Photographically, Slipknot are the band of the day. They’re just a photographer’s dream; the aesthetics, the on-stage dynamics of their show, great lighting and a crowd that’s going nuts on the other side of the barrier. Musically, I’m less sure but then again Slipknot are just another one of those 90s bands that just completely passed me by and I know very little about. The three songs seem to last a lifetime and I wish I’d changed lenses to get some wider-angle shots, maybe even have got my fisheye out for the first time of the day. Thats’ the trouble when you’re unfamiliar with an act’s catalogue; you never know how long those three songs are going to last. It’s amazing that I didn’t use the fisheye at all, considering it was bought in the first place for a previous Soundwave. It’s just a cheap fisheye and the quality of the glass isn’t great but because it’s a cheap fisheye the settings are all manual, but with all my other ongoing camera problems, not using it gave me one less thing to think about. I watch another song out of the pit and the stage looks even more impressive from slightly further away, rather than the limited angle you get from down in the photo pit.
A lot of the other photographers stayed at the main arena for the rest of Slipknot to wait for System Of A Down. Later on I hear that one photographer was taking some shots of Slipknot with all their pyrotechnics going and got told to stop by the festival’s media rep. Although the general contract we all had to sign was generally reasonable in that it didn’t have any copyright’s grabbing clauses, as well as the no photographing Limp Bizkit or Marilyn Manson, there was a clause specifying no photographing of bands from after the first three songs. I can’t remember seeing this clause before and it looks like the latest iteration of the standard photo contract, as year-on-year the conditions are becoming more and more onerous; give an inch and they’ll take a mile. It’s a fairly stupid contract clause as although the photo pit is good for (largely) unobstructed close ups of the acts and the front rows of the crowd, being able to photograph outside the pit allows you to get much wider shots of the band on stage and crowd watching them. A wide shot of Slipknot with their pyrotechnics going? Why would you look to prevent someone taking a photo of that? Expect to see this clause become common over the next year or two.
After Slipknot I head back to Stage 3 for The Used, who I can’t remember a whole lot about, and then to Cro-Mags on Stage 6. Having missed Underoath earlier in the day due to the late-running stage, there’s been no real improvement in stage times over the day and I only stay for one and a half songs of Cro-Mags. Seeing their name on the bill was just a blast from the past from when I used to read Kerrang in the mid-1980s, a time when Kerrang actually covered metal and before it started covering the the indie rock bands that NME and Melody Maker covered in order to survive. Not sure what it is now but back that it was a fortnightly publication which seems amazing considering the music that it covered. Playing at that time of the day on one of the smaller stages and clashing with much bigger names they were always going to be playing to a tiny audience. But even though playing to less than 100 people, the crowd still manages to get a 5 or 6 person circle pit going.
When the festival was announced I wasn’t sure how it would do with System Of A Down headlining. Most legs sold out so I’m guessing that either SOAD are a big drawcard or there was enough going on at the festival for people to want to buy a ticket. As with much of the bill, SOAD are a band that outside of a few songs just passed me buy. Although the photographers have had to sign a general contract covering the whole festival when we picked up our passes, SOAD ambush us with a contract in the photo pit that we have to read and sign with only torch light to help us out. It’s a fairly “standard” contract although the more I think about it, the more I think I shouldn’t be signing anything that restricts usage to the named publication. It will be interesting to see what the likes of Mojo and Uncut do in twenty years time when they want archival photos of acts. I’m guessing they’ll just get them all from Getty. Having signed the contract, photographing SOAD is a bit of a waste if time; the band play in the dark, with more backlighting that front lighting, and stand so far back from the front of the stage that it’s hard to see them from the pit. Stay for my allotted three songs and then just go.
