Brisbane Soundwave 2012, 25/02/12

The music sounds better with you...

Never before have so many gumboots been worn by so many metallers for so many bands...

Yes, it has been raining on and off (and quite heavily too) for the last couple of days, and yes, rain was forecast on the day for Brisbane’s hosting of the 2012 Soundwave Festival, but a few drops of rain weren’t going to dampen our spirits. And the crowds at the RNA Showgrounds proved that.

I hooked up with MaF snapper Kryptyk at the rather ungodly hour of 10:15am and after a bit of mucking about with press passes and the like, we set off for our first band of the day – those Finnish folk metallers Turisas. The ground was already pretty boggy but the crowds were beginning to trickle in and we got ready for the openers. Then came the news that Turisas had been moved to another stage and were running a bit late, which is a bit of an inconvenience if you’re a punter but when you’re covering twenty odd bands it really throws a peanut in the works. So off we trekked to another stage where a crowd was gathering and there were more than one or two fans with red and black face paint. A cheer went up as the Turisas backdrop was hoisted up on stage. Then the rain started. Then I looked at my phone and realised Black Dahlia Murder would be hitting the stage in a couple of minutes so I departed, leaving Kryptyk to snap away for your delight.

Brian Eschbach and the boys hit the stage in a frenzy, and with a few “What the FUCK is up, Soundwave?” shouts out to the crowd, the pit gets moving and it’s on. The bass was heavy and the sound was phenomenal; it was an absolutely relentless barrage of artillery with the bass and drums going off. I could feel the double kick pedals in my heart, it was that good. Simply put BDM were tight as a nun’s lady-bits and coupled with the excellent sound (big nod to the engineers), they owned the crowd. Brian got his shirt off and had no belly shame; as he said so himself, it was “...fucking’ righteous, man”. A circle/mosh pit later and there were bodies surfing the crowd all over the shop. A fine start, indeed.

Next up were Steel Panther, and by now everything was running slightly late so I only got to see them hit the stage with in a flurry of hair with their opening number Supersonic Sex Machine. Michael Starr had a touch of Dave Lee Roth about him (remind me to tell you about his Van Halen tribute band - Ed) and as much as I wanted to hang about for his renowned stage banter, I left to catch Gojira. As I departed I could hear Michael singing “I’m gonna jerk off in your face, bitch” Not particularly sophisticated but amusing to many. I later found out that he’d managed to encourage a few of the ladies to get their jubblies out. The spirit of the festival takes us all in different ways.

It had started to rain again but despite the weather, you could tell Gojira were ecstatic to be there; the smile on every band member’s face showed genuine joy and it was a sea of horned salutes as the crowd chanted “Go. Ji. Ra. Go Ji. Ra” – the whole band went mental punching out the notes to an all too brief set. As their first gig in Australia it was a joyous one; at one point I thought bassist Jean-Michel Labadie was going to break his face – his grin was that wide. By now, the Showgrounds was a sea of mud although there were some plastic mats strewn about in the worst places, these soon became as sodden and mushy as the ground itself. 

No matter. Meshuggah were up next and I was eager to hear some new tracks from Koloss. I caught a couple of tracks from Shadows Fall as I waited for the ‘Shug; they were pretty sweet and vocalist Brian Fair’s dreads were like an entity in their own right. Some more rain fell and it was at this point that I started to question my level of enjoyment. I was soaked. I was muddy. I was on my own because most of my mates had gone off to see other bands (I essentially spent the day on my own *sob*). And to top it off, in the interests of professional journalism, I was completely and utterly straight. For me, this isn’t what a festival is supposed to be about – it’s about hanging out with mates, getting a bit/a lot toasted and checking out some bands that you’ve been hanging out for ages to see in a live setting. I was moody. I admit it. And let me tell you; a soundcheck in Swedish is no more fun than one in English.
Finally Meshuggah hit the stage and I put aside my slightly foul mood. The crowd went absolutely ballistic and Jens Kidman urged the whole place on. It was downtuned goodness, delivered note perfect. I felt my spirits lifting again, despite the sporadic rain. Jens wasn’t given to too much chatting in between songs (perhaps it was to do with the fact he was having issues with his monitors?) but when he warned they were playing a new track and they “might fuck it up”, no one cared but everyone went wild. It was Meshuggah and it was sooo fucking heavy. Apparently there were some noise complaints, which was a source of amusement for Jens. Sadly I had to drag myself away across the muddy fields for Paradise Lost so I missed out on the end of Meshuggah’s set. But by adding this half set to the half set I saw at Soundwave 2010 it equalled a whole set. Everyone’s a winner, baby.
Twenty minutes later than scheduled Paradise Lost hit the stage; I was pleasantly surprised to find them much heavier live than on their recordings and the sound was good, although the vocals of Nick Holmes were a bit low in the mix. By the second track, the crowd was warming up and Holmes made a joke about starting the band 60 years ago – way before most of you were born. Pity The Sadness and The Enemy (Nick admitted to forgetting what album it was on) got everyone swaying about but once again due to the overrun, I was forced to leave so I could catch Bad Religion.

By now, all the extra five minutes late here and ten minutes late here were beginning to add up, which wouldn’t have been a problem if I was only there for the experience. But I wasn’t; I was there to report on the experience, which I found to be a very different beast. Sobriety is a terrible disease and should be fought with copious amounts of alcohol but at $10 for a mid-strength Jim Beam & Coke, it’s pretty much impossible to get even slightly squiffy. For some reason, mid-strength booze just makes me want to piss and I don’t get actually get drunk. So I stuck with filthy non-alcoholic drinks in the interests of journalistic professionalism.The things I do you you, our dear MaF readers...anyways there were plenty of folk who seemed completely off their nuts (on what drug of choice, I had no idea) – they were mud-diving and sitting in filth, contented as pigs in mud. I made a mental note that more often than not, that would usually be me.
Bad Religion were bang on time and played a fine set. They were looking a bit old (Greg Graffin said so himself) but they still played a punchy set. It was nice to see a Gibson SG being used too.

