Ok well, it is with ringing ears and a throbbing headache that I write this piece, but here’s how Soundwave Melbourne went down for SS.
Fed up with congested and inefficient public transport, I decided to drive to Flemington racecourse and park a few blocks away from the venue to avoid the maddening traffic that accompanies these events. Finding a suitable parking spot in a side street with no discernable threat of parking fines, I left my vehicle and walked the 15 minutes or so to the gates. It was about 10 am and I incorrectly assumed that because of my timely arrival I’d beat the crowds as I did last year.
My self congratulation didn’t last long as I joined a rather sizeable line of punters waiting to get in which stretched a few hundred meters from the entrance. No big deal I thought, gates open at 10. No they didn’t, and I spent probably half an hour standing motionless in the queue watching a multitude of scalpers and hopeful last minute ticket buyers announcing their intentions…I hope they found each other.
Finally the line began to move….slowly, fortunately there were plenty of folks to make small talk with as we waited.
The familiar ritual of passing through the gates and showing our tickets and IDs followed. Happily moving towards the main stages, we were confronted with an unusual situation; a barricade that stretched the entire width of the main area. Said barricade was manned by security staff every few meters, so like cattle herded into the final pen of an abattoir, we conglomerated at the fence and waited. I was right on the barrier and the crowd quickly built up behind me, becoming a crowd that Metallica themselves would be happy to play to!
No one quite knew what was going on. There was some delay obviously and I observed roadies and security staff going about their tasks with no obvious urgency. After ten minutes or so the crowd became restless and jibes were thrown at the security staff with increasing frequency. One punter who was obviously fairly well “refreshed” already, climbed up on his mates shoulders and screamed “Oh my god it’s scenesters as far as the eye can see!!” drawing howls of laughter from the crowd. The humour was short lived. We wanted music and we wanted it now, not to be barricaded in after an already frustrating entrance. The irritation of the crowd escalated and security were being shouted at. “When the fuck can we get in?” came every couple of seconds. “Just a couple more minutes, just a couple more minutes!” the increasingly nervous security staff stammered at us. I thought the barriers were gonna go down with me at the front of the stampede!
The security staff finally announced they were going to open the gates imminently and pleaded with the crowd to be careful of each other. And thus, the barriers were flung open and thousands of punters (me included) were out of the blocks like Olympic sprinters! It was the charge of the light brigade as we all bolted for whichever stage was to host the band we wanted to see….and of course we were all anticlimactically met with silence as the bands were all waiting to be given the go ahead.
I ran straight to stage 1B to see Melbourne’s own Party Vibez open the day’s proceedings and to catch up with fellow blogger Patrick Emmett, aka Metalhead Simpsons Guy. He wasn’t hard to spot with his Elm Street backpatch, in the crowd of maybe 40 who made it through the stampede in time to see Party Vibez. Good to meet him after much online interaction and have a jump around to Party Vibez. They played the shortest set I’ve ever seen, it wouldn’t have been more than 15 minutes because of the inexplicable delay in proceedings. They play sort of new-school thrash and they blasted through 4 or 5 songs with impressive intensity that got quite a bit of a pit going, even at this early stage of the day. At one stage, the guitarist went to take a sip of beer and the singer yelled at him to stop wasting time and play the next song! As I got there in a timely fashion, I found myself in the pit, oh well early in the day, plenty of energy, it wasn’t huge or anything but there was one douche dressed in camo gear who was hardcore dancing and flailing his limbs about, one of which caught me on the jaw. As I’m a reasonably sized athletic fellow and a moshpit veteran, the next time he came around in his eccentric circle of idiocy I drew upon my good old AFL experience and gave him a very solid hip and shoulder which sat him on his camo-clad arse. He took it all in good humour though and continued flailing about the place, although having dislocated said shoulder and broken its accompanying collarbone in the past, I was sore in that area for the rest of the day.
