Soundwave 2008 @ Royal Melbourne Showgrounds (29/02/2008)

There was a storm brewing in Melbourne and it wasn’t just Soundwave 2008. Threatening clouds and pouring rain meant many early risers outside the Royal Melbourne Showgrounds were drenched while waiting for 12pm to click over. By the time the clock ticked towards lunchtime, the clouds parted and punters sprinted to the gates. For a thirty year old festival freak like me, the overage line meant a speedy check-through. Hoards of under-aged patrons were thus left to slog it out in the under-18 line. Finally, an invaluable use for old age!

Overall, Soundwave 2008 in Melbourne meant incredible bands and, eventually, top weather. However, confusion lay ahead in the set times department. Punters who didn’t download their timetable from the Soundwave site the night before were left wandering aimlessly, only to find bands starting earlier than expected. But even with an accurate timetable (including the ones handed out at the gate) punters were still under pressure to cover each and every stage. In comparison to Sydney’s three-stage set-up last year, it was damn hard to keep up with Melbourne’s five stage schedule. Still, many could skim the surface and receive a decent dose of aural pleasure despite chasing the tails of their favourite bands.

New York’s From Autumn To Ashes kicked off the day in thunderous style as many early starters pushed out a circle pit for spine-tingling riffs in –  “Everything I Need’. –  “On The Offensive’ rung across Stage 4 to the appreciation of a roaring crowd but it was the coaxing sound of Donnie Dureau faintly beckoning me from a distance.

With From Autumn To Ashes ringing in his ear, Donnie Dureau provided another stellar appearance to a handful of old faithfuls – some who, I’d imagine, would’ve caught Donnie in his old band Caustic Soda on the Vans Warped Tour at the Showgrounds ten years previously. Donnie greedily left –  “Rain Rain’ to last – a song which is so rich and addictive. The track crawled across my skin and sent it trembling uncontrollably. What a song and what a testament to our local scene.

It was then over to Stage 1 to catch California’s rock punkers Halifax. Ringing guitars and guttural harmonies surfed over the crowd but it was up to some crowd interaction to get the punters moving: “How the f—k are you all doing?!” The crowd gave a lacklustre response yet erupted for speeding tracks such as –  “Nightmare’ and –  “Our Revolution’. –  “Better Than Sex’ also came off well, confirming everything was on par sound-wise.

“Wassup Melbourne!!” Chicago’s Madina Lake rallied all-out war on the dance-floor and proved to be one hellova drawcard for the Soundwave tour. With hooks abound and enough energy to rival an Aussie Rules footy team, Madina Lake ripped through their impressive appearance and the crowd was all the more appreciative. Livewire vocalist Nathan Leone climbed speaker stacks and crowd surfed to the delight of screaming fans.

For the charged metalheads of Soundwave, Divine Heresy were carving up Stage 4. It was mind-blowing to see Dino Cazares gracing a Melbourne stage again, only this time backing the ferocious stylings of vocalist Tommy Vext. Pounding drums notched up the brutality, underscoring pulverising crunches for the head-banging crowd.

All Time Low were getting down and dirty with the –  “Party Scene’ at Stage 5 and, from the swelling congregation front of stage, proved they are like a party in your pants. Pop drenched aesthetics kept the fans busy with squeals and cheers but I couldn’t detour from my path to Sugarcult and Plain White T’s.

Sugarcult lived up to Madina Lake’s promise, laden with surging power chords and rough harmonies to bring to their audience punk fuelled anthems.

Swarming crowds were entertained by gorgeous 20 degree sun rays and Plain White T’s pop punk. Vocalist Tom Higgenson confessed his love for Australia and launched into –  “Our Time Now’ before serenading the crowd with his crush-track –  “Hey There Delilah’. Fans cheered in gooey delight and it was obvious that Delilah was no longer the shining twinkle in Tom’s eye. His new hook-up was no doubt Australia. Aw, how sweet.

Amidst the huge numbers of fans packing out every space in front of Stage 5 was City and Colour. George Pettit was met by an overwhelming response and became another prominent fixture to the day, belting out his one-man side project from Alexisonfire. –  “Waiting’ urged the crowd to stick around and they weren’t disappointed.

Still Remains was tearing away on Stage 4 for the harder kids, sending an –  “Avalanche’ of powering riffs across the floor. Even the crowd surfers were gaining some serious height, launching into the air and onto unsuspecting heads.

After battling the queues for food in front of sparse takeaway trailers, it then back to Stage 1 for some Arizonian rock from Scary Kids Scaring Kids. By this stage the wind had kicked up, thrusting dust and grass into the air as kids moshed their way through –  “Snake Devil’ and –  “The City Sleeps In Flames’. Scary Kids obviously packed some muscle behind their efforts but the mix was less than desired. A little too much snap crackle and pop for my liking!

