Soundwave Festival, ANZ Stadium, Sydney 23/02/13

pakman2525 is off to Sydney Soundwave again. 2013 had a whole heap of changes – most, as you’ll hear, are for the better.

So here we are at Olympic Park in Sydney again.  I’ve travelled up with my two boys Sam & Alex and their mate James, basically the normal posse of Canberra travellers to the metal fest that is Soundwave.  The Soundwave Tickets to Sam & Alex at Christmas are apparently one of the most looked forward to presents each year - by them, their mother, not so much.  This is our fourth year at the event and things this year are a little more upmarket. I’m staying at the Pullman and can overlook the setting up of stage 3 in the pouring rain.  I feel sorry for the poor buggers out there as they may get washed away any minute now.  OK, enough feeling sorry for them, time to head out and have dinner and a few brews with my now, 18 year old Sam.

The day arrives and as we look out the window there is a good size line down from the gates almost to the end of the street that borders ANZ Stadium.  Soundwave promoter, AJ Maddah, has pulled out the big guns this year and has managed to get access to use ANZ stadium for stages 1A & 1B this year.  He’s also been listening to feedback from areas over the year, picking up on things that needed to be tweaked and worked it into the day. One of my comments last year about the length of time lining up just to get in is not an issue this year.  With a change of layout of the venue the gates were much wider and even though the advertised opening times was 11.00, gates opened just after 10.00 allowing a much calmer entrance this year.  Bags were checked; others not so well (see other story of the douche with the flare in the Bring me the Horizon performance) but it all flowed well.  At this point Alex & I say goodbye to Sam and James – the idea to catch up during the day here and there when we do have bands that cross over.  Alex stays with me the whole day so we do a bit of negotiation on who to see, we are lucky, as in most cases we have similar tastes.  I’ve decided this year I will try and catch a wider range of bands and it fits in with Alex’s must sees Blink 182 & Anthrax (one of mine too).

Once inside, everything seemed well spread out, and it was pretty easy to get to any stage.  The layout of the venue allowed multiple areas for merchandise, food and bars everywhere.  Compared to previous years this was a welcome relief as it allowed people more time catching some great shows, rather than be stuck in queues.  I heard around the traps that day that the amount of loos ordered was double the minimum requirement for the crowd numbers of that size, another thumbs up.  So first stop – hit the RoadRunner booth for this year’s sampler CD and with that in the bag, what merch was on offer.  Each merch area had a designated set of bands along with the headliners in all stores.  Alex wants a Blink 182 shirt – he and I didn’t think the one stating “Pissing off mums since 1992, and with a good combination of expletives on the other side” would be a good choice if he ever wanted to be allowed back to Soundwave again, so he settled for the standard list of dates shirt. I hadn’t seen any I was after in that stall.

The weather was pretty good considering the 70-80mm that had fallen in the previous two days, it was muggy and 30 degrees and we knew rain would be expected at some point during the day.  So starting down around Stages 4A, 4B & 5, we just wandered around until Memphis May Fire came on – but prior to them we did manage to catch a bit of Red Fang who were quite good.  So we managed 3-4 songs of MMF and then we head off to stage 5 to catch Fozzy, fronted by Chris Jericho.  I’ve got their CDs and like their sound, have read some good things about how good they’ve become as a live band.  They kick off with Spider in My Mouth and from the start the energy is there, it takes a short while (song and a half) and the crowd is totally into it, including those who had just come to see them because of Jericho’s fame as a WWE Superstar.  This is the metal front man here today, but utilising the skills he’s honed in the squared circle and by the time they get to Enemy near the end of their set the whole crowd is completely one with the band chanting "Fozzy, Fozzy, Fozzy – Oi, Oi, Oi."  Time to race off to Stage 1 in ANZ to catch Anthrax, and even with the crowds within the venue moving from one stage to another progress is very easy.  We come into the Anthrax set to the opening strains of Indians, and proceed to get a very enjoyable show, including a tribute to Ronnie James Dio and Dimebag Darrell with the song In The End .  Back to Stage 4 and getting out of the main arena is quick and easy.  Over at Stage 4 Periphery are very tight and have an impressive sound and now the rain begins to bucket down, luckily it’s only for about 5-10 minutes.  Given Stage 5 is undercover and very close we make a move to there and the bar in there until it stops and get to catch a couple of songs by who I’m guessing was Orange Goblin (by timetable – they weren’t bad).

Time for lunch, this year there is a number of different vendors located in many locations around the festival site and they are offering a wide range of foodstuffs to cater for most tastes.  Compared to previous years, the prices seem to be more varied and acceptable to the average punter. Though unfortunately beer and spirits have not changed since last year and you only get mid strength drinks, at $10 a pop it’s pretty steep for a Jim Beam.  Though I suppose there will be less loaded patrons and a lower likelihood of alcohol induced fights.  I also don’t think the promoter has much control over these.

The afternoon’s festivities are meant to be kicked off by Sleeping With Sirens, however they are still doing a sound check when we get there and seem to be having some difficulty.  By now Alex and I are looking for a seat and get out of the sun as it’s getting pretty damn hot – the grass not an option giving the downpour about an hour ago.  So it is back off to Stages 1A and 1B to have a seat and catch the end of Kyuss Lives and wait for Stone Sour. I am told they still didn’t get the sound right for SWS but that is the only one that I heard of, the sound quality at most stages has been and continues to be great at all stages I go to.  The opening strains of Gone Sovereign kick off so we make our way to the arena floor so we can get in better position to witness a damn impressive, pretty heavy set by Stone Sour.  It is complete with the obligatory 58 uses of the word “Fuck” in its different guises (Alex counted) in a 45 minute set by Corey Taylor.  Corey brings the whole crowd into it and he walks across to the other stage so the crowd jostling for a closer possie for Slayer can be more involved. He’s done this at the risk of a “fucking fine” as he put it, but he doesn’t care – we are all here for the music.  He is an excellent front man, Stone Sour wrap up with Through Glass and the anthem 3030-150 which gets everyone firing up for Slayer who kick it off with God Hate Us All.

