Finally, after sweltering in the humidity and heat on the tarmac, the Melbourne Showground gates open and away we go. It’s Soundwave weekend. Now a two-day event — apparently for the first and only time — the mammoth line-up of rock, metal and punk has been split over two days, meaning longer sets, less clashes and even more guitars than ever.
Melbourne’s own triple j Unearthed competition winners I, Valiance kick things off on the main stage. It’s great to see Soundwave embracing some local talent, and the boys seem eager to impress. Pummelling metal shakes the grandstand while a growing crowd starts to embrace the day. A wake-up call for anyone feeling a little tired from waiting in the heat all morning.
Over on one of the side stages, The Wonder Years put in a genuinely brilliant set. Heartfelt pop punk played right, the mostly bearded guys play with guts and an honesty that’s rarely seen at big rock festivals. Their emo-tinged sound goes over well with a loyal contingent of fans, singing along up front to every word. A highlight of the day.
Taking advantage of Soundwave’s need to load the lineup with nostalgia, Lagwagon are back for 2015. Their sarcastic stage presence doesn’t exactly gel with their harder newer material, feeling odd when they transition from a heavy instrumental opening track into some more classic skate punk. Feels like kids playing at being adults, or vice versa maybe, but the crowd is loving it. It’s no wonder they love to tour Australia.
Later in the day The Vandals deliver a similar set, playing on the power of nostalgia and a funny stage show. The funniest part of the set is actually the melodica cover of the 20th Century Fox theme used for their intro. They make a joke about “cashed up bogans” before launching into I’ve Got an Ape Drape, and the crowd eats it up.
Tonight Alive are playing on the mainstage while their fans lap up this local band’s sound. Jenna McDougall, one of the only female artists we spot all day, is killing it on vocals. Infectious and grateful to fans, this local pop punk act are a great choice for the teen crowd. Compared to the juvenile All Time Low who play afterwards, Tonight Alive show that they deserve success.
Doing an excellent job of playing into nostalgia while still remaining fresh, Millencolin play an invigorating set to one of the biggest crowds at any side stage all weekend. Powering through Happiness for Dogs, Fox and other classics, they manage to squeeze in new tracks as well. Their Swedish punk reigniting the teenager in all of us.
Over on the metal stage Judas Priest amass an older crowd of “heavy metal maniacs” as they power through their extensive back catalogue. Sometimes it feels like one massive guitar solo, but who cares? It’s only the fourth time these old-school dudes have been here since 1969 and they’re as energetic as ever. They were made to play this festival.
Playing headliner on Stage 3, Fall Out Boy put on one of the most polished sets of the day. Patrick Stump’s vocals sound tight live – so good that it’s hard to believe he doesn’t have some help from a backing track. The pop band blitzes through new and old tracks, with Pete Wentz a constant presence, appearing very genuine when thanking the crowd for their support. He dedicates new song Uma Thurman to all the girls out there who are musicians or artists and should be up on stage too.
Bailing a few songs before the end of their set I catch the end of Fucked Up, who’re playing their brand of hardcore to a small yet passionate crowd. They don’t seem to care, though, as shirtless singer Damian Abraham joins the crowd in the last song, making sure to hug as many audiences members as he can. No-one cares he’s dripping in sweat.
It’s time to go. A couple of fences get pushed down by angry men who can’t get out of the festival fast enough, but most people are polite, although annoyed, by the extremely slow exit. Eventually we spill onto the streets and head home, ready for the next day.