One of the party-starting drawcards of the festival came in the form of the rebellious kids from L.A on Stage 2 – Mindless Self Indulgence. The kooky goth quartet brought the lot – kinky body-moving beats, a fun presence and an entertaining stage show. Boisterous vocalist Jimmy Urine added fuel to the fire as he pranced, jerked and climbed his way over to Stage 1 to tackle a small handful of hecklers. Urine even nailed an obvious observation: “I am in an American band and we fly millions of miles to play on a festival with American bands?” Aptly put!

Herds of punters filled the open-air arena around Stage 1 to catch the mighty Thursday in action. Moshers front of stage exploded for anthems including –  “Between Rupture and Rapture’ and –  “Signals Over The Air’ before the band instructed the crowd to separate for an inevitable wall of death. Mayhem ensued as bodies were thrown in every direction and the wall of death quickly turned into a wall of dust. Luckily, –  “Jet Black New Year’ dulled the dust clouds for a satisfying set clincher.

TREos’ empowering crunches and dual vocals could be heard from Stage 3 as we trekked back to Stage 4 for Haste The Day. Circle pit rhythms excited the masses as Haste The Day dropped some of the biggest riffs of the day. But it wasn’t too long before we zigzagged through the masses to reach Alexisonfire in time. Alexis’ set was peppered with tracks from Crisis and the odd throwback to Watchout! Chief screamer George Pettit, again, put in a dramatic appearance in Melbourne – backed by his explosive band – yet the band could’ve drawn on their older back-catalogue to give fans a real taste of their abilities.

Back at Stage 4, Shadows Fall soared through a string of erratic guitar angles and fat drumlines. Vocalist Brian Fair threw his pipes into overdrive, sending fans into a frenzy of mosh and hair. Crushing breakdowns secured the band’s presence on the Soundwave festival, emphasising the band’s capability to dominate the stage.

The sweeter sounds from Jim Ward emerged from Stage 5 who engulfed the air with his acoustic gems. The sun sunk towards the horizon and Melbourne’s league of Sparta fans became hypnotised by Ward’s artistic richness. Incubus was boasting a bigger pull in the crowd stakes as Brandon Boyd enticed older punters with –  “Nice To Know You’ and –  “Favorite Things’ while sticking to an agenda of more recent hits.

An extra dose of power was needed and As I Lay Dying was the answer. From the band’s first tour of Australia supporting Shadows Fall a few years back, the band have been rewarded by a phenomenal following here in Australia. Soundwave was a vital increment to the band’s Aussie touring commitments, sending the crowd at Stage 4 into a sea of flaying bodies. The sexiest vocalist in metalcore, Tim Lambesis, thrashed his pipes through a mind-crushing set as fans punched the air with fists through ‘94 Hours’ and –  “Forever’.

Saosin attracted a huge response over at Stage 3, achieving an exponential amount of interest in Melbourne since the band’s tour last year. Haunting vocals pierced their air to atmospheric guitar work captivated Saosin’s attentive audience.

The Offspring blasted onto Stage 1 with –  “Bad Habit’ as older fans howled in chorus. –  “All I Want’ pounded its way through a blinding, ballistic light show on the stage and there were moments where The Offspring’s energy waned. Albeit the band’s mediocre stage presence, Noodles delivered a cheesy one-liner to get the crowd giggling: “It’s a good thing its cold tonight because you guys are hot!” –  “Why Don’t You Get a Job’ and –  “Gone Away’ made their entrances and the crowd was all too obliging to echo the band’s classics.

Standing space in and around Stage 4 was impossible to penetrate for Killswitch Engage and I struggled to find a decent vantage point. Rather than shoving through the crowd, I headed on over to The Matches for some pop-punk dexterity. The Matches are an awkward band to pinpoint but have established an exclusive niche of fans here in Melbourne; fans who are fiercely loyal. Pumping out sweaty tracks –  “Papercut Skin’ and –  “Salty Eyes’, The Matches burst into their set, rewarded by adoring attention from their fans.

All in all, Soundwave 2008 had its fair share of highlights and Soundwave, without a doubt, gave many bands a chance to tour for their legions of fans in Australia. Australia was also rewarded with an overwhelming international schedule for one day. Whether you see that as an advantage or a disadvantage, the fact still remains – Soundwave has become a vital part of the extreme music calendar here in Australia. An added bonus in 2008 was the fact that Soundwave ventured beyond Sydney and into the clutches of Melbourne. It’s satisfying to see this festival branch out to what it is and my ears are all the better for it.

Something to say?