Review: Soundwave Festival, Adelaide

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Soundwave Festival
Bonython Park Adelaide
21 and 22 February 2015
Review by Will Oakeshott
Photos by David Youdell

Day 1

Whilst the annual Soundwave Festival revolves around heavy music in Australia, a lot more than just deafening guitars, screaming vocals and blasting drums were weighing down music fans in Adelaide. Without doubt Mother Nature brought her “brutal” to the event scorching Adelaide with a weekend maintaining a 40 degrees Celsius both days; but furthermore, South Australians were informed that this was to be the last Soundwave held in our beautiful city. This ultimately added excitement and dismay in a confusing collective mental state; regardless it was now going to be memorable.

Arriving to the comic and positive attitude of Melbourne’s elder ska statesman Area 7 was a fantastic initiation into the festival, especially with the Australian anthem ‘Bitter Words’ provoking the party mindset encouraged further by a reworking of AC/DC’s ‘Long Way To The Top’. Sad to say that rumour has it the eight-piece will be wrapping things up for good after this tour, which for the sake of educating the youngsters at the event, many hope this is not the case.

Staying with the Melbourne and punk side of things, reggae-disco-party-punks The Bennies brought a very impressive sized crowd to the smaller stage; with a quite mystifying take on punk rock, it’s hard not to smile with these four gentlemen who are simply stoked on life. Vocalist Anty Horgan can work a crowd better than front-men who have been in the game for decades and the sing-alongs to ‘My Bike’ and ‘Heavy Disco’ provided more than enough justice for this fact. Global domination is on the cards for this quartet and it’s obvious it is a good time when a joint is being passed around onstage.

Japan’s One Ok Rock probably should not have been assigned a main stage as their audience would have even been minuscule at a smaller level. Their electro-tinged pop-metal was honestly just confusing and while their song ‘Take Me To The Top’ had intriguing hints of Saosin present, it was a little too perplexing to enjoy properly. The acrobatics of the guitarist and bassist however, were very skillful however.

Michigan’s Fireworks seem to be a band constantly on the rise, they are very respected by their peers and from the outside exceptionally hardworking. On this day though, none of the aforementioned accolades were warranted; the sextet looked more disinterested than energised as if they were just going through the motions. At a festival of this calibre, more needs to be showcased than just another half hour set, single ‘Far Away’ garnered a solid response but not nearly enough to win this scribe over.

New York’s Bayside provided the heart and soul in honest music, which this writer so badly needed to see and hear at this point in the sweltering day. A no bullshit entrance and launch into their first song ‘Already Gone’, it was clear that this quartet’s performance was going to be a highlight. For the moderate sized audience, they were treated with a set-list consisting of: ‘Blame It On Bad Luck’, ‘Duality’, ‘Pigsty’, ‘Montauk’, ‘The Walking Wounded’, ‘Stuttering’, ‘Sick, Sick, Sick’ and ‘Devotion And Desire’. Vocalist/guitarist Anthony Raneri sounded simply superb (as always), with the rest of the players showcasing an unrivalled chemistry and dynamic that is in a word, awe-inspiring.

Los Angeles based The Interrupters took Adelaide through some time travel with their yesteryear influenced SoCal political punk enraging the opinionated. Front woman Aimee Allen is certainly a punk rock princess and her army of shaved head well dressed men support her wholeheartedly. This became blatantly apparent with their song ‘Take Back The Power’ where Aimee was certainly channelling some excellent Joan Jett vocal harmonies.

California’s Incubus seemed to have everything perfectly timed for them for Soundwave. The sun began to set, the temperature rose due to humidity, it even began to rain at one point and it took an outfit like them to see the true size of attendees at this event; which besides reports of dwindling ticket sales, looked rather profound. As this writer was slightly worried due to my last witnessing of the quintet being subpar to say the least, my doubts were quickly nullified. ‘Wish You Were Here’ got the ball rolling and a wave of calm and serenity overcame Adelaide beautifully. ‘Anna Molly’, ‘Adolescents’, new single ‘Absolution Calling’, ‘Nice To Know You’, new song ‘Trust Fall’, the dream like ‘The Company Of Wolves’, ‘Pardon Me’, ‘Megalomaniac’ and an accidental inclusion due to timing of ‘A Crow Left Of The Murder’ all made appearances and were very welcomed. It is simply splendid to see the five-piece revamped and excited about releasing music again after what has become clearly evident, a much needed break.

