Soundwave @ Sydney Showgrounds (26/02/2012)

Between the collapse of Soundwave Revolution and many public slanging matches with artists across the globe, it’s certainly been a chaotic year for the folks over at Soundwave. Yet out of this chaos emerged the promoters most ambitious project to date, with almost a hundred bands across eleven stages coming together to form festival heaven, or hell depending upon whom you asked.

Initially the day looked to be a complete disaster, with opening acts walking out at 11am to be met with virtually empty stages as a result of overzealous security that seemed fixated upon searching bags rather than patrons themselves. Exacerbating the frustration of many punters who’d made it past overbearing security guards in time for the opening acts, a sudden poorly communicated timetable change the morning of the festival resulted in a swathe of angered Turisas fans questioning why Chimaira were taking to stage when printed handouts clearly stated otherwise.

Tucked away in a shed on the other side of the showground, Holy Grail launched into a blistering set of power metal that proved to be everything the small devoted turnout had hoped for. With guitar solos, power wailing and leather in abundance, the little known American outfit proved completely unphased by the poor acoustics of the room, delivering a powerful performance to kick off the day.

The turnout was little better for Saves the Day in the main arena, who had been charged with breathing life into Weezer’s Pinkerton, yet one could not shake the impression that this was somewhat of an unwelcome imposition. While vocalist Chris Conley mesmerizingly channelled the angst of Rivers Cuomo, no time was wasted in rushing through the seminal power pop album so as to give the quartet fifteen minutes for their own material. Disappointingly, this brief glimpse into the bands fifteen year discography was only to be met by a torrent of abuse from an already largely intoxicated audience demanding Steel Panther.

“Our latest record just went triple platinum…in Guam! That’s a whole five hundred records sold guys!” Steel Panther guitarist Satchel proclaims with a completely straight face as the satirical hair metallers power through their set. Complete with onstage makeup checks, neon headbands and more references to pussy then you’d find within an encyclopaedia on cats, their outlandish performance proved to be more than just a band churning out ten songs but rather, an entire show that put most other headliners to shame.

Unfortunately the same could not be said for You Me At Six, whose uninspiring performance failed to do justice to a number of exceptional pop punk records the Brits have spawned over the past few years, with frontman Josh Franceschi even mumbling that he was “shit in front of people”. That said however, the few thousand teenagers in the audience really didn’t seem to care, chanting along in unison to every lyric in an impressive step up from the two hundred or so fans that had turned up in 2010 to catch the quintet open up the smallest stage at the festival.

With the main stage now in full swing, those lucky enough to be waiting for A Day To Remember to make an appearance got to catch the ever charismatic Myles Kennedy lead the remnants of Creed through a handful of their greatest hits. The highlight of the set came when the band invited ex- Guns N Roses guitarist Slash to the stage for a rendition of Rise Today, inspiring looks of shock and awe from even the young hardcore oriented crowd that had been segregated on the other side of the D barricade.

Flanked by giant steam cannons to each side of the stage, Jeremy Mckinnon and his band of pop-core pioneers A Day To Remember didn’t even give the crowd thirty seconds to digest what they’d witnessed, with the rhythmic intro to The Downfall of Us All turning the mosh pit into a sweat filled sea of flying limbs. Prejudices quickly diminished as it became clear that lacklustre festival performances were a thing of the past, with Mckinnon demonstrating a newfound vocal strength, keeping pace with the predominately new material without as much as a stutter. Going out with a bang in every sense, A Plot to Bomb the Panhandle proved to be the highlight of the forty five minute performance, with fans happily “losing their shit” as cannons rained down confetti over the main arena.

Whilst many bands at Soundwave both this year and in the past have had their sets destroyed by poor sound, In Flames greeted a packed out metal stage with what has to be the most pristine performance of the day. With every riff, snare hit and vocal line clearly articulated, the Swedish veterans of melodic death metal had no trouble impressing one of the toughest demographics at the festival, in spite of many arguments breaking over which era of their material was best. Rounding out their set with a monstrous delivery of Take This Life, it’s hard to dispute the raw talent running through the veins of these Swedes two decades on from their inception.

Conversely, Trivium proved to be one of the disappointing acts of the day, having fallen victim to the aforementioned horrendous festival sound that often comes with the lack of extensive sound checks in a dual stage setup. To the bands credit however it must be stated that the Floridian metalcore outfit certainly battled on, with vocalist/guitarist Matt Heafy consistently inciting waves of violent moshing. Whilst an instrument change leading into the epic orientally influenced Down From The Sky did much to curb to overbearing kick drums, it ultimately seemed that the true silver lining of Trivium’s set was Heafy’s proud proclamation that they’ll be returning for a full headlining set later this year, three years on from their last headlining Sydney show.

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