I was stopped at a roundabout at around ten o’clock at night.
“Oh!” He said, “I have a surprise for you. Close your eyes.”
Remember, I’m stopped at a roundabout. In a car with the engine on. But I decided that I’d close my eyes anyway. Just before I did, out of the corner of my eye, I see a flash of cardboard and silver and figure that he’d found the funds for Tech N9ne tickets. Thinking I was about to be invited to my first rap show, I closed my eyes tight and waited. When I opened them, the cardboard was sitting in pride of place in the middle of my steering wheel. And this is what I saw:
Quite obviously this wasn’t taken in the car, at night. But you can see what this is. It is a ticket to Soundwave festival. Those of you who live in Australia have heard of this festival. Those of you from across the pond may not have. Soundwave is a punk festival held in four of our major cities: Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. It’s pretty much like the Vans Warped Tour, only a little smaller. Anyway, I haven’t been to Soundwave since I was eighteen. My mother bought me a ticket for my eighteenth birthday (eighteen is pretty much like turning twenty-one in Australia. You can drink! Well, legally). When I finally comprehended what he was actually giving me. I may have squealed. I may have screamed a little. I may have laughed like a hyena for way too long. I may have done a lot of things, but you’ll never know because it was a little embarrassing.
“Happy birthday,” he said, with a grin.
So I was on my way to Soundwave, with absolutely no notice. I had no idea who was playing, no idea about the timetable, no sunscreen, and the clothes I had packed to visit him were completely impractical. I had to hightail it home, chuck on shorts and sturdy shoes, chuck some food and water in a backpack and hop on the next train to the RNA Showgrounds. It was an action-packed morning. Considering I hadn’t actually slept all that much the night before. Or the night before that.
When I got to the Showgrounds, I wasn’t sure where to go first. I didn’t know any of the bands until about three o’clock. So I headed straight for the main stages and chilled out in the grandstand. Well, “chilled” is a bit of a stretch. It was hot and ridiculously humid. The grandstand was just one of the only spaces with any guaranteed shade.
The first band I saw was Area 7. An Aussie ska band that I thought I hadn’t heard of. The frontman was hilarious and so goddamn Aussie. He was in shorts and thongs for God’s sake! I was bopping along to the songs, enjoying the melody but not knowing the words, until an Aussie pub classic came on: Nobody Likes A Bogan. You must listen to this song. Even if it is just for a few seconds. It is so Aussie, it’s like a Vegemite sandwich for your ears. This was just one of the gems that I discovered throughout the day.
The next band was Lower Than Atlantis, a poppish punk band from the UK. They were pretty good, but not exactly memorable. I enjoyed the music, but I couldn’t really tell you if there was a best song or any of the lyrics. That being said, I was pretty exhausted from my lack-of-sleep-patterns so I may have fallen asleep a few times. So it may not be fair of me to blame the band. But oh well. My blog, my prerogative.
By this time, I had gotten into contact with a friend of mine from high school who was at Soundwave with her mate. She was hoping to catch a band called Ne Obliviscaris, who I have never heard of. I caught a bit of their set though: wicked violin. Not many bands can handle violin. But these guys nailed it completely. Well, the tiny snippet I heard of them was awesome at any rate.
Before my friend rocked up, I managed to watch a little Hollywood Undead, at the recommendation of my Canberra friend who had been at the Sydney Soundwave the day before. (OK, explanation: this year Soundwave was a 2 day festival. Whoever played at the Sydney Soundwave on Saturday, played the Brisbane one on Sunday. So my Canberra friend had caught all of these bands the day before I rocked up). Hollywood Undead were awesome. Like a more punk version of Linkin Park: rap with distortion. This was actually a fun discovery, because the friend that bought me my ticket? He’s way into hip hop. So if I can combine our two genres I may be able to stomach more of the music he listens to. The plan is to get a few songs and introduce them to him slowly. If I do it too quickly, I may scare him off, like I did with Ed Sheeran. Hollywood Undead should be an easy sell.
Halfway through Hollywood Undead (and yes, by this stage, I am still in the grandstand), my friend finally arrived so I went exploring to find her. It didn’t take as long as I thought it would. Considering everyone was dressed pretty much the same (black, black, and more black). I found her and her friend among the crowd and we headed back toward the main stage to wait for Gerard Way to come out on stage.
