LiQUiFY didn’t request any passes to this year’s Soundwave Festival as we already knew there’d be an inundation of up-nose and crisp images from aspiring-music-photographers flooding the web shortly after.
You know what we mean? Yes the $10,000 camera set-ups and a little stressed bloke or chick with an oversized backpack pissbolting from stage to stage trying to fill their shitty band quota whilst shooting bucket loads of 500 megapixel fodder. We instead sought the punter’s view.
We were lucky to have the services of a very-special-guest festival veteran friend of ours (who wishes to remain anonymous). We filled him up on home-made liquor and cut him loose at the festival – armed only with a punter’s ticket, cheap pocket camera, an even cheaper phone camera, a few quid and the sweaty shirt on his back.
This morning we get back a couple of scrunched up pages of words and a memory card jammed in our mail box, so … join us now as we stumble through his festival diary and the nasty generic-brand SD card – getting all punk, metal, rock and grunge with some amazing bands.
It ain’t easy getting in to these joints any more. The days of jumping the fence or hiding in someone’s speaker cab in the morning are long gone for me. I get dropped at the back gate, away from the zealous cops and their fluffy companions. One problem though, they’ve closed it this year. The long trek ensues, the only comfort is the knowledge that there’s a pub between here and the front gate – we use the pub.
Back to the pavement. Approaching the gate now, already spotted the plain clothes pair on the footpath. ‘Nice disguise guys’ said nobody ever – so I head across the street and remorselessly blow their cover for all to hear. ‘Filled the quota for the day yet?’ I ask the nice young lady in her black polo shirt and jeans. She smiles and tells me how Soundwave fans are the most well behaved. I quiz her back with ‘you mean the Stereosonic kids aren’t model citizens?’ – we are both quite amused.
Gate time, ticket out, licence ou … fuck. No licence. I know where it is too. It’s on the bloody floor at the bloody pub – a very fitting launch to the day. Rewind. Now the barman is shaking his head at me, a mixture of laughter and a depressingly obvious appraisal of my uselessness. This would only be the beginning of the latter, much to my own detriment. Replay.
Boom, we’re in. Not too busy, missed a stack of great bands already but honestly who cares a lot? Fifty metres later and I’m catching the last song of Papa Roach, and iconic rock act of the late ’90s that was big around the time of the Napster revolution and Y2K bullshit. Last Resort is a throw back to the last days of the dollar drink nights in town, a stupid but nonetheless bouncing anthem that cranks as hard here on stage as it did on the metal club dance floors at 3am back in the day – it has the crowd semi-hectic.
Enough of this, over to get some metal – first up though is drink tickets. Yes, these nasty little inescapable scam items are the bane of every festival goers experience, but for the rule-abiding fan, they are also a necessary evil. We’re going to need a few. Dragging my toes again, floating through a sea of black – sleeves and singlets everywhere. It doesn’t matter what festival it is, there’s always an underpinning visual amenity as you navigate and realise the place looks like the result of an apocalyptic clone factory that has malfunctioned and spat out thousands of melted and deformed units, that however still carry the core clone genes. It’s even worse when that realisation also puts you somewhere in the same mix.
Twenty minutes have passed and all I’ve learned is that the top bar is shut off, and the drink ticket booths I visited last year seem closed. The thirst is coming and this isn’t good. Another hopeless moment arrives – figuring out that it’s cash at the bar this year, no tickets. Face palm. I rock up and order a couple of frosty fruity things, parting with a small fortune to taste their goodness. They seem void of alcohol. Fortunately a friend of mine named Vladimir rode in on my hip and placed himself in good stead. The momentum returns.
Exodus is proper thrash metal straight out of ’80s California and dripping with pioneering originality. They don’t sound like other bands – other bands sound like them. It’s a frenetic fret-tearing mix of burning riffs and mind-altering solos. It’s screaming and melodic yet somewhat ribbed with all the angst and frontal attack you’d expect. Good! No. Fucking excellent. This is what it’s all about. You can keep your whinging pop-punk bands and their fashionista fuckwit singers, stick em up your arse for all I care at this moment. Instead I’m witnessing proper as fuck. I’m talking Slayer, Overkill, Suicidal Tendencies and Exodus calibre. Yes, you know.
