9 things we learnt from Daft Punk’s Wee Waa launch

MELANIE MAHONY reports from Daft Punk’s album launch in the regional NSW town of Wee Waa. Photos by DANIEL BOUD.

When I first heard of plans to launch the new Daft Punk album at the Wee Waa show I didn’t get it. What did a show in a remote country town have to do with the image Daft Punk have built-up over the years? It wasn’t chic, it wasn’t modern or even high-tech. But within an hour of arriving on Friday morning in Wee Waa – about a six-and-a-half hour drive from Sydney – the whole thing started to make sense. It was totally random, completely unique, unashamedly authentic and earned new album Random Access Memories more attention than your typical launch at a nondescript club full of D-grade celebs eating mini-cheese burgers.

The stark contrast between the Wee Waa Show and everything we typically associate with Daft Punk forced everyone there – from fans to locals – to stop and pay attention to the record, and enjoy the moment together. Here’s nine things we learnt:

A giant LED stage is cool until people stand on it

A product of the “Daft Arts” production house, the LED circular dance-floor was the elaborate focal point of the whole crazy experience. Described as “Saturday Night Fever meets Close Encounters of the Third Kind” by their record label Sony, Australia’s biggest ever outdoor dance-floor was illuminated by a giant disco ball and flanked by four speaker towers and flood lights that assumedly reached France, or space. Animations displaying Daft Punk logos, helmets, a spinning vinyl and scenes from outer-space lit up the floor but unfortunately the full effect was lost on the 1700 people standing on it.

Things are infinitely better when preceded by fireworks put on by a pyrotechnic priest

Father Anthony Koppman and his company Holy Smoke from Guyra, NSW, put on the perfect prelude to the Random Access Memories launch: A fireworks display, expertly timed so the last firework exploded in the sky just as the album’s opening track, ‘Give Life Back To Music’, came blaring out of the speakers.

“Growing old is inevitable, growing up is optional”

These were the wise words of motorbike daredevil David Russell whose attempt to jump over a helicopter was cut short when he fell from his bike, sustaining a suspected broken arm while warming up for the stunt. He managed, however, to complete a few laps of “monos” which, as the commentator informed the crowd, “Not only show off his skills but ascertain the density of the soil.”

The mayor of Wee Waa is a bloody legend

FL has it on good authority that when councillors from the nearby town of Narrabri tried to “steal” the album launch from Wee Waa it was Mayor Conrad Bolton (a resident of Wee Waa himself) who put his foot down and kept it in his hometown. We bumped into Mayor Bolton at the local newsagent on Friday arvo, and at various times on the dance-floor. He even signed a poster for us. What a legend.

No journey is too far for a true Daft Punk fan

Just ask John Sample (we’re convinced it’s not his real name) from Texas. The 37-year-old digital media expert booked his flights just two weeks ago after scoring a ticket to the sold-out Wee Waa show on eBay. “I didn’t know where Wee Waa was,” John told us during the dog high jump, “then I saw Narrabri and I knew that name. So I looked it up and sure enough that’s the Narrabri Array [a giant telescope]. I’d heard of that so I was like, ‘I’d never go there for my whole life so I might as well.” Would he fly across the globe to listen to any other album launch? “The better question is, if this was being launched in London would I be here? No. It’s just cool, it’s an experience.”

Another superfan, Andrew Kemp from Brisbane, travelled 617 kilometres to get to Wee Waa from Brisbane. We caught up with him at the local bakery before the album premiere. “On Thursday we got up at 3.30am, had Vegemite with cheese on toast and set off at 4am,” he said, adding he was avoiding listening to the album before the launch. “I’ve heard little bits and pieces because all the shops are playing it but I’m just not paying attention so it’s all fresh for me.”

‘Get Lucky’ is still the most danceable track on the album

It sure was interesting watching a few thousand people on a giant glowing dance-floor trying to navigate their bodies through the less upbeat tracks on the album. While tracks such as ‘Giorgio By Moroder’ and ‘Within’ almost brought the crowd to a standstill, ‘Get Lucky’, ‘Loose Yourself to Dance’ and ‘Contact’ proved to be the clear crowd favourites on the night.

There’s more to a good Daft Punk costume than just a bike helmet

While there were few people game enough to brave the cold and dress like one of the characters from the ‘Around the World’ film-clip (we saw no synchronised swimmers or mummies and only one skeleton), the Daft Punk-inspired costumes were mostly impressive. Daniel and Jasmine from Brisbane spent $1000 each on their custom-made Daft Punk suits, while someone even dressed as the dog from the ‘Da Funk’ video (cast, crutch, radio and all).

Fruit and veg aren’t just for eating

Not even the most anticipated album in the universe could outshine the winner of the “Animal or figure made from fruit or vegetable” competition. The very talented Josie Galagher skilfully used carrots, cabbage leaves, radishes and a parsnip to create this Mr Snuffleupagus.

The locals don’t really know much about techno or “punk music” for that matter

“They’re basically against the government aren’t they, against authority. Isn’t that the idea of punk?” insisted a local we met in the bakery who thought Daft Punk was “just like the Sex Pistols”. Up the street, local lawn groomer Rod Fraser admitted he wasn’t too sure about all this “techno-bloody music”, but knew Daft Punk were a “French mob”. Not a fan of the “bumpedy bump music”, Rod grew up listen to ABBA and The Beatles. Would he have travelled across the country to see ABBA back in the day? “I wouldn’t drive more than six hours for a holiday,” he stated, emphatically.

Related: ‘Random Access Memories’ reviewed