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Soundwave Festival Review: Melbourne

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Soundwave Festival
Melbourne Showgrounds
21 and 22 February 2015
Review by Anthony Moore
Photos by Heidi Takla

Day 1

Every time the Soundwave juggernaut rolls around there seems to be some sort of controversy that punters like to talk about; the lack of public transport, bands pulling out, ticket prices going up and spreading it over two days, but one thing that sometimes seems to get glossed over is the absolute value for money and kick arse day people have every year and SW15 with its more than fair share of headlining acts, is certainly no exception.

With a sweltering day heading quickly into the late 30’s, Day 1 for SW Melbourne was going to be a massive undertaking from the get-go, but even the melting pot that was stage 5 didn’t slow down This Wild Life from getting stuck into it and setting the tone for the day as the first band people came across on the way into the showgrounds.

Pennsylvania pop punkers The Wonder Years drew a crowd early on with fans stoked they’d made it, as they unfortunately had to cancel a tour last year. Vocalist Dan Campbell explained that AJ Maddah saved their asses. “Well fuck it! Why don’t you do Soundwave!”? Campbell also takes out the award for most uncoordinated dancer of the festival.

It was the second time Nonpoint had played Soundwave but after one song, had issues with both their guitar rigs. Vocalist Elias Soriano kept things calm and soon enough cranked up some massive nu metal they’re known for but it was their covers of Jay-Z’s ‘99 Problems’ and Phil Collins ‘In The Air Tonight’ that seemed to get the loudest crowd participation.

Although California’s Lagwagon have never received massive mainstream success they proved why they have such a huge following within the pop / skate punk genre hitting stage 3 with one after another infectious songs with some of the coolest melodious bass lines around.

“Hey you cashed up bogans!” Vocalist Dave Quackenbush caught everyone’s attention! With a career spanning 35 years, it’s inspiring to see The Vandals still have so much enthusiasm and passion for what they do. The Huntington Beach legends are amazing musos but also their humour is what stands them apart with tracks like ‘Anarchy Burger’ and ‘Live Fast Diarrhea’ as well as trying to humour the crowd by playing a legendary Australian classic; they suggested AC/DC, scoffed at Wolfmother, thought about The Living End and then ripped into an awesome version of the 1985 Mark ‘Jacko’ Jackson classic ‘I’m An Individual’. Quackenbush and guitarist Warren Fitzgerald switched it up for the last song only to have it cut short as Fitzgerald told the band to stop and then yelled out at someone in the crowd. We all thought something bad had happened but it turned out he’d seen someone put something in the wrong bin. Fitzgerald jumped off the stage and ran over to the large bin reefing the bag out and digging through it for a straw. Running back up to the stage and regaining the mic he then lectured us on the pros and cons of recycling; both a humorous and an informative set.

Marilyn Manson came out in charge. The band started off with ‘Deep Six’ from their latest album ‘The Pale Emperor’, but as to be expected it was classics like ‘The Dope Show’, ‘The Beautiful People’ (which had one of the most powerful grooves of the day) and the Eurythmics cover ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’ that drew the loudest praise. After their last tour, also playing Soundwave in 2012, it’s great to see what seems to be a rejuvenated Manson come out and own the main stage. What felt like a band lacking excitement last time was in abundance this time round; that trademark darkness and depth came out with passion and electricity.

Whether you saw GUNS N’ROSES or you’re a fan of Myles Kennedy singing some of those classics or not, there really is nothing like seeing Slash live tearing through ‘Nightrain’. Those riffs and that magic from the L.A. scene of the late ‘80s are irrepressible and gets into your veins. It’s a pity that there always seems to be a 50/50 split in the crowd of “killer set” or “they’re just a Guns N’ Roses cover band”, but either way arses were shakin’ and air guitars rocked out in front of Stage 2.

Were Marilyn Manson and Rob Halford sharing the same cool room back stage? The legendary Judas Priest frontman donned a full leather coat and layers of black as they hit a still 33 degree stage at 6:30pm. Fans ranging from 15 to 50 stood throwing horns raising fists. Forming in 1969, with a massive 17 studio albums and being a precursor for bands like Metallica and Anthrax as well as countless international successful bands today, it was great to see Judas Priest on a line-up that includes so many genres that are directly influenced from pioneers like them. Although vocalist Halford is 63, that trademark range of howling high’s is pretty close to being right up there and he still can’t help himself riding out on stage on a Harley. Classics like ‘Breakin’ The Law’ and ‘Turbo Lover’ were a privilege to hear live.

Who are The Smashing Pumpkins these days? It’s still the Billy Corgan show and since 2007 has featured Jeff Schroeder on guitar but interestingly the current touring line-up features Mark Stoermer (The Killers) on bass and the kick arse Brad Wilk (RATM, Audioslave) on drums. Like Marilyn Manson, it was evident from the start of the set that The Smashing Pumpkins seem reinvigorated; is it the release of last years ‘Monuments To An Elegy’, the current line up or the fact that Corgan just gets on with it now and doesn’t wank on so much on stage. Like so many bands on the Soundwave line up that have such huge back catalogues, where do they start and how do they fit so much into a 90 minute set? But the set was solid and Corgan’s vocals on fire. Covering their 27 year career including classics like ‘Cherub Rock’, ‘Disarm’, ‘1979’ and ‘Bullet With Butterfly Wings’ through to newer favourites like ‘Monuments’, ‘Drum + Fife’ and ‘Pale Horse’. Behind the front man the band were almost flawless and it wasn’t far off classic ‘90s Corgan all over again.

