Blur has pulled out of their headlining slot at the Big Day Out just two months before the travelling festival is due to roll around Australia and New Zealand.
The Britpop veterans announced the cancelation via their Facebook page, with a message that alludes to behind-the-scenes problems -- or as the band’s reps describe it as “constantly shifting goalposts” -- with the BDO’s promoters.
“Devastated to report that Blur won't be performing at BDO in 2014. It’s a shock that it has come to this,” the note begins. The statement continues that the band “feels that with the constantly shifting goalposts and challenging conditions of the organizers, they can't let it drag on any longer and want to make this announcement, to be clear to Blur fans that they won't be there. We've done our very best to work with the organisers and considered every option to make it happen, but they’ve let us down and let everyone else down too.”
The BDO team responded with a message of their own, in which they said they were “disappointed to learn of Blur's cancellation via their Facebook page” and that they were “working on replacements and will bring you new additions to the Big Day Out lineup shortly.”
Word doing the rounds Down Under is that the decision may be connected to Blur’s not landing any lucrative sideshows. Whatever, neither side is talking.
The original line-up of Blur -- comprising Damon Albarn, Graham Coxon, Alex James and Dave Rowntree -- haven’t played Down Under since 1997. BDO organizers were so keen to change that, they were creating a new “Love” stage for the band to play on.
Blur’s decision is another blow for an event that’s not had it all its own way of late. Organizers spent millions securing the top talent -- Arcade Fire, Pearl Jam and Blur -- for the 2014 run. But sales have been slow, sources say.
The Big Day Out had the Australian festivals marketplace sewn-up for a long time. Though in time, each of the elements that had made the fest such a cornerstone of the country’s summer live scene have been picked off and developed by rivals. The electronic music fest Stereosonic and the hard-rock event Soundwave are two that have managed to beat the BDO at its own game.
At its peak, in 2009, the event shifted 330,000 tickets. Its 20th anniversary show in 2012 was, in BDO founder Ken West’s words, “a total fiasco.” Behind the scenes, co-founder Viv Lees split six months before the 2012 trek, the New Zealand leg was dropped (it’s since been reinstated) and the Perth and Adelaide shows were downsized - and very nearly cut altogether.
Ahead of the make-or-break 2013 shows, West appointed media entrepreneur Adam Zammit as BDO CEO, and formed a partnership with U.S.-based event organizers C3 Presents.
And in a move that would register on the Richter scale, Soundwave promoter AJ Maddah came on board at the BDO a few months ago. Some key staff have since left the organization, including director of marketing Johanna Greenway, who announced her departure last week after eight years.
The six-city BDO trek begins Jan. 17 in Auckland, New Zealand.