I drifted away to Trivium to the strains of Los Angeles Is Burning. Then came some more rain and the Triv were ten minutes late on. As an inverse reaction to Lost Paradise, I found Trivium to be less heavy than their recordings but they still got the crowd moving about and clapping along. I must admit I had a lot of fun watching a police-man futilely trying to locate the source of some stinky weed. It was coming from everywhere, man! For me, Trivium only really peaked towards the end of the set but anyone playing a BC Rich guitar is OK with me. I watched as mud-splattered moshers with dazed looks reeled out of the pit; stumbling along with half-vacant stares, their glazed looks like photos of soldiers from World War 1. I did a kind of half-circle to get to the stage next door for one of the bands I was aching to see; Mastodon.

It had pretty much been raining on and off all day but when Mastodon hit the stage, it warmed the cockles of everyone’s hearts, they ran through a solid mix of old and new; a couple of tracks from The Hunter then some older stuff, then some newer stuff. I was happy again, watching these fellows. I could’ve stayed forever but the next band on my list was Kvelertak and it was raining like fuck now. As I left, Curl Of The Burl wafted across the Showgrounds. I knew I was getting dark again because I wasn’t enjoying the costumes of some fans (Spiderrman and Fairy Lady to name but two) and I wasn’t enjoying the vibe. I was reporting and I was sober. Dammit.

Despite their Norwegian vocals (and being on one of the smaller stages), Kvelertak put on a fucking great, high energy show. They really needed more than half an hour but they got everyone going despite it being a bit of a tight squeeze on stage. It was pretty funny watching fans trying to sing along in Norwegian but I’d found a dry spot to eat my hot chips thereby restoring some kind of warmth to my frail, old body so I was reasonably happy. It was raining again but it was a solid performance. Like Gojira this was Kvelertak’s first gig in Australia, singer Erland Hjelvik pointed out this out, adding “It’s fucking raining”...perhaps someone slipped something in my drink because at times, I swore he was singing in English. Maybe it was just fatigue on my part - I’d probably walked about 50 kilometres by now and while I wanted to catch a spot of Hatebreed, I opted for a dash of Dillinger Escape Plan instead, which was brilliant. You can’t go wrong with DEP – they practically guarantee an energetic set every time and watching Greg Puciato scale the speaker cabinets and leap about, my heart was once again warmed with all things Soundwave. I also heard they smashed the shit out of their set-up afterwards, something I missed because I was on my way to catch Slipknot. By now it was dark, the place was heaving and getting anywhere took at least 10 to 15 minutes. It was apparent that there were a lot of Slipknot fans as every other person was wearing a spooky mask or face paint (which in most cases had washed off to a smear).

The Knotty boys hit the stage with a wash of red lights, their signature ‘S’ aflame on stage. The scary masks are frightening me. But hang on – there’s nothing happening. We can see you but you’re doing nowt? Slipknot appreciate the concept of dramatic exertion and they’re keeping the crowd waiting. Then he gave the finger and started twitching. Five minutes later and finally they start with a bang (literally). Naturally everyone goes mental. As the lyrics “You can’t kill me cos I’m already inside you” echo around the arena, the audience are in Slipknot’s palm. They’ve got two huge steel drum/keg rigs for percussion and one of them elevates and revolves. It’s exciting stuff with flames shooting all over the place. A real Workplace Health & Safety nightmare. “Are you feeling it?” The crowd roars. Apparently so. Am I? Meh. I don’t mind Slipknot but I’m not a huge fan but it’s obvious a lot of fans are here today and it does my cold, embitttered heart some good to see them all jumping up and down, enjoying themselves. I fought may way through the crowds to get a good spot for the man I love; Devin Townsend.

Rain. Fucking rain. Again. But even before Devin hits the stage, we’re treated to Ziltoid Radio playing such poptastic hits as Aqua’s Barbie Girl and other equally cheesy pop tunes. It’s a very amusing prelude to see a bunch of hardened metal-heads prancing about to All The Single Ladies as the rain fails gently down on their muddy faces. Suddenly the stage goes dark and Ziltoid is on the screen preaching a crazy message. There’s a huge synth intro and then it’s all on. There’s a legend on the stage and I’m back in a joyous zone. I love Devin Townsend; did I tell you that? He’s pumping out his spaced out, ethereal tunes and I’m so fucking happy. He says “You know what, guys? I fucking love this job” and you can tell he does. “Does anyone here believe in unicorns?” and the crowd whole-heartedly admit to it. We get another message to vote for Ziltoid and the Nerd Party 2012. At this point, Devin could ask the crowd to eat his own poo and they’d happily do it. Although we must beware – Ziltoid hates shit coffee. Devin pulls out some inhuman solos and we all go wild via a shitty techno party and we’re urged to form a tetrahedron pit. He finishes with Juular and is gone before the tears of happiness are dry on my cheeks. Soundwave was worth it just for that gig.

Finally it’s the Sisters of Mercy and their gorgeous electro-goth tunes. The crowd is thin and receding and so are the the hairlines; it’s an old crowd but they still shuffle their ancient bones to the old school sounds. Like when I saw Gary Numan, the guitars are way heavier live and it’s both juicy and satisfying. What are the youngtards missing? Suddenly it’s all over and I’m winding my merry way back home. My conclusion? A great day that would have been improved by having some mates to share the magick with. It’s about living the day, not reporting on it but I gave it my best shot. And fuck! Wasn’t the hot shower when I got home good.