Davey Boy

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DaveyBoy's Soundwave Festival 2014

For me, February means Australia's annual Soundwave festival; a virtual cornucopia of metal, rock, punk and everything else in between. Marking my 6th consecutive visit to Soundwave, 7 annexed stages housed almost 100 bands on this sunny day. For the second year running, Melbourne's event was housed at Flemington Racecourse, allowing a crowd of approximately 50,000 to squeeze in... And thankfully, this time around, the two main stages were not as spread out as last year, meaning that you could hear either stage no matter where you stood. Taking into account I saw Alter Bridge and Living Colour play two nights before (see my blog for a run-down) at a side-show, these are the bands I saw on festival day in the order that they played:
1Real Friends / The Bennies / Ceres

I had wanted to see Real Friends, but their set awkwardly clashed with the following act, so I took in 2 songs each from local acts The Bennies (who were a bit silly) and youngsters Ceres (who were quite promising with some genuinely impressive guitar lines). Thankfully, I also caught a couple of tunes from Real Friends. They had a larger than expected crowd watching them and were good, without standing out in any way.
2Biffy Clyro

Up early on the main stage, the fair Scottish trio appeared without any shirts on to bake in the midday sun. Having previously been blown away by a club show that I witnessed them at, Biffy are contenders for the best live band going around right now... And this 45 minute set didn't do anything to dispel that notion, even if they did not that better that previous gig. The setlist was nicely spread between their previous 3 or 4 albums, while their new songs sounded as good as everything else. I just love the way that everyone struggles to do the cliched clapping to them, since their rhythms are so off-kilter. You're better off swaying your hips, just like front-man Simon Neil does.
3The Story So Far

I was really keen to see these guys and came away a little neutral. They were undoubtedly not helped by playing at one of the smaller stages, where it appeared that the sound was a little off. Having said that, their better songs really did stand out over the rest, meaning it may just be a case of immersing yourself in their sound. You definitely get the feeling that these youngsters want to be heavier than they are, yet it may not serve them best in the long run. Out front, prowling Parker was sincere, yet did everything which suggested that a smile may just have cracked his face.
4Alkaline Trio

One of a number of bands that I had seen before (quite a few years earlier in their case), Alk3 are now as professional a live outfit as you will come across. That does occasionally give you the feeling that they could be doing this with their eyes closed, but a short festival set such as this tends to mean that you predominantly have no filler and many heavier tracks are played. The rhythm section especially stood out, while fan-favorite closer 'Radio' brought the sing-along factor in spades.

Picture a rather small stage with 2 drums set up on it. Then picture a separate roll-on stage about one-sixth of that size containing a full drum set. Drummer Darren King then walks out first, puts on big headphones and then gaffer tapes them on around his chin (bloodied sports player style). From that moment I was hooked. Not just because that small stage moved with every maniacal whack of King's drumsticks, but also because the other 3 members of the band brought something unique to the equation. Paul Meany's vocal range was at times stupendous, while his keys sounded really good. The only downside - as per their albums - is that for a short set, they still played lengthy outros, so I think they only got 6 songs in.

Of the bands I had previously seen, AFI were the ones who improved the most. I'm not even sure what it was exactly, but I get the feeling that while they had previously been genre-hopping a little, most recent LP 'Burials' has seen them snugly fit into a sound where they are now fully comfortable. Davey Havok's stage presence was as good as could be seen on the day, while the musicianship sounded suitably crisp, yet heavy. Beginning with 'The Leaving Song Pt.II' and 'Girl's Not Grey' was also a wise choice.

I think I have heard all of one song from these guys in the past, so this was more for the sake of still seeing someone play while having a bite to eat. One things for certain though; their brand of pop-punk with rap is entertaining. I think I knew that from the moment I saw that they had a bar set up on stage... Complete with a barman who also acts as backing vocalist and roadie. I'm unsure that he was quite as impressed when he had to repair a faulty monitor though, because it meant that the band had to serve themselves.
8Panic! At the Disco

Definitely the most inconsistent act of the day, this set included some fantastic highs and cringe-worthy lows. Of course, most of those lows were courtesy of the band's mediocre new album, which produced 4 of this 11 song set. Since Brendon Urie is basically the only remaining member of PatD, so it's fair to say that he dominates proceedings. And you can't fault his stage presence at all, holding the predominantly younger audience in his palm the whole way through. That includes a strange - and surprisingly impressive - stab at hardcore on the penultimate tune!
9Black Veil Brides

It is no secret that the most metal of all bands in the world is one of my guilty pleasures. Playing a set that was heavy on tracks from their excellent new LP 'Wretched and Divine', these guys thankfully weren't in full make-up gear, although still looked a little strange (remembering that I try to steer away from their videos). They sounded really good too, bringing the sing-along factor and not scared to indulge in some cheesy guitar solo action. The drummer is definitely still stuck in the band's metalcore days though, but if anything, this gives BVB a slight point of difference in the live setting.
10I Call Fives

When seeing so many bands in one day, there is usually at least one disappointment... And on this day it was unfortunately I Call Fives. I'm a fan of them, but they appeared to be in their own world on stage. It probably was not helped by a rather small turnout to see them, but that's no excuse for what was bordering on careless playing and ridiculous banter. I think I'll just put this one down to a bad day, or most likely a big previous night.
11Jimmy Eat World

This is another band that I think could perform such a precise set blindfolded. Of course, that doesn't make their performance any less enjoyable. They just have so many sing-alongs that they could pull out of their discography. It's not exactly innovative stuff and they don?t do anything to knock your socks off, but it's also very difficult to dislike. The final 3 songs are a sing-along trio to match any other: 'Bleed American', 'The Middle' & 'Sweetness'.
12Green Day

Since the band are planning on taking a break from touring and recording, this headline set promised a lot, but ultimately fell a little short of expectations (and last year's headliner Metallica). While listed as a 3 hour set, they played for about 150 minutes, 30 of which was silly banter and other filler. And then a further 30 minutes consisted of newer tunes, covers and medleys, which were all fairly meh. But with the downs come the ups. During the middle section, they played about 5 songs in a row from Dookie and it was awesome (they should have played the whole album), but the (slightly surprisingly) younger audience preferred the also strong songs from American Idiot. Put it this way; it's lucky they have a lot of hits.
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