Soundwave Melbourne 2013 in photos

As the title suggests, I got to attend the 2013 Melbourne leg of the Soundwave festival tour. In case you’ve been living for too long on one of Jupiter’s inner moons (or you’re just not from Down Under), Soundwave is the largest Australian music festival of its kind to feature predominantly guitar-based alternative music.
The last time I went to Soundwave was two years ago, where I got to tick off that bucket list box labelled “I’ve lived” after seeing Iron Maiden for the fifth time. This time my must-see artists were Anthrax — who I sincerely hoped would play some cuts off the classic and crowd-favourite Among The Living album — and, to a lesser extent, Metallica. The most successful heavy metal band in history had visited Australia several times in the past but I’d never caught them live, so it would be good to tick them off that list. There were a few more bands I wanted to check out despite not being intimately acquainted with their music: Mindless Self Indulgence, Vision Of Disorder, Cypress Hill, Ghost, and a few others. But other than that, I’d be happy as long as I got great performances from Anthrax and got a reasonable dose of old-school Metallica. Anyone else that stood out during the day would be a bonus. Here’s how it went.

Preparation is of course the most important component for an outdoor festival. Take those trusty 12-up bovver boots as an example. Yes, one’s feet get sore by the end of a long day, but they’re essential protection in any situation where a large crowd is expected to do a whole lot of jumping up and down in a packed space. A proper hat, sunnies and sunblock are also vital. While wide-brimmed hats are better for sun protection, I’ve blogged previously how I discovered the hard way that such a hat can lead to unexpected back injury. Therefore, constant re-re-re-application of sunblock is necessary. As an added bonus, a pasted face of inch-thick white cream means you’ll fit right in with the crowd should you happen to be seeing a black metal band. Other essential items include the programme (sorry, program), emergency poncho, and a robust pool of cash to pay for the most expensive food and drink in Melbourne.Not shown: trousers, which are better than shorts if it’s cold and also mean less sunblock needs to be applied; and unimpressed fiancĂ©e, who noted that I stripped the whole bed just to get the neutral-white background for this photo but then ran out of time because I had a train to catch.

The whole act of just getting to a festival is in itself something of a ritual. On my way to the city to meet mates Al, Gabi and their friends for breakfast, I managed to feel much older than I was comfortable with after eavesdropping on some kids who had the following conversation: “Oh, she’s moved to Baxter. Baxter, really? I had a cat called Baxter… but he died. Yeah? My cat diarrhoead all over the floor this morning.”
Kids today, eh?
After a very solid man-sized breakfast — the only kind of breakfast to have before a music festival — we boarded the party train for Flemington Racecourse. Again, the buzzing vibe on the way in is all part of it, leaving the train as you get nearer, spotting nervous-looking prats on the lookout for sniffer dogs and picking the right gate to enter. You look up as you hear the noise from some not-so-distant stage and shuffle through security. And then you get to the most essential and wallet-destroying part of it all: obtaining your pisshead pass, i.e. your 18+ armband. Then you get your bearings. Which usually means heading straight to where that armband gets used.

A good part of the day was spent within the separated 18+ area. It’s separated by a fence but as you can see the stage is still visible. This is a big improvement on the last time I was there, where you couldn’t see or hear bands from the drinking area, meaning you had to be constantly vigilant of times.
I genuinely believe that separating it this way is the best way to run the show. The worst-behaved crowd I’ve ever encountered was at the 2011 Future Music festival. This was a fully 18+ event with no restrictions on where you could take alcohol. There was booze everywhere and I witnessed at least two unpleasant scuffles or fights, plastic bottles getting randomly thrown into the crowd, and a raver mate getting roughed up because he was wearing an LED lights outfit as part of his outfit. This at what was technically a dance music festival (as if there wasn’t enough alcohol all over the place, the giant Smirnoff logo, flashing in sync with the music on a smaller stage, was hard to miss).
We were actually quite comfortable with drinking alcohol behind a fence for most of the day while seeing bands we weren’t utterly devoted to. Your hearing doesn’t get obliterated, you preserve your energy, and quite frankly, I’ve done my share of hot sweaty crowd crushes.

Anthrax was the first band we’d intended to check out, booked to play the criminally early time of 12.30 in the afternoon! From where we were sitting we would be directly opposite the stage, so we waited for The Blackout to finish their set on the one adjacent to the right.
The Blackout’s Wikipedia entry say they play “post-hardcore” and while their singer seemed to angrily shout, scream and jump around a lot, their audience didn’t seem all that into it, something that was evident by the lack of a significant response when he leapt into the crowd.
At one point he introduced the next track to the crowd with words to the effect of “this is the best track we’ve done all year” or somesuch. I think we were getting a bit over it when suddenly we heard this tremendously heavy, electrifyingly bad-ass sound coming from the stage opposite us. It was the Anthrax guitar tech doing a quick sound-check and, oh boy, it was the best 30 seconds I’d heard all day.
Sorry The Blackout, but the Anthrax sound-check had more balls than your entire set. Which is just as well, because Anthrax were just about to hit the stage.