With Party Vibez set finished (I’d actually like to see them again in a longer setting, check ’em out if you’re in Melbourne and like good thrash) I headed off to see Red Fang. They already had a sizeable crowd by the time I got there but I managed to navigate my way to near the front. They play a really cool brand of stoner/sludge that’s interspersed with rhythmic complexity which keeps it more than interesting. It’s not overly intense music and as such, the pit was fairly sedate, just jumping up and down and headbanging was the order of the day. They played a good mix of songs from their self titled debut and their sophomore effort Murder the Mountains, and were very well received. I admired their use of Fender guitars adorned with single coil pickups in what’s ostensibly a metal band. They had a great warm, dirty sound and it set them apart from the “freeze dried” guitar tones of the more extreme bands.
THE BLACKOUT…sort of
At this point it was after midday and I was hungry and had already expended a bit of energy in the moshpit, so headed off to find some eats. I was able to catch a reasonable view of The Blackout, but my attention was mostly directed at a piece of “food” that couldn’t decide if it was a chicken roll or a souvlaki which cost $10, and a similarly priced cup of coffee that tasted like distilled battery acid. However, these had the desired effect and I dismissed The Blackout as vaguely hardcore infused hard rock that’s best avoided and headed off to see Anthrax.
As I’d received texts from friends who were caught in the traffic and PT congestion I watched Anthrax from the delay line speaker tower in a vain attempt to meet said friends and not from the pit where I’d much rather have been. They were great. They powered through songs from their awesome latest album Worship Music as well as classics from Among the Living and State of Euphoria. Singer Joey and Guitarist Scott sprinted around the stage with manic abandon, with Joey donning a native American headdress for the song “Indians”. Fill in drummer Jon Dette did a great job in place of Charlie and former guitarist Rob Caggiano was not conspicuous in his absence, his shoes being ably filled by Shadows Fall’s Jonathan Donais. The song “In the End” was dedicated to the late Dimebag Darrell and Ronnie James Dio and banners depicting the two were draped over the band’s logos….which was all well and good except Ronnie got hung upside down and the poor roadie, realizing his mistake, frantically made adjustments until the banner was the right way up. This slightly comedic episode took nothing away from the heartfelt sentiment of the band and it was a fitting tribute to two legends. Anthrax finished with a cover of AC/DC’s TNT (which will be included on their upcoming Anthems EP). Though I was standing a fair way from the stage, I belted out all the lyrics and jumped about like a true fanboy drawing odd looks from some punters, but I cared little as they are one of my favourite bands and it goes to show the power that music has on the human psyche.
STONE SOUR…except not really
Then…success! I caught up with my old mate Matt and we shot the breeze and chilled out while Stone Sour played in the background to a very receptive crowd. I had no intention of seeing them anyway, not my thing, but the punters enjoyed them.
It was at this point that the cock ups began….well, continued. There were several timetables doing the rounds and only one was accurate. The one I was handed at the gate, and the one I downloaded from the website were both incorrect and Matt & I were dashing between stages and were largely confused as to who was supposed to be playing where. Lucky for us, the bands we wanted to see were mostly on the two main stages, but a couple of times we had to hurry between the two as the lineup was switched around. This, combined with the delayed start and transport issues caused many folks a lot of frustration and while SW has been well organized in years past, it failed miserably this year in terms of efficiency, perhaps because it had been moved from the Showgrounds to the Racecourse. Anyway, those whinges aside, I did manage to see all the bands I wanted to….including Tomahawk who were next up.
One of Mike Patton’s myriad projects, they play quirky hard rock that’s likely to appeal to Faith No More fans probably more than any other Patton project. Unfortunately their set reflected their latest album Oddfellows. It was slightly lacklustre and only the drumming of John Stanier saved it from mediocrity. Mike seemed more intent on abusing cameramen and audience members than singing at times. Comments like “What did you say, you fucking hippie?!” and “Turn that off and get the fuck out of here” etc were prominent. Ironically these outbursts garnered more applause than their actual performance did. Pretty disappointing, and the poorest performance of the day for me.
