Last weekend, I got on a plane with significant other and a few other bods, and headed to Melbourne for a long weekend incorporating much shopping (for the ladies), consumption of beverages, and the 2015 edition of Australia’s Soundwave Festival (the inaugural 2-day edition).
I’ll be honest – having been lucky enough to attend the 25th Anniversary Wacken Open Air in 2014, Soundwave was kind of an afterthought (with tickets kindly acquired by our housesitter in our absence). The lineup was announced, and there were a couple of bands that I was excited about, but by and large I thought it was kind of average.
2 days before we went over, it was announced that there would be no public transport to the showgrounds, which kind of worried me a bit, but it all turned out for the best. Turns out there were 18 other events on in Melbourne over the weekend, including an Eagles concert, Roxette concert, Guy Sebastian concert, World Cup cricket match, football match, and White Night Melbourne (which sounds like a Klan meeting, but isn’t), so the city was kinda busy.
Anyway, it worked out great in the end, and here’s brief summary of what I took in:
I, Valiance – Local opener from Melbourne. Kids up the front seemed to love them, maybe I’m getting old. Maybe it was the mix. I’ve checked out their studio stuff since, and it’s pretty sweet. Their bandcamp page is tagged “djent groove hardcore metal progressive death metal”, so if that sounds like a bit of you, check them out here.
Apocalyptica – Metal by cello. Had the absolute privilege of seeing them play a full instrumental set with an orchestra at Wacken 2014, which was mind-blowing. This time around it was half instrumental, half vocal, with vox duties ably handled by Franky Perez (ex-Scars on Broadway guitarist), who seems to have become the permanent vocalist. Apocalyptica were superb, and if you get the chance to see them, then do it. If you’re not familiar with the band, then you can check them out here.
Killer Be Killed – KBK’s first ever live performance. Metal “supergroup” comprised of Max Cavalera (Sepultura, Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy, Nailbomb), Troy Sanders (Mastodon), and Greg Puciato (Dillinger Escape Plan). Ordinarily Dave Elitch (Mars Volta/Antemasque) is on sticks duties, but due to Antemasque playing in Adelaide at the same time, Ben Koller (Converge) picked them up. Awesome show, super happy to have been present for their first ever live gig. Their album is superb, and you should check them out here.
About this time I’d originally planned to go and see Confession, because I really dig just about everything Michael Crafter has been involved in (especially old IKTPQ), but the solitary other dude in our group suggested we check out The Vandals. I owned a couple of Vandals records in my teens (‘Hitler Bad, Vandals Good’, and ‘The Quickening’) and figured there couldn’t be any harm in checking out some So-Cal punk on a hot Saturday afternoon, so we headed over to stage 3.
The Vandals were absolutely superb, and probably my wildcard highlight of the weekend. I’ve always been fond of bands that interact with the crowd and don’t take themselves too seriously, and The Vandals had that in spades. Right from the opener “It’s A Fact” through to closing with a ripping version of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” it was a full set of classics – “I’ve Got An Ape Drape”, “Live Fast Diarrhoea”, “Cafe 405”, “Anarchy Burger”, “4,3,2,1,0,-1”, “My Girlfriend’s Dead” – everything was ripping.
I only caught the first 20 minutes of Millencolin‘s set, because there was no way I was going to miss the chance to see Exodus, but what I saw of them was high energy and awesome. They opened with “Penguins and Polarbears”, which is one of my two fave tracks by them, so I was a happy dude.
Exodus had Zetro back on vocals and were amazing. Great mix of old and new tracks, “Blood In, Blood Out”, “War is my Shepherd”, “The Toxic Waltz”, “Children of a Worthless God”, they demonstrated why they’ve stood the test of time and are one of the greatest thrash bands to have ever existed (in my eyes anyway).
Judas Priest need no introduction. Priest were probably my biggest drawcard for the weekend, I’ve been a fan since I was about 7 years old. They played a great selection of tracks stretching across ‘Turbo’, ‘British Steel’, ‘Defenders of the Faith’, ‘Screaming For Vengeance’ and their new record, ‘Redeemer of Souls’. Rob Halford is one of the greatest frontmen ever, and their live set and stage show (including a Harley on stage for “Hellbent for Leather”) was perfect. Interestingly, we also saw some dude stop watching the show, put his backpack on the ground, pull out an Andy McNabb paperback, read a few pages, put it back, and wander off. In the pit. Australians can be a different breed.
That’s pretty much the end of day 1. I saw the first few tracks of Smashing Pumpkins while having a feed, and thought to myself “something’s missing”. The I realised that what was missing was James Iha, Darcy Wretzky, and Jimmy Chamberlain. Brad Wilk (ex-RATM) on sticksman duties couldn’t even save it. In my opinion they sounded flat and dull, like a band going through the motions to get paid. Disappointing, as I loved Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie back in the day (and still do now). Checked out a bit of Fall Out Boy as well, but by that stage the heat and tiredness were starting to get to everyone, so we headed off home.
Day 2 was always going to be a shorter day for me. We rocked up in time for Fear Factory . I’ve been a fan since ‘Demanufacture’, and missed their last couple of NZ shows due to poor timing on my part, so I was stoked to see them live. Again, a wicked set, good mix of old and new, with the last 4 songs being the first 4 off of ‘Remanufacture’ – “Demanufacture”, “Self Bias Resistor”, “Zero Signal” and closing with a stomping version of “Replica”.
Straight after that was Ministry. Again, another band I was stoked to see. Al Jourgensen’s autobiography, “Ministry: The Lost Gospels According To Al Jourgensen” is one of the best rock bio’s I’ve ever read, I think ‘Filth Pig’ is one of the greatest records of all time, and I’ve got fond memories attached to the ‘Psalm 69‘ record. Live renditions of “NWO” and “Just One Fix” were particularly awesome.
Dragonforce brought the power metal something massive. I saw them in 2006 with original vocalist ZP Theart, and his replacement Marc Hudson is no slouch either. They belted out a solid set of old and new, with the highlight for me being the thumping closer of “Through The Fire and Flames”.
I saw both Faith No More and Soundgarden at the height of their popularity in the mid 90’s, so I figured I’d check out Atreyu. I loved their old records, particularly ‘The Curse‘ and ‘A Death Grip On Yesterday‘, and their set seemed like the perfect way to round out the night – including a rip-roaring cover of Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name”. I’m not that keen on the new stuff they’ve put out since coming off “hiatus”, but the set was predominantly old stuff, and super tight.
Open air festivals are a great way of ticking bands off the bucket list, and who knows – you might come across something new that you dig. One of our crew ventured off to check out Tonight Alive and assured us that they were fantastic, so I’ll be adding them to my “stuff to check out” list for next time.