Soundwave Festival @ Sydney Showgrounds: Another Perspective

Our eclectic team of writers from around Australia – and a couple beyond – with decades of combined experience and interest in all fields.

I’ll admit, going into Soundwave I was slightly dubious. Having had my music festival induction in the UK, the bar was set pretty high (Glastonbury, Isle of Wight, Reading, V, Bestival, Wakestock, and Download – to name but a few). Still, the line-up looked good on paper and so I was cautiously excited – even if mainly just to see what an Aussie-style festival was like.

At the start of the day, what was initially thought to just be a delay resulted in Sharks being unable to take the stage due to a lack of a guitarist. Whether this was to do with the flash floods in Queensland that affected some of the acts whom performed later in the day, I’m not quite sure. Either way, we weren’t off to the best of starts. We were, however, treated to a man trying to forward-roll his way across the entire arena floor. Kudos to you, sir! Sharks would end up taking the stage much later in the day, but we’ll get to that.

After a non-start with Sharks, there was a false start with Versus The World. It was slightly amusing that it took the lead singer over two minutes into his own song to realise that there was no sound coming from the bass guitar. Sadly, such an ignorance of his surroundings was a sign of things to come. If his overzealous performance (which the crowd did not respond to — each song was greeted with the sort of applause you get at a ten-year-old’s violin recital) was forgivable, his excessive rambling before and after each song was not. 
In terms of the actual music: the instrumentals were decent, if common and predictable; while the lyrics and vocals were very much limited (never more so evident than in the song entitled ‘Hallelujah’). 

Performing on a smaller stage by the grass really aided Memphis May Fire in their cause, as they were able to create an atmosphere and get the crowd going in the small space. The songs themselves were nothing special, and none really stood apart from the other, but vocalist Matty Mullins demonstrated a good range to bring life to the once stale post-hardcore southern rock genre. 

The self-declared underdogs of Soundwave, Lucero, gave a solid account of themselves here. Nowhere near as heavy as Memphis May Fire, who preceded them, they proved a great band to sit around on the grass with some mates and chill to. The lead singer had that sort of husky voice only attainable via decades of dedicated whiskey drinking. 

As is often the case with lesser bands live, The Vandals' vocals just weren’t up to the occasion. A decent time filler, but I would hardly dream of recommending somebody to go see them perform. They do, however, get bonus points for being able to evoke the crowd into circle dancing. Though how much that was down to them, and not just the beers beginning to take effect, is up for debate.

Bullet For My Valentine's entrance to ‘O Fortuna’ set the tone for the rest of the performance. Explosive, in a word. Those who had sought shelter from the rain flooded back onto the arena floor, and, almost as if on cue, the downpour ceased as we were treated to the band’s iconic aggressive riffs. 

Canadian music has gotten itself some bad stereotypes recently. Exports such as Bieber, Dion, and Adams, have conditioned us to think of them as being filled with hyperbolic love lyrics and, honestly, just rather annoying. Oh, and there’s that whole thing about them being afraid of the dark. Billy Talent was a vast improvement on such a stereotype. Though he, and Sum 41, were both scheduled to play while it was still light out – coincidence? I think not.

Playing their biggest hits, such as ‘In too Deep’ and ‘Waste my Time’, Sum 41 really brought the crowd at Stage 2 to life as the floor felt the full weight of excited fans. My only complaint is their attempted cover of ‘We Will Rock You’. Yes, the crowd respond. But I am never a huge fan of bands covering such classic tunes – simply because they never do it justice. Truth be told, there was no need for it either. Sum were more than capable of putting on a great show with their own collection of raucous punk rock material.

Cyprus Hill were decent, if a bit out of place. I’ll be the first to admit that hip hop isn’t exactly my forte or my cup of tea. By the end there was somebody on the bongos and I really had no idea what was going on.

Although the numbers on the arena floor quickly diminished after the announcement of a change of set times and the news that those who had been expecting Paramore to take the stage after Cyprus Hill were to witness Sharks instead, they performed admirably. A mixture of punk and British indie rock, they demonstrated why some had been disappointed when they were unable to take the stage at the very beginning of the day. Though with a prepared set of only 30 minutes, it then meant both Stage 2 stages were empty for 45 minutes. A huge embarrassment for a festival of Soundwave’s pedigree.

If I’m being critical of Blink 182's set, this probably wasn’t the best vocal performance that Mark Hoppus has ever given. That being said, it was still one hell of a show. People who’ve ever been to a Blink concert knew what they were in store for. With them it is never just the music, it is the whole performance. Cue the band emerging amidst smoke from behind a black curtain, and an accompanying lights show that seemed designed to induce an epileptic fit. ‘The Rock Show’, ‘What’s My Age Again?’, ‘I Miss You’, ‘Always’, ‘First Date’ and ‘All the Small Things’ were personal highlights for an avid Blink fan.

Throughout the performance the crowd were able to sing every word of every song, to such a degree that, amongst the swarms near the stage, it was sometimes hard to hear Mark’s voice over the waves of vocals coming from every corner of the arena. Ending on ‘Dammit’ and ‘Family Reunion’ brought raptures from an audience that had been bouncing along from the first minute to the last.

Overall, despite having a few too many hiccups and average ‘filler’ acts, Soundwave was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The atmosphere of the crowd was definitely the highlight, and so everyone in attendance deserves praise.

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