Despite the gross and provocative exterior, the abrasive over-the-top rebellion and the fact that this weird guy actually turned non-conforming into some kind of career, you have to admire Manson for at least some of his achievements and comments over the years. Staunchly pro-choice and, when he’s not fucked up on hospital-grade drugs, he’s a pretty smart and down-to-earth kind of guy who overcame being unpopular as a youngster and made money out of it. He had a lot to make up for this time in Brisbane, given that his last few performances were abysmal affairs, with the lucid singer flopping his way in and out of coherence just long enough to string together a couple of songs.
On Friday night across the street, Brian (his real name) had his Sidewave show at The Tivoli. During the gig it turned into some kind of bizarre Pirates version of a Fear And Loathing scene as Jack Sparrow, or rather an in-costume Johnny Depp strolled out on stage and proceeded to lay down guitars for Beautiful People. There were a lot of fucked up people getting around that night, some of them already had the ‘fear’ and the festival hadn’t kicked off yet.
That was the peak of Brisbane’s Manson experience and by Saturday, a lethargic and stupified act hit the RNA main stage like a fading battery. Yes the show was like watching your phone beeping down the last few percent of its power, the screen auto-dimming and finally going into cardiac arrest. Marilyn struggled and the show felt like wet cardboard to the skin.
Speaking of such things, it’s off to the trough to meet up with Vladimir momentarily. Searching, seething – there’s been a few txts coming through … are you here? Are you there? Do we care? Light turns to dark and my vision blurs ever so slightly as lasers cut through the glaze to the skies above. I semi-resign myself to not running anywhere for anyone. Besides, Slash is playing, he quit drinking and he shreds! If you ever had to choose between Slash and his band, and F-axl featuring the Guns N’ Roses cover band … well it depends on the moment I suppose.
Walking towards Slash now and looking for the D-Barrier entry lights. No fucking way! It’s finally gone. There’s still a barrier to prevent one of those crowd-crushing events of yesteryear, but it has no power-tripping thick-necked guys in yellow shirts supervising it anymore. It’s come as you are, go when you please, come back again. I am going to deem this an upper and a win.
The last time I saw Slash was a few years ago in England at Download Festival. Like most normal festivals everywhere BUT in Australia, over there they of course don’t subject their paying guests to such next-level policing and control, and provided the barrier in place sufficiently prevents death to little intoxicated kids, they need no more. Have you ever been in a crowd crush of 30,000 people pushing behind you? No words can tell of the despair and only those who know, know it. I’ve seen it six people deep, pancaked with dudes slam dancing on top of the pile – crushed limbs, expired chests, oxygen-void spaces. It’s a strange feeling to be pinned, unable to breathe and looking at the bloke above you, using only your eyes to ask for help. Nowadays I love the barriers a lot, but they have got to be open – just like this! Props AJ, thank you.
Fist full of touched-up drinks, into the slosh pit just in time to be welcomed to the jungle. Slash doesn’t give a fuck, not one. He invented not giving any fucks – it’s his, he owns it. Nostalgic and boganesque, the songs are delivered exceptionally well with Bostoner Myles Kennedy dominating the lead vocals. Myles has got it. He has that non-descriptive thing that wraps up talent, performance, positivity, more talent and a good helping of star-power. With Slash, the two of them are like a big-block v8 engine purring at medium to high revs. Solid. And I’m out.
FALL OUT BOY (The downward spiral)
A few fine folk track me down in the mess of it all. Dion and I talk music video production for his death metal outfit from the Goldy, run into a few more loose people and of course festival staples and mates, Jay Dee and Danae. Dropping drinks like rocks now, suddenly I’m dragged in to see Fall Out Boy momentarily. I’ve stepped out of a messy pit of westies into a strange tent full of weird hipsters with top knots and lumberjack beards. What the fuck are these top knots anyway? Some kind of new trend or even a post-mod Japanese styled mini shogun haircut tied up in a feminine looking bun on the centre of the crown. Fuck I have to have an actual laugh. I am too old to give any of my own fucks for 21st century culture trends that have men dressing as alternates in order to attract equally misguided young women. There must have been a new master clone source added to the output system – expect more of these new top knot sheeple turning up at a venue near you soon.
