Soundwave 2013 @ RNA Showgrounds, Saturday 23 February 2013 – Part 2

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Kyuss were another one of those bands that completely passed me by and I didn’t know much about them until I moved to Australia and found that they were really big in Newtown and their videos were always on the jukebox in the Sandringham. When the band come out, I’m trying to figure out if that’s Nick Olivera on bass as it just doesn’t look anything like him, although growing his hair and losing his beard might make him look different to how I remember him. It turns out it’s not him though.  Meantime, drummer Brant Bjork looks like something from The Mighty Boosh. Afterwards, there are a lot of disappointed people on the various music forums with the band who weren’t impressed by Kyuss Lives but I don’t know what they expected from a stoner rock band.

It comes to a point in the day when there’s a choice between photographing Sum 41 or Stone Sour. I photographed Stone Sour at a previous Soundwave but didn’t find them very exciting, and considered it slightly weird that you’d do something so mundane and traditional for your side project when your main band is Slipknot. It’s a fairly easy decision to go to Stage 2 for Sum 41 even though I’ve never been a fan. Sum 41 pull all the right moves but there’s something really lacking. Sometimes you see a band at a festival that’s probably 3 or 4 spots earlier than they would have been in their heyday and with no chance of ever getting back to those dizzy heights of their earlier years. They may still pull the right moves and they may still get a big response from the crowd when they play their bit hit single(s) but if you look closely into their eyes you can see that the passion isn’t really there, it’s become a job, they’ve become a working band, and they’re resigned to forever playing that mid-afternoon slot.

Even a week after Of Mice And Men, when I first jotted down my notes for the day, I was struggling to remember anything about them. Getting old means that it becomes a real struggle to remember anything remotely unique about any of the identikit, indistinguishable bands from Stage 4, however popular they all seem to be with teenage girls. The Stage 4 bands are all heavily tattooed front men, all basketball tops/wifebeaters and each band has an obligatory overweight guy as one of their mandatory two guitarists. It’s also highly likely that someone in the band will either wear a baseball cap or have a headband. There’s a girl in the front row, pressed up against the barrier, with a handwritten cardboard sign saying that the band saved her life. You can’t help but consider that life must be pretty bad if a band like this is a life saver. Another girl near the front has her phone in the air, clearly relaying the band’s set back to a friend who obviously didn’t make it to Soundwave today. Modern life is strange.

Last time Slayer played at Soundwave, I ended up missing Gang Of Four on another stage due to late running band before them and really regretted it (even though I’d seen GO4 play a sideshow the previous night). I just don’t know what it is about Slayer but they’ve never done anything for me. Even visually and from a photographer’s point of view, I just can’t excited about the prospect. They play at the same time as the day’s oddest booking, Cypress Hill and it’s a close run thing as to who I decide to photograph in that time slot, only a really last minute decision taking me to Slayer again to give them another chance. At that last Soundwave, they played in front of a wall of Marshall amps across the whole stage but this time around the stage is clear other than the large backdrop. As only metal bands can get away with, they are all wearing their own band’s t shirts. I know he probably isn’t (I’m sure there’s plenty of YouTube proof out there) but for comedy value to keep myself amused and entertained during the angst, I always like to picture Kerry King off stage in tweed and being frightfully well spoken. I also spend too much time wondering whether the metal chains he has hanging down off his belt are solid iron or something a whole lot lighter. If they are the real deal, they must way a tonne and it can’t be too much fun when those things swing into your groin area (unless that sort of thing floats your boat). Once again, despite all the ‘metalness’ about Slayer, they just leave me cold. I photograph what I think are the first two songs on digital and the third on film. Having sat down at the side of the stage, no one else has moved from the pit and it turns out that was just two songs. I’d mistaken a multi-part long song for two songs, but can’t be bothered to go and photograph any more, preferring a sit down in the shade. It’s not a very metal attitude, I know.

My first trip of the day to Stage 5, the smallest stage at the festival, is to check out Duff McKagan’s Loaded. The only thing that’s brought me here is to photograph an ex-member of Gn’R; It’s like an 1980’s hair metal version of Pokemon, gotta catch ‘em all. Having photographed Slash a couple of years ago, now all I need are Axl, Izzy and Steven Adler. Axl is in the country with his version of the band this month, but I don’t think I’ll be heading out to see them (and I didn’t). I’d quite like to, as the line-up has ZZ Top and Rose Tattoo supporting and other than the mandatory very late night, it might be a fun gig to see, but with no Rave to photograph for these days, getting accreditation for the big gigs isn’t easy. Loaded are a very traditional rock band, McKagan singing and playing guitar (if I remember correctly, he was originally a guitarist in Gn’R before moving to bass). There’s lots of big rock poses throughout and he looks in great shape, considering the lifestyle that his ex- band used to maintain. I wish I’d bought his autobiography when I was in the UK, as they had it for £1 pound in Fopp. Unfortunately by the time I saw it, I already had bought more stuff than I was every going to be able to carry. Maybe next time.

The last time Paramore played Soundwave they were on the main stage at a similar time of the day to today, and I was amazed at how many people went to see them and how insane it was at the front. Although they’re playing the second stage this time, they again pull a massive crowd. It’s very mainstream, highly polished, FM radio rock music. There’s obviously a Sleeper-Bloke scenario going on, and, by observation, it looks like the addition of non-band live session players has expanded that to a three level hierarchy; Haley Williams at the top, the male band members, the additional hired hands who get to stand at the back of the stage. As with most mainstream and very polished rock shows, it’s highly choreographed. Looking through the Soundwave photos from the different cities, they’re all the same, the same dress code stylings, with Williams daubed in smudges of face paint over her face and clothes, and the same poses, right down to the obligatory lying down on the middle of stage riser during whatever song she does this signature move in. It’s almost always disappointing going to see an act twice on the same tour in different cities. Any excitement associated with the long wait for the first show is lost in seeing them again so quickly and usually it’s an identical setlist, played in the same order, with the same between song banter. It’s all very slick but with zero spontaneity, it’s all very soulless.

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