Where to start? Why not with Caught In a Mosh — as much of an anthem as you’ll ever get when it comes to thrash and speed metal. Show the band that just played how to really do it. It was loud. Fast. Energetic. Kids around me who weren’t even born when this album came out were totally getting into it. It was followed by Fight ‘Em Til You Can’t (which really is about zombies), taken from the latest album Worship Music, and then onto one of their best known tracks (albeit a cover), Antisocial.

I decided I’d head closer to the stage and arranged to meet Al and Gabi later on. As I approached, singer Joey Belladonna fired up the crowd up with a call to start dancing. “A war dance!” more specifically. For those not in the know, this is a reference from the track Indians — an Anthrax live staple and, as you can see, the perfect excuse to don an Indian war bonnet.

The most magical moment from the whole day came next: the song In The End. The second track from the latest Anthrax album, Worship Music, I later found out it’s a heartfelt tribute to Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag Darrell, two metal greats who are no longer with us. I don’t have Worship Music so I didn’t recognise the track at first, but the message was very clear through its sombre church bell intro, slow and epic pace and heart-wrenching chorus. As the song started, two large flags with bright portraits of Dio and Dimebag were raised. “It’s Dimebag!” I heard someone say excitedly next to me.
Also, at this time I got the first of many compliments on my Iron Maiden battle jacket. I wasn’t complaining. For now anyway.

Oh man, if a tear-inducing tribute like that didn’t move you, then the next and closing track surely did. Bassist Scott Ian, who incidentally has one of the best beards in metal, introduced the next track as coming from their forthcoming Anthems EP of cover tracks. “We think you might know this one,” he said. “So we’d like you to help us play it by singing along.” A few seconds later, the heart of every bogan within a 10km radius swelled with rockin’ Aussie pride. It was T.N.T. by none other than Acca Dacca. You don’t have to guess what happened when the crowd joined the of-course-you-know-this-bit “Oi! Oi! Oi!” that goes for much of the song. And it was even more authentic by Joey Belladonna’s uncannily good mimicking of AC/DC singer Bon Scott’s unmistakable nasal drawl.
Alas, Anthrax’s painfully short and early set came to an end after a mere 40 minutes. Apparently at the Brisbane concert they closed with I Am The Law (the most metal song ever about Judge Dredd) but it was not to be. Nonetheless, it was everything I had hoped for in a performance. Part I of this day was successfully accomplished. Now I just had to survive the rest of the day until Metallica.

After Anthrax I went for a bit of a wonder to check out Mindless Self Indulgence while Al and co caught Stone Sour. While I can’t say they’re my cup of tea there’s no denying singer Corey Taylor’s qualities as both a front-man and a vocalist. I caught most of the opening track before I was on my way.

When I arrived at what I was certain had to be the Mindless Self Indulgence (MSI) stage I felt a tad bewildered, as did a whole load of people who seemed to be waiting aimlessly for something to happen. The pic shows the stage where MSI were meant to perform… so where was the band? All that was to be heard was the sound check for Billy Talent (which had nothing on Anthrax I might add). A row of vaguely confused people were leaning against the front row of the empty stage, but not much else was going on.
I eventually asked one of the security guys what the deal was and he responded that the band’s baggage had been lost. Indeed, Soundwave promoter AJ Maddah later scathingly Tweeted that Virgin Airlines had lost the band’s equipment. So there was nothing to it but to see what else was going on.

As I said, I’d planned to catch up a bit later with Al, Gabs and the rest of my group, but with a full set’s worth of nothing to do something else to do I went for a wonder. I caught the closing track from metallers Sylosis, which I recall wasn’t all that bad, but didn’t blow me away. The dude at the bottom of this pic wearing the Bulls shirt obviously thought differently.
Also, it was around here that I got another random compliment or two about my Iron Maiden jacket. I still wasn’t complaining. But by the end of the night some dude liked my jacket so much he wanted to shake my hand in the toilet. But more on that later.

As if MSI’s mysterious no-show didn’t already throw a spanner in the works, it soon emerged that confusion was brewing among patrons due to seemingly contradictory set times. Just after Sylosis some random dudes asked me if they could compare set times. Their “official” programme, which they’d collected from the gate, differed from mine, which I’d brought from outside the venue.
Look carefully (click on the pic for a close-up, changes are highlighted) and note how Fozzy / Sylosis / Orange Goblin have been switched around on Stage 5, while Slayer was moved to a completely different stage entirely.

