Soundwave @ Bonython Park, Adelaide (2/3/2013)

Is this the closest Aus punk and metal fans will ever get to the illustrious lineups of heavy music festivals in European and the US? RYAN WINTER reports on Soundwave Adelaide.

Many of the heroes of rock, metal and punk music seem to be getting on a bit in years, but that hardly affected their on-stage potency or the affection with which they were greeted by a sold-out crowd at Adelaide’s Bonython Park. Lineup aside, the major victory of the latest instalment of Soundwave festival was the venue’s layout. Stalls were spread out evenly which helped alleviate the usual 45-minute wait time for food. Swinging the main stages around also solved previous issues of sound bleed, while the usual overlap you get from loud music in a limited space seemed less apparent due, in part, to the repositioning of the smaller stages.

The usual slow draw of the early bands was turned on its head as hardworking Sydney metalcore five-piece Northlane gathered a huge crowd to Stage 6. However, I cut Northlane’s set short to make the start of Memphis May Fire and the pristine vocals of Matty Mullins on Stage 4. The set was flawless; the first of many I encountered during the day.

AC/DC found its way into the festival, with ‘TNT’ played by Anthrax during a killer early set that also included a heartfelt tribute to Ronnie Dio and Dimebag Darrell. It was also heard as Pucifer entered for their guest appearance on Stage 3. Maynard James Keenan was handing out bags of peanuts to the audience before paying a tribute of his own to a local Adelaide Hills winemaker. The CGI cartoons played side of stage added to the unique vibe of the performance, as did the head high kicks from lead vocalist Carina Round.

Mike Patton is still as cantankerous as he was when Faith No More headlined Soundwave in 2010. This is the first time in many years Tomahawk had been in Adelaide, and Patton delivered his trademark vocal intensity and aggression while also finding time to argue with the crowd. He told off a flasher for spending her university money on a boob job and demand a garden hose to spray him square in the face.

Watching Marc Hudson take vocal duties for Dragonforce hardly detracted from the twin guitar assault of Herman Li and Sam Totman strumming the crowd into a frenzy. Watching the ‘Valley of the Damned’ solo live made me wish I spent my youth practicing guitar instead of studying. Success is caressing a guitar at speed with the expression of victory on your face.

Billy Talent are responsible for bringing rock’n’roll to a new generation, and they gave it their all to a packed crowd. They were quickly followed by the true outlier on the bill – California-via-Ireland Celtic drinking band Flogging Molly – who tore Soundwave a new one with set of fiddle- and accordion-driven folk-punk masterpieces fuelled by Guinness. This was by far the best set of the day, but it was a shame they neglected to play ‘Black Friday Rule’.

Blink 182 were, as expected, terrible live but it really didn’t matter. For the last decade nobody would have ever expected to see Mark Hoppus and Tom DeLonge together on stage in Adelaide making dick jokes again so the chance to sing along with them was enough.

Garbage were fascinating to watch before Paramore; one generation’s iconic female vocalist contrasted by another’s. In between the only frontwomen on the bill I caught then tail end of Linkin Park, with Chester Bennington giving an incredibly clean vocal performance that matched Patton’s in its intensity.

Plenty of people were singing the words to Linkin Park’s ‘In The End’ as the crowd set up for Metallica; some even perched themselves in trees to get a comfortable position. Despite two peculiar moments where the sound completely dropped out on stage, James Hetfield, Kirk Hammett, Lars Ulrich and Robert Trujillo showed exactly why they’re still one of the best live acts in the world. ‘Sad But True’ has to be one of the greatest head-bangers ever written, and it was on that note I left the main stage knowing that somewhere, to some small crowd, another few bands were still playing.

I settled on The Offspring, who thankfully only played one track from their new album, 2012’s Days Go By, choosing to serve up tasty numbers from their back catalogue. Does anyone else remember when these guys were the biggest alternative band in the world? Well, enough time has now passed for ‘Pretty Fly (For A White Guy)’ to be enjoyed again. “This is the second biggest crowd we’ve seen all week!” exclaimed Dexter Holland to the 2000 or so that had amassed. I guess there’s a soft spot for these old punks in Adelaide, and it was great to see them back after headlining one of the first Soundwave tours in 2008.

It’s a shame to think that next year probably won’t be as big for Soundwave. This seems like the closest we’ll ever get to those US and European lineups which often leave us salivating, checking to see if we’ve got a spare $4000 to make the trip. But I’m glad to have been a part of the year that Soundwave went all out.