Kyuss Lives were next, and were the surprise of the day. Unable to use their original moniker “Kyuss” for legal reasons, they belted out their driving stoner rock with fantastic energy. Perhaps the quintessential stoner band, they had a huge, bass heavy sound and played a great mix of tunes from their three classic albums. At once energetic and ethereal, the music was frequently accompanied by wafts of a familiar herbal aroma. Unfortunately, just as I was really getting into it, I realized fucking Slayer were about to go on, on the other main stage, despite being scheduled to go on hours later on another stage, so Matt and I quickly headed over to get a reasonable vantage point….and we bumped into another old mate Dave.
Our rush was actually unwarranted, the band didn’t go on for about 20 minutes, but it was great to have a chance to catch up with friends before the ensuing insanity. Now, I had considered boycotting Slayer because of the Dave Lombardo situation, but as I’d arbitrarily worn a Slayer t shirt to the event and as they are my favourite metal band of all time, I felt it best to see them….for about the 6th time.
I would have loved to have hated their performance, but despite their Lombardo-lessness, they put on a brilliant show (as they always do). John Dette proved himself to be an able fill in for Dave. Hats off to him, he’s filling in for Anthrax as well, not just for the entire Soundwave tour, but also all the sidewaves! Impressive enough in itself, but given the demanding nature of the bands’ drum requirements, it’s and almost superhuman effort!
Slayer opened with “Disciple” which immediately worked the crowd into a frenzy! They proceeded to play mostly old stuff, which was fine with me and they played classics from Seasons in the Abyss, South of Heaven, Reign in Blood….and even “Die by the Sword” from Show no Mercy! Interestingly they played “Angel of Death” not as their closing song, but the second last. We all thought the set had finished and were feeling ripped off until they took the stage again and Dette sat at his kit….and the sound we all wanted to hear exploded out of the speakers….DUN DUN DUN…..DUN DUN DUN….the harrowing drum intro to “Raining Blood”. When the song burst to life, the crowd went batshit and they powered through the track finishing it with an apocalyptic crescendo of frantic drumming and squalling guitar feedback!
I’d spent the entire set screaming the lyrics and jumping around and air drumming, but I had some heckling to do as well. Between songs I’d yell out “Kerry Kash!”, “Get on with it you money hungry c*nts!” and during Kerry’s solos “Every note’s a dollar in ya pocket mate!” which of course the band couldn’t hear unfortunately, but drew looks of ire from some fans and uncontrollable laughter from others (mostly my mates to be fair!). Despite their lineup instability, they did put on a killer show.
By this stage my voice had given out, my body was beginning to ache and I was feeling rather exhausted. After all I’d seen four bands before my mates even got there. I wanted to see Cypress Hill because they seemed a good act to chill to after the ferocity of Slayer. But…contrary to the timetable they were at the farthest possible stage from where we were. I was right near the exit and the thought of pushing my way through a seething crowd the entire length of Flemington Racecourse, only to have to push my way back again was unappealing. So I said my goodbyes and left.
“WHAT???” I hear you cry. Yeah that’s right, I left at about 5pm. I’d seen a good 7 hours of music and was beginning to wilt.
It’s time for me to be candid and pragmatic. Whilst I mightn’t look it, I’m nudging 40 years of age, and 20 years of gigs, festivals, hard partying and the natural effects of aging have taken their toll. I can’t last the day anymore. I’m not sad about it, that’s life is all. Take the piss out of me if you wish, but you 18 year olds, see how you’re going after another 22 years of gigs. Due to broken bones and snapped ligaments in my knees, shoulders and feet over the years from sporting mishaps and drunken accidents, merely standing and walking for that amount of time is difficult, let alone moshing, headbanging and frantically running about the place.
You might say “well you didn’t get your money’s worth!”. I disagree. If you’re not enjoying yourself, it’s a waste of time to stay. I would have liked to have seen Cypress Hill and Metallica, but the idea of collapsing in a heap and having a shitty time wasn’t appealing, so I took off while I still had a little energy left. To see individual shows from the bands I saw, would cost far more than the SW ticket, so I did get my money’s worth…and I had a fucking awesome time!
Will I be back next year? I dunno…depends on the lineup.
In the end it was a great day. Good friends, good music and great weather….and no parking fine!