It was time for some nostalgia in the metalcore genre from California’s Atreyu. A very different looking quintet from ten years prior exploded onto the stage and a sizeable audience was ecstatic with their entrance. With darkness fully settling in, heat was no longer an excuse even though still ferociously present and the glam-emo-metalcore innovators charged through a thoroughly enjoyable set list. ‘Doomsday’, ‘Right Side Of The Bed’, hard rock inspired ‘Becoming The Bull’, ‘Blow’, ‘So Others May Live’, ‘Bleeding Mascara’, ‘When Two Are One’ and closer ‘Lip Gloss And Black’ massed a tremendous reception even if the band’s lyrics are too close to cheesy. But everybody loves to recall their younger days right?

As a diehard fan of Florida’s pop-punk meets hardcore visionary New Found Glory, it was far too difficult to miss what was going to be a guaranteed good time with them than to join the thousands at Soundgarden or Faith No More. I can assure you, my decision to go with my instinct truly paid off, as was the case for hundreds of other aficionados. Kicking things off with ‘Selfless’, the now quartet squashed all concerns about their downsizing to a four-piece with a huge sound best defined as “almighty”. For those who decided against the norm, they were treated with a plethora of songs from their back catalogue: ‘Understatement’, ‘All Downhill From Here’, ‘Resurrection’, ‘Hit Or Miss’ (with front-man Jordan Pundik spending the entire song in the audience), ‘Something I Call Personality’, ‘Don’t Let Her Pull You Down’, ‘Anthem For The Unwanted’, ‘The Worst Person’, ‘Vicious Love’, ‘Listen To Your Friends’, ‘Hold My Hand’, ‘Ready And Willing’, ‘Failure’s Not Flattering’, a cover of ‘Kiss Me’ , ‘Dressed To Kill’ and then the always reliable and sensational closer in ‘My Friend’s Over You’. It was sincerely an unforgettable finish to the first day.

Day 2

The significance of the final day of Soundwave for Adelaide was undeniably enough to arouse thousands of punters again with the added incentive of arguably the stronger line-up of the weekend. The agonising temperature did not dampen the spirits of locals A Ghost Orchestra however, the Triple J Unearthed winner for a spot on the main stage. The quartet were greeted with a solid turnout of eager mosh pit enthusiasts who supported the Adelaide noisecore outfit wholeheartedly and rightfully so. ‘Brown Teeth’ was the pinnacle of the performance instigating a manic circle pit with even a flag being waved inside the pit in appreciation. It has been a whirlwind few months for this four-piece and there is little doubt in my mind that A Ghost Orchestra’s storm will only continue to devastate Australia.

Philadelphia’s The Wonder Years brought upon an impressive audience for their earnest and passionate brand of punk rock. After just seconds of witnessing this sextet, namely vocalist Dan “Soupy” Campbell, it becomes distinctly noticeable why these six gentlemen are the voice of the current generation of music fans. “Soupy” was so in his element that he even accomplished cutting his mouth during ‘Local Man Ruins Everything’, but this did not stop him delivering his renowned impassioned performance while spinning in circles better than a professional figure skater. ‘Don’t Let Me Cave In’ triggered the mosh pit and final track ‘Came Out Swinging’ had many crowd members jumping atop of Soupy to scream their favourite lyrics. With the announcement of TWY hitting the studio to record their new album directly after this tour, it is impossible to deny this full-length may just push the band to levels never thought achievable.

