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A Dimsim Goes To Soundwave

So I went to Soundwave 2013 in Melbourne and it was awesome.
1 The Lawrence Arms

Starting out your day with The Lawrence Arms is always good fun, and they happened to be the first band I saw on the day. Upon entry, the band Sharks were just finishing up their set on the stage beside LA's. Much to my amusement, I managed to catch an utterance of "do you like / do you like / do you like / my party tricks?" from Sharks' frontman (look it up the lyric if you don't understand the reference). It was almost immediately after this that Lawrence Arms entered the stage and began playing. Of course, they were fantastic. If you have ever been in the conundrum of being unable to discern whether Brendan or Chris is the frontman of the band due to their shared lead vocal duties, such a matter is immediately settled upon seeing the band live. Chris is surprisingly quiet and incredibly focused on his guitar playing, but his singing carries a lot of intensity. Brendan, however, is a much more energetic and humorous personality on stage, recalling his evening tour ritual with Lars Ulrich in which they both shove vodka soaked towels up their respective rectums. The set consisted mostly of tracks from their last three albums, though I did wish they played a lot more from "Apathy & Exhaustion". Most notably, "Porno and Snuff Films" was omitted from the set due to the aforementioned reference from Sharks, who the band really did not seem to respect. Brendan even wore the Sharks frontman's glasses through half the set before taking them off, asking the crowd something along the lines of "what kind of asshole wears glasses on stage?". Overall, my only major problem with the set was that the vocals were somewhat drowned out beneath the guitars, unfortunately, but the energy remained and was more than satisfactory.
2 The Wonder Years

The band I came to see. I was a little suspicious that a lot of the audience that had turned up at some point to Periphery's set had actually come to see The Wonder Years, as the latter were performing immediately after Periphery on the adjacent stage. The crowd was much, much huger than I expected, and a chant for the group began seconds after Periphery had finished. I managed to gradually wade my way near to the front of the stage, and the band entered to a huge uproar. Musically and visually, The Wonder Years are virtually the same as they are at all their shows (Soupy was a lot more energetic, punching dead air and spinning madly), but being there in person and singing along to all the words is awe-inspiring. My friend had told me earlier that the band had received a full 4/4 score in "audience rowdiness" or something like that, and I found this to be true as bodies flew into the air and kids broke out into impromptu mosh pits, all of which were against the rules and resulted in many of them being forced to settle by the security. Even Josh threw off his bass and jumped into the crowd to punch some kid that he had seen throwing a crowd surfer into the ground, stopping the band dead in the middle of "Coffee Eyes". Regardless, their set was engaging, emotive and absolutely crazy, but the only thing that could have possibly hindered such a perfect show was its brief forty minute span. The band's forty minute sets are notorious for almost always leaving out classics like "And Now I'm Nothing" and "All My Friends Are In Bar Bands" in favour of their more popular and digestible tracks like "Don't Let Me Cave In", while their hour long sets cover both with ease and unrivalled cohesiveness.
3 Billy Talent

By the time I had reached the stage after The Wonder Years, the stage (and the screens outside of the stage) were all swarmed for these guys. As such, I stayed for a few songs of their set before moving on to Slayer. As far as I could tell, these guys were awesome. They kicked off with "Devil in a Midnight Mass" and they definitely impressed as one of the strongest live acts of the day. As simply as I can put it, their success was in the way that Bens stage presence and Ian's guitar and vocal work commanded the crowd while Jon and Aaron held down the songs: engagement and cohesiveness in some of its strongest demonstrations of the day.
4 The Dear Hunter

Contrary to what most of you Sputnikers suggested, I went and saw The Dear Hunter instead of Shai Hulud. Casey and the gang played on Stage 5, a stage literally set up in front of a paved walking pathway. I honestly hadn't listened properly to any of the band's records up to that point, but I always take the opportunity at shows to try and introduce myself to a band I have yet to immerse myself in. After a little delay in setting up, the band headed straight into their set, and, in front of about 100 out of probably tens of thousands of Australians at attendance, they freaking ruled. The way bass and drums operated their intoxicating grooves came together with incredible coordination alongside the atmosphere and emotion created by the rest of the group, creating this explosive combination which left most of the audience frozen with awe, while others were still able to dance to Nick's incredible rhythms. Long, bluesy solos, effects wankery, and some of the most powerful build-ups and heart-stopping climaxes all happened in the space of this forty-minute set, plus a guy in a sombrero at the back the crowd screaming "play 'Lilian'" every five minutes. Casey even rocked an epic solo during an extended jam interlude on "Echo" which really had the entire audience in a trance. You wouldn't think so, but I left knowing that The Dear Hunter had just presented me with the best set of the day, even though I could not sing along to a single word. Even if you found "The Color Spectrum" series boring, I highly recommend seeing these guys live as they are an absolutely captivating experience.
5 blink-182

