Artists & Industry Pay Tribute To Big Day Out Legend Ken West

8 April 2022 | 11:20 am | Dan Cribb

“The godfather of festivals and a true trailblazer who has influenced our industry immeasurably."

Musicians, industry, fans and more are mourning the loss of Australian festival pioneer Ken West.

It was revealed yesterday that the Big Day Out founder had “passed away peacefully in his sleep”, and it’s not surprising to see countless tributes across social media, with everyone highlighting just how pivotal West was to the Australian music landscape.

Not only did he help break bands by giving them a platform like the Big Day Out – which he founded alongside Viv Lees in 1992 - but he helped shape the festival scene, with many punters recalling highlights from over the years, including the first-ever event with Nirvana headlining.

In a statement, The Superjesus said that West was “monumental in the establishment” of their career by giving them a shot early on, while Phil Jamieson noted that Grinspoon were “lucky enough to play at over 20 of them”.

“The loss is indelible and hard to comprehend, thank you for everything Ken West,” Jamieson said.

Appearing on Double J’s Inside The Big Day Out podcast back in 2019, West said he believed “there was a period in time there that [Big Day Out] was the best festival in the world, and every band I knew wanted to do it".

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Its popularity among artists worldwide was a sentiment that Billy Bragg reiterated while sharing his condolences: “Ken made the whole thing like a party for punters and artists alike. UK bands called it the Big Day Off. Lots of fun memories hanging with Ken and the BDO crew. So long mate.”

Gemma Pike, who hosted Inside The Big Day Out, shared: “The Big Day Out changed my life. Thanks for everything Ken.”

The Australian Festival Association described West as “the godfather of festivals and a true trailblazer who has influenced our industry immeasurably”.

“Ken and his partner Vivien have touched people globally from the millions of people who attended the Big Day Out, to the artists who played on it and of course the amazingly talented team who helped bring his vision to life,” a statement from the organisation reads.

“We are heartbroken he’s no longer with us and grateful for the legacy of a thriving festival industry he has inspired. Sending our love and condolences to Cathy, Oliver and the BDO family."

APRA AMCOS CEO Dean Ormston said West was a “visionary”.

“Ken's legacy to the Australian contemporary music industry is as big as his very big events,” Ormston said.

“The sheer breadth and scale of his vision is all the more apparent in review. Ken helped define Australia as a music nation and highlighted our potential as a music powerhouse - attracting the biggest acts in the world, nurturing our massive appetite and reputation as a live music mad nation, and creating an enormous opportunity for local artists to share a national stage and access a global audience.”

With the iconic festival celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, West revealed in January he was working on a book about the event, sharing various chapters at the same time.

"The Big Day Out for me was life changing, and the first six years were the heart and soul of a great adventure," West said at the time. "A different world, innocent, dangerous, optimistic and a lot of fun."