Apart from the day itself being one almighty rock, punk & metal-fest that never fails to please, another great aspect of Australia’s SoundWave Festival are the related sideshows which take place. These shows (which have come to be known as Sidewaves) often see 3-4 bands from the festival placed together on the one bill. As you can imagine, they are exceptional value for money, as well as being an effective way to solve clashes on the day. Examples of Sidewaves this year were (a) Social Distortion, Gaslight Anthem & Feeder, (b) Rob Zombie, Murderdolls, Monster Magnet & Dommin, (c) Sum 41, The Blackout, There For Tomorrow & Veara, (d) Pennywise, Millencolin & The Mad Caddies, and (e) Stone Sour, Coheed and Cambria, Sevendust & 36 Crazyfists. The Sidewave I chose to stroll along to however was the “can’t miss” trio of Anberlin, The Starting Line & Bayside.
Having previously seen them live a couple of times, I already knew that NYC’s Bayside were one of the best live bands going around. It only hit me on this night however, that they are also one of the few bands who sound great right from the get-go. They either sound-check all day or are just that damn good. Kicking off with energetic new track ‘Already Gone’, the ‘Killing Time’ opener felt like it had been on their live set for the past decade, with the way in which the audience were singing along even if they had barely heard the song before. Bayside played songs from most of their albums, although it was a little disappointing that fan favorite ‘Masterpiece’ was replaced by Weezer cover ‘My Name Is Jonas’. As per usual, ‘Devotion and Desire’ closed the set satisfyingly, with lead guitarist Jack O’Shea arguably taking MVP honors for the night with his impressive axe-wielding.
The reformed The Starting Line were up next and you could hardly tell that their future was in doubt over the past few years. Front-man Kenny Vasoli was as awkward as ever (Aussies will agree as to his likeness to comedian Frank Woodley), but while being a little “out there”, Vasoli pleasingly doesn’t allow his eccentricities to effect his performance. In fact, his band-mates could take a lesson from him as apart from the keyboardist, they sunk into the background. The two guitarists seemingly mimicked each other for half the set, with the notable exception of new song ‘Luck’, that may see the quintet branch out into a more guitar-driven & slightly less catchier sound. Fan favorites such as ‘Surprise Surprise’, ‘Island’, ‘Leaving’ and ‘The Best Of Me’ were played, although there was no ‘Bedroom Talk’ (which was probably a good thing since Mrs. Boy was standing next to me & “we just got married”)!
The night was then brought to a close by headliners Anberlin, who decided to begin with the new/old duo of ‘We Owe This To Ourselves’ and ‘Paperthin Hymn’. For the most part, the Floridian quintet played a festival-like set with rockers ruling the roost over the band’s fantastic ballads. There was no ‘Inevitable’, ‘Unwinding Cable Car’ or (despite requesting chants) ‘*Fin’. When the band did bring the tempo down mid-set, it was new album cuts ‘The Art of War’, ‘Take Me As You Found Me’ and ‘Pray Tell’ (complete with 3 drummers) which were used. It was interesting to note the increased workload of touring 6th member Kyle Flynn, who filled in on literally any instrument a particular song required, as well as programming 15-20 second electronic interludes between songs.
Musically, Anberlin were as sharp as ever, with Joseph Milligan (looking more like Dallas Green with each passing day) laying down the framework, while Christian McAlhaney & bassist Deon Rexroat entertained the crowd around Stephen Christian’s always powerful vocals. The reliable hard-hitting trio of ‘The Resistance’, ‘Godspeed’ and ‘The Feel Good Drag’ were the set’s highlights, while they went old school with their encore duo of ‘Readyfuels’ and ‘Never Take Friendship Personal’. Considering their now large and impressive discography, Anberlin could probably have finished with any two songs and fans would have gone home happy on this night… Especially when considering the two excellent bands which provided support!