Gig Reviews

Review: Soundwave 2015, Melbourne – Pummelling Metal & Heartfelt Pop Punk For Young And Old

Freshly showered and coffeed up, entry is, thankfully, a breeze on day two. Better yet, yesterday’s scorching sun remains behind clouds for most of the day. It’s still sticky.

The crowd feels a little thicker today, too, perhaps drawn in by the allure of a revitalised Faith No More. The showgrounds still manage to cram us all in though, with lines for food and toilets never too much of a hassle. Oh, and there’s free water everywhere, a truly welcome sight over the weekend.

Up on the main stage, Lower Than Atlantis are just happy to be there. We’re happy they’re there too, as they deliver a strong rock set reminiscent of early Brand New. The London band’s songs are loaded with hooks and passion. It seems like they converted a whole bunch of new fans too.

Meanwhile The Bennies are trying their best to start a party at one in the afternoon. Another local band, their reggae-influenced pub rock seems to be doing the trick. A couple of father-son pairings in the crowd start to leave when the band talk about weed, though. Thanks, dad.

Walking by the main stage we catch a snatch of Hollywood Undead. It’s more than enough. There’s a gay joke, a terrible sexist song and spatterings of frat rap all in the space of 5 minutes. The combination of rock and rap comes across like a bad joke in 2015, making it hard to believe this sorry excuse for a band has any fans at all.

Gerard Way, now ex-My Chemical Romance, graces the main stage wearing a black suit with contrasting pink tie and rusty eyeshadow. Stepping away from the sound of his old band, his twisted version of pop has more in common with Mika than it does the emo punk of MCR. The screams from the front row mark him as a heartthrob, which may get in the way of his credibility eventually. It’s a fine set.

Fireworks heat up a side stage. Playing to a devoted gathering, this orgcore-inspired punk group deliver sincerity in spades. The 6-piece show that some sounds just never die. Bayside follows them and, having honed their emo sound over six albums, they’re sounding super tight. Anthony Raneri’s vocals soar over the dedicated crowd.

The latest project from ex-The Mars Volta and At The Drive In members Antemasque lights up the main stage. Less frenzied than previous projects, yet just as dynamic, they play a set that’s perfect to just listen too — no mosh required. Prog punk fills the showgrounds, as some kids behind me describe it as “too Big Day Out” for Soundwave, but the change of pace is a welcome respite from the relentlessness of other acts.

Incubus amass a huge crowd eager to relive the nineties and early noughties. They play a set of fairly straightforward radio rock, opening with hit Morning View hit Wish You Were Here. Cool dads everywhere sing along while their kids dream of The Bennies. Record scratches punctuate key moments. It’s not earth shattering, but it’s another calming piece of nostalgia.

Soundgarden feels similar. Grungy and harder, of course, but still drawing on a well of ’90s goodwill to win over the huge crowd. Black Hole Sun, which seems mandatory but was apparently skipped in Adelaide, invokes much slow waving of hands. The band, Chris Cornell in particular, sound just as polished as their records, never missing a beat. A treat for grunge lovers.

The Aquabats light up a side stage with their cartoon punk sound and superhero costumes. Sure, they’re technically a band for kids but they’re still a burst of colour and humour, standing out from the overly serious nature of many of today’s acts. They play The Shark Fighter! and you can’t help but enjoy yourself – no matter your age.

It’s headliner time, and unfortunately it’s clash city too. First up are Faith No More. Of course they’ve amassed the biggest crowd of the day, everyone eager to see what this eclectic band of legends will do. Dressed in all white, they power through classics, sounding record-perfect. Epic is as anthemic as ever as the thousands sing along. By far the biggest mosh of the weekend.

Over on the metal stage, Lamb of God are sending their barrage of iconic metal towards an intense mosh, and from a distance the pit looks like one surging, living organism pulsing to the beat.

Finally, it’s over to New Found Glory on a Stage 3. We walk in on an inspirational speech that transforms into some inspirational music from your high-school friend’s favourite band. This is effortless pop punk — unsurprising, from the band who provided the template to most of the other pop punkers on the bill.

But that’s it. Two days of Soundwave are over. We’re dead — two days of nothing but guitars, heat and people is taxing! Logistically the festival ran perfectly, from what we saw, but over two days it can be hard to keep the energy up, and things can start to blend into one another. Hopefully next year Soundwave injects a little diversity into the line-up, but that might just be going against the ethos of the festival. Either way, it’s easy to see why it’s become this country’s biggest rock and metal festival.

Soundwave 2015 continues in Brisbane and Sydney this weekend. See all the action from Soundwave’s first weekend, including news, videos, interviews and photos, right here!

Photos by Brett Schewitz and Alesha Martyn

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