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DaveyBoy's Soundwave Festival 2013

As per the previous 4 years, yours truly had the pleasure of being one of many attendees at the annual SoundWave Festival to hit Australia at the end of another long hot summer. This year was purposefully a little different than usual, with it being the 10th anniversary of the festival. Basically, the difference was that it was a much bigger event this time around, which added both cost to the ticket price & a change of venue when it came to my local show in Melbourne. The latter meant that the capacity increased from 40,000 to 60,000 people, with the main downfalls being a significant distance split to the 2 main stages, as well as an event bound to throw up numerous clashes. More than ever, more metal acts infiltrated SoundWave, but I still found a way to get great value out of the day. Here are the bands I saw in the order they played:
1Versus The World

A sparse crowd of 100 or so people were treated to a solid start to the day by under-rated Californian punk rockers Versus The World. Their most recent album is well worth a listen, and while not exactly demanding passers-by to come have a look-see, their live set was professional and accomplished. It's always a bit tricky to judge while the clock is still reading "a.m." and the sound mixing is continuously being tinkered with, but these 5 guys provided some true grit without sacrificing the nuances of their triple guitar attack. 'A Fond Farewell' was the highlight of their set, adding a much-welcome sing-along factor.

Having loved their previous LP 'No Gods', I was genuinely looking forward to the band I once dubbed "The English Gaslight Anthem". I can't say I was disappointed with their live set, but it would best be described as "workmanlike", rather than "blow-your-socks-off-errific". The quartet's stage presence could use some work and there was a worrying "too cool for school" attitude that seemed to seep through, although that may have had something to do with a noon hangover. At their best when allowing their brilliant melodic guitar lines to shine (see 'Luck' and 'Arcane Effigies'), the band strangely played a significant proportion of their early EP tracks. While the EPs are much-loved amongst their fan-base, you wouldn't think a festival set on the other side of the world would be the most opportune time to focus on such songs.

There wasn't a great deal on in this time-slot, so I thought I would mosey on over to see The Chris Jericho Show, aka Fozzy. I'm not a huge fan of their modernized mix of metal and hard-rock, but I'm not a hater either. As expected, Jericho was the ultimate front-man, and even managed to side-step a couple of "Y2J" chants. Unfortunately, his vocals weren't exactly on-point, even if they were not as awful as some pundits would have you believe. Musically, they were competent, but not especially distinctive. The festival setting suited the grab-bag of tunes they played, and the catchier new tracks actually fared well next to set highlight 'Enemy'.
4Stone Sour

The genuine surprise of the day, this Corey Taylor led outfit packed a real punch live. While I enjoy pretty much every record they have put out, you could make an argument that none of them have come together anywhere near perfectly. And again, that's where the festival setting is perfect for such a band. Their setlist was spot on in my opinion, ranging from the acoustic 'Through Glass' all the way through to the heavy 'RU486' and '30/30-150'. Personally, I loved the catchiness of 'Absolute Zero' and 'Say You'll Haunt Me', but it was a really well rounded set. Taylor put his all into the performance (he sweated litres), while the shock to me was the technical guitar playing of Josh Rand, since I always thought he backed Jim Root, rather than the other way around. Very much recommended live, Stone Sour were my 3rd best act of the day.
5The Wonder Years

It was time for some pop-punk next with Philadelphia's The Wonder Years. These guys delivered exactly what I had expected; fun, energetic sing-alongs that kept their fans as happy as a pig in, ummm, mud. While solid, I have never quite bought into the opinion that they are at the top of their genre, and their live show did not blow me away sufficiently to sway me from my thoughts. It did, however, prove that they are a sincere, hard-working outfit who know how to piece together a sing-along (see 'Logan Circle' especially). They even stopped a song half-way through to discuss with over-zealous security the methods of bringing crowd-surfers down to Earth in a safe manner.
6Billy Talent

