3 March 2012 Soundwave

Soundwave is a music festival that tours Australia at the end of each summer. In Adelaide, it is held at Bonython Park on the city's western edge just before it hits suburbia. It caters to the harder side of Rock through to the various forms of Metal. I have attended the last few and have had the great pleasure of seeing some absolutely brilliant bands including Iron Maiden, Alice in Chains, Nine Inch Nails, Bloodhound Gang, and many more. It's a festival that I look forward to with exuberance.

This years Soundwave however I greeted with a little less enthusiasm. There were some very cool bands attached but this year was weighted towards the heavier end of the spectrum and there didn't seem enough to warrant the $170 ticket price. It wasn't until the middle of February that I actually went and bought the tickets.

Planning out a day at Soundwave can be quite a challenge. The event runs all day with the first acts taking to stage around 11am and the last act finishing after 10pm. Most the bands are given 30/40 minute sets and on the schedule there are seven stages listed. Seven stages isn't quite right as most of them are split stages so that as one band finishes another can start up. The first two stages are actually one stage split in two but listed separately. So with six stages running 95 acts across 11 hours it could get pretty hectic.

The biggest problem this year was that I didn't care for most of the bands, especially during in the middle of the day. Thankfully this years Soundwave was the best catered that I have seen. Plenty of toilets (clean), plenty of food with good variety, and quite a few stalls.

Rather than cover every second of the day, I'm going to focus on some the best and worst of the day.

Royal RepublicRoyal RepublicFirst off the bat, at 11:20am on Stage 5 was Royal Republic, a Swedish rock group that we discovered late last year doing the youtube search for bands to see. They quickly became a favourite due to their exuberance and upbeat Rock and today proves no exception. They take to the stage to an audience of around 50 people, dressed in black and get straight into it with 'The President's Daughter' and keep it going throughout the entire set. Royal Republic have a great energy and showmanship even though the sun is fierce and they look as though they are melting. I pity these Swedes having their first real taste of what the Aussie sun can bring after a week of touring the eastern states in the rain. Check out their http://ww.royalrepublicband.com for more info and the excellent blog by their drummer.


TurisasTurisasA band that I hadn't intended on checking out but which proved a great surprise were Turisas. They took to Stage 7 at midday. Turisas are a Finnish Folk Metal band, dressed in leathers with their faces painted in black and red stripes. On looking at them it would be easy to write them off as just another metal band, but on listening they are quite catchy with the feel of a Norse Epic Poem being delivered to your ears at 1000W. I guess what really sets them apart is the use of a Violin. This adds a layer of enjoyable harmony to the Guitars and drums. After listening to them I feel that I need to have their album in my collection.

Steel Panther were on at 12:40 on Stage 1 and I just had to have a look and see what all the controversy I'd heard was about. The band looks like it was made up of rejects from 80's glam rock bands such as Motley Crue and Poison. They represent the worst of this style of music, distilled into pure offensive sexist rock. This is a band that has chosen to to be appalling and just entertain in the least PC way possible. It's refreshing, but it doesn't make it any good. I hang around for a few songs such as 'Fat Girls' or 'Dick Won't Work' or some such thing. This band is not really talented and their music isn't anything spectacular or even mediocre but they have found their niche and will probably be incredible successful there. Funny thing is, this is they have one of the biggest crowd's I've seen this early at a Soundwave and that scares me.

Over lunch I hear a it of Attack! Attack! And it's fun to listen to but not special or stand out. It's the same with Four Year Strong and their Surfer/College rock.

One of the major draws for me was to check out Bush. Bush had some hits when I was younger and impressionable and a few of their songs have a place on the soundtrack of my narrative. They take to the main stage and I'm thoroughly underwhelmed. His voice seems to lack the energy that I thought would be present and the lyrics come across dry and weathered. It's a shame really, but it seems that age has diminished the power of his talent or maybe it's because there is over a decade between me and the musician I listened to. It's all well and good to put on a decent show, but I prefer to get something better than the CD at a live performance and Bush just doesn't deliver on that front. Although it did seem that the substantial crowd he had enjoyed the show very much.

Paradise Lost were the next I dropped by on. I didn't know anything about them except that they were apparently a Metallica (before the sucked) style band from the UK. I walked to Stage 7 partway through their performance and was thrown a little by the Angelic backing track. I had to ask myself if this was one of those Christian Metal groups that pop up occasionally. That thought left when I heard the lyric “Raise your hands for Satan!”. Their performance was lacklustre and the audio was terribly distorted.

Another surprise of the day was Limp Bizkit. They were far better than I thought they would be (being I had a reasonably low opinion to begin with) and they had a great interaction with the crowd, the lead singer leaving the stage and performing a few songs from the back of the mosh pit, using the barrier to raise himself up for the crowd. They had excellent energy and maintained my attention throughout which was proving quite rare that day.

After a bit more wandering around, it was Marilyn Manson's time to take the stage. I didn't have much expectation when it came to Manson, I merely wanted to see what he brought to the table. Manson was by far the worst performance I'd seen that day and at any festival. It wasn't the band, just Manson, that made this performance terrible. His voice was garbled and sounded more like a teenage boy whose voice is breaking trying to do an impression of Manson. There was no stagemanship to speak of, and I was pleased to walk away.

Kvertelak are a Norwegian metal band who I'd heard a song or two of and thought I'd check out. Looking at the band on stage it was like a group of World of Warcraft friends had got together to form a band, singing songs of myth and legend. They are enjoyable enough in small doses but after a few songs I'd had enough – it was just too hard to differentiate the songs, even with the pause inbetween.

I wandered more between the stages not really listening to anything of note before returning to the main stage for Slipknot. Slipknot were the equal of their albums but excelled at performance. Dressed as they were as characters from popular horror moving across and through a very active stage with drums raising and lowering, flames bursting and all the things you generally expect of a rock concert. They performed with a great energy and that was a pleasure to watch although I'd have to say that I prefer Stone Sour's show last year to Slipknot.

Then it came time for the head-liners. There were two acts I wanted see that I felt sure would excel: Sisters of Mercy and System of a Down.

System of a Down had 1 ½ hours on the main stage and Sisters started halfway through that.

So, on the main stage, System came out and I was gobsmacked. The band played incredibly well and the mixing was perfect – no distortion, each note coming through crystal clear. Serj Tankian's voice was melodic and entrancing, made even better when the lead guitarist Daron Malakian

added his voice to the mix. I have enjoyed a few System songs on disc but had found some of their material to be too hard for constant listening. Not so tonight, every song is beautiful. What on disc is hard is exotic and gripping. Each song is powerfully presented so that you don't want to look away. System is by far the best performance of the day.

I duck away to Stage 7 to catch Sisters of Mercy, begrudgingly leaving System but I've been told that they open with Temple of Love which is a track I very much want to hear live. At the stage, they are still going through sound checks, testing levels and microphones to ensure a great performance. Finally they begin and the Temple of Love fills my ears. The crowd cheers and then the singer opens up and.... nothing. His voice doesn't come through at all, the microphone they spent so long testing doesn't work. They bring out a replacement and we hear part of a word, a sound here and there above the music but nothing you could call lyric, verse or chorus. To me, part of what makes Sisters enjoyable is the unique voice of the Singer and here we are seeing them and we can't even get something coherent from him. This is by far the most disappointing thing I've experienced at the festival today and in the past. With the sour taste of Sisters in my head I return to System who wash it away within a single track.


All in all it was a great day and I was very pleased with the outcome. True there were disappointments but you can't have everything perfect or you just wouldn't enjoy the good stuff as well.

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