Reviewed on Sunday February 23 by David James Young and Kylie Finlay
What’s the first thing you normally see, first thing in the morning at a music festival? The impatient queue? A roadie check-one-two-ing? How about a dude on top of a giant pirate ship, drinking beer out of a horn? Badass Swedish vikings Amon Amarth kicked off Soundwave to a surprisingly massive crowd, sending the early devotees into an OTT death metal frenzy. Over at Stage Six, the powerful wall of atmospheric sound oozing from UK five-piece Hacktivist helped to fire up the morning as well. Their distinctive fusion of rap, grime and progressive metal created an intense wave of sound.
Mushroomhead blazed onto Stage Four with their solid industrial metal and nightmarish masks, makeup and costumes. For all their buzzed-up theatrics their performance was an anticlimax, reflected in the fact they all managed to wear the exact same pair of cargo shorts. Half-dressed and halfway there.
Biffy Clyro can headline festivals in the UK with ease. Here in Australia, however, they are midday main-stagers playing to a relatively sparse D-section. Although the festival circumstances are somewhat different, they don’t need to put in much footwork here – the crowd is onside from the first note, roaring along to a slab of both old and new favourites. Perhaps it won’t be long before they’re headlining here, after all.
Despite playing on one of the festival’s smallest stages – the Stage Three annex – you would think The Story So Far were a main attraction. Angst-ridden pop-punk was the order of the day, and vocalist Parker Cannon probably didn’t even need a microphone for all of the singing along during their all-too-brief set. Special mention, as well, to some of the best-dressed crowd-surfers of the day; including Tom Cat and Spider-Man.
Testament were beiger and far less satisfying than a creamy Baileys. Skulls shooting billows of rancid smoke through their mouths looked cheesier than a ghost train at the Easter Show. The disorientating wash of shredding guitars and terse vocals with a few technical issues at the sound desk made for an average performance that didn’t connect well with the audience. In contrast, the lesser-known three-piece Coliseum tore up Stage Seven with their soaring hardcore punk rock.
There were no fireworks, no crazy light shows and no bells and whistles for the set of the day. It was just loud guitars, defiant rage and a ridiculously long mic cable. Trash Talk came, saw and conquered in a blistering 20-minute set that saw raging circle pits, speaker stack climbing and an unforgettable slice of crowd participation which involved the entire crowd running outside the venue. It was raw, it was cathartic and it was about as punk rock as you can get at a mainstream music festival.
Exactly what AFI did to deserve going from an hour-long main stage set in 2010 to a 40-minute mid-afternoon set in 2014 is anyone’s guess. Regardless, the band took it in its stride – and that’s not just a metaphor. Davey Havok was Freddie Mercury incarnate at times, throwing in a slab of camp showmanship to great effect. ‘Miss Murder’ wound up being one of the day’s loudest and proudest sing-alongs. Meanwhile, Brendon Urie took his shirt off. Oh, and Panic! At The Disco played some songs. Maybe. One of the festival’s true sex symbols, Urie was all bravado in a career-spanning setlist.
Despite the arrogance of their next-door neighbours Trivium, Baroness weren’t about to let it get to them. From the opening cries of ‘Take My Bones Away’, they took their small but utterly enthralled crowd on a journey through hair-raising riffs, killer harmonies and glimmering moments of ambience. An unexpected delight. Likewise, Southern-style hard rockers Clutch unleashed a smoking hot set that had the crowd bouncing around and singing along. Lead vocalist Neil Fallon crooned wildly with natural groove as he breezed through tracks from their latest release, Earth Rocker. One of the top acts of the day.
Another Goliath performance came from Down. Who can rival the I-don’t-give-a-fuck brutal intensity of Phil Anselmo, the razor-sharp sludge guitars and the pounding drums of this fierce crew? Down injected bass-heavy sweet metal goodness into the afternoon and a well-earned case of whiplash throughout the pit. Anselmo beat his forehead to bloodiness with his own microphone and hypnotised the audience with his banter and general nonsense. ‘Lysergik Funeral Procession’, ‘Losing All’ and ‘Bury Me In Smoke’ were the highlights of the set.
Jimmy Eat World are a choice festival band, and packed in an hour of rousing choruses and waves of nostalgia from the punters in their mid-to-late 20s. So why, then, were so few around to see it? The band barely filled a quarter of its section of the D; relying on those up front to sing twice as loud as they normally would. Once the final trilogy of ‘Bleed American’, ‘The Middle’ and ‘Sweetness’ hit, we didn’t need another invitation.
How much you enjoyed Green Day’s headlining set depends entirely on how much you can put up with Billie Joe Armstrong. The world’s oldest teenager at 42, he runs around the stage like a madman and riles up the crowd at every given opportunity. This definitely has its drawbacks – he brings on a drunken behemoth to ruin the end of ‘Longview’ for everyone else; and if you never heard him ask you to say “O-wayyyy-ohhhh” again, it would still be too late. Still, we got all the hits and we had fun. There’s not much more to a Green Day show.
The world doesn’t know what Jason Butler may do next – and it’s this very sentiment that makes letlive. one of the most exciting bands of the entire day. Each line is spat with guttural vitriol, backed by chaotic and mesmerising post-hardcore that explores peaks and valleys before burning them to the ground. Bands like this matter; and the sooner more people realise that, the better.
The sludgy grind metal of Mastodon bid the festival goodnight with a heaving set. These guys don’t parade around with fancy props, outfits or chit-chat. Their impressive layered sound of booming double-bass rhythms, bullet popping fills and symphonic riffs chugged away as Troy Sanders roared with magnificent intensity. It was a gutsy and muscular set of howling rock that swelled the circle pit into a whirlpool of anarchy, before Neil Fallon from Clutch joined them onstage for the last song – squeezing every last drop of Soundwave juices from the fans.