I had initially gotten a good spot not too far from the front after getting to Blink early, but after I tagged along with a friend to scramble back and forth around the venue to find another buddy, I got stuck standing next to a bunch of smelly, seemingly hostile guys, a collection of heavy smokers and a bunch of people doing both chicken fights and a three person sitting-on-shoulders thing which nearly resulted in one of them breaking the others' neck. From where I was standing I could not see and could barely listen to anything amidst the sheer amount of sweat, pushing and second-hand smoke that I was subjected to, and I left during "Disaster" (the third song). From what I did catch of the music, the band were anthemic and with a generally awesome energy, though the augmentations and fills Brooks Wackerman (of Bad Religion, filling in for Travis) produced were obviously out of place.
6 Living With Lions

I caught the last two or three songs of their set and they weren't bad. Unfortunately, their live act wasn't ideally mixed and, though the music was quite good, their movements were clearly held back and significantly lacking in visual energy. However, their last song had a great glimpse of emotional vocal performances and great chord progressions that were really impressive, so I can't wholeheartedly condemn their live show. I'm sure they're great on record.
7 Cancer Bats

After walking around and picking up merch, I managed to catch few songs of the Cancer Bats set. Honestly, these guys did not have a bad energy, but from what I could tell (I haven't listened to much of these guys at all and not in a long time), their music seemed really lifeless and predictable. However, their cover of "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys was pretty cool.
8 Polar Bear Club

The reason I was at Cancer Bats' stage in the first place anyway was to see Polar Bear Club, who started playing seconds after Cancer Bats were done. Right from the first song, Jimmy (lead vocals) was carrying the entirety of the band's visual intensity, improvising some aggressive and borderline ridiculous dances as the band played. He was powerful and engaged the audience as much as he could, telling them to sing louder and jump and a whole manner of other things. The rest of the band gradually got more and more involved as the set progressed, especially during "Screams in Caves" and this was the point at which the band's set turned to gold. Right up there with the most intense shows of the day.
9 Fucked Up

Oh man, Fucked Up. Wow. One by one the guys came on to Stage 5 (the one on the pathway that Dear Hunter played on) and picked up their instruments, and almost like Jesus entering after his disciples, Pink Eyes/Damian came right to the front of the stage with an incredible aura of majesty about him. It was evident that the entire crowd knew of Damian's stage reputation, and it took only seconds during opener "Queen of Hearts" for him to be right on the barrier of the audience pushing the microphone into people's mouths as security tried to make sure that the microphone cord didn't get caught in anything. Following the end of the song, he told some anecdotes, making the point that being a musician is the easiest job in the world, that he was surprised at the number of people, and that he loved everyone in the crowd for being there. It was then that they entered into "Under My Nose" and "David Comes to Life" and Damian found himself in the middle of the 100-200 standing crowd hugging whoever wanted to hug him, as well as take selfies with a bunch of them. They patted his bald head, gave him water, and he lifted up a bunch of crowd surfers too as they passed over him. He continued to interact with the audience, hanging upside-down on barriers, passing plastic cups around, and even holding the microphone in his mouth for one of the screams on "Black Albino Bones". He told some great jokes and anecdotes, many of which related to "The Other Shoe" (the closer), and indeed the song came with some uplifting sing-alongs from the crowd and the majority of the band on vocals. Much like Polar Bear Club, the instrumentalists of the band had begun somewhat apathetic but gradually became more and more energetic, especially bassist Mustard Gas (I think she lost her glasses at some point). If it did not tie with The Dear Hunter as the best set of the day, it was easily the most visually engaging and heart-warming of all.
10 Such Gold

There wasn't very much to say about this set. If you've listened to Such Gold's music, it's like that just much noisier, almost to the point of turning them purely into a hardcore band. Ben's vocals were even more guttural than on the record, but that's about it. Anyway, the audience really knew a lot of the lyrics and sung along to every word except for the new song. Though I have very little to say about this set despite seeing it in full, they were exceptional in creating a powerful atmosphere that probably hit the hardest out of all the sets of the day.
11 The Amity Affliction

The final set. I met up with my buddies who I lost during Blink's set and we pushed to the front as the Bring Me the Horizon fans left after the set was cut short. Amity, as an Australian favourite in particular, command the crowd furiously, certainly making up for taking about ten to twenty minutes extra to set up their gear. There was a weird amount of pushing as people back and forth from violent individual moshers and crowd surfers, and I was sandwiched pretty badly with one shoelace untied. Once ensnared by the ferocity and pure heaviness of the band, however, none of that mattered. The entire crowd was singing whenever they weren't being pushed around and especially when they were. It was the highest amount of audience response I had seen all day, and even as the guys finished up, the audience stayed for about 5-10 minutes pleading for one more song.
Shit I bought

A Dear Hunter shirt with a polar bear riding a unicycle on it, a Fucked Up "Triumph of Life" shirt and an Early November shirt.
Shit I'll remember

The sarcastic arrogance of Brendan Kelly (Lawrence Arms), Josh Martin bashing some kid (Wonder Years), the pure awesomeness of The Dear Hunter, the unequaled passion of Jimmy (Polar Bear Club), the many ridiculous antics of Pink Eyes (Fucked Up), the chick rolling up a roach at the end of The Early November's set, and getting bashed into at The Amity Affliction.
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