The original plan had been to got to Angels and Airwaves next but walking through the tunnel under the train line, I come out the other end to the sight a lot of fire and flames over on Stage 4, where Lamb Of God are the alternative to Stage 3’s Angels & Airwaves. With the lighting in the tent having been terrible all day I change my mind and decide I’m going to get some fire and flame action. The band playing before Lamb Of God are some band called Watain, of who I know absolutely nothing, not even the name. The look a bit like Dimmi Borgir from last year’s Soundwave and are doing the full Scandinavian black metal look but with added fire and upside crosses. It’s ridiculous but looks great. As I’m expecting the band to be finishing up, I photograph from the sparse crowd but get closer and closer to the barrier until I suddenly spot a few photographers in the pit and decide that I’m going to sneak in as well. It turns out that security let them for three songs despite it being well outside the first three. However, by the time I get in there I don’t get much time to do anything much. The band keep going though despite being well over the time that they were due to finish and Lamb Of God were due to start. In the end it gets too late and I make my final move for the day to Stage 7 for Sisters Of Mercy.
Having been over to Stage 7 a couple of times during the day I was surprised that Sisters Of Mercy were playing at such a tiny stage. It seemed almost embarrassing that such a big name act would be playing such a small enclosure between the trees, right at the far end of the festival site. However, getting there and expecting it to be rammed, expecting all the goths-types in Brisbane to be there, it’s a complete shock just how sparse the crowd is; a few hundred people and nothing that wouldn’t have troubled the majority of Brisbane’s medium sized venues. Although I’d left Stage 4 and not seen the late running Lamb of God, Stage 7 is still running way behind time. Late running stages have really been the story of the 2012 summer festivals and I can’t remember any festivals being as bad as they have this year in previous years. Nothing at Soundwave is as bad as the 50 minute late M83 of Laneway or the 45 minute late Kanye West at Big Day Out but it’s still an annoyance to have to miss bands because of late-running stages and then hang around for other stages to start.
I had already predicted that it was probably just going to be a wall of dry ice and impossible to see much that was happening on stage, let alone photograph it, and this turns out to be an accurate prediction. Occasionally you can spot Andrew Eldrich and it’s a good job I already knew what to expect as it might have been a shock if I was expecting the Eldrich of the mid-1980s videos to appear on stage rather than the bald, bearded, 2012 version. Although he looks more like a stereotypical middle-aged biker these days, it’s more of a surprise that he’s wearing what looks like a green and orange fluoro shirt rather than being decked out all in black. He still sounds in really good voice though and the band sound like I’d expected they would sound; Docktor Avalanche is still there but is now laptop based rather than whatever basic drum machine was used in 30 years ago. It’s been a long day and so I only stay for a bit of the fourth song and don’t stay for the whole set, needing to get back and get started on editing photos.
As in previous years, Soundwave was good, if really hard work. It’s not getting any easier the older I get and it’s definitely getting more painful. It took days to properly recover from carrying around 10kg of camera gear all day this year, it almost felt as bad as the post-Splendour at Woodford exhaustion of the last couple of years. For me, the line-up wasn’t as good as it’s been in some of the previous years, with the headliners and bigger name acts not being my generations bands (SOAD, Slipknot, Manson, Limp Bizkit). I saw a few bands I liked and a few more that I enjoyed photographing so I got enough out of the day to have made it worthwhile, although I think I would always find something somewhere in the day whatever the line-up. It’s a real shame that Soundwave Revolution didn’t happen as that was more or less my dream headliners in Van Halen, a band I feel destined never to see play live despite being one of the biggest and most important bands in my life, and Alice Cooper, who was more or less there at the start of my musical journey. The rain didn’t spoil the day; I managed to be undercover during all the heavy showers and other than the photo pit at Stage 4, the place didn’t turn into a mud bath. As expected from previous years the set up was good and other than late running stages the day ran well. For the most part the idiot quotient was low although it always annoys me that people chose to stand on the stairs and the access ramps to watch bands and you need to fight your way through them to move to different stages. It becomes tiring after a while and I wish they’d get more security to keep these areas clear. Still, bring on next year.