REVIEW: SOUNDWAVE 2010, Sydney Australia

Its always a tricky scenario when one of your favourite bands is one of the first of the day at a festival. In this case it was Sunny Day Real Estate who were starting at 12.30pm. Leave the city at 10.30am? – that should give us plenty of time… NOT. Once we hit the motorway approach to the exit the traffic slowed to a halt spreading fear and apprehension in these SDRE hearts. A few quick manoeuvres and a side street saw us parking with 20 minutes to get to the venue and to the stage. There is nothing like a 2km sprint in searing heat to get you into the festival spirit. We made it though, with minutes to spare and were given a fantastic ‘best of’ set from SDRE. Guitarist Dan Hoerner was all grins while Jeremy Enigk gave his all, neck veins bulging – what a start to the day.

We bailed out of their set with 2 songs remaining to hike across the rolling Eastern Creek hills to the farthest stage to catch the tail end of Gallows‘ set. Chaos was in full swing with bodies flying, limbs wailing and the band playing like it was to save their lives. Tattooed carrot-top frontman Frank Carter was a picture of aggression and humour and took every opportunity to wind the crowd into a frenzy. They promised they’d be back by year end… better keep your promise lads.

After getting a drink bracelet, showing ID twice, lining up for beer tickets and then lining up for beers we downed a refresher and soaked up some Isis. At the Metro a few years back they were devastating, but outdoors in the dust and heat their sound lost its focus and tended to wash over the listener unless your focus was firm.

Up next Clutch brought a change of mood and melody with the southern styled boogie rock. Their frontman possesses a bark and bellow worthy of Danzig (without the D&D imagery) and they were a welcome variation on the death and aggression of many other of the smaller stage acts.

Anvil really are just trading on the sympathy vote generated by the documentary movie about them. With a terrible sound mix and some dodgy vocals they showed that they probably were pretty good in the golden age of thrash metal but unlike other bands  they just haven’t been able to grow and mature with the times. It was more an amusing than invigorating performance.

Back to the main stages for the first time there was now a mountain of bodies battling the peak heat of the day. Figures were huddled behind toilets and piles of rubbish which buried the wheelie bins that that were hopelessly outnumbered. Water seemed to be the focus of most people, so much so that by early evening all drinks at the food stalls would be sold out. Placebo were on stage doing their goth pop rock and doing it pretty well. Brian Molko doesn’t seem to have aged a day and they know how to hold a stadium crowd in the palm of their hands. But hold us they couldn’t for Anthrax were due on stage elsewhere…

One of the big four (with Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer), they were relegated to a smaller stage, a disrespectful move in my opinion. Sure they don’t have a new album to promote and they aren’t on saturation rotation on the video channels but they are pretty much icons of metal. From the first blistering guitar squeals and battering ram rhythms it was clear they were here to play they delivered in spades. Time, Indians etc… all the big guns were brought out, including a great cover of Refused’s New Noise. One of the highlights of the day.

Back to the main stage for the final run of bands and first up were Jane’s Addiction who showed all the other acts how to bring some theatricality to the festival with geisha/burlesque style dancers and Perry Farrell’s stoner rants between songs. Dave Navarro prowled one side of the stage, never offering much of a smile but pulling off the guitar hero moves like the seasoned pro he is. Across stage the original bassist and author of many of the band’s early songs, Eric Avery looked like the odd man out. In his own world and playing for the music he showed why the band needed him back in the fold and why it is such a crying shame to hear that he isn’t part of the new writing the band is doing. From the openers Summertime Rolls and Mountain Song all the way through to a fairly limp version of Jane Says, they showed why they are one of the greatest bands to emerge out of the LA scene in the last 25 years.

Time to grab some dodgy food and tolerate the earnest working man indie punk rock of Jimmy Eat World (what a stupid name). The crowd seemed to be digging them big time though. They were really just part of our waiting game for the reformed heavyweights Faith No More. Coming onstage in lounge jazz styled suits they played a straight version of the Peaches & Herb easy listening classic Reunited which showed from the outset what a stellar singer Mike Patton is. From there they showed the full range of their sound, from crushing metal (Surprise Your Dead), the big toungue in cheek ballads (Just A Man, Easy), the funk metal that they rose to fame on (We Care Alot, Epic) and pretty much everything in between. Having seen them many times before it was clear they are passionate about their back catalog and doing it justice. They were the perfect headline band for Soundwave.

So, despite the heat, the traffic chaos ,the lack of water, good food, rubbish bins and shade tents the organisers showed they almost know how to pull off a successful rock and metal festival for 40,000 people. Focus on making the event a bit more comfortable and it could well become an ongoing alternative to the increasingly predictable and mainstream Big Day Out.


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