The Vine festival review: ‘Soundwave Festival Brisbane’, March 2011

A festival review for The Vine. Excerpt below.

Soundwave Festival
RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane
Saturday 26 February 2011

2011 marks Soundwave Festival’s fifth year as a national touring entity; five years old, and already rivaling the Big Day Out in terms of sheer artistic firepower. The most recent BDO was headlined by Tool. This year’s Soundwave features Iron Maiden – one of the biggest bands in the world – closing each night with a two-hour set. What a coup.

Besides that classic British metal act, nearly 70 other acts – mostly internationals – fill out a line-up pregnant with talent. The bookers are clearly doing something right, as several Soundwaves have sold out, Brisbane included (though curiously, today they were still selling tickets at the gate, for $180). Judging by the maps being handed out inside, the festival grounds have nearly doubled compared to last year. For the first time, organisers have placed two stages outside of the RNA Showgrounds, thereby using some of the space that an expanded Laneway Festival trialled last month. More space means more people. Maybe it’s the urban environment messing with my perceptions, but it feels like there could well be more people here than at the Gold Coast Big Day Out. At least on sight, it’s a major achievement for a festival solely focused on rock, metal, punk and hardcore.

Pathways to the new stages – numbered 3 and 6, which makes very little sense – become natural bottlenecks early in the day, as many thousands attempt to see Swedish act Millencolin on stage 3 at 12.30pm. There’s not a skerrick of space anywhere within eyeshot of the band, who’re celebrating the 10th anniversary of their most popular album, Pennybridge Pioneers, by playing it in full today. It’s a winning decision: tracks like ‘No Cigar’ (Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, anyone?), ‘Fox’ and ‘Penguins & Polarbears’ are all classics.

Walking through the main arena – where stages 1 and 2 are positioned adjacent to each other – presents a strange sight: very, very few people watching Welsh rock band Feeder. Poor dudes. Apparently MxPx/The Ataris brought a big crowd immediately beforehand. Outside the arena and across the train tracks that split the venue in two, Sevendust are playing the same heavy, down-tuned breed of metal I remember from high school on stage 4. (Stage 4a is right next to it. Soundwave don’t try too hard with naming stages, clearly.) It appears not much has changed in the interim. They add in a couple of metal cred-seeking song snippets, including ‘Master of Puppets’ and Pantera’s ‘Walk’; a decision which was always going to work in their favour in front of a crowd like this. Singer Lajon Witherspoon makes some strange comments toward the end of the set: “Thank you for making our dreams come true!”, and “Sevendust has arrived!”. Huh? They’ve been around for 17 years. Weird. Still, they’re playing to several thousand people, so… good for them. Monster Magnet are playing over on stage one. The vocals are really high in the mix. The singer’s voice sounds shot. Or maybe he always sounds like that. I sit and idly watch them from the shade of the grandstands for a while – they don’t seem to mean much to many people.

Devildriver, on the other hand, clearly do. Over on stage 4, they’re playing to a field full of young dudes thrashing away in the sun. I opt to explore the wide range of food outlets positioned between stages 4 and 5. The organisers have allowed some non-traditional food stalls to operate in the venue: ‘Punk Rock Burgers’ is doing a roaring trade, and the Iceberg (slushie/slurpee) fan is working in overdrive. $5 for a 600ml Coke is a bit rough, though.

For the full review, visit The Vine. Above photo by Justin Edwards.

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