Live review: Soundwave Festival – RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane – 22/2/14

Mastodon Soundwave Brisbane

HOW QUICKLY another Soundwave comes around. It doesn’t seem like a month has passed since Metallica, The Offspring and Blink-182 were topping the bill in 2013, but here we are again with a new crop of bands, another fantastic line-up, and a new set of timetable clashes to ponder. First world problems aside, this year’s timetable looks healthy and enticing across the board, and with the standard cancellations and what festival promoter AJ Maddah referred to as “pissing contests” between bands in the past and a weather report mostly free of rain, it’s game on at Fortitude Valley’s RNA Showgrounds.

One thing is clear from the off: Soundwave fans can agree on very little. From as early as 1pm there are friendly debates raging across the venue; the vast majority of which revolve around which bands to see next. Luckily the choices are vast, and equally luckily is the fact that Florida’s Alter Bridge are putting on a fine show of classic rock on Stage 2. Frontman Myles Kennedy is perhaps best known for his work with Slash, but his own band – in existence since 2004 – are great in their own right and his is the first of several outstanding rock voices on show today.

Over at Stage 5b Less Than Jake are rattling off the ska-punk tunes with a ferocity not often seen at 12:40 in the afternoon, and are clearly ecstatic to be here despite the early time slot. Upon singer Chris DeMakes’ instruction a circle pit is formed, and as shoes go flying skywards and several people retire to the sidelines shaken and bruised, the band kick on with ‘Plastic Cup Politics’.

Richie Sambora fills another early slot at 1:15 on Stage 1, and plays songs he trialled at his Sidewave show at The Tivoli two days previously. ‘Burn The Candle Down’, ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’, ‘Every Road Leads Home To You’ and ‘Learning To Fly With A Broken Wing’ precede the big close of Midnight Oil’s ‘Beds Are Burning’ mashed-up with ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ in a strong set. South-Australian guitarist Orianthi – a former member of Michael Jackson’s touring band – is once again outstanding on lead.

Directly after Sambora on Stage 2 is last-minute additions The Living End, and they pull the biggest crowd so far. The level of devotion among their fans is evident as every note and word that emanates from Chris Cheney, Andy Strachan and Scott Owen is met with screaming, dancing and fist-pumping from a diverse audience. ‘Second Solution’, ‘End Of The World’, and ‘Roll On’ are early highlights, and a later cover of AC/DC’s ‘Jailbreak’ is a nice touch.

It’s always satisfying to discover something new and interesting by accident, and it comes in the form of English alt-rockers Pulled Apart By Horses, who are making a hell of a racket at the covered Stage 5a. Having been swapped with Crosses so Chino Moreno’s group could have the later slot, the Leeds quartet set about their business with the right amounts of style, ferocity and humility. “We’re feel like we’re in some kind of dream. And we’re shitting our pants,” their guitarist says, which only makes them more likeable.

Costumed thrash-metallers Gwar, on the other hand, don’t seem the most likeable of chaps, and while it’s fun for some audience members to be squirted with fake blood and listen to indistinguishable lyrics being screamed by a bunch of fat guys in rubber suits, it doesn’t make for a particularly tuneful set. Nevertheless, it goes down well with a number of people, despite the blasé attitude to beginning their set on time.

Soundwave Brisbane 2014

Back at Stage 1, Placebo are running through a greatest hits set but with a few glaring exceptions, starting with ‘Post Blue’ and including ‘Every You Every Me’, but leaving out perhaps their most well-known hits from their ’90s beginnings, while Norwegians Satyricon are bringing the black metal at Stage 7b with a pitchfork microphone stand and the likes of ‘K.I.N.G.’, ‘The Pentagram Burns’ and ‘Our World, It Rumbles Tonight’. Meanwhile, Black Veil Brides are repeatedly shouting “wake up motherfuckers!” to their audience and Filter get a big response from a decent number of hardcore fans despite the set being cut short.

The next happy accident comes in the form of Clutch and frontman Neil Fallon, who – along with his harmonica and cowbell – puts in one of the most visually arresting performances of the day. The band go through a series of jams in front of a fairly aggressive audience, with a highlight being ‘Once More Unto The Breach’ as a toilet roll flies across the audience members’ heads. A long, bluesy jam follows; providing a free-flowing highlight not often seen in shortened festival sets.

Deftones frontman Chino Moreno’s side-project Crosses is a bit of change for him, but it’s one that works well. When he sings “I’m so excited I can hardly take it” on ‘This Is A Trick’ it’s a nice interlude to all the hard-riffing that has been happening so far today.

Alice In Chains provide a poignant moment back at Stage 1. “There have been six guys in this band,” says guitarist Jerry Cantrell. “This song is for the other two.” Acoustic number ‘Nutshell’ is of coursed dedicated to deceased former members Layne Staley and Mike Starr, while William DuVall’s vocal performance throughout the rest of the set is nothing short of epic.

Belfast punk legends Stiff Little Fingers make an old crowd happy as dusk sets in with a twelve-song set of stone-cold classic numbers, including ‘Suspect Device’, ‘Roots, Radicals, Rockers and Reggae’, ‘Nobody’s Hero’, ‘Barbed Wire Love’, ‘Strummerville’, ‘Tin Soldiers’ and their signature tune ‘Alternative Ulster’ just as a Soundwave official tries to usher their set to a close. A new tune entitled ‘When We Were Young’ fits in nicely among the older material, and the small crowd who turn up for “the band playing next to the hot chip van”, as frontman Jake Burns puts it, witness SLF’s first ever appearance in Brisbane in a near 40-year career.

And so: the head-liners for this evening. Timetable clashes become a major headache at this point, and it’s hard to know whether to stick with one or at most two bands, or try to jump between them and risk getting caught in the human traffic jam under the rail bridge.

Green Day Soundwave Brisbane

Green Day burst onto the stage at 7pm amid a retina-searing array of lights, and the quartet start strongly with ’99 Revolutions’, ‘Know Your Enemy’ and ‘East Jesus Nowhere’. It’s clear from the off that Billie Joe Armstrong is in good form and putting his all into it; he runs across the stage and flings his guitar around with all the vigour he displayed in the ’90s, and even gets political with a call to the audience to be more aware of situations in Thailand, the Ukraine, and in Russia in reference to Pussy Riot, before reminding the crowd of how lucky we are to be together. A series of American Idiot tracks follows; ‘Letterbomb’, ‘Holiday’, ‘Boulevard of Broken Dreams’ and ‘Wake Me Up Before September Ends’ before a series of Dookie tracks in ‘Burnout’, ‘Chump’, ‘Longview’, ‘When I Come Around’ and ‘Welcome To Paradise’ provide the nostalgic highlight. ‘Basket Case’ and ‘She’ are played pleasingly in order and a mash-up of songs including ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’, ‘Shout’ and ‘Hey Jude’ bring the pace down before a big finish including ‘American Idiot’ and ‘Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life)’.

It’s all over at 9:40pm, but after a long day of bands, beer and bleeding ears it’s a satisfying feeling to head for the gates and home. Highlights for the day include Less Than Jake, Pulled Apart By Horses, Clutch, Stiff Little Fingers and Green Day, but it’s the scale and variety of Soundwave acts that is most impressive. Same time next year, everyone?

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