Sunday, February 23, 2014

Soundwave Festival 2014


Today I was off to my second Soundwave Festival, this time as a lone wolf. Well, it wasn't going to be that way, but my erstwhile companion Bono, who on hundreds of occasions has failed to show to events for a multitude of reasons, once again managed to find a way to miss out on an event. This time it was his back giving out on him once again. Oh well. Onward we go.

I drove up surrounded by a galaxy of music from my iPod, singing and banging without a care in the world. There is a lot that can be said for driving on your lonesome in the car, and being able to play your own music at your own volume without having to compromise either.

I arrived inside the Homebush setting before 10.30am, and immediately went to the beer tent to grab my first beer of the day. I can honestly say that it was the best way to start the day, and it barely touched the sides.I grabbed a second, and walked around the whole setup to familiarise myself with where all of the stages were, and how long it would take to get from one to the other. Then it was time to head to Stage 4 for the first band on my list for the day.

The first band of the day at 11.00am was Amon Amarth, a band I had flirted with for one album back in 2008 (Deceiver of the Gods) and had not taken to, and thus had left alone until this day. However, the great thing about Soundwave is seeing so many bands live, and getting a better handle on what they are like. I was also greeted by the visage of Steve Holz who had also ventured to theis stage early for the festivities.
Amon Amarth was on so early as they had brought their Viking Ship stage set to Australia, and they needed the time to put it together. And the band was - fabulous! The band itself was terrific, the duelling guitars just brilliant, and the vocals were so much better than I remembered from my short stint listening to them on CD. By halfway through the set, I found myself wondering how I had missed this when I tried them out. No doubt my mood wasn't set for death metal at the time. I was very impressed by the end of the set, at which time I tweeted:

Amon Amarth - Father of the Wolf

From here I had to make a couple of stops. Firstly it was time for a toilet break. Secondly it was up to the Utopia Records tent to purchase a cap (yes, amazingly as it sounds in this day and age, I actually forgot to bring a hat with me. Thankfully I had suncream on to get me through that first couple of hours) and a stubby holder (yep, forgot that too). As always, Utopia was able to satisfy my needs in this respect.

Thirdly, it was time for another beer, as I then headed down to Stage 6 to check out half of the set by August Burns Red. I have never pursued these guys, but Kearo highly recommended them, so I thought I's better give them a shot. Opinion? Yeah, they weren't bad, but their sound was swirling in the cavernous shed, so I probably didn't get the best impression. Next time perhaps.

Terrible photo of August Burns Red, but at least I was there...
From here it was back to Stage 4 to get in a little Five Finger Death Punch, a band I had only heard recently in my trawling of Soundwave acts to see who I should go and see. In the process I managed to get through all of their albums, and found a lot of it to be terrific stuff. This was backed up by their performance here as well. An excellent set, with Life Me Up a highlight for me.

Five Finger Death Punch - Full Set

Next up on Stage 4 was The Black Dahlia Murder. Now most of their stuff that I have heard has been just a little extreme in the vocal department for my tastes, and though i did enjoy their set, it didn't change my opinion that it would be difficult for me to get into their music on a full time basis. Still, it was good to see them, to hear them in that live setting.

Steve and I watched most of this from our vantage point up as close to Stage 4 as we could get, as we awaited the beginning of Testament. I have been waiting the better part of 30 years to see Testament live, not just after their awesome early albums like The Legacy and Practice What You Preach and Souls of Black and Low, but also recent albums The Formation of Damnation and Dark Roots of Earth.      

And they did not disappoint. What a show. Fantastic set list, led brilliantly by Chuck Billy, as well as the twin guitar gods Alex Skolnick and Eric Petersen. Great to see Steve DiGiorgio back on bass guitar, he looked to be having a ball throughout the gig. And Gene Hoglan was just awesome on the drums, great to see the legend there as well. It was great to hear "Rise Up" and "Into the Pit" especially, and would really loved to have heard much more. If only I could get to that Sidewave on Wednesday! Brilliant set.

GWAR was just hilarious. Some technical hitches saw them start some 20 minutes late, and we saw the band wandering around trying to fix the problems before they had donned their character suits which was pretty funny. Then when they started, it was on. So much fake blood, spraying out over the front fifteen rows of people (while Steve and I had positioned ourselves perfectly that none of it reached us, by about two rows). I'm not sure I could ever actually sit down and listen to their albums, but the show was funny, and the musicianship was good. When they brought out the Tony Abbott mannequin and then cut off his head when he 'cancelled' the show, the crowd went wild.


From here there was a bit of a shuffle, as we had been on our feet for about five hours by now, so while hearing a bit of the Volbeat show that had started on Stage 4A, I got myself a kebab (which was fine, but they wouldn't give me both BBQ and chilli sauce, and it was about half the size of a normal kebab, and cost over ten bucks, as well as a 300mL Coke for $5!!!), and we then took the chance to sit down in the shade, and hear a bit of Panic! At The Disco coming from Stage 3. Now there is a band that has taken on the emo craze, and yet there was something about them that I didn't mind at all. If only time had allowed a longer hearing than two songs.

Once we had eaten, Steve bade farewell, off to find his other bands for the day. I returned to Stage 4 and watched the end of the Volbeat set (not bad - Rob Caggiano still has it, even though he has left Anthrax) and to get my first sighting of Trivium live. Nope, I wasn't disappointed, except for the fact that I would have liked to have heard more. Their setlist covered their career, and they were impressive, even through some sound issues, similar to what Killswitch Engage had faced last year.

From here I moved into the main stage for the first (and only) time of the day. I was beat, and found a good seating position to rest my weary legs. Alice in Chains came on at 5.00pm, and were spectacular. It was great to hear all the great songs again, and William DuVall's vocals soared in the stadium gig. After 20 minutes of resting I hopped up and made my way back in closer to the stage, where the sound was even more impressive. The band was just terrific, and I left this hour gig not only satisfied, but eager for the Sidewaves I was attending in two days time.

Alice in Chains - Man in the Box

Now I had a date with destiny, another band that I had waited since my mid-teens to see live, and it was about to come true. Stiff Little Fingers were on the bill over on Stage 7, and I got there a little early to make sure I was up near the front. When I arrived, there was maybe 50 people there, but by the time they came on stage, there was closer to 400. And they were just brilliant. They played all of their hits, they played new songs, they didn't muck around between songs to make sure they got as much in as possible, and it was LOUD! I was just stoked to be there. Brilliant. If I could have watched them again I would have. It was a dream fulfilled, and despite the excellent sets and bands during the day, this was the number one moment for me at Soundwave 2014.

What more was there left for the day? I could have ventured back to the metal stage down at Stage 4, where Devildriver and Mastadon were set to finish the night, but I wasn't sure whether I wanted to hang around that long. I did move down to Stage 3, where I caught the second half of the set by Soil, and they weren't bad. Not someone I would likely follow up on, but they were enjoyable enough, and had good banter with their crowd. I then watched the first two songs of Rob Zombie's set, at which time I convinced myself that nothing was going to match what I had already seen, and so I headed back to the car and headed home. Being a Sunday night also encouraged this, and getting home at 9.15pm on a worknight turned out to be the best move.

I had a great day, and again saw some great bands. I do think that if I do it again next year that i will take some time off - absolutely the Monday, and maybe a couple of other days in which to go to Sidewaves shows without having to worry about getting up for work the following days. We'll see...

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