Tuesday, February 27, 2007

They All Lack Taste Sometimes

Soundwave Festival – Sydney Park 25th February

I must admit I have been a bit disappointed by the increasing lameness of the Big Day Out over the last few years. While the two headliners this year were among my favourite bands, the whole festival experience didn't come close to living up to all the fun I had in those first few years of attendance (ah the memories... Korn, Marilyn Manson's naked arse, Courtney Love's naked breasts...) where the whole day was excitement from beginning to end. I assumed my greatly lessened enthusiasm was just because I'm getting older and crankier, but judging by how much Soundwave reminded me of the first few times I went to the Big Day Out, and by how young the kids there were, I must conclude that the Big Day Out is just getting crappier.

The Big Day Out in Auckland has always been a bit of an alternative affair, mostly populated by goths, metallers and general freaks, whereas the Sydney one was horrifyingly mainstream; twenty thousand bimbos in bikini tops and big sunglasses, and twenty thousand douchebags wrapped in Australian flags. Soundwave on the other hand was a giant sea of black t-shirts. I felt like I fit in a lot better.

Of course, after sweltering in the heat all summer Sydney decided to treat us all to a massive downpour (massive by New South Wales standards of course, in Christchurch it would've been considered 'a bit showery') and for the first time in almost nine months I actually felt cold. I was actually quite surprised that so many people braved the weather to attend. The last time it rained like this here (in June) the CBD practically emptied out. One of the weirdest moments of the day was hanging out in the bar area when the rain peaked at it's heaviest and everyone (including myself) ran and packed in under the limited sheltered area by the bar. For some reason everyone just started screaming their heads off for no reason. It was totally random but funny as hell.


Anyway. The music. Out of a half hearted sense of dutiful nationalism I went along to the first band on the secondary stage, Blindspott. The last couple of times I saw these guys I was not too impressed, but god bless them they did all right by our little island nation on this occasion. And it turns out that the Aussie meatheads who sit there cracking sheep jokes for the first half of the set are the first to rush into the moshpit when they crank out 'Nil By Mouth'. Fancy that.

Just like at the Big Day Out the drink queues were insanely long. I was quite keen to see Flyleaf, solely because I saw a music video of theirs once and their vocalist is a tiny little chick who does crazy death metal vocals, but I spent the whole forty minutes they were playing trying to get a drink, only just getting out in time to hear the last chord of their set. That fucked me off pretty bad, and I think the organisers should have planned better for the incredible amount of drinking that was inevitably going to happen. I shit you not there were actually guys crowd surfing over the queue into the bar (where they were immediately set upon by bouncers, but it was entertaining nonetheless). Funnily enough this doesn't happen back home. Is it because Kiwi's drink less or because concert organisers over there are more scared of what might happen if a whole bunch of munters run out of beer? Discuss.

MxPx: featuring the rain. (The rain sounded better)

The rest of the afternoon was completely forgettable. I made a point of seeing MxPx, on account of having heard their name before, and was fairly disgusted. I thought the Blink 182/Green Day pop punk fad was dead and had been buried (by its more worthless but more entertaining offspring emo) but apparently there are still some dumb kids out there keen on this shit. And the less said about the shitty indie rock acts that played the main stages for the majority of the day the better.

Parkway Drive

Later in the evening I visited the little stage to see the hard shit. Parkway Drive were OK, I've never heard them before but I enjoyed their set. It was a good warm up for Hatebreed, who didn't play for nearly long enough but were just as awesome as the last time I saw them. Despite the downbeat lyrical content of their songs these guys just look like they're having shitloads of fun on stage. The moshpit wasn't as mental as the insanely huge death pit they started up at the Big Day Out in 2005, but it was still pretty fun. Violent, but with a good vibe.

Hatebreed again: you can't really tell from this photo but there's all sorts of crazy shit going on behind me.

Suicidal Tendencies

I missed Terror, on account of being in the drinks queue again, but returned in time to see Suicidal Tendencies, who were pretty fucking awesome. I hadn't really heard them before either but they were also a hardcore band but with a bit of a hip hop influence and plenty of flashy metal guitar wankery. I liked it. They were great performers with an impassioned and entertaining frontman and the crowd was very into it.

The Deftones. As you walk/ onstage.

I left Suicidal Tendencies set early to get a good spot for the festival's headliners, the Deftones. After much thoughtful deliberation on their performance I have upgraded them from a 'crap live band' to a 'not terribly good live band'. Sure there's no way that munting out and screaming along to 'Be Quiet and Drive' and 'Passenger' could not be fun, but they just don't seem to have a lot of energy or even much interest in performing, especially compared to some of the outstanding concerts I've had the good fortune to see already this year. Their setlist was a bit surprising too. Mostly Adrenaline and White Pony material with not a lot from the new album and nothing at all from the self-titled:
  • Korea
  • Knife Party
  • Be Quiet and Drive
  • My Last Summer
  • Beware
  • Engine Number 9
  • Root
  • Hole in the Earth
  • Xerces
  • Passenger
  • Kimdracula
  • Bored
  • Back to School
  • Change (in the House of Flies)
  • 7 Words
The standard disclaimer, that this setlist is probably highly inaccurate, applies more than usual this time. The Adrenaline and Saturday Night Wrist material especially I'm really sketchy on. Normally I'd try and confirm it against other setlists online but I can't seem to find any. As you can probably guess, I wasn't particularly enthused by most of the selection. The stuff off White Pony was awesome, especially 'Passenger', even if I seemed to be more into it than the band was. Oh yeah, they also randomly played a Boards of Canada track ('Dandelion') before 'My Last Summer', which was kind of random and cool, even though most of the audience just yelled at them to get on with it.

Chino Moreno: Still fat.

Now for my big bitch. The moshpit sucked. Maybe I've just been spoilt by gigs like Tool and Isis, where I was actually able to stand at the front and enjoy the show without having crowd surfers kicking me in the head every ten seconds, or those like Suffocation or Hatebreed, which manage to be very violent while still being fun for those of us who don't enjoy kicking people in the back, but it seemed to me that the mood in the moshpit was quite ugly. Afterwards someone told me that ten minutes into the set (before I had made my way up to the front) he'd seen some dude getting (deliberately) stomped on for a couple of minutes in the moshpit, and I could believe it. Anyway, I felt the aggression rubbing off on me and I was starting to get pissed off and not enjoying myself, so I moved back and managed to get a good photo! That's karma for you.

OMG it looks like an actual photo taken by an actual photographer with an actual camera

While the Deftones were not all I hoped they would be I saw more than a few good bands and more importantly I had a good time hanging out with randoms and not so randoms in a social setting that I felt far more at home in than at the Big Day Out (punk assed teenage kid wrapped in Aussie flag count: 1). Here's hoping there'll be a few more festivals like this here before the year is out.


lucy said...

sounds like such an awesome festival, i wish we had one here, oh well only five more sleeps till hatebreed :D got my chili peppers tickets today too, sold out in two minutes.

Jon said...

Yeah it was cool. Probably should have made the effort to see Hatebreed's sideshow concert but oh well. Have fun at Hatebreed, and have fun at the chilli peppers, although I can scarcely imagine how such a thing could be done.