RNA Showgrounds Brisbane
28 February and 1 March 2015
Review by Nathan Eden
Photo by Shaun Watson
Queensland turned on its very best weather for Soundwave Brisbane only one week after Cyclone Marcia turned the place in to a big puddle. Although I did see one cautious dude wearing gumboots, it was mostly the hard core “maggots” in Slipknot overalls who appeared to be inappropriately dressed for the borderline oppressive heat. However, it was when the sun went down and the heat receded that their suffering paid off. A sea of banging heads nodded in agreement throughout a set which built in intensity as it progressed. Starting out with ‘XIX’ and ‘Sarcastrophe’ from their latest album, they moved on to the bankables such as ‘People=Shit’ and ‘Before I Forget’. During the latter, every member of the audience found it impossible to stay still.
Even the most intensely anti-Slipknot critic would have no grounds to dismiss a band who expertly delivered the spectacle of a true headlining act. The masks and imagery brought with it substance in the form of tight-musicianship and Corey Taylor’s voice, which was effortless in its scope across the spectrum from guttural aggression to poignant melody.
At the start of the day, you couldn’t walk around a corner without inadvertently eves-dropping on a conversation in anticipation of Killer Be Killed. It must be said that there seemed to be little disappointment after their set. The band were every bit as intense as you might hope for with a collective resume such as theirs. Playing together after just a handful of shows, they sounded anything but a contrived supergroup, displaying the passion of a dangerous bunch of fresh-faced kids. Whilst their performance didn’t detour too far from their self-titled album, it was the acutely channelled energy of all four members which was appreciated. Max Cavalera was in charge of most of the audience interaction, though Greg Puciato certainly did his bit, as he crawled all over the stage like Spiderman with ADHD, climbing speakers and tossing mic stands in to the crowd.
As Mayhem began on stage five, the crowd included a bizarre mixture of serious-looking guys in black metal shirts and curious onlookers. Their set began with Conrad Schnitzler’s eerie ‘Silvester Anfang’ before shifting full-on in to ‘Deathcrush’ from 1987’s EP of the same name. The band maintained a fervid frenzy throughout. An onlooker’s only criticism might be that their stay was too short, both for the black-hearted lifers and the new fans they won on the day.
Inside the undercover stage three, Millencolin drew an enthusiastic mass of appreciative fans, expertly satisfying with a set reaching its highpoint during one of their signature tracks, ‘Penguins and Polar Bears’; everyone in the building new every word and sang along. Meanwhile outside on stage three, Godsmack gave fans the anthemic goodness they were hoping for, punctuated by life advice from vocalist Sully Erna in between songs, only slightly wordy for a 30-minute set.
A few words were also thrown around during Tonight Alive’s tenure on stage two. The band itself impressed with an intent which appeared to surprise some previously unaware bystanders. But it was their young vocalist, Jenna McDougall, who owned their part of the day. She survived security issues involving a fan who apparently “just wanted a high five”; to eventually triumph by leading her band in to an impassioned Rage Against The Machine medley, which preceded a short, politically-inspired and articulate diatribe. Dare I use the cliché; she could be a star of the future.
One person who is already a rock n’ roll star proved his is one of, if not the most, competent and entertaining hard rock bands on the planet. Many came to see Slash play his guitar, but what makes the band one worth watching is the dynamic between the legendary six-string guru and his front man, Myles Kennedy. I overheard many asking who Kennedy was in between songs; they were asking for a reason. The band began with a new track ‘You’re A Lie’ before mixing it up with old and new and delivering a very worthy ‘You Could Be Mine’. They climaxed with classic Gunners staples ‘Paradise City’ and ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’. Slash was always going to be on top of his game for that and interestingly, the pressure felt as though it was on Kennedy at this stage. He could have delivered a completely unique take at the risk of alienating old-school fans or conversely, earned the crowd’s distaste with an Axl impersonation. What he did in reality, was walk the line perfectly. I guess he is getting a lot of practice with that of recent times.
Whilst those in Sydney were doused with a storm, in Brisbane it was another sunny day in the Sunshine State’s capital city. A traffic jam meant I was gutted to miss King Parrot but judging by how many of their shirts seemed to be slipping out of the merch stands, they no doubt impressed.
