There’s another small window of opportunity between bands so I make my way down to check out Stage 3 for the first time, where Underoath are due to start at 3pm. By 3:15pm the band still haven’t started and so I end up going back to the main stage for Bush. The crowd has visibly shrunk from the one that was there for A Day To Remember, the audience frenzy has subsided and it’s a whole lot more subdued; people stood nodding their heads in time is about as active as it gets. Were Bush even that big a band? They were always regarded as grunge also-rans coming late to the party in the UK and the main interest was with Gavin Rossdale being from the UK but moving to the US and forming the band there. He’s still looking in good shape although he reminded me of Darius from Popstars/Idol. The songs are fairly tepid and middle of the road. After photographing I head up into the stand and listen to the rest of the set, which includes a ill-advised cover of The Beatles’ Come Together, which wasn’t even that good a song to start with. It’s strange watching from the stand as not only is the sound quiet all the way from the stage but there’s also the sound from Stages 4a/4b, coming over the top of the stand, so it makes it all sound like one big mess. The stand is reasonably full although I think people are sat there in case of another rain shower passing overhead rather than being sat there to watch the bands on the main stage.
Although there’s the typical ban on bringing alcohol into the festival, security must have been lax judging by all the empty spirit bottles strewn over the festival site. Sitting in the stands brings one of the day’s more unpleasant moments as a drunken lout brandishing a mostly drunk bottle of JD constantly verbally abuses a girl in full goth set up sat a couple of rows in front of him. He’s so obnoxious that anyone sat vaguely near him and his group gets up and moves away. Even after his group are left sitting in their own space he continues to rant and ends up dropping the bottle on to the concrete, where it smashes. Eventually the group moves and he decides he’s going to stamp the broken bottle glass into smithereens. I’m left secretly hoping that he cuts his foot to ribbons in the process and probably aren’t the only one.
Having downloaded some of my memory cards onto my laptop (not having a working LCD screen and not being able to review and delete any photos to clear space makes festival memory card management a difficult prospect) it’s a short walk from the stand back to the main stage for Bad Religion. As the day goes on the walks between stages becomes more and more difficult as people decide that they’re going to watch bands from the staircases and access ramps. It was also an observation at last year’s Soundwave and as the day goes on I wish they’d employ more security staff to keep these areas clear. Bad Religion play some old school West Coast punk and within a few minutes you can see where all the nineties US punk bands got their ideas from. The most noticeable thing visually about the band is how pasty they all are considering they come from California; they look like they haven’t seen the sun in decades.
From there I head back to Stage 3 for Cobra Starship, who I’m guessing are just about the only band on the bill today who have been played on commercial radio; I can’t imagine Mastodon, Slipknot or Sisters Of Mercy getting much airtime on Nova. It’s no surprise that they’re lightest band of the day although surprising how full the tent looks given how much they stick out from the rest of the bands on the bill. Not only does their set include the only keytar I see during the day, I realise when editing the photo that it’s also the only female musician I see on stage out of the 22 bands I end up photographing. Although there’s a few others that I miss (Tonight Alive, Cherribomb among them), metal still remains very much a boy’s club. As if to prove the point, the next port of call of Trivium for some aggressive angry man music. This is followed, after a quick trip to see Dashboard Confessional, by more of the same in the form of Mastodon. Originally I wasn’t sure if I was going to have enough time to get across the site to photograph them, but Limp Bizkit’s ban on photographers makes it easier as I don’t have to go via Stage 1 beforehand. Everyone I know loves Mastodon, even to the extent of only going to Soundwave to see them and them going home. I must be missing something as nothing really jumps out at me, although some of the twin guitar harmonies sound pretty good.
I think I might have seen Thursday before [and a quick check confirms that I photographed them at 2008’s Soundwave]. I can’t remember much about them from that day four years ago but today they’re one of the highlights. With their break-up having been previously announced, they comment early on that it’s their last tour and really play like it’s the last time they will be playing to their Brisbane fans. There’s a lot of energy on stage and although soundwise I’d probably put them with a lot of the other bands playing Soundwave, for someone not familiar with them, they just seem to have a much better set of songs than those other bands.
If Thursday are a pleasant surprise, The Dillinger Escape Plan are the surprise package of the day and one that wasn’t even going to be seen the day before. The original plan was to photograph Marilyn Manson on the main stage at 5:55 and then stay and watch a bit more of his set than just the first three songs. However, “requesting” that there would be no photography, with the threat of being removed from the festival if you were seen photographing him from anywhere in the crowd, I, along with a whole bunch of other photographers give him a wide berth and head for Stage 7 instead. I know absolutely nothing about The Dillinger Escape Plan other than they’re playing at roughly the same time as Manson [although their 40 minute set stars 25 minutes later than Manson] and I can go and photograph without and restrictions and threats. The other option would have been Machine Head on Stage 4 but I decided I’d had my fill of Stage 4 bands during the afternoon. As soon as they hit the stage vocalist Greg Puciato greats the crowd with “Fuck this shit” and a couple of seconds later he’s in the photo pit stood on the barrier and leaning over the crowd to sing. Even though he’s the obvious focus, the rest of the band are also putting on a performance from the confines of the stage. There’s so much going on you just don’t know where to look and what to photograph.
For the second song Puciato is back on stage but singing from the speaker stacks at the side of the stage and for the third song he’s back in the photo pit but this time going further (or being dragged further) into the crowd. There’s not a massive crowd but but at one there’s two other people crowd surfing with him. When he gets back to the photo pit he clambers up via a table at the side of the stage that’s being used to hold cups of water for the crowd and he just starts picking up the trays of four drinks and hurling them at the crowd, which gets the photographers on that side of the pit running as fast as they can for shelter. Being stood on the other side I know that I’m going to be ok and not likely to get 4 cups of water headed in my direction. It’s just amazing stuff really, this is what you want to see at a punk show and this is what you want to see as a photographer. The real shame, the annoyance, frustration and disappointment is that being Queensland at the end of February at 6:30 at night it’s dark and playing the smallest outside stage the lighting leaves a lot to be desired. The onstage lights are very strobe-y and of course there’s nothing lighting up the crowd other than ambient and spill from the stage. I would have so loved to have gotten a really good set of photos from their set but just couldn’t do it (with all the camera problems not helping either). Looking at photos from the Sydney and Melbourne legs it’s not hard to get envious that playing at 6:20 in NSW means bands playing while it’s still light. It’s similar with Big Day Out where all the darker inside tent stages at the Gold Coast become outside stages when they get over the Queensland border.