And this was them. One of these dudes was really concerned that he’d miss Orange Goblin (one of the bands above that had been shuffled around). Hell, if one of the bands I’d specifically come to see had their stage time changed and I didn’t know about it I’d be just a tad agitated too. They seemed nice enough and not too crushed that they might have just missed their favourite band — which is more than I can say for some of the confused and very unhappy Slayer fans I overheard on my way back to meet the rest of the group.

We caught up and decided it was time to get another drink or two. Forget footwear, adequate sunblock, a hat, water or any other precautionary measures to make the day less harmful: the things that will sustain the most damage during a festival are your wallet, followed closely by your liver. Yep, that really is $11 for a can of spirits and the slightly less outrageous $9 for a can of beer.
Consider that tickets alone were almost $200. That’s a lot of cash to get sunburnt, bruised, trodden on, worn out, maybe even pushed around all day, then followed by a long and tiresome trek home. Yes, we wouldn’t have it any other way!
We reconvened and caught Tomahawk. Now this band has always been a quirky to say the least and the performance was no exception as vocalist Mike Patton snarled, sang, chirped, hummed, roared, rhymed, whistled, whispered and sang his way through 45 minutes of twisted weirdness.
Now I have the utmost respect for Mike Patton’s four trillion side-projects and incredible vocal range. Nonetheless, I suspect there was a contingent of die-hards at the front who totally got it while the general gist I got from where we were sitting was that everyone else at this arena-sized venue didn’t get it (and no, funny how it sounded nothing like Faith No More). Sadly, I didn’t get any pics of Patton telling off someone in the audience, singling them out because, as Mike Patton said, “I’m trying to work here”.

After finally getting out of the booze queue it was time to kick back and catch some Slayer. This would be the third time I caught them live — I’d seen them once at their previous Soundwave appearance, and before that when I was 16 or so (yikes!) at Festival Hall.
There were no major surprises in the set. It was chock full of classic Slayer including: War Ensemble, Altar Of Sacrifice, Jesus Saves, Seasons In The Abyss, Dead Skin Mask, South Of Heaven, Reigning Blood (of course) — and one of my Slayer favourites Mandatory Suicide. This is one of those tracks that is always better live than the original studio version.

It’s worth noting that Slayer were the most high profile of the half a dozen bands to suffer from this year’s “Soundwave drummer’s curse” after Slayer Drummer Dave Lombardo had parted ways or been dismissed after a financial dispute with guitarist Kerry King. I say that because I suspect a lot of people were thinking about exactly that every time we saw substitute drummer Jon Dette (who incidentally was also filling in for Anthrax’s Charlie Benante) on the big screens .
Tom Araya (shown) can still very much rock the hell like it’s 1986. And although it’s not in the least bit related, check out this official and very lovely Slayer Christmas sweater that sold out in record time.

With Slayer over we headed off to A Perfect Circle. I’m not a huge fan — I’ve only owned one album which I ended up selling — whereas Al was a major Tool / Puscifer / A Perfect Circle / general Maynard fan. I didn’t mind, although their set seemed laid back, slow and quite minimalist. Only when Al pointed out that “they’re playing all their mellow stuff” did I realise that it wasn’t just me.
Incidentally, this was the closest we got to the stage for any band throughout the day. It also served to debunk the debate as to whether Tool / Puscifer / A Perfect Circle vocalist Maynard actually exists. True blue Tool fans know that in the spirit of smell-your-own-fart-because-we’re- that-awesome that only a progressive rock act can cook up, Tool’s stage performance requires singer Maynard to be visible as only a fleeting shadow or illuminated pattern. That is, Tool is a band that performs with a singer who is not visible on stage. This was the case at their last Big Day Out performance (look it up if you don’t believe me) and it occasionally leads to the theory that Maynard either doesn’t exist or at least isn’t there on stage.
On this occasion Maynard was indeed there, fully visible to the audience, donning what looked like a funny wig thing. He didn’t, however, move from his little soap box on stage, choosing instead to spend the entire set standing in that position.

A Perfect Circle finished at 5:20. We kind of agreed without actually saying it in so many words that we’d take it easy for a bit, so we headed to near Stage(s) 2 to camp out for a bit. We were getting a bit tired, but clearly not as tired as this guy. Imagine shelling out $200 to see your favourite bands, only to sleep through the event!

