Soundwave 2013 @ RNA Showgrounds, Saturday 23 February 2013 – Part 1


If there’s one constant to take away from every Soundwave, it’s that any plans to photograph the first couple of bands of the day always go straight out of the window as the photo passes are never ready to collect from the box office in time. It’s the same story every year. Looking back at Soundwave festivals, an overall residing memory is queuing up in the blazing sun and then waiting around in the blazing sun for the passes to turn up. My marked up timetable starts with Sharks at 11pm and Red Fang at 11:20am but those start times come and go and it’s nearer to Northlane’s 11:45am start time before I can get into the site.

There have been some changes since last year, with the re-development building work making a massive impact on the showgrounds, and I’m surprised to find that Stage 6 is inside. Last year some of the stages were in the old tin sheds, but this year’s Stage 6 is in a proper conference-type room with doors at one end and carpet on the floor. If there are windows in the room, they’ve been pulled shut so there’s no daylight in the room at all, and the lighting is terrible, all blue LCDs and strobes but not very bright. Northlane are a stereotypical modern metal band. They must have friends in high places as since Soundwave, they’ve been all over street press, even on the front cover.

Over in the main arena, The Blackout start with one of their two singers jumping straight into the crowd, taking his microphone with him and heading out away from the stage towards the back of the D-barrier. I often wonder how the rest of the band view this, especially those tied to instruments who have to stay put. All the focus is on the singers, even more than usual, but it can mean a detachment from the music as everyone’s attention is taken by the visual aspect of the performance. Alternatively, maybe it’s just a cunning ploy to hide behind and allow a band to play to their performance strengths rather than have everyone concentrate on the actual songs.

For years, I’ve noticed a steady stream of photos of Dragonforce in the Flickr concert photography groups but seeing them in the flesh today for the first time, I’m sad to discover that they’re an incredibly dull band. It’s all so meta and so far beyond comedy that it’s looped back around to being serious, keytars and all. The photo pit is packed to uncomfortable levels and with there being no shade and it being the hottest part of the day, I don’t stick around for too long. It’s only as I’m walking away from the stage for a sit down and a drink somewhere out of the sun that I realise that I’d forgotten to turn my GPS on. One of these days I will get a complete recording of my movements over a complete festival.

Anthrax may be one of ‘The Big Four’ but whereas Metallica and Slayer still stand up (I don’t know much about Megadeth, I’m not sure if I’ve seen them since 1988), Anthrax sound (and look) like any 1980s metal band these days. They’re a highlight for many but even though they’ve always been the less serious and more humorous of the bands that they’re grouped together with, they just sound really dated.

Mike Patton has previous form from when Faith No More headlined Soundwave a few years back and he rolled his mic stand off the stage and into the photo pit. Today, he’s on better behaviour but, as he always does, hides behind his box of tricks. I’d completely forgotten that John Stanier plays with Tomahawk, so it’s a really pleasant surprise to see him again and watch him drum.

Purely because of their name, I go and photograph The Wonder Years. I half expected them to use Joe Cocker as their walk-on music, but they don’t.

Gallows are always a band worth checking out. They may have lost a guitarist in the week before Soundwave and become a four-piece but they’re always an incredible band to watch and always a fantastic band to photograph. Amazingly I’m the only photographer here to see them other than one guy at the side of the room with a camera on a massive monopod, presumably taking some video footage. New(ish) singer, and previous Alexisonfire guitarist, Wade MacNeil, is straight over the barrier and into the crowd from the off. It’s just a shame the lighting on the stage is so rubbish and non-existent off the stage and so many of the photos I take are terrible. There are times when I think I should just ignore the rules I’ve signed up to and whip out a flash to get some better photos but given that the photo contacts normally include a clause saying that they’ll chuck you out if you break the rules, it would be a very high risk strategy.

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