It’s cold, overcast and around me are thousands of kids, all dressed in black, waiting for the doors to open so we can get the much anticipated Melbourne Soundwave Festival underway. Once inside, it was full steam ahead to the main stage to catch UK power pop rockers, FEEDER, start the day with a 30 minute set including Come Back Around, Lost & Found and my personal favourite, Just A Day.
THE SWORD packed in as many Sabbath-esque grooves as they could into their half an hour and once they hit the opening riff to How Heavy This Axe, the crowd erupted into a small circle pit of crazed topless slam-dancing. Horns were raised, thanks for coming.
MONSTER MAGNET have always been a force to be reckoned with when it comes to a live show and this time was no different. Armed with no fancy back drops and no onstage gimmicks, these 5 guys delivered the goods, as they rocked the hell out of the main stage kicking off with Tractor, new song Dig That Hole, and powering through their anthemic hits like Powertrip, Dopes To Infinity, and crowd favourite, Space Lord.
The biggest eye opener and surprise of the day would have to go to GANG OF FOUR. These veterans of the post-punk genre took to the stage proving that age is a just a number as they tore through 30 years of music. Guitarist Andy Gill beat his Fender like it had done something wrong, throwing it across the floor, kicking and attacking it in-between riffs and the occasional smirk whilst vocalist Jon King commanded the people like he was giving a sermon to an audience that seemed focused on every word. Truly mesmerising.
SOCIAL DISTORTION came on next to a thunderous applause. It has taken them 30 years to get to Australia and the crowd showed its appreciation by kicking into a moshpit frenzy as Mike Ness and his band kicked off with The Creeps. New song Machine Gun Blues went down just as well as old favourites Mommy’s Little Monster, Don’t Drag Me Down, Story of My Life and their staple roaring rendition of Johnny Cash’s Ring Of Fire. Let’s hope it’s not another 30 years before they come back.
I struggled to come to grips with HIGH ON FIRE getting a measly 30 minutes for their set but once they took to the stage after Dimmu Borgir ran overtime, I didn’t care. Matt Pike’s 9 string guitar belt out epic after epic of heavy riffage starting with Rumours of War and finishing with the title track off their latest offering, Snakes For The Devine, which would go down as one of the best live tracks I have ever heard played by anyone in years.
The MURDERDOLLS are still plodding along as the 2-man band complete with some hired guns as they entertained the crowd with their horror business goth punk rock. I didn’t hang around too long though as I needed to secure my spot for SLASH who didn’t fail to please me with a mixture of songs from his latest solo album and Guns N Roses classics, Nightrain and Mr. Brownstone before I had to suddenly leave for SLAYER. Down 1 guitarist with Jeff Hanneman replaced for this tour by Exodus’ Gary Holt, the thrash legends showed no signs of wear, even with Tom Araya just out of hospital and still on the mend. Blasting through newies World Painted Blood and Hate Worldwide, Slayer delivered on all accounts. Cult favourites War Ensemble, Mandatory Suicide and South of Heaven went down a storm while finale Angel Of Death was met with cheers as the crowd went fucking batshit in the moshpit.
KYLESA took to the stage immediately after and had a measly half an hour to prove to the crowd that they have every right of headlining this festival as anyone else did with an atmospheric sludge noise attack complete with not 1, but 2 drummers. Guitarist, Laura Pleasants, is captivating to watch as she attacks her guitar with such fierceness while vocalist Philip Cope roars over the mammoth sound emanating from the stage. An incredibly much-too-short set by a hugely underrated band.
QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE, I thought, were going to be doing the first album from start to finish but that was restricted to the sideshows only. Here they played a mix of tunes from their albums finishing up with radio hit, No-One Knows, where we saw a wheelchair-bound fan lifted above the crowd and brought onto the stage to watch the band from the side. A memory he will no doubt live with for the rest of his life. Crowd chants of “Maiden” started once the last chord was played but not before Josh Homme and his team came back for one last song for the dead.
Seeing IRON MAIDEN live is always a treat. There’s just something incredible about a band whose show involves manic guitar riffs, epic length songs, an overly energetic front man with a vocal gift from the gods and a giant robot playing a guitar during the band’s finale. All of this wrapped up in a 757 jet named Ed Force One, emblazoned with the bands name and artwork, which flies the band across the world as they tear up a stage for 2 hours a night. From the moment the band’s video intro played on the screens, the hairs on my arms rose. The band dived headfirst into the title track of their latest opus, The Final Frontier, and the rush forward from the crowd had me getting the fuck out of there. I am too old to be trampled on by a bunch of stampeding fans. Watching the show from further back, the energy was no less felt. Newer songs were well received but the gold still lies within the band’s past as songs like The Trooper, The Number Of The Beast, Fear Of The Dark and Running Free are met with adulation. Upon the sets end, I was now happily exhausted.
While still in its infancy, one could say that Soundwave has quickly become the best outdoor festival this country has to offer. With such a strong line-up of some of the biggest names in punk, hardcore and heavy music, it’ll be hard to top this year’s line-up but I eagerly await to see just what they have in store for us next.