They came in their thousands, a sea of eager people clad in band t-shirts, safety pins, and mohawks. The air was buzzing with excitement as they made their way through the gates to attend the alternative music haven that is the Soundwave Festival.
Apart from the typical four-seasons-in-one-day Melbourne weather, the festival went smoothly with punters enjoying the sounds of punk, metal, and hardcore among a host of other rock genres. Held at the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds, this year’s lineup was particularly interesting, showcasing the weird, the foreign, and even a little old school rock ‘n’ roll, making sure there was something for everyone. After adding a few more mosh experiences to my belt, here are my thoughts on the good, the bad, and the downright ugly of the day.
Bullet for My Valentine – Deciding to see the Welsh metalcore band was a last minute decision. I had a feeling that I might be in for a run of the mill screaming set, with self-indulgent guitar solos – and I wasn’t wrong. Performance wise it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t one of my favourites either. Lead singer and guitarist Matt Tuck did a decent job of running around on stage and creating a fuss, but their show was plagued by sound problems. The speakers were causing muffled and disjointed sound for majority of the set. Fortunately they did have highlights during ‘Tears Don’t Fall’ and ‘Scream Aim Fire’, with a raucous reception from the crowd. They also received support from a sudden riff-tastic rendition of the Australian national anthem. Bit corny perhaps, but it definitely grabbed attention.
Stone Sour – Not many people may know that Corey Taylor, lead singer for Stone Sour, is in fact the frontman for the infamous masked metalheads Slipknot. Stone Sour fans in particular get to see the man behind the mask and experience a very diverse live show. To say their performance was one of the finest moments of the day is an understatement. The band performed at maximum level, with a mix between fast-paced metal numbers like ‘Get Inside’, and melodramatic rock in ‘Through Glass’. Fist-pumping and head banging could be seen throughout the crowd, and there was no denying Taylor was one tough cookie. Stone Sour was extremely difficult to predict considering their constant change in song mode, but it made the performance exciting.
Primus – Les Claypool, lead singer and bassist for Primus, is known as one of the world’s most enigmatic bassists, with a quirky slap-bass style that is seemingly unmatched. That sort of praise however fails to mention just how quirky the man himself actually is. When they first came on stage Claypool was adorned in a pig mask and his nasally vocals definitely confused a lot of people. My first reaction was almost like shock, because I couldn’t make heads or tails as to where the set was leading. Things only seemed to get weirder due to the fact that most of the songs didn’t make much sense, or they were about completely inane topics. For instance, opening number ‘Seas of Cheese’, which has lyrics stating, ‘When some trendy new atrocity has brought you to your knees, come with us we’ll sail the seas of cheese’. Where these cheese seas are, I will never know, but one thing is for sure — Primus is definitely an acquired taste.
30 Seconds to Mars – If any band underwhelmed me on the day, it had to be the self-proclaimed ‘world-class arena crushing rock band’, 30 Seconds to Mars. Having been to their last tour in 2007, my expectations were high, and they definitely weren’t matched. It seemed that actor/singer Jared Leto was more interested in entertaining himself than the crowd. Constantly stopping and starting the performance to take photos and pull people up on stage, did not make for an amazing show. There was no sense to the set, and songs off the new album This Is War did nothing for me. Regrettably they insisted on playing them. It was also slightly infuriating being told to jump and yell at every two minute interval. The only good part was when they played ‘The Kill’, which also got ruined by Leto’s sudden urge to immortalize the moment on twitter. By far, this had to be one of the lowest points of the day.
Slash – Everybody knows Slash, whether it’s as the guitarist for Guns n’ Roses or the fact that he is listed as the world’s best guitarist only second to Jimi Hendrix . Playing all his hits with his band and touring vocalist, Myles Kennedy, the group brought the house down. Their experience showed – they knew exactly how to rile up the crowd. Classic Guns n’ Roses hits like ‘Nightrain’, ‘Paradise City’, and the most famous one of all, ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’, all made an appearance. You couldn’t help but sing along. It was like watching the world’s best cover band, only all the guitar riffs belonged to the man on stage. With his ‘fro protruding from his ever present top hat, Slash still managed to be cool even 20 years after he first became famous. It was crazy seeing so many hands clapping in unison, but it made it that much more fun.
One Day As A Lion – Rage Against The Machine’s vocalist, Zack de la Rocha, started One Day As A Lion as a side project in 2008. As they have only been touring live for little under a year, it was an interesting experience. The one disappointing thing was that it was nothing new. They sounded like a weird electronic version of Rage, mostly due to Rocha’s distinct lyrics and voice. Rocha definitely got into it, jumping up and head banging away, but even with his high enthusiasm it became too difficult to listen to them. Every song seemed to sound the same, and there just wasn’t enough definition. The standout for me would have to be ‘Wild International’, a song with an industrial metal feel, which the band performed enthusiastically. Overall however, it was an average experience, which I think given time will definitely improve.
Queens of the Stone Age – Last for the night but certainly not least , I witnessed American rockers Queens of the Stone Age deliver a mind-blowing jolt of rock to a packed-out crowd. Almost everyone at Soundwave turned out for this one, and all I can say is it was one of the tightest sets I’ve witnessed. They never missed a beat, and lead singer Josh Homme was continually buzzing with energy, egging on a very rough and tumble crowd. Highlights included ‘Sick, Sick, Sick’, ‘Little Sister’, and the dark bluesy number ‘Burn the Witch’. Most of the heavier songs received a copious amount of yelling and crowd surfing. It was also great to see the crowd interacting with a disabled punter, lifting his wheelchair and allowing him to surf right onto the stage.
On top of a few kicks to my own shins, I was able to close out my night with a genuine, downright filthy rock experience. Props to Soundwave Festival which managed to once again organize a massive day of music festivity.