Gig/Concert: Soundwave Festival
Venue: Steel Blue Oval, Perth
Date: 1 March 2010
Headliners: Faith No More, Jimmy Eat World
In one word: Sweltering
With positive memories of the swift organisation of the 2009 Soundwave Festival it was with disappointment that several of the opening bands for this year’s show played to empty fields due to a bottlenecked, one-gate entry system. On a boiling hot day, this was a rather unwelcome start for many. However, once inside, forgiveness was granted by the thousands of early comers to what has become one of Australia’s premier rock festivals.
From its inception as an extreme-sports competition side-show, Soundwave now boasts a reputation for attracting bigger names than the more established touring rock-circuses, and the final leg of the 2010 installment was no exception.
Opening proceedings on the main stage were Canadian phychobetty rockers Creepshow. Their horror-filled lyrics and empowering message was a hit with the ladies in attendance and a good proportion of the gents as well. Pausing briefly to announce their glee at Canada taking gold in the men’s Olympic ice hockey, the delivered an otherwise breathless set and seem to have secured many new fans in the process.
Moving to the enclosed circus-tent that was Stage 3, fellow Canadians The Weakerthans delivered a solid performance, though their blend of folk rock and alternative seemed a little too mellow for most. Front man John K. Samson’s strong vocal performance with support from some standout slide-guitar and trumpet playing was enough to retain interest, but it seems the band would have benefited from an afternoon billing once the punters had expended some energy on the louder, faster bands on the bill.
The living cartoons that are The Aquabats! provided some welcome energy and comic relief, delivering an hilarious set of upbeat ska-punk full of sweet, sweet sax licks and ‘pickitup-pickitup’ percussion. Reaching its peak with a flawless rendition of “Pizza Day” this was a set, and indeed a band just made for summer festivals; filled with some of the most gratuitous crowd-pandering in recent memory. Forget rock-stars, these men are superheroes.
Hardcore sextet Set Your Goals had the crowd riled up back at Stage 3, with the first serious crowdsurfing of the day, followed in quick succession by New York’s Glassjaw whose standout bass-playing thanks to four-stringsman Manuel Carrero set them apart from the slew of generic hardcore/screamo American bands playing this tour. Mainstage counterparts, and yet more Canadians, Alexisonfire sadly lacked any real individuality or crossover appeal outside of the hardcore kids.
The geeky charm of Motion City Soundtrack front man Justin Pierre was a welcome show of honesty, with the band’s brand of mid-western rock reminiscent of bands like Armchair Martian or the Eels. Single “This is For Real”, and “When You’re Around” whipped the crowd into a frenzy though sadly Pierre’s high-end vocals showed signs of road-wear towards the end of the set, with a few blue notes detracting from an otherwise rock-solid set.
Ska veterans Reel Big Fish were next up, and though vocalist Aaron Barrett remains the band’s sole original member, they delivered essentially a best-of set which washed a wave of nostalgia over their mainly 25+ year old fan-base. The set featured the band’s hits “She Has A Girlfriend Now”, “Where Have You Been?” and the classic “Beer” (which comically ended on ‘shave-and-a-haircut’) plus covers of Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl” and Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” featuring trumpeter Scott Klopfenstein on lead vocals. Whilst the weather was a little too warm for the energetic skanking typical of ska shows, they still managed to keep the crowd moving and offered some welcome relief from the doom and gloom of the ‘serious’ bands on the tour.
Due to some technical issues, AFI were late to start their set as the sun thankfully begun to set. With all the pomp and flair that has become expected of their live show, Davey Havok and crew delivered on expectations with their gold and black ‘Hollywood of yesteryear’ themed stage show. The deafening roar that emanated from the pit when singles “Girls Not Gray” and “Miss Murder” began proved them successful as the evening’s first real headliner, though the inclusion of synth/electronica sampling in “Love Like Winter” was somewhat distracting, given that no keyboardist or sampler was visible on stage.
Havock would later re-appear on stage to add backing vocals to Jane’s Addiction set, which while technically proficient and visually stunning didn’t seem to do much for anyone besides the band’s existing (albeit large) fanbase.
Last-minute additions to the bill, Arizona’s Jimmy Eat World came out to a strong reception, though their particular brand of mid-tempo pop-punk seemed better suited to an afternoon set on a side-stage rather than the second-to-last mainstage performance, and the band struggled to keep the crowd’s attention for the full hour of their set. Standout tracks included “Bleed American” and “Too Much Talking” from their 2000 split-EP with Perth’s own Jebediah, members of which were in attendance to witness their friends’ set. Stopping briefly to lead the crowd in a mass-greeting to Gallows who were playing on the stage next door, the band kicked back in with “Big Casino” and ended on their most successful single, “The Middle”.
After what seemed like an eternally insufferable 10 minute break, the living legends that are San Francisco’s Faith No More took to stage 1 to see out the night in their truly unique and breathtaking style. Front man and musical prodigy Mike Patton played the role of ringmaster with pinpoint precision and after a slow and classy start, the set delved groin first into the band’s extensive back catalogue, including their definitive version of the Commodores’ “Easy (Like Sunday Morning)”. Though the band may look a little older than most remember from their early 90s heyday, they certainly didn’t sound or act like they’d aged a day, and were a truly jaw-dropping experience to see out what was the biggest installment of Soundwave yet to be seen.
If 2011 is to compete, the promoters best start praying for a Beatles reunion.
© Steve Pass, Music Vice