Sydney Soundwave, 23rd Feb ’14 – Review – Across The Ocean

Sydney Soundwave, 23rd Feb ’14 – Review

Whilst there’s a lot to be said about a festival as well-oiled as this year’s Sydney Soundwave, some part of me can’t help but feel a little wistful for the chaos expected from a lineup that includes the likes of Avenged Sevenfold, Mastodon, Rob Zombie and Gwar.

That’s not to say the bands themselves don’t deliver. Gwar well and truly leave their red sugar-syruped mark on a vast majority of punters who are sprayed with the “blood” of a decapitated Tony Abbott effigy.

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“Gwar well and truly leave their red sugar-syruped mark”

And the pyrotechnics of Avenged Sevenfold aren’t done by halves.

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“The pyrotechnics of Avenged Sevenfold aren’t done by halves”

However the overall vibe of the festival is somewhat more subdued than expected with vast areas of the Olympic Park stadium looking a little undersold and festival-goers enjoying the luxury of collecting their over-priced, mid-strength beverages without epic lineups. In any case, it’s a not-unpleasant setting for a day of fine music.

From punk veterans Pennywise to the likes of French metal band Gojira, the afternoon lineup is a mish mash of musical styles.

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“the afternoon lineup is a mish mash of musical styles”

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“the afternoon lineup is a mish mash of musical styles”

Swarms of darkly clad, creatively coiffed fans traipse paths between seven stages to sample a diverse array of sounds ranging from the glam-pop-rock of Placebo right across the spectrum to the blues guitar of Richie Sambora… each to their own.

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“…the blues guitar of Richie Sambora…”

Due to last-minute cancellations, the printed timetable handed out at entry is, in parts, completely out of whack and word soon gets out that the downloadable app is the only source to trust. In the meantime though, rumours abound of people missing the one band they came to see because of this glitch. Amon Amarth anyone? Nonetheless the vibe is still super civilised.

Late afternoon sees thousands pack the stadium for Alice in Chains. For those of us who relate most to the back catalogue of the band, it takes a while to reconcile the presence of frontman William DuVall where some part of you is still expecting Layne Stayley’s founding signature sound to be carrying hits like Man In The Box and Rooster. But there’s no denying Duvall’s charisma and when the ray bans come off mid-set as the dizzying harmonies of No Excuses kick in, you can see why he’s had crowds eating out of his hands for years. At the first notes of the set finale, Would, the awe of the audience is evident. A girl behind me murmurs “goosebumps” and I have to agree.

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“…there’s no denying Duvall’s charisma”

Eagles of Death Metal are on stage 5 and while it’s a smaller setup, there’s no holding back from either Jesse “The Devil Hughes” or the “ladies” and “boys” he’s crooning at. There’s not a still body in this little congregation and at the wrap up of English Girl he confesses “We fucking needed you tonight ladies and gentlemen, we fucking needed you.” And what’s not to love about a man who can rock a red cape and point at his own butt to mass delight? With guitarist Dave Catching sporting a white beard that Santa would be jealous of, the visual spectacle of the band is half the fun. They woo us with signature dance moves and grinding swagger riffs, with an interlude for lucky bastards Eli and Ruby – “I want everyone in the house to wish these fuckers a happy anniversary”. Eli and Ruby, you suck.

The next couple of hours offer samplings of a so many great bands it’s really difficult to stay in the one place without wondering what you could be missing. On the main stage, Green Day are billed to play for 3 hours and while I’m skeptical that this will happen apparently they come pretty damn close, peppering the set with stage opportunities for kids in the crowd and even giving a guitar away. But it’s funk metal luminaries Living Colour who are the unexpected gem at the climax of today’s event.

Hailed as legends in the rock/metal community, Living Colour were always going to be a treat. But nothing prepares me for just how impressive these guys are. The fatherly appearance of Corey Glover has me fooled for about half a second before his voice powers through the room and Vernon Reid’s frantic guitar presence makes me wonder how these guys still do it. By the time Glover brings the performance down into the crowd for a rendition of James Browns “Sex Machine” he has us all roaring “Get on up!” with him. From bluesy twangs to metallic riffs, the band has everyone moving and by the time we’re encouraged to sing along to “Cult Of Personality” we all know we’re in the presence of greatness.

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“…the presence of greatness”

All in all this year’s Soundwave is a pretty awesome day – exceedingly mellow atmosphere aside. So it was a little low on gratuitous shirtlessness and emergency ambulance intervention. It’s definitely nice to be at a festival that doesn’t seem to be attracting the type of crowd that’s there just to be seen and get wasted. For the most part, everyone seems to be in it for the music and that means good vibes all round.

Photos: Benon Julius William Otto Koebsch

Kat Gilbert

Kat Gilbert

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kat Gilbert comes to ATO with no further credentials than a love of live music and a passion for penning her two cents worth.

When Kat’s not catching a gig you can find her pondering the meaning of life at her graphic design day job or taking long walks on the beach in fluffy pink moccasins.
Kat Gilbert