Soundwave Festival, Melbourne Showgrounds – 02/03/2012

After a week of rain, it was fair to say that I was nervous about the weather holding out for Soundwave this year. Alas, it did. As the morning set in, it was clear skies ahead and we made the monotonous trek to The Melbourne Show Grounds (along with every other black-attired alternate music lover) to bask in the sunshine, drink some beers and listen to our favourite rock gods killing it on the big stage.

Timetable hiccups and having to wait too long in the line at the initial gate entrance made me miss Unwritten Law, which was highly annoying because they played an apparently unforgettable show at the Espy earlier in the week, so I was bummed. But after a few beers under the umbrellas near the main stage, we were back on track again and waiting patiently for Bush to take the stage in the early afternoon. They were amazing. Gavin Rossdale has a voice that you just lust after. Those heart-jerking chord changes make you wanna fall to your knees. For the die-hard grunge fans Bush was a wild card treat compared to a mostly heavier selection of acts on the bill this year. That said, they probably were the top of my list. I saw the set from the shoulders of my friend and I almost cried when they closed the set with Glycerine. No surprises there.

Fred Durst did his best to keep the crowd going through the Limp Bizkit set. But it looked like a mission. Very tired and grey, his energy was a little on the light, but he still managed to pull in some circle pits as he jumped on and off the stage. There was a stage-size pink banner that was hung in memory of Jessica Michalik, who passed away after being crushed in the crowd during the band’s set at Big Day Out in 2001. A full screen shot of her smiling face watched over the crowd for a number of songs throughout as Durst dedicated their performance to her. With all the classics like Faith, Rollin and My Generation, the crowd ate it up.

The same could not be said for Marilyn Manson though. Definitely not his regular bulimic-looking self, he was looking older, fatter and slower on stage. He really is a creature of the night and even as the sun was going down he couldn’t quite beat those blazing rays from his skin. With the expectations of a corset or some electrifyingly disgusting get up, all he had on was a black T-shirt that was dripping with sweat. I didn’t stick around to watch much more than a few tracks from Manson. No one did. Even with the excitement of Born Villain (his eighth album to be released this year) he was boring, and there is nothing uglier than being boring. I mean, he isn’t quite as old as Iggy Pop or anything, he can still move, but I reckon Iggy would have kicked the shit out of Manson in a dance-off.

Although Manson does say that: “We will always be our worst audience, until we stop being an audience and start being an artist.”

I managed to get the balls to go right up the very front for Slipknot and see them right in the flesh. One of the members crowd surfed back (I tried to work it out but there is that bloody many of them) to hang out a while between the punters trying to start circle pit after circle pit. You really needed to be right up the very front to get the full experience of the bands you wanted to see.

System of a Down are always good. They took the house down at last year’s Download Festival in the UK, so I was excited to see they were, yet again, just as impressive on Aussie soil. Dressed in their tailored white collared shirts and reliving all the old favourites like Sugar, Aerials, and Chop Suey made a recipe for some crazy head bashing to the front. They really do reflect the glory of Soundwave though. Holding the balance between 80’s underground thrash metal and a 90’s grunge rock, their cult following is almost religious.

Followed closely behind was Machine Head. Maybe not a main stage contender, but it was still a stand-out act. A smaller stage meant a much more intimate setting. It was louder, the sound was stronger and crisper and basically just more enjoyable. As you looked back you could see a space full of old metal heads thrashing their mains around. There was much more energy from the crowd, and the movement of seven circle pits was proof of that.

Overall, the day was a raging success. Bands concentrated on their older stuff and the crowds were gracious for that. The weather held out, which is a biggie for Melbourne; there weren’t too many drunk idiots and/or cattle queues for the loo; no future music short shorts, wanky haircuts or fashionistas – just those that bleed rock n roll and were here to celebrate their favourite bands making their way to Aussie soil again. Soundwave was an excellent day out. I look forward to seeing who’s on the next year’s bill. This year will be a hard one to beat. But maybe Hole might come back if Manson doesn’t. lol.

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