Gerard Way was one of my “must-sees” when I finally figured out the lineup. So we stood in the hot Queensland sun and waited for the man himself to come out. The thing about the main stage is that there were two right next to each other. When one band ended, another one started on the other stage. One set up while the other band/act was playing. Genius idea. So there was no standing around waiting in silence, we got to listen to One OK Rock while we waited for Gerard Way. These guys were amazing. Seriously amazing. But what kind of band name is One OK Rock? I feel like they were selling themselves short. They were so energetic and electric, that I feel like “OK” doesn’t even begin to cover how good these guys were.
And then Gerard Way happened.
Oh, Gerard, a black suit in a Queensland summer? You brave, brave soul. I’m gonna be honest here and admit that I have not listened to Way’s solo album yet. I’m too scared. I loved My Chemical Romance so much that listening to Way alone scares me. What if he’s nothing like My Chem? What is he’s too much like My Chem? Turns out, he sounds like himself. His voice is still amazing and he’s still the cocky frontman I remember. But his sound is a lot different. Not so edgy, but more…alternative. Does that make sense? But the highlight for me was Gerard talking mental health and transgender issues. Not many other bands I saw did this. They didn’t talk problems that they were passionate about. I thought the fact that Way did this was awesome. And I swear I almost kicked the guy in front of me who kept yelling things like “shut the fuck up” and “who cares?” as Way was talking. Good thing he, the guy in front of me, left a few songs in. If he didn’t want to watch Way, he didn’t have to. There were at least three other acts happening at the same time. So why stay and try and ruin the gig for others? I don’t understand the mentality.
Next was a band called Fear Factory. These guys were not my cup of tea. Like, at all. But I decided to watch them because I dragged my friend to Gerard Way. Fear Factory were way too shouty for me. All distorted chords and yelling. I felt there wasn’t very much music actually being played. But, hey, the people who were dancing around and singing the words seemed to think the set was good, so that’s probably the main thing.
Icon For Hire, the band my friend was mainly at the Sunday session for, was next. These guys were a hidden gem. They’re kinda like Paramore, but how Paramore used to be before they went down the folksy route. And with a little faster singing. The main chick, Ariel, was incredible. A regular firecracker, just like Ms Williams. She moved and danced like she didn’t care. Her love for her music shone through in the way she was on stage and that is what makes a frontman. Or woman. The love of music. I just finished listening to their albums on iTunes. As a newish band, I refuse to download these albums without paying for them. So I will wait until I can afford the actual albums on iTunes.
There were two stand out moments during this set:
1. When Ariel came out on stage wearing a hospital gown that said “Get Well” on it, as a way to drive home the point of one of the Icon For Hire songs called, you guessed it, “Get Well”.
2. When Ariel announced that she would be at the side of the stage after the set and actually did it. There was a line to the back of the tent and I’m fairly sure that Ariel signed things for every single person in that line. Now THAT is dedication.
After Icon For Hire, we all split up. My friend and her friend wanted to watch Incubus and I wanted to watch Falling in Reverse. So we agreed to meet afterwards for dinner before making our way to the main stage for Soundgarden/Faith No More.
Falling in Reverse was an experience. There was a circle pit, a few walls of death, and at least three topless chicks at any given time. Now Falling in Reverse are good, and Ronnie Radke is a talented frontman, but neither would warrant me ripping both my top and bra off. If I were to do that for anyone it would be Fall Out Boy, and I have never felt the urge to do that at an FOB gig. And I’ve been to three of them.
These guys were amazing. Everything was totally on point. They got the crowd up and moving and even managed to make those of us not quite hardcore enough to run around in the pit feel like part of the show. Although I don’t yet have these guys’ latest album, I still moved and danced to every song. And the ones I did know, I shouted at the top of my lungs. This was a great way to end my time at Soundwave.
Yes, I ended my Soundwave experience with Falling in Reverse. I got some dinner after this, and listened to a little Soundgarden. But after hearing the one song of Soundgarden’s that I knew, I decided to go home. I had a 6.30 start at work in the morning and my heart really wasn’t in it at this point. I didn’t know the bands. And while I had discovered some amazing new music throughout the day, I couldn’t summon any enthusiasm for these last two acts. Maybe because everyone else was so psyched to see them and I wasn’t and I felt like I was usurping someone else’s spot. So I went home. I walked to the train station, got myself a Slurpee (Sour Apple and Cola) and a Krispy Kreme (chocolate custard), ate them at the station, and managed not to fall asleep on the train.
Soundwave was an incredible experience. Totally worth the sunburn and sore feet and the sweat. Festivals are like no other place on earth. You walk around and hear your music, without anyone screaming “turn it down!”. You’re surrounded by people who dress like you, and like the same things you like. It’s a feeling of belonging, and that is worth any amount of physical discomfort.