Washington’s instrumental progressive metal trio Animals As Leaders were up next and consequently infected the minds of music nerds throughout the festival. Watching guitarist Tosin Abasi bend the sounds of his guitar is literally not of this world; especially how his band fuse such an extensive list of genres together, including: Classic rock, jazz, djent and metal to list a few. Unfortunately the performance was interrupted by technical difficulties, namely their computer “shitting itself”; but before then the soundtrack the three-piece were supplying had transported me to a great white shark documentary observing it’s life from dormant graceful travelling to an all out ravaging of seal lions. The experience although sadly flawed was witnessing something beyond human.

For this writer there was one outfit who clearly stood above the rest in favouritism and definitely my main feature for the entire festival; this was found in Sweden’s infamous skate punks Millencolin. Admittedly the first CD I bought with my own money was their 1995 album Life On A Plate, so my review maybe a little biased here but there would also be literally hundreds in support of these words. Just ask the fans who climbed trees for a better view or the uncountable number of crowd surfers, it was monumental. ‘Bullion’, ‘Olympic’, ‘Penguins And Polar Bears’, ‘Man Or Mouse’, ‘Duckpond’, ‘Battery Check’, ‘Fox’, ‘No Cigar’ and so many more delighted the attendees and the band themselves as they claimed with utter conviction “Adelaide is our favourite place in Australia”. April will see the quartet release their first new album in seven years and thousands worldwide will be holding their breath for it.

With the most controversial history for an extreme black metal band known in history, it was time for Norway’s Mayhem to shock, scare and hypnotise those brave enough to bare witness. In a word it was purely “magnetic”. Whether it was vocalist Attila Csihar screaming into a human skull or dangling a noose; or Jan Axel Blomberg AKA Hellhammer’s unbelievable blast-beat drumming, a “spectacle” barely captures what actually occurred.

Another big crowd puller for the day was California’s nu-metalcore giants Of Mice And Men, who could not wipe the smiles off their faces at the grand scale of audience who eagerly awaited their show. There is no doubting the quintet’s showmanship, front-man Austin Carlile stalks the stage like a mountain lion ready to pounce with his gigantic spider-like frame. The rest of his army bang their heads in unison and bassist/backing vocalist Aaron Pauley sounds scarily perfect in his delivery. ‘Public Service Announcement’, ‘O.G. Loko’, ‘Let Live’ and ‘Identity Disorder’ whipped Adelaide into a frenzy but it would be preferable if Austin stuck to his incomprehensible high pitched scream than his attempt at gritty clean vocals. It is somewhat similar to a koala mating session and not quite on-par with Linkin Park, OM&M’s idols.

The little punk band that couldn’t quite get there played their final ever Adelaide show at Soundwave and they are known as The Swellers from Michigan. This quartet gave their heart, soul and everything into making music and it is a true shame that their career is coming to an end. It was easy to get choked up during their performance, but one thing is for sure, I and others will never forget that final stunning song of ‘The Best I Ever Had’. You will be forever missed The Swellers, thank you for what you created.

Thousands made their way to either The Smashing Pumpkins or Slipknot at this point and it seemed the remainder went to see Fall Out Boy, well the majority of female attendees anyways. Not for myself though, this was the time for my favourite indie hardcore punks from Canada Fucked Up. What the most pleasant surprise of this scenario was however? At least 50 other people were in my exact same boat and we were treated with THE SHOW of the festival. Front-man Damian Abraham was manic in his role, spending more time offstage hugging the fans watching his excellent outfit. Bassist Sandy Miranda is perhaps the most talented female bass player on the punk rock circuit, grooving and gracefully dancing all the while maintaining fantastic rhythm against the three guitarists. But the pile-ons, piggybacks and hat wearing talents of Mr. Abraham surely stole the show. ‘The Other Shoe’ was remarkable and Australia hopes it’s only months before this crazy sextet return to our shores, PLEASE!

So ends an era for South Australia’s heavy music festivals. To be honest, the conclusion of this event is met with a sorrow that will be near impossible to cure. While nothing is set in stone as yet, the fact that the future is uncertain is disappointing to say the least. But for now, we have the memories and those are irreplaceable.

 

 

 

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