time they ever mattered, The Flaming Lips – the only time they’ll ever likely play here – and to laugh at the caged beasts that were Metallica fans; the drinking man’s metalheads in their R-18 zoo enclosure with occasional passouts (both kinds).
I wasn’t let down by The Flaming Lips, The Strokes or the Metallica fans. So that was all okay. But at 4pm on the main stage – really the first thing I wanted to see – the Dandys ambled on with yesterday’s nonchalance. And awkwardly, lazily they proceeded to give nothing of a fuck towards themselves, their audience, their material.
If it was performance art then it would have been kinda (almost) cool. They were a bit like when Joaquin Phoenix thought he was being clever and subversive but was actually just being a giant cock-hole.
What disturbed me almost more than their stoned-over shit-for-brains efforts on the stage – an ultimate act of contempt for all concerned – was that a couple of friends, big fans of the band, told me that they’d seen the group even worse than that. Not possible, I insisted. But, apparently, the Dandys were always a 50/50 thing – either great or utterly shit. I doubt they were ever – ever – great. But I certainly know they were totally shit.
Shortly after that performance – well a year or so after – I was offered an interview with the band’s guitarist. I had a chat with him on the phone, he was friendly but he giggled a lot. Like silly stoner/slacker giggling. Like everything was either ironic, or nothing was – apart from him. So he was either giggling at all the irony or was giggling ironically at everything that wasn’t ironic. It was mildly confusing and kinda annoying. I told him the band’s performance at the Big Day Out was appalling. He giggled. No surprise. I was used to it by then. But he agreed with me. And then half-arsed a thing about not really being able to remember it. I fed him up on the many rumours that were circulating almost as soon as they dribbled back off the stage. That the NZ weed had blown them away, that some local dealer had tried too hard to get them really stoned – and succeeded. In a drawly actor-ish version of a beach-bum-type accent he said “Yeah man, that’s probably true”. Probably? Would these jerks actually ever man up and admit to anything; commit to being aware? Alert? Culpable?
I’ve fucking hated the Dandy Warhols ever since that performance. I’ve listened to more of their shit – utter, utter shit in most cases – but I’ve never really been able to give them anything resembling a chance. Because they had their chance and they blew it. They had, at the time, a following and the formula (apparently). They certainly had the material – at least in terms of people being into what they had offered. But instead they just stood there and slum-strummed through the songs with no engagement, with minimum-wage effort.
Fuck it really was the worst. Until I saw Japandroids last year I hadn’t ever seen an international act sound so appalling. Japandroids sounded incapable. Worse though, Dandy Warhols just sounded indifferent to it all – unenthused.
A few years on when I wrote about the band on my blog the band’s keyboard vacuity, Zia, left a comment. It was along the lines of go-fuck-yourself. It said something about how she’d take me seriously when I had travelled all around the world like she had.
What a fucking child.