After braving the baking heat and dusty hillsides of last year’s Soundwave at Eastern Creek, the paved pathways of the Olympic Stadium felt like walking across plush-pile in Hugh Hefner’s slippers. Despite the oppressive midday humidity already setting-in, the sight of a greying seventy year olds rocking Social Distortion t-shirts and Doc Martins had me convinced that today was going to be something special.
Making a beeline straight for the punk tent, I arrived just in time to chow down a gozleme and catch The Gaslight Anthem. With the earnest sincerity, the New Jersey band took the early crowd through some good ol’ fashioned American rock n’ roll from their latest two albums The 59’ Sound and American Slang with lead singer Brian Fallon smiling along the whole way.
With anthemic snotty punks Sum 41 next to take the stage, the crowd had grown significantly and so had the sweat in the damp big top. Multiple circle-pits broke out early when Over My Head blasted out and when In Too Deep got a run, there were so many girls on shoulders that it could’ve been a Bon Jovi show from 1987.
I found myself next to a group of forty-something mums for Millencolin. Their flared jeans were large and their handbags even larger, but they seemed to be enjoying themselves, so I smiled as they nudged and bumped me while watching the Swedish lads rip through their entire Pennybridge Pioneers album from front to back.
At last, It was time for a break. I was sweaty and in need of beer. I walked along, mentally preparing myself for an hour-long wait for some mid-strength swill, but was pleasantly surprised to see an abundance of bars. In fact, I found it hard to turn a corner without encountering a bar, or some toilets, or a multitude of food stalls. The promoters had done an amazing job with the lay-out. Music tastes were also separated as best as possible to avoid clashes (although no doubt some occurred with the amount of bands playing) and things didn’t seem all that bad when moving from stage to stage, unlike some other festivals this summer that I won’t mention.. *cough* Good Vibes *cough, cough*.
After a well-deserved beer, I headed to the smallest stage at the festival to catch hardcore New York punks H2O. Now, for the uninitiated, these guys are tough, straight-edge and ready to kick your ass. The circle-pit was intimidating, full of older burly punks, keen to beat down. H2O riled them up from the start, encouraging the entire crowd to run around the sound tent (which of course they did) before vocalist Toby Morse jumped into the crowd to sing a hardcore affirmation or two as the set ended.
I finally ventured over to the metal end of the park to catch another East Coast US band, the six-piece, Latin-infused metal of Ill Niño. Often associated with Soulfly and Deftones for their latino heritage, these guys deliver something completely different. They were brutal and vicious and loved to say the word Motherfucker.. over and over again. The crowd were addressed as pot-smoking motherfuckers. Beer-drinking motherfuckers. Satan-worshipping motherfuckers and various other variants of the theme. But towards the end of their set, I started to notice that the black-clad, long-haired masses were slowly migrating to the other stage. This could only mean that it was time for Slayer.
Strangely, the stage was bare. Devoid of amps and mic-stands, people in the crowd began to murmur. Surely, the band is going to burst on stage soon with some sort of elaborate stage set-up, right? Well, after twenty minutes of chanting to no avail, the lonely figure of Triple J’s Andrew Haug bravely solved the mystery. While dodging bottles, Haugy announced that due to medical reasons, Tom Ayala, Slayer’s front man could not perform. The boos were heard in the Blue Mountains. Fearing a riot, I wove through thousands of stunned and sobbing metallers to venture back into the safe realm of the punk area.
Through some pretty poor sound quality, New Found Glory tore their way though a decent set. Having been turned off these guys years ago when Nova and 2Day FM were flogging their songs, I have to admit that they did nothing really to win me back, but there were enough screaming fans who seemed to really like their brand of pop-punk.. I couldn’t help but notice that they were made up of the under-age contingent though.
My vigour was renewed though as soon as I ventured to the main stage. Crowd favourites, Queens Of The Stone Age were in full flight. Josh Homme was doling out compliments to the ladies while swigging straight from a bottle of Smirnoff. Clearly inebriated, he and the rest of the band were still absolutely flawless delivering songs like Little Sister, Go With The Flow, No One Knows and two of my personal faves I Think I Lost My Headache and the amazing Song For The Dead.
But now it was time for those six elderly gentlemen from England, Iron Maiden. In a dramatically over-the-top space themed stage, complete with raised platform for Bruce Dickinson to run around on, Iron Maiden went big. Bruce hadn’t lost a thing on his vocals, and with a trio of duelling electric guitars, the sound enthralled the thousands of punters throwing up devil horns in Maiden shirts.
As entertaining as Maiden were, I took my exit and caught The Bronx as my last band of the night. Playing to a smaller crowd, they still delivered a vicious assault on the crowd. Vocalist Matt Caughthran was enjoying the moment, taking time to visit the crowd (much to the stage-hand’s dismay), call Rob Zombie an asshole, as well as plow himself into the drumkit as a finale.
On that note, I too headed home. This was one of the best organised festivals i’ve attended in a long while, and discounting the sound issues in the punk tent and the Slayer no-show, I’m sure that we’ll see Soundwave team keep on doing what they do best, putting some black back into an increasingly fluoro world.