Royal Melbourne Showgrounds, February 27, 2009
It turned out that the Showgrounds trains were few and far between, so, while the throng of black t-shirts paraded in a happy-go-lucky fashion into the festival from the train station, I took a more pushy, hurried approach, hoping to catch at least the last few songs of Mike's set. I felt I'd chosen the wrong queue at the gates, but my e-ticket, which I had feared would prove untrustworthy, was dealt with quickly, and I was inside and being handed a map and playing times. Meanwhile, a supposedly eager young photographer named Marty was having difficulty confirming his press credentials, and could apparently not find a pay phone to have them called through. As a result, the review in this month's Buzz Magazine comes sans-pictures.
By the time I got to the enticingly redeveloped Stage 3 amphitheatre, Mike from MxPx was gone and Silverstein were playing. I took a quick glance at them, before heading to the main stages for Less Than Jake and Goldfinger.
Less Than Jake played well, but I couldn't really get into their set. Perhaps I was still disappointed about missing Mike Herrera after I was so excited at seeing his name as a late addition to the bill, or maybe the rest of the crowd was just too thin and unenthusiastic. I left my spot at the front of the stage before they finished to head next door to stake out prime position for Goldfinger.
Goldfinger, on the other hand, were fantastic, and just how I had hoped. Although I only really know their singles, and the few other favourites that Natalie picks out for party mixes, they played them all, and even the few songs I didn't know leaned themselves perfectly to jumping around in the Nosebleed Section.
Speaking of Nosebleed Sections, my next stop was at the smaller, enclosed Stage Four, where Unearth were finishing up. In the brief break while the stage was rearranged and the crowd thinned slightly, I took up my stop in the front row, and started to wonder if collecting my buffet-style canvas showbag from the merch tents so early in the day was such a great idea. What happened to people in the front row with bulky bags during metal sets? It didn't seem wise, but I suppose plenty of girls do it with big handbags, so why shouldn't I be able to with my comparatively lighter and less important showbag? I slung it around my neck, and, while noticing something peculiar about the road crew - isn't that Evergreen Terrace themselves, setting up the instruments? - I spotted Gunner, who hadn't lost his photography pass.
When Evergreen Terrace came onto the stage, in matching tuxedo t-shirts, my earlier suspsions were confirmed. The band had set up their own stage, incognito.
Evergreen Terrace were one of the major drawcards of the festival for me this year, so I was pleased when they burned through a killer set, even if it did seem to be over before it really had a chance to begin. They made the most of the smaller stage, leaning into the crowd, crowdsurfing and passing the microphone around the front row. Some boy asked at one point if I was okay, 'because you're kind of too small for this kind of thing,' he said. I told him that I had been doing this for a long time, and may have even erroneously said 'since before you were born.' He accepted the answer and congratulated me nevertheless.
After the NIN show at Festy two days earlier, Craig had greeted me with a sweaty hug. When I headed dripping into the beer cage for some fresh air after Evergreen Terrace's set, I was able to return the favour. Trent waved to me, and at first I wasn't sure he was waving to me, since I didn't recognise him in his sunglasses and wasn't expecting him. Ian emerged from somewhere and handed me a bourbon premix, and apologised for it being warm. Lee and Kip were there too, and said they were headed over to the main stages for a while. My schedule was empty for a while, so I went with them, and on the way out, some guy planted an open palm firmly against my chest.
'Where did you get the Johnnie?' he asked, pointing to the can in my hand. I told him from the bar, but it turned out that the sealed can was just something Ian had picked up along the way.
We were watching Anberlin, who sounded pretty good, although I am not really familiar with their music, aside from a few songs I picked out while they were playing. I divulged a tale from after the Big O to Kip while Lee was presumably bouncing around underneath the stage which left her rolling in hysterics in the dust. I helped her up, but she still seemed unsteady for a while. Luckily Red Jumpsuit Apparatus were taking to the other stage, and she was distracted, then mildly disappointed, when they didn't appear wearing actual red jumpsuits.
