Soundwave 2008: And the Bands Played On….

City & Colour

A much-changed Soundwave line-up rolled into town on Saturday to be met with the hottest day in the city in four years, with temperatures over 40 degrees in the mid-afternoon sun.  

With a couple of last minute drop outs (From Autumn to Ashes and Still Remains) it meant that a total of seven bands had dropped out from the original line-up (Social Distortion, Coheed & Cambria, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Chiodos and Ace Enders).  The organisers replaced a number of the early drop-outs, meaning that Alexisonfire, City And Colour, Thursday and Infectious Grooves were added to the bill.  After Saturday’s experience you get the feeling that in order to placate the masses, the organisers spent more than a king’s ransom to get these additions onto the bill at the expense of the basic facilities and organisation that you would expect from a festival that is being attended by some 16,000 people…

With the site being in the city I aimed to get there early, to get in and have a walk around the site and get my bearing before the bands started at midday.  Walked past the ever growing queues at both gates and arrived at the ticket pick-up at about 11:20am only to find that PR had left all of the photo passes at the hotel and with it being a 20 minute each way trip from the site back to their hotel had to take a seat and wait for them to get back.  Eventually the passes did turn up but by now it was after midday.  Although the bands were meant to start at midday the gates didn’t open until about 12:10pm.  As the bands had started PR got us through a back entrance and straight into the festival.  This ended up being a complete godsend as I think otherwise we would have been made to queue up with everyone else; reports from disgruntled punters have said that it took up to 2 hours of queuing in the extreme heat to get into the site.

Had a walk around the site so didn’t photograph the first set of bands.  This wouldn’t have made any difference as security were refusing to let any of the photographers into the photo pit without being escorted in by PR.  Luckily this got sorted very quickly so I could get started on photographing.

Most of the day was spent moving between Stage 1 (and the Annexe Stage) and Stage 3.  Only times I made it to the other two stages were for City & Colour and Killswitch Engage.  The temperature was energy sapping from the very start; in addition to the distance between the different stages the main stage is at the bottom of a hill, so much of the day was spent carrying a hundredweight of camera gear up and down said hill.

Although all the comments that have been posted relate to punters’ experiences, the set up on the day was just as bad for the photographers, with other issues encountered during the day in addition to the passes being left at the hotel and security initially not letting the photographers into the pit.  This is in addition to the contract that we had to sign, which I’ve talked about here.  The barrier for the Annexe was a free-standing barrier that you expect to see around some road works.  As there was no bracing after maybe the second band it got pushed forward towards the stage making it unusable until it was pushed back and some additional bracing put in between the barrier and stage.  The downside was that this halved the area, with the pit not being very big to begin with. 

Generally the photo pits on the other stages were very narrow, making it uncomfortable with all the security and so many people coming over the barrier during the sets.  As well as being hit from behind – having your nose smashed into your camera isn’t the best feeling in the world – there was also the worry that someone would come over the barrier and in the mêlée accidentally knock over one of the dustbins of water all over our bags of equipment.

Security itself seemed to be another issue, with very little security at the side of the stages, especially on Stages 1 and 3.  This meant that the photographers were wary of leaving their bags on the floor whilst taking photos of the bands, worried that someone would walk in unopposed and take our gear.  Security seemed pretty bad all ‘round though.  Between bands they seemed to completely disappear, so if I got to a stage early or when walking to and from the Annexe I was giving out water to the people at the front against the barrier.  Also saw a few fence jumpers during the day, being half heartedly chased by tubby security guards before they vaulted the fence. 

And we were only allowed to photograph Alexisonfire for two songs (at least I think it was only two); a real disappointment, as for a band as photogenic as them you really want as much time as possible.

Reports from Sydney, where Soundwave moved to the day after Brisbane show the same problems as experienced at Brisbane – very poor organisation and festival management that you wouldn’t expect from a bunch of part-time amateurs.  And there’s still three more dates of the tour.  Let’s hope they get it sorted for Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth and also for next year’s shows.  If you do the maths, people have a right to be angry: $125 a ticket * 16,000 punters * 5 shows = a cool $10m income, not including the additional money they’ve brought in from the side-shows.  And Brisbane gives its hearty thanks for another promoter of a major festival that only organises side-shows in Melbourne and Sydney…..  

Anyway, enough.

A few of my favourite photos from the day below with a whole lot more on flickr.


Killswitch Engage

All Time Low

The Matches




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