Day 2
Broken bodies from the day before strutted in early for another round as well as those who bought Sunday only tickets. Many raced to the opposite side of the showgrounds to catch Melbourne’s own King Parrott who wandered out to the sounds of ‘Popcorn’ as front man Matt Young started revving up the crowd. KP are going from strength to strength, gaining massive popularity and have also toured with Down and Orange Goblin. They’re currently an unstoppable force, which also perfectly describes what it’s like to catch them live. Confronting, abusive, abrasive, bloody, grind, metal and straight up in the first set of the day a massive wall of death with Youngy right in the middle. Not only did this set up day two well but also set the bar higher than most bands can ever go!
Soundwave isn’t always Marshall stacks and leather clad metal. Early on another Melbourne local on their second Soundwave fest, The Bennies, had Stage 3 all up and dancing! A blend of punk and reggae and as their lyrics explain, “life ain’t nothing but a heavy disco”. With songs about weed, smoking weed and mushroom tea, the guys are clearly out to have a good time and it showed with smiles across the punters faces.
Le Butcherettes features 25 year old Mexican born and L.A. based Teri Gender Bender. The founder and only original 2007 member had both obsessive fans and those who didn’t know her and were confused in awe. She’s a frustrated genius and comes across like a PJ Harvey without her antidepressants and on a chaotic high. The band are extremely talented with the set being a mix of music and what seems to be Teri’s interpretive dance from her far off theatrical tangents that may very well be her visualising the musical beauty and chaos she hears in her head.

UK’s godfathers of all things mighty and powerful Godflesh were the perfect warm up for Fear Factory and Ministry on Stage 4. With a career spanning 27 years, the band kept to their generally two-piece line-up with vocals, guitars, bass and programming. Although their sound at times can be sparse, they’re one of the innovators of the industrial metal sound that lead to bands like the two following becoming who they are today. Slow, steady, bludgeoning and at times almost like Pantera and Ministry combined, Godflesh were an excellent soundtrack to an afternoon melting away.

Steel Panther are the perfect blend of Poison and Andrew Dice Clay. Talented musicians that are switched on for the entire set throwing out witty banter about sex, boobs, sex, booze and did I mention sex? With some killer ‘80s metal guitar licks and hair that should be in a Pantene commercial, these guys need to have their own category at the Grammy awards and be automatic winners every year. I don’t know of any other person or act that could be so smutty and still have females laugh at their jokes and giggle at their innuendo. I’m also not sure if lead guitarist Satchel is into water sports but let’s just say there was some onstage motorboating going on!

It’s been a long time coming for Ministry fans, 20 years in fact, since they last hit our shores and that pent up frustration and need to go nuts was finally unleashed! Vocalist and all round legend Al Jourgensen sauntered out to the repetitive chants of “Hail to his majesty” and all more than happily obliged as it kicked into the song of the same name. Ministry’s repetitive industrial metal beats and riffs grab hold of some primal yearning and smash our souls against the foundations of what society holds dear. With songs about oppression, evil leaders and the New World Order, Uncle Al held the Stage 4 crowd in the palm of his hand. They thrashed out classics like ‘Thieves’, ‘N.W.O.’, ‘Just One Fix’ as well as tracks from 2013’s ‘From Beer To Eternity’ album they’re still touring, ‘Punch In The Face’ and ‘Enjoy The Quiet’.

With a 31 year career packed with so many solid songs it’d be a hard task to choose a setlist for Soundgarden. They came out punching with ‘Searching With My Good Eye Closed’, ‘Spoonman’, ‘Outshined’ and ‘Rusty Cage’. Perhaps the song choices throughout the last third of the set may have done it with the 1987 first single ‘Hunted Down’ that many people didn’t seem to know, what felt like an extended slomo version of ‘Black Hole Sun’ and then followed up with the track ‘Birth Ritual’ that was supposed to make their 1992 ‘Badmotorfinger’ album but was instead included on the Singles movie soundtrack of the same year. It’s great to hear guitarist Kim Thayil can still play those same dark and haunting riffs and vocalist Chris Cornell’s amazingly broad register can still reach those soaring notes.

With a stage curtained in white and decorated with hundreds of fresh flowers, Faith No More came out dressed from head to toe in matching white with Mike Patton singing through a breathing mask. It was straight into ‘Motherfucker’, the first single from their upcoming ‘Sol Invictus’ album. It’s a track that doesn’t seem to do anything to show off their song writing prowess yet it’s also completely understandable, how cool would it be standing there in front of a stadium crowd screaming “Motherfucker” into a microphone. Patton is still as smooth and charming as ever and even as they joked about their aging bodies it was never apparent and he can still croon, sing and scream like he did and if not better then when he first joined the band as their new fresh faced singer back in 1988. A huge list of songs came one after the other including ‘Caffeine’, ‘Ricochet’, ‘From Out Of Nowhere’, ‘Evidence’, ‘Midlife Crisis’ and ‘ The Gentle Art Of Making Enemies’ but when that famous intro for 1990’s ‘Epic’ started, the entire Stage 1 and 2 area went nuts. It was the largest crowd sing-along for the festival!

All in all, from a punters point of view it was another hugely successful Soundwave with very hot but stunning weather and some of the world’s biggest bands. Praise has to be given to Soundwave for this year’s mobile app that lets you set up your festival planner, has warnings for clashes and 15 minute alerts for when a selected band is playing. A massive shout out to the security who went above and beyond the call of duty with again handing out loads of water and hosing down those down the front as well as actually enjoying themselves and looking out for people getting caught up in the crazy. During King Parrot’s set there were a few punters that came over the top a little too excitedly and the security took it all in good stead and even smiled at how much everyone was enjoying themselves.

Festival highlights for this punter: The Vandals, Marilyn Manson, King Parrot, Le Butcherettes, Steel Panther, Ministry, Faith No More.

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