Ne Obliviscaris delivered a stage four performance that went a long way towards living up to the Latin interpretation of their name. Judging by comments from those around me, many were there out of curiosity but could well have become converts. Perhaps the progressive band’s main obstacle is juggling all the pieces that fit to make a presentable puzzle. Two vocalists and a violin incorporated amidst the more traditional metal elements would be too much of a challenge for lesser musicians. So too, would be conveying their atmospherics beneath a searing sun as opposed to a dark club. The band won in a canter on both accounts.
On that same stage a bit later, I had the chance to see Fear Factory for the first time in twenty years. In between walls of solid riffs, Burton demanded obedient carnage in front of the stage as they charged through certified pit pleasers such as ‘Edgecrusher’, ‘What Will Become’ and of course, ‘Replica’. The main thing you could say having come away from their set was that Dino and co. were extremely loud. The good news is they were great musically too, but oh so very loud. And that’s how we like ‘em.
Whilst walking past the bar, I happened to pass a heavily-pregnant woman wearing a shirt that read, “Should’ve got hit in the shitter”. Her regret was my joy as it reminded me that Steel Panther would soon hit stage one. I swear the crowd almost rivalled Slipknot’s of the night before, but it may have just appeared that way when compared to those who remained next door at stage two to see out the end of Gerard Way and his band. The glamirists (glam satirists) pounded through their sing-a-long jams at the behest of the mass of dirty-minded punters. You might call Steel Panther ridiculous but don’t call them a gimmick. Their humour alone couldn’t maintain a crowd of such appreciative magnitude. Hairspray, and leopard-skin-everything came with sugary solos and fantastic falsetto. Kicking off with ‘Pussywhipped’ before running through all their fun favourites, ‘Asian Hooker’ was a distinct highlight before ‘Death to All But Metal’ topped off Sunday’s fix of carnal sin.
Antemasque managed to polarise on stage two. There were those of us entranced in their magic on the opposite side of the coin to those who “just didn’t get it”. It might not have been for everyone, but it sure was amazing. They played most of their one and only album thus far, in three-minute increments, interspersed by Cedric Blixler-Zavala’s frequent bursts of hilarity. He referred to his long-time creative partner, band leader Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, as “the Puerto Rican Woody Allen” and joked about equal opportunity, suggesting men should get on stage and get their tits out; “…soy milk and estrogen make for some big fat man titties you can play hacky sack with” he thoughtfully explained. The band was tight, enormously energetic and engaging. The first seven or eight tracks came as per the album, including ‘4AM’ and ‘In The Lurch’ until ‘Providence’ turned in to the half-hour Mars Volta regression that only half of the audience was ready for. Throughout, bassist Marfred Rodriguez-Lopez stood close by Dave Elitch who monstered a kit that somehow withstood the abuse. For me, the pick of the festival.
Soundgarden launched straight in to their stage time with ‘Spoonman’. Even with the depth of Kim Thayil’s riff-well, it was clear that it would be Chris Cornell’s show. That amazing voice was present during mostly older material despite a few King Animal representatives. Highlights were ‘Hunted Down’, ‘Outshined’, ‘Beyond The Wheel’ and ‘Rusty Cage’; the latter during which bassist Ben Shepherd appeared to make his only movements between entering and exiting the stage. Fittingly, it was Cornell who left the stage most conspicuously, appearing to break or loosen all the strings on his guitar before creating a monstrous wall of feedback; either in opposition to some happening at the side of the stage or just to give the crowd something to think about.
There are many good things about Lamb Of God, not the least of which is the way that Randy Blythe addresses a crowd. His screamed lyrics offer catharsis painted over the veritable riff machine that is his band, but the words he speaks in between hit as hard as Chris Adler’s double-kick hits you chest. The humble, we’re-all-one-family approach of this band resonated to ensure everyone there was on the same page. Blythe, aware of the downside to packing a festival with so many great bands, even gave a reminder; “You guys know you’re missing Faith No More right now, right?” he asked. Nobody moved of course.
They kicked off with ‘Desolation’ and marched on relentlessly from that lofty platform through classics such as ‘Walk With Me Through Hell’ and ‘Now You’ve Got Something To Die For’. A giant circle pit evolved ahead of everybody’s favourite anthem of aggression ‘Redneck’, before they finally closed out Soundwave Brisbane with ‘Black Label’.
It will be hard to top that in 2016, especially if it is reduced to only one day, as planned.