In arriving early to get a great spot for Canadian punks Billy Talent, I caught about 10 minutes of veteran band The Vandals... Wow, what a wacky bunch they are! Anyway, this was the second time I had seen Billy Talent, and I am glad to report that the quartet have lost absolutely none of their live prowess. As long as you do not dislike them on record, then you will love this band live. So much energy and so much fun, yet they sacrifice nothing when it comes to technical proficiency. If anything, Ben has improved his front-man skills since I saw them 4 years ago, while D'Sa, Gallant and Solowoniuk all shine individually and as a cohesive unit on each and every song. Hell, the former two still provide possibly the best back-up vocals I have seen from a band live. The 11 tunes that were played are well-chosen, while the set (surprisingly) is not harmed from the even spread of tracks chosen from their 4 LPs. My 2nd best act of the day.
7Motion City Soundtrack

I almost skipped MCS, as Billy Talent's set crossed over theirs by 5 minutes and they had been playing my favourite song 'Disappear' first up in other states. But since I had passed up seeing them 2 previous times, I felt that they deserved my attendance on this day. Thank goodness for that, as not only did they switch order to allow me to hear 'Disappear', but they delivered a near pitch-perfect performance that had me genuinely impressed. Justin sounded great, the sing-alongs were fun and the musicianship suited each and every tune down to the ground. Basically, what you see is what you get with these guys, as they don't try to gimmick anything up live, or reinvent their sound. Some people may feel that is a little boring (especially on subsequent viewings), but I would call that professionally playing to your strengths.
8Sum 41

I couldn't resist. These guys seem to blow gigs off left, right and center, and who knows how much longer they will be around. So nostalgia and fun won the day with my choice to see the Canadian pop-punk act here. Unfortunately, I was left disappointed (although not having a great spot didn't help). For mine; fun, catchy, sing-along pop-punk needs to be short-sharp and punchy live (especially in the shorter festival setting). So when third up 'We're All to Blame' goes for almost 10 minutes, I'm left bored. I mean, it's not as if these guys are technical wizards! While the sing-along choruses were still rather fun, practically every song seemed to drag, with the ho-hum crowd banter making it all the more frustrating. And boy, does Deryck look seriously unhealthy. His face looks like a puffer-fish.

From one veteran pop-punk act to another. Every man and his dog had warned me about Blink's live show, but I reckon it's just something you have to experience once. "Tight" is undoubtedly NOT a word you could use to describe this set from Mark, Tom & Bad Religion's drummer (replacing Travis), while the childish antics (read: "mum" jokes) returned in spades. What they do own, however, are a bunch of fun tunes that you just can?t help but bop along to. 'The Rock Show', 'First Date', (my favorite) 'Josie' and especially 'Dammit' just go off, while the set never approached boring with barely a wasted second as they churned through about 20 tunes. Seeing the stoic Tom that fronted Angels & Airwaves last year compared to this Tom, you have to wonder if it's actually 2 completely different people.
10Linkin Park

Well, kind of. Due to the previously mentioned distance between the 2 main stages, seeing and hearing Linkin Park properly often depended on what part of the stage they were on and which way the wind was blowing. So, I can't really judge their performance very well. What I could tell is that Chester is an absolute trooper on stage. He was everywhere and gives his absolute all vocally. Shinoda was the man of many talents, switching instruments and microphones as if he had ants in his pants. And the others, well were they even there? Oh yeah, I saw a pair of ear-muffs floating around. Obviously, 'In the End' and especially 'One Step Closer' received a tremendous response.

Having yet to see the metal legends live in the flesh, I just couldn?t resist seeing Metallica on this night - despite the annoying clash against the double billing of Paramore and The Offspring. And thankfully, I was in no way disappointed. This did not feel like a festival set at all, containing all of the attributes that a true headline show would include. From the moment Eli Wallach appeared on the big screen to the humming of 'Ecstasy of Gold', this was a true spectacle... And in that sense, it was almost unfair to compare them to all other acts from the day. Without getting into the intricate technicalities of thrash metal, all 4 members of the band seemed to be in fine form, with James Hetfield especially having recovered his vocal prowess over the last few years. And the setlist: Well, despite a number of tunes being switched and swapped between different states, it was simply amazing... In other words, only one track (in Melbourne's case 'All Nightmare Long') being played from their most recent 4 LPs! These guys almost have far too many classics to individualize tracks, but let's just say that 'Fade to Black', 'One' and 'Enter Sandman' provided the perfect lead up to encore tunes such as 'Creeping Death' and (probably my personal favourite) 'Seek and Destroy'. At the end of two and a half hours of Metallica, I won't be forgetting that riff any time soon!
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