Alex has now seen a song by Slayer, so he is ¾ of the way to catching all of the Big 4 live.  He only has, in my opinion, the best of them to go – Megadeth (Soundwave 2014 please).  Since he’s considered that he’s ticked that off his list he is keen to get back to Stage 3 to catch All Time Low, who in their own words are a bit like Blink 182, though not as old, or as heavy (weight wise).  The boys from Baltimore put on a top show with lots of laughs, some great songs and even found time to make everyone aware of where they were from playing For Baltimore.  As they are introducing this song they even managed to find someone in a Baltimore Ravens, Ray Lewis jersey in the crowd, much to this 49er fans chagrin.  Off for a walk and a drink, we head toward the Jim Beam girls and their prizes down near Stage 5 – catching some of Duff McKagan’s Loaded as we went.

Heading back to the main stage we sample some of  A Perfect Circle's wares – the singer, Maynard James Keenan’s, only words to the crowd other than singing is to say “See you in May” indicating he’ll be back with Tool.  Musically though they are great and there is quite a crowd building now.  I have a look at twitter and catch AJ Maddah letting everyone know about the issues they are having with getting gear down from Brisbane for some of the bands on Stage 2 due to the flooding, the main impact of which being on the performances of Garbage and Paramore.  This message didn’t get through to all as I had dinner with a friend last night who thought Garbage had bailed on Sydney until I let him know of the communications.  Times are changed for the stage 2 line-up and presented on the big screens in the Stage 1 arena. 

The crowd has built up for Linkin Park, with the big screens now showing the Arena floor is full and people should make their way to seating.  Linkin Park come on stage and play a couple of songs from the first two albums (which made me happier as I’m not a fan of the newer stuff) before breaking into a newer song that the crowd lapped up.  They are sonically very good, sounding similar to their albums but for me they are missing stage presence and need more interaction with the crowd (Mike Shinoda did try a bit just before I headed out and may have done so more but I didn’t see any more of the set).  One thing I’d like to point out though, Chester Bennington stopped mid song to make security aware of the plight of a crowd member who was obviously distressed and required attention, This was his most interaction with the crowd that I saw, apologising, but also asking everyone to look out for those around them too – good work there.

So it’s time to go back to Stage 2 (a good portion of the crowd also heading out) to see Blink 182; the ease of getting around the venue was highlighted here as Stage1 was fairly well packed at this stage.  The floor and seating at Stage 2 (what was the main stages in previous years here) is quite full though people are able to move around very easily.  Blink put on a good show and Alex is feeling good about himself having seen them.  The Offspring take the stage on the other side of Stage 2 and the first thing I notice is Dexter Holland has bulked up quite a bit since I last even saw a picture of him (this may be up to 6 years so I can’t be too harsh – same thing has happened to me as I have a fondness for food and beer).  The Offspring start pulling out some older numbers which gets the crowd going before hitting Days Go By, title track off the new album and a great track.  I must say I was impressed with them musically but there were some problems with Dexter’s microphone as he faded in and out a bit.

Heading back to Stage 5 we walk in just in time to catch Pierce The Veil coming to the stage and about to break into a high energy, sonically huge set.  Playing mostly songs from Collide With The Sky, these boys (Mexicans from San Diego, and just like Mexican food as they tell us) are going places if this set is anything to go by.  Sound wise they were spectacular (we were on the platform right behind the sound desk so got the best of it) and have quite a large crowd of about 700 plus, this is very good given they are playing on Stage 5 at the same time as Metallica and The Offspring are on.  They finish up with the collaborative number King For A Day (with Kellin Quinn of Sleeping With Sirens) making for a very satisfying, if just a couple of songs too short ,set.

Now the only set still running, well that’s what we thought, is Paramore.  So it’s back to Stage 2 where Paramore have still got a good size crowd left there.  Something is missing though, so I think I’ll call it a day, as many are by the numbers heading out.  This year due to the change in layout, getting in and out is much easier than the previous year.  As we walk out towards the entrance and close to ANZ stadium, I hear James Hetfield saying goodbye on Stage 1 and something thrown in by Lars as well.  In my discussions with others who attended, apparently Metallica went on stage about half an hour late with no indication why.  Had I known that, I would’ve headed over to Stage 1 rather than 2 to catch the end of Metallica’s set.

So all in all Soundwave 2013 is a very enjoyable day and I’ve caught some great bands for not much more than a headliner ticket cost.  The layout changes have all been for the good; the added bars, food outlets and toilets are all winners.  The sound setup on all stages is good this year except for the two instances noted above – given the amount of bands having to be set up over the course of the day is a pretty good hit rate.  Getting around was easy, crowd behaviour for the most is good, I did see one guy getting ejected by the Police and of course the douche with the flare.  I saw the tweets by AJ Maddah asking for pics to send to the police, twitterverse was only too helpful I hear.  Sam was at Bring Me The Horizon and said a flare wasn’t the only thing as someone (gathering the same person) set off fireworks just before this.  He also told me BMTH were soooo good, I will catch them the next time they are on hopefully (slight clash with Iron Maiden last time and anyone who knows me will tell you there is no chance I am missing Maiden).

Anyway bring on Soundwave 2014 as this is a festival listening to the punters and getting things better every year.