Cypress Hill may have seemed like an unexpected choice for what is ostensibly a guitar shredding festival. However, considering Cypress Hill mainman B-Real’s background with more than just dabbling with metal it didn’t seem so out of place. It wasn’t for us though. We eventually caught the last track, (Rock) Superstar — minus guitars — before Garbage fired up in the adjacent stage.

Gabi was the real Garbage fan among our ranks. I personally don’t mind them that much — back when I still had idealism I used to attempt appalling DJ mash ups using Cherry Lips and industrial tracks — but like A Perfect Circle and Stone Sour, they’re not on my playlist.
Garbage front-woman Shirley Manson’s Wikipedia page makes reference to her “formidable stage presence” and that at least is something I can agree with. Despite her small frame, her deathly serious diva look and coagulated blood red hair and makeup made her difficult to miss. And man, did she own that stage.
Between songs I chatted a bit with Gabi about the band and we agreed that there was something of a gender imbalance among the performers. Apart from Shirley Manson, the Paramore vocalist, the two girls from Mindless Self Indulgence and the girl from Fucked Up, we couldn’t think of any other outfits (or at least good ones worth seeing) among the 70+ bands on the bill that weren’t composed exclusively of men (NOTE: leave a comment if there are any others).

Garbage closed and it was time to dig in and catch Metallica. They were due to start at 7:45, but from memory it was later than that. I seized the moment and decided it was time for a crucial toilet break. Except… when the sun goes down on a festival, the freaks come out and things get really crazy. You need to be careful who you bump into because you might just unexpectedly run into Skeletor.

And then there’s the actual toilets.
NOTE: Before you reach for the sick bag, that filth is just accumulated MUD AND DIRT from thousands of feet trudging through the toilets all day. Nonetheless, festival toilets are one of the least glamorous aspects of a festival, and they get progressively more feral throughout the day.
As the saying goes though, “when you gotta go, you’ve gotta go.” Nothing to it then but to pull up your pants — as high as I could pull them I might add — and do the business. Indeed, images like this are another reason why big stompy boots like my 12-ups are essential festival footwear. At least I had my own space around me. Earlier that day I had to do my best stare-ahead after I getting deliberately shoulder-bumped by drunks at the urinal. Then on the next occasion I heard a voice behind me exclaim his praise for my Iron Maiden jacket. I turned around and he told me “mate, that is just beautiful.”
Then he insisted on shaking my hand.
“Ah… cheers mate, but you know, I haven’t washed my hands,” I said.
“Mate I don’t give a fuck,” he responded warmly.
I still didn’t shake his hand and I think that was the last compliment I got for the night.

Finally it was time to see Metallica. A little bit late to hit the stage I think but it was on nonetheless.
They opened with Hit The Lights, a golden-era speed / thrash metal anthem from an album that was released — are you ready for this — 30 years ago. Being played, right there in front of thousands of people, all rocking out like mad. THIS was heavy metal.
I won’t go into excruciating detail about how fantastically old school the MetallicaSoundwave set was. You’ll get a better account by clicking the previous link for the full set list, where you’ll notice that all bar one track were classic songs from the first five albums.

Yes, Metallica are rightly an amazing live band who know how to rock out. In no particular order, here are some of the things that really stuck with me.
For a start, people around us were having religious moments. A young girl who we’d never seen before was windmilling near us like mad when she buried her head in the shoulder of someone in the group. Quickly asked if she was ok, it turned out this was the first time she’d seen Metallica and she could hardly believe it was happening.
There were so many other, smaller things that worked beautifully. Robert Trujillo just being an incredible bassist, and Leper Messiah being introduced by James Hetfield with “Cliff wrote this”. Or the fact that, according to the previously posted set list link, My Friend Of Misery “has only ever been performed 18 times including this Soundwave show and only ever before as part of the complete [Black Album] album shows of 2012.”

And then there were all those song that I’ve heard countless times over the years, but which translated so well live. Harvester Of Sorrow with its slow, plodding beat and fatalistic riffing and Nothing Else Matters, which made me want to break out into spontaneous waltzing.
There is nothing more metal than the band that wrote Creeping Death playing it live in front of a couple of thousand people (even if, as every Metallica fan should know, guitarist Kirk Hammett took the “Die! By your hand” bridge that everyone loves from a track from when he was in Exodus, along with several other of Metallica’s best riffs).
As with Anthrax, so too did Metallica — live for the first time in my life — deliver everything I could have ever hoped for. I’ve been as vocal a critic as anyone for the last 20 years’ worth of material but you know what? Screw the haters. They were awesome live and I, along with just about everyone else there, loved every moment of it.

And then… home at last!
Tired. Sore. Thankfully not sunburnt but feeling a bit out of it as you can see.
Then Patapuss appeared for an investigative sniff. I bet he was thinking “where have you been all day?”

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