Seems I am not alone here
So this dorky looking band – someone said they are popular-ish, or were at some point? The ticking time cripples my camera battery to now match the low levels of Marilyn Manson‘s paralytic episode earlier. Reach in for the spare in the case. Nope. Some fuck has had a fair dig and relieved me of my affects. The damage bill is one $50 note, three spare memory cards, the brand new $75 spare camera battery I talked my girl into putting on her credit card, my lost-and-found-again driver’s licence and the camera bag itself. I might have lost it, but despite my own gravity-bent state I am certain I buried that fucking case in my pocket so deep that it was halfway up my own arse. Glass is half full, glass is half full. I keep telling myself that when I realise that the fucker stole an empty camera case and aside from $50 got a hand full of uselessness. Time to fob off this mess of despair, along with the audibly challenging Fall Out Boy scene – it’s doing my fucking nut in.
Why? Just why? Billy used to be king, he was the freaky cool guy with his eclectic band who for years belted out paralysingly melancholy power ballads and soothingly sombre tunes – an important pillar of the hybrid grunge-goth late ’90s scene. Who hasn’t drowned themselves in a little Pumpkins at some point in their life right? I caught them a few years back at Richard Branson’s festival, and what an incredibly messy affair that day was – it left positive scars. At least that time you could say the actual band was with him. Today it’s Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins cover band. Gone is the Darlek suit or turtle neck nerd-shirt, now stands a rather plain and borish man, sided by strangers and completely uninspired. It’s clutching and fading at the same time.
I’m glancing over at the dark stage. I hear his unmistakable voice and realise that seeing this band now, in their and my current state, and with the lacklustre vibe that’s thick in the surrounding air would be the nail in my own emotional coffin for the day. Nope. Not now and not like this. Beat it kooks. I’m off for some soul-firing redemption. Picking up the pace now. The main arena is a sea of bright red!
I already know they’re not going to top the last time they came a few years back. That was fucken spectacular. Corey dedicated Duality to his late friend and fellow Skipknot member Paul Gray as Sid simultaneously dove from the sound-desk tower into the crowd. Shit erupted all night. 2015 and we meet again, back in the pit, back on the floor, waiting to jump the fuck up.
Devilish and raw, these guys never fail to put on a stellar brain smacking show and justify again why they command the top spot at many festivals around the world. Smashing kegs, hydraulic percussion towers, fire and strobes. The visual onslaught is relentless but the pit seems a little mellow. Brisbane is usually the first stop of the Soundwave Festival, but this year it’s second last and last (due to the two-day format changes). Sadly it kind of shows. My inebriation is now complete and I’ve moved into a kind of ether-like state, drifting through the mosh, shunting a few of the kids for six. Poor kids have missed out, and whilst it’s plenty exciting, this pit is operating at about 30% of what it is capable of. I duck a few fists and start shooting some shots with my shit brick phone. So funny seeing people losing their shit whilst I make my way to the front.
One final fail for the day awaits, and although I am somewhat satiated by now, pulled from the brink by the ever reliable Slipknot, it’s about to slap me one last time. 9:51PM now, show finishes at 10:00PM – or does it? Suddenly the band just says ‘thank you’ and walks off the stage. No way, there has to be one last massive fiery blast to send of the night right? Fuck no, it’s over and the lights come on. A wad of security guards appear from out of thin air and start ordering people to get the fuck out of there. No closure. No dessert. Just eat your fucken broccoli and go to bed. We know it’s a tough game, money is tight and putting on festivals is a ruthless affair, but after paying $10 a pop for watered down lolly drinks all day (thank fuck I topped them up) you really thought your ticket price included the full 90-minute set from Slipknot.
Truth be told, we never know the reasons behind anything we see when we are punters out the front, so we should just shut the fuck up and take whatever they offer us – or don’t. It’s a simple measure – if people get the shits, they don’t return next year. Soundwave is still a great show, a valuable thing to have and I thank those that sacrifice to bring it. I think people should always save up, pay up and support it otherwise live music, the loud and terrifying loud music that we love – be it local or international – will wither and petrify before our eyes.
The back gates were closed to get in, but how about getting out? A blurry loss of a few minutes and boom, I’m in the fucking stockade sheds, running loose like some goat’s kids with some random people. We’re shoving on fire exit doors and oddly the first set is locked with padlocks (bright move whichever dickhead did that one up), we’re in some tunnels – echoes and laughter. Banging shed gates. Snap! We’ve broken through and exit to the north, but I don’t think this was a planned exit. If you can’t break in to many festivals nowadays, I can attest that you can still break out of them. I have a listless blankness from today, it was neither yay or nay – tomorrow might prove to be a pivotal change to the weekend as a whole //