Soundwave 2011 @ RNA Showgrounds, 26.02.2011: Part 4

The evening before Soundwave I’d seen a fantastic set by Gang Of Four, who were playing a sideshow at The Hi-Fi.  It was so good that I decided that I really needed to go see them play again at Soundwave.  They are playing Stage 3, the stage furthest away from anything else. There should be a twenty minute spot before Slayer start to play, right over the other side of the festival at Stage 4, so I should be able to see at least some of their set.  However, this doesn’t happen as thanks to the over-running of the stage times, some awful emo band on before Gang Of Four don’t stop playing until after the time that Gang Of Four were due to start.  I don’t even get to see them play a single note today and it’s hugely disappointing.

In the end I decide that I have to go and photograph Slayer, even though I’m not a fan.  Having said that, their reputation proceeds them and I’ve never photographed them before. Truth be told it’s all really quite boring, with the crowd being far more entertaining than the band itself.  Not only that but the sound is pretty horrendous for what I see of the their set, really muddy and all bottom-end.  The band end up cancelling their show the following day at the Sydney leg of Soundwave due to Tom Araya being ill, so in retrospect I wonder if illness was playing a part in their show today, as it was really underwhelming.  I really regret not staying at Stage 3 to see Gang Of Four.

Back over to the main stage and it’s time for One Day Of A Lion.  Quite why they’re playing the main stage at such a prominent time, whilst Slayer are playing the smaller Stage 4 at a similar time is a bit of a mystery.  Apparently they didn’t want Slayer playing in the dark on the large stage for safety reasons.  Whilst you can understand where they were coming from, I’m not sure if it really works, as it just means the massive crowd watching Slayer are hemmed in by the much smaller space in front of Stage 4.  No doubt Zach de la Rocha’s more famous, previous band has helped him get his spot, even though One Day As A Lion have only released one record.  But I enjoy what I see and I especially enjoy the challenge of photographing him, having missed out when Rage Against The Machine played Big Day Out a couple of years ago.  Musically  they sound fine to me, his vocal style doesn’t really change from RATM, so it’s essentially an electronica, guitar-less version of RATM.

By now the majority of the photographers are taking it easy between bands, sitting out at the side of the main stage after their three songs.  There isn’t really enough time to go to another stage and then get back to the main stage where Queens Of The Stone Age are on next.  I had wanted to go and photograph Foxy Shazam before One Day As  A Lion but there was a 10 minute window to photograph them on Stage 5 and then get back to Stage 1 in time to photograph there.  Similarly, whilst Mad Caddies on Stage 5 and Kylesa on Stage 4 start 30 minutes after One Day As A Lion are due to start, it’s also only 15 minutes before Queens Of The Stone Age are due to start.  The site is just to big and hard to get around to make the most of all the bands playing.

I enjoy photographing Queens Of The Stone Age. I REALLY ENJOY photographing Queens Of The Stone Age.  Or should that be I really enjoy PHOTOGRAPHING Queens Of The Stone Age.  Without a copyright grabbing contract in site, it’s some form of retribution, although the band don’t make it easy by all having 1950s-style microphones that makes getting nice, clear shots hard.  Still, I own the copyright to the photos I take of them so that makes everything alright.

Once again I find I’m running late.  The main stage is running a few minutes late and although there’s 15 minutes between the start of QOTSA and Rob Zombie, the late start and the walk over to Stage 4 means he’s already started playing by the time I’m in earshot.  By the time I get to the photo pit it’s already well into the second song.  Or at least I think it’s the second song.  At the end of the song we get turfed out of the photo pit as it turns out there was some introduction song that I missed that got counted as the first song.  So I end up with about ten photos from the 1/2 song I get to photograph.

But the evening all ends well thanks to Iron Maiden.

The main trouble with Soundwave is that it’s become just too big.  There’s too many people, not enough space, and bottlenecks between the main stage and all the other stages.  It’s not that it’s hard work, as with other festivals, it’s that it’s physically impossible.  There isn’t enough time to get between stages as freely as you would like and too many bands starting too close to bands on other stages.  At this year’s Big Day Out I photographed 20 bands, at Laneway it was 24 bands and at Good Vibrations 16 bands.  At this year’s Soundwave I only managed to photograph 13 bands, albeit missing a couple at the start of the day due to wristband/security issues, despite it being the festival with the line-up that I was most excited about.  Missing out on seeing, let alone photographing, so many bands I wanted to see is disappointing.  I guess I’m no different from anyone else, you look at the line-up when it first gets announced, get excited about all the bands you want to see and then get the usual disappointment a week before the festival when they publish the timetable and you realise you’re not going to get to see half the bands you want to see.

There’s so much to really love about Soundwave, especially the line-up, which in the last couple years has been better than Big Day Out.  The last couple of Soundwaves have been fantastic festivals in terms of who they have been able to get to play, regardless of actually being able to see all the bands you want.  Where they go next year will be interesting as there’s few bands that have the gravitas to top Iron Maiden this year.  Where do you go next? Who is big enough to headline it? AC/CD? Metallica? Guns N’ Roses? The Big 4?  I don’t think it’s going to get any smaller and if it’s to stay in Brisbane, as opposed to move down to the Gold Coast (although with Parklands being developed, I’m not sure where), it’s still going to have to fit inside the RNA Showgrounds.  That first time I went to Donington there was just the one stage, the first year I went to Glastonbury Festival (1990) there were two stage (the Pyramid Stage and the Acoustic Tent).  Instead of using multiple stages to make sure you get your money’s worth and filling every minute of the whole day, when there’s only one or two stages you get to see things you never would have and discover new bands.  I don’t think the organisers of any festival in 2011 would ever take note, but sometimes less is more.

One Response to “Soundwave 2011 @ RNA Showgrounds, 26.02.2011: Part 4”

  1. Darragh says:

    Justin – you think these are good – you really should try make it to Golden Plains one year. The best I’ve ever been to – including Glastonbury. One stage, great bands, BYO food and beer.

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