Live Review: Soundwave Festival – Bonython Park, Adelaide (05.03.11)

I am exhausted. My eyes are red and my limbs ache. I have dust in places you don’t want to hear about. My black jeans are currently a lovely shade of brown. I feel like I have been out all night, yet it’s only 10pm. Soundwave, you really know how to take everything out of a girl, but you do give a hell of a lot back.

I rolled up to the festival at about 11:30 am, joining the throngs of energetic Adelaidians as together we marched on down to the dust bowl that is Bonython Park. The park has played host to the annual metal, punk and hard rock festival for years, and looking over the names on the list for 2011’s festival, I realised this was going to be a full-on day. There were eight stages set up, hosting 69 acts in total. For an old school metal fanatic, a lineup including Slayer, Iron Maiden and Rob Zombie would be near to perfect in itself. Add to the mix Primus and Melvins, and you have a rather exciting festival.

My day was kicked off by Queensland’s post-hardcore outfit, The Amity Affliction, who played a tight set of melodic metal. The crowd were intensely into in, full of energy and excitement at the beginning of the day. From where I stood at the back, I could see wild arms and legs going up in the air. The scorching sun was a bit too much for me, however, and so it was over to Sevendust. This band from Atlanta have that fantastic, dramatic, classic alternative metal sound, that kinda reminds me of Faith No More. Lead singer Lajon Witherspoon is an expressive and charismatic front man, and although there were a few issues with their sound early on, Witherspoon managed to control his obvious anger and continued on with the set. At one point I noticed him gesture at a girl in the front row telling her to cheer up and smile.

It was still early in the day when I reached the main stages, and I found they were less than packed, it seemed most punters chose to be elsewhere. Feeder were just finishing up, and I caught the last song of their set. The Welsh ’90s alternative rock trio didn’t really seem a fitting band for the main stage of Soundwave, even at 1pm. New Jersey psych-rock outfit, Monster Magnet were up next on the adjacent stage, also drawing a pretty small crowd, their Singer Dave Wyndorf remarked on the meager turn out, saying “what can you expect at one-fucking-o’clock in the afternoon?”

Another Welsh act, Bullet for My Valentine, drew greater numbers and were heralded to stage by the ominous overtones of “Carmina Burana”. Maybe a bit of an obvious choice, but I appreciate the intent. Their particular brand of contemporary metal, with catchy, poppy flavorings, seemed to be a big hit with the Adelaide crowd.

Meanwhile, on Stage 3, which was thankfully under the cover of a marquee, the amazing Coheed and Cambria were beginning their set. I managed to weave my way quickly through the masses of punters and only missed a few songs. The New York post-hardcore metal outfit are impressive live, displaying the kind of energy their cinematic sound deserves. They played a varied set, which included “World Of Lines” and “Devil in Jersey City”. Lead singer, Claudio Sanchez, has an afro to be reckoned with, but it would have more than a few rivals by the end of the night.

The Murderdolls were theatrical, with the lead singer, Wednesday 13, taking dressing in black to new heights by blacking his face and arms with body paint. They look a lot darker than they sound, playing hardcore punk and singing “Old MacDonald had a farm, ee-i ee-i oh my God!”. I didn’t stick around for the full set, however, as Primus were starting on the main stage.

The trio emerged onto a stage flanked by two giant, inflatable astronauts, and were met by a crowd of eager punters ready for some psych-thrash funk rock. Primus may be indescribable in their sound, but their live act is incredible and their legendary bassist Les Claypool greeted the crowd by announcing he had nothing profound to say, before launching right into it, which was fine by me. The rumbling bass intro boomed out like gunfire as they ripped into “My Name is Mud”, “American Life”, and even played new songs that, as we were informed, will be on the forthcoming record.

I was keen to stick around for the next act on the main stage, as were most of the crowd. It is strange to see a band lead by the guitarist, and not the lead singer, but as Slash was announced, a roar went up from the masses who had packed in to see the top-hat wearing, ex-Guns ’n’ Roses guitar God. Slash played songs from his solo work, but it was watching him expertly execute solos during “Sweet Child of Mine” that would be unforgettable. All hands together in the air for “Paradise City” to round things off, and for good measure, the tight-lipped guitarist managed a few words at the end, thanking the crowd and saying goodbye.

Zack de la Rocha’s newest project, One Day as a Lion, started up on the stage next door, keeping the momentum going and bringing something a little different from the guitar-based bands that I had seen so far. De la Rocha is accompanied by Jon Theodore on the drums, previously of The Mars Volta, and whose fierce energy, coupled with aggressive synths, provide the momentum to sustain de la Rocha’s aggressive hip-hop vocals. Their understated stage presentation had them tightly situated together in the center of the larger stage, however de la Rocha was animated and frenzied as he darted about.

It came to that dreaded time of day where I knew I would have to make a call, and choose which stage to head towards for the remainder of the evening. As tempted as I was to see Queens of the Stone Age, I found I could not pass up the opportunity to take in what I was sure would be a great performance by Rob Zombie. Zombie came to the stage, outfitted in his dread-locked, monstrous ring-master persona, and exhibiting a huge, scary claw arm which he proceeded to wave into the air. The sun was starting to set, and Zombie demanded all the petite Australian women climb onto the shoulders of the nearest burly bloke, before releasing about thirty bright-coloured beach balls into the crowd. The set included “Superbeast”, “More Human Than Human”, and “Dragula”, amongst others, and the costumed guitarist played a ten minute guitar solo while Zombie plunged himself into the writhing pit of fans along the barrier.

The day was wearing on, and it was ladies choice, and I chose to blow off Iron Maiden and stick around for Melvins instead. I was glad I did, too, as the influential sludge rock pioneers play loud, fast, strange music and were thoroughly entertaining. I did mention rivals for Claudio’s luscious curls early, did I not? Well, after a strong challenge from Zack de la Rocha, Melvins frontman Buzz Osborne’s ‘fro had taken out lead position, glowing like a frizzy halo in the spotlights. Melvins had four musicians on stage, two of which were on the drums. Hearing two drummers simultaneously (and neither of them playing the bongos) is quite impressive.

As Melvins set came to a close, I did contemplate sprinting over to the main stage to catch the end of the headliner, as Iron Maiden had been booked to play for two hours. I thought better of this craziness, as my legs were about to give out. Yet, it was safe to say that I had sampled more bands than I can even write about, and I finished up my day exhausted, but satisfied. Soundwave brings so many brilliant big-name and exciting acts together that ten hours is just not enough time to fit it all in.

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