13 February 2014
Since this is my first time living in Sydney, this was also my first Australia Day experience full of pride and energy. Rather than be a bystander, I jumped in headfirst to partake in this annual celebration––quite literally at points.
6:00 AM: The alarm goes off, and it’s time to gear up for a big day.
7:00 AM: Australia Day always begins with an official welcome to country. Aboriginal people native to northern Sydney arrive at the Opera House to perform song and dance that has been within their culture for hundreds of years. The iconic Sydney Harbour and Sydney Harbour Bridge plays as a backdrop while didgeridoo and clapsticks form the soundtrack. These ceremonies are not only meaningful but also symbolic of all people coming together.
9:00 AM: The Great Australian Swim has kicked off and my race is coming up. Just on the other side of the Opera House at the Man o’ War Steps, hundreds of people are preparing for their swim. This isn’t an ordinary dip. First off, when else can you swim on the side of the Sydney Opera House? Second, have you got what it takes? I wasn’t sure if I did, but the “Anything Goes” category made me feel a bit better (floaties, flippers, rafts, etc. allowed––though, I did swim it). After watching the kids complete their 300m races, we were up. I jumped in and 25 minutes later, I made it all the way back to the finish. People of all ages swam together spanning races of 300m to 2.2km. What an unexpected accomplishment and change of pace for the day!
11:00 AM: We arrive at Bondi Beach and see nothing but orange. Yep, Havianas has definitely taken over. Each year they initiate the Thong Challenge: to get as many people as possible to float on massive thong-shaped rafts in the water at once in an attempt to set a world record. Right after I enjoyed a freshly grilled and entirely Australian sausage, I ventured into the “thong cave”, as I like to call it, and caught a glimpse of the action:
2:00 PM: We head the other direction to Sydney Olympic Park for the legendary Big Day Out festival. Massive bands like Pearl Jam, Arcade Fire and Snoop Dogg are poised to play, but we were also on the hunt for emerging artists. Big Day Out is always known for giving some of today’s biggest artists their first breaks into the music industry.
4:45 PM: Perhaps the most intense set of the day kicks off as DJ duo, Flosstradamus, take the stage. The Boiler Room erupted with noise and the subs blasted bass so thick you could cut it with a butter knife. It was one of those acts where people didn’t even see it coming, but they were sure to remember it.
6:30 PM: Arcade Fire takes the stage and the enormity of Big Day Out is evident. Every song they write is an anthem and there was no feeling like when the crowd is so loud that it overtakes the PA system. The sky looks extra high from the middle of the Sydney Olympic Park stadium really reinforcing the word “big” in Big Day Out.
7:30 PM: The moment a lot of people have been waiting for: Flume. 22-year old, Harley Streten has taken Australia by storm in the last year and for many, this was their first chance to see the future beat electronic artist live. His had every single head in the stadium bobbing, hands in the air, people feeling the soundscape as well as seeing it in his bright LED hexagon on stage. For a style of music that went under the radar for so long, it was really awesome to see it breakthrough during Big Day Out at Flume’s set. I think he’s here to stay.
As Big Day Out continued into the night, I couldn’t help but thinking about even more events going on across the city. Hundreds of boats going through the Sydney Harbour for the Ferryathon, the floating concert right after and hundreds of barbeques and parties listening to Triple J’s Hot 100. It seems that for no other reason than celebrating the awesome place that is Australia, this holiday can be one of the best times to completely relax or go on a full adventure until the sun goes down.