So, I am finally back at work after an epic four day weekend in Sydney. I got to see Iron Maiden on Thursday night, but this blog is all about Soundwave Festival at the Sydney Showgrounds on Sunday 27/2.
First things first, it was nice that it got moved to the Showgrounds because they're walking distance from my friend James' house. Which was awfully considerate given that this year's Soundwave was kind-of James' 30th birthday party (and that another mate and I flew over from New Zealand for the show). Anyway, the Showgrounds has several big advantages over Eastern Creek:
1. More shade and water (although I'm told this is being worked on for Eastern Creek next year)
2. There are no designated bar areas, i.e. if you buy a beer you can drink it where you like
3. Everything is closer (although this makes it more crowded)
4. It's much easier to get to
Don't get me wrong, Eastern Creek has its advantages (chiefly - no sound restrictions), but it is out the back of beyond.
The first act on our agenda for the day was The Sword (12:10-12:40, Stage 4A). Not only do these guys sound like they crawled out of the 70's, they actually look just that way too. They played a decent set split across their three albums, although the highlight was their breakthrough track Freya which elicited the first genuine headbang of the day. They were enthusiastic, they sounded good, a great way to start the day.
We had strategically positioned ourself in a good position for Sevendust (12:40-1:20, Stage 4) who were up next on the adjacent stage. I wasn't just excited about seeing the 7D, I was seriously, seriously pumped. I've been a fan since the late 90's, and they're one of a small number of bands that are still on my 'list of bands I must see before I die'.
Honestly, I have never seen a band dominate any stage in quite the way Sevendust did. They were every bit as good as I had hoped and then some - and that is saying something considering they only had time for six songs. They were brutal and beautiful - opening with Splinter and ripping through a crushingly heavy set that included Black, Driven, Pieces and Praise before closing with Face to Face. It really seemed like they came out with the mindset of 'let's play really heavy songs and just completely kick ass' and I couldn't fault them on the execution - and nor could the rest of the crowd, who were captivated from start to finish. It's hard not to be when a band has quite that much sheer presence on stage - and this is despite Clint Lowery having food poisoning. My only hope now is that I get to see them again some time (and I am incredibly jealous of my friends Antony and Amy who were there also, and who saw 7D at a club show in Europe a year or two ago). Unquestionably the highlight of what was an outstanding day of music.
Anyway, then we rushed off to catch the remainder of Monster Magnet's set (1:15-2:00, Stage 1). Originally they basically clashed completely with Sevendust, but when Saxon pulled out the reschedule really worked to our favour. I was disappointed to discover I had missed (possibly my favourite MM song), Tractor, but we arrived in time to catch the end of Dopes to Infinity, and the last 5 songs of their set, which for the most part was geared towards their early to mid-90's material and their most recent album Mastermind (which, for the record, is thoroughly kick-ass). I enjoy MM not just for their sound, but also for Dave Wyndorf's voice, and he was in good form - with the rest of the band showing plenty of enthusiasm too. The best moment was the closing double-punch of Look to Your Orb for the Warning (AKA Matrix song), and Space Lord.
It was then time for a brief break - after 2 hours of solid rocking - which included a hot dog, a Powerade, and much further singing of "Space Lord Mother Fucker".
Next up was Stone Sour (2:45-3:30, Stage 2). I enjoy Stone Sour but I wouldn't describe myself as a serious fan. Still, I enjoyed their set which had a good mix of louder and quieter songs, although which probably could've done without Corey Taylor prattling on about the length of his hair.
We then had a slightly difficult toss-up between Primus (3:30-4:15, Stage 2), and High on Fire (4:00-4:30, Stage 4A). We opted for the latter, although not without some regret after hearing the start of Primus' set (and admiring Les Claypool's hilariously eccentric outfit). Anyway we got slightly waylaid with a merch tent stop and missed the start of High on Fire's set. We did, however, get to see the funniest moment of the day, which was the band blowing the sound not once - but twice - after the opening 20 seconds of the excellent Frost Hammer. Anyway, everyone kinda laughed about it - including the band - and then it was third-time lucky when they raced through a savage rendition of my personal favourite HoF track.
Next stop on the tour was Slash (4:50-5:20, Stage 1) - although we were fortunate enough to catch the end of Primus also (Tommy the Cat!). I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Slash - given that his set was really likely to be him and what amounted to a covers band playing a selection of songs by GnR, Slash's Snakepit, and Slash himself. But he was good - as was his band. The guy just has a phenomenal presence on stage - to the point where it really overpowered most of the rest of the band aside from singer Myles Kennedy. But that presence allowed him and the band to pull off a very enjoyable show - and I'd go so far as to say that I really preferred Sweet Child O' Mine, Night Train and Paradise City as performed by Slash, Myles and co. to the renditions of Axl and Co. (AKA Guns N Roses) that I heard a couple of years ago. Probably because Slash is somewhat less of a douche than Axl - and there's no denying that the guy really plays with a lot of feeling.
A dinner break ensued, complete with hot dogs and some particularly enjoyable chili cheese fries, before it was off to catch bits of both One Day As A Lion (6:30 -6:55pm, Stage 1) and Kylesa (6:30-7pm, Stage 4A). Actually I was stoked that we managed to get to Kylesa just in time to hear Scapegoat - what a great track. Apparently Slayer cancelled because one of them was hospitalised - honestly what is it with Slayer and illness/injury? Their band has basically been a casualty ward on the last couple of trips down under. I doubt the punters were thrilled either.
Anyway, I managed to score a good spot for Rob Zombie (7:00-7:50pm, Stage 4) - who was probably the second highlight of the day after Sevendust. This was a tricky choice due to the direct clash with Queens of the Stone Age - but I saw them last Monday anyway so Rob won (although I was REALLY FUCKED OFF to discover that Queens finished on Song for the Dead, which they didn't play on Monday). Anyway, never mind that the flash-looking screens behind the stage crapped out and didn't start working until half-way through the set - Rob Zombie has a ton of charisma, and coupled with a well-chosen set, he was able to put on a fine show irrespective of shit not working. And More Human Than Human, Superbeast, and Dragula were particularly great.
It was then off to Iron Maiden (8:00-10:00pm, Stage 1) for the final act of the day. I knew they were going to play the same set as they had at the Entertainment Centre three nights earlier - but I still really enjoyed it. Bruce Dickinson has more energy than a lot of front-men half his age and there are few - if any - vocalists in the same league as him for sheer quality. But you know, by this stage, an incredible day of music was starting to take its toll (on me, not Maiden), so we took it pretty easy for this last moment of the day.
A brief stumble home, and that was the end of it. Soundwave 2011 was hands-down the best music festival I've been to - an incredible day of music from some incredible artists. My neck isn't sore any more, the hang-over is gone, and my ears have stopped ringing, but I ain't never gonna forget one awesome day of music.