I saw that t-shirt in the markets while I was exploring a little on my way to the beer tents outside stage four. I thought it was funny, simply because I know someone called Greg who could possibly, if erroneously, be referred to as 'Old Gregg.' I found the Begans where I left them, and it didn't look like they had moved. I suggested to Ian that if they weren't going to watch bands, they could have stayed at home for free, and the drinks would have been cheaper than three coupons each. I think I might have spotted him later on in the crowd of 36 Crazyfists.
Dillinger Escape Plan were good, but not what I expected. I hadn't seen them live before - perhaps I just don't like them as much live, sans samples and trickery, as I do recorded. Their final strains were dying down when The Bloodhound Gang took to the stage next door.
I had thought that Bloodhound Gang might have been good live. After all, aside from their memorable hits, I have had the rest of their music drilled into me during road trips and knew all the words. They did play well, but most of the forty minutes they had been allocated to the stage was spent comparing comments with one another that ranged from the banal to doggedly homophobic. They included two renditions, in full, of the Australian national anthem, one of them drenched in vomit, both of which just dragged on. I thought a topical comment about throwing people from the Westgate Bridge, though, was daring and finally amusing. When the set started to feel like it was going for ever, I retreated next door to get to the front for Billy Talent.
Even though I only know a few of Billy Talent's songs, the rest were catchy enough to keep me jumping throughout the set. Especially in contrast to the Bloodhound Gang before them, Billy Talent sounded snappy and enjoyable. While the front man leered menacingly at the crowd and seemed to truly take on the personas of who ever it is in his songs that seems so angry (alright - bitchy,) and I liked the guitarist's B52s-esque hairstyle.
I took my dinner break early, and headed over to stage three to see New Found Glory - dubbed for this day 'The Gloryholes,' after Craig defaced the hat from Kip's showbag with a texta. The band would perhaps have been better suited to a main stage, because the small amphitheatre was filled, with people climbing onto utility boxes, lamp posts and small buildings for a better view, like at the Big Day Out of old. I sat on a hill above the ampitheatre for some downtime, and had bought dinner from the woodfire pizza stand - a wise move, considering Lee would later end up in the hospital vomitting blood and hooked up to an intravenous drip, with doctors pointing the finger accusingly at the Soundwave kebab as the likely cause. I enjoyed New Found Glory, though. I was pleased that they played a lot of songs from their new album, which I am enjoying, although I don't think it is getting very favourable reviews from anyone else, and it may not have even been released yet when Soundwave took place. It was quite a sight - beach balls flying every which-way above a crowd moving in a somehow out of sync unison, while firefighting and police helicopters swooped low overhead on their way to and from fires, and a guy dashed past, craftily coaxing a hefty security guard to follow, for what ever reason.
When I ducked into the beer tent to use the last of my infamous coupons, the crew were exactly where I had left them. Jimmy, who I had met after the Festy NIN show was there too, and once we finished our drinks, we made our way over to the main stage where Alice In Chains were finishing up. The effects of the day spent in the beer cage were showing on Craig, who attepted to get a return from high-fives with almost everyone who walked by, and Jimmy and I lost him as we went ahead to push easily towards the front for Nine Inch Nails. What I liked about Soundwave last year remained this year. Even for the headline acts, the open layout made it easy to get amongst the action. The same seizure-inducing lighting rig from Wednesday night had been looming unused on the main stage all day, and was now being tested in sequence. Up close, the silhouette effect I noticed at Festy wasn't so apparent - I was able to see the band members' faces. Still, Trent and his crew were able to slink ominously in and out of both smoke and shadow, to remerge elsewhere, gaining the most applause each time his boy appeared next to the cello. It was a dynamite extended set, and was ended with what sounded very much like a good bye, after speculation that NIN will be going for an 'extended break.'
I looked around for familiar faces afterwards, and found Jimmy, who seemed lost. We found the train station, and I helped Jimmy to find his way to Ripponlea, where he was meeting some girl. A girl in every port, perhaps? Who knows, but he said that after the Festy show and seeing NIN at Soundwave, he was returning home to Perth to repeat the whole process. I heard that the rest of the crew were going drinking somewhere after the show, but I went home for a rest. The past few days were catching up with me. I wasn't even sure I would go to Gunner's party at Bang the following day...