Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Some last thoughts on Soundwave (Part 2, at last)

It almost seems pointless bothering to write about the second half of my Soundwave experience.

The "tomorrow" I referred to at the end of Part 1 has turned into "weeks later", with the bruises having faded and gigs having been attended since, and memories having faded somewhat since the initial excited exclamations and arm-flailing.

If it were anything else I probably wouldn't bother, but I did say that I'd write a part two, and there are some things that I think are definitely worth relating about the second half of Soundwave.

So, when we last saw our heroes, they'd just partaken in some sustenance, in the form of burgers. Served to them by a foul-mouthed, loud man at the Beatbox Kitchen. I fell a little bit in love.

The temperature of the day dropped, and everyone pulled their jumpers and jackets tight around them. One isn't generally wont to taking multiple layers to music festivals - particularly those that take place in early March - and so I found myself cold. I had chosen practicality in a mosh over weather-wear unfortunately. We stood in line for coffee for upwards of half an hour. Friends came and went. A tripped out guy prone to yelling and falling into the fence provided amusement for a few minutes.

Waffles were bought, the ground sat on, acquaintances and friends ran into. A friend from high school, a guy I met in Amsterdam, the brother of a friend I used to work with. It seemed we were all in the mood for some chilling out on the ground with our disgusting coffees, as opposed to going back to one of the various stages. Is it old age that makes us so weary so quickly into a day of music? Or maybe it was more a case of the bands we were interested in not taking the stage until later.

At any rate, after some time spent shooting the shit with TD, Dave, Bob and Lozz, one of us noticed that One Day as a Lion would be on shortly. After a lot of "ehhhhhh" and "maaaaaaybe"-ing, we trouped over. My verdict: entertaining. I'm glad I hauled myself off the ground to see them. Certainly I was intrigued to see what they'd play, given the band has only released one five-song EP. We stood a fair way away from their stage, in readiness I suppose, for Queens of the Stone Age. I enjoyed ODaaL, dug seeing them, but I was also glad I didn't bother to get any closer to the stage. Somewhat amusing was a comment from Zach de la Rocha, about a group of fans directly in front of him in the crowd. Something along the lines of them being the "most dedicated Maiden fans I've ever seen". I laughed at that, the mental image of men clad in Maiden tees, steadfastly standing there during set after set, in readiness and anticipation for their heroes.

The space around us soon began to fill up, Queens of the Stone Age were about to begin. While Dave and TD marveled at the QotSA lighting set up, I tried in vain to find a friend of mine, and organise a meet-up with a girl I'd met in Amsterdam. The day was planned as a glorious reunion of Amsterdam party pals, but it was not to be. Who was I kidding? Festival meet-ups are nigh-on impossible to co-ordinate. At that stage, I was truly sick of trying to get messages to send, and craning my neck over the crowd to see if Jase was finally in the same vicinity as me (he wasn't). I gave up. Fuck it. Josh Homme, you have my undivided attention.

You certainly do.

Their set was an entertaining, exciting one, albeit also a festival-friendly one. Not that I minded particularly, as that was to be expected. They kicked off their set with "Feel Good Hit of the Summer", a somewhat appropriate song given the giant bottle of vodka Homme was brandishing, asking the crowd, "WHO KNOWS WHAT I CAME HERE TO DO?". As a slightly chubby, drunk ginger-haired dude, under normal circumstances one wouldn't expect someone like Josh Homme to be a sexy beast. Somehow though, he manages to pull it off. Shit son, does he ever. My toes began to tap and a grin spread over my face. I turned to Dave.
"Goddamn. He is one ridiculously sexy man."
Dave paused.
"Yes. He is. I'll pay that."

QotSA's set included "3s & 7s", "Lost Art of Keeping a Secret", and "Sick, Sick, Sick" ... and you'll have to forget my terrible memory (and the fact that it's been weeks), but it was shortly after this stage that something fairly great happened.

I suddenly heard surprised laughter, and saw people around me pointing. I craned my neck to see, and there it was; a guy in a wheelchair, bouncing around above the crowd, his fists pumping in rock n' roll victory. 

"That's fucking amazing!!"
As people noticed what was happening, the volume of the crowd rose. It really was fucking great. 
As the song ended (whatever it was), Josh Home laughed and pointed down at the crowd to where the wheelchaired guy must've been.

"THAT. Was pretty much the most BADASS thing I've ever seen!!"
(cue cheering from crowd)
Their set continued, including "Monsters in the Parasol", "Burn the Witch", and "Little Sister". I would have taken a photo. I would have. But given how much time Dave and I spent during the band's performance laughing at the sea of cameras recording Josh Homme's blip in the distance and phone cameras taking blurred photos, that I felt it would have been a hypocritical move at best. Yes, having a photo to post on this blag would have been nice, but it was much more fun elbowing Dave and hissing "YOUR MATE", pointing at the drunk fat girl holding up her iPhone to record "Little Sister". Cause I mean, hearing the shitty audio and barely discernible image will be worth it after not paying attention to the performance proper.
"Nup. Fucken, shotgun not. Your mate." 

Photo from here. Consolation for having too many qualms with taking photos
at festivals using my phone.

Anyway, "Go With the Flow" preceded "No One Knows", in which green lightsaber-esque tubes illuminated the stage. "No One Knows" being their last song (bar the encore that followed), Mr Homme suddenly pointed at the guy in the wheelchair, and bellowed something along the lines of getting "that motherfucker onstage where he belongs!"   

A camera man scrambled to the front of stage (I could just imagine barked orders from the director in his/her headset), just in time to see the security guards looking up at the band, as if to say, "Serious? Get him up there? For fuck's sake." 
At least three or four burly men then hauled the wheelchair-bound young man onto the stage ("Don't fucking break him!" yelled Homme). After a couple of minutes of struggling, he was on the stage with the band, and the crowd erupted into cheers. The guy punched the air with his fist, his hands giving the crowd a metallic sign of victory. Homme thrust the bottle of vodka at him, and the guy took an almighty elated swig, prompting the crowd to cheer even louder. 

I was laughing, clapping, as were those around me. It was a pretty great moment. "Now, get the fuck over there!" Homme pointed to the side of stage (the guy was front and center). He wheeled himself over, then started headbanging and brandishing the bottle. The song ended, and again the crowd was a deafening roar. I recounted the story Ev, my brother, the next day. He's a much bigger fan of QotSA than I am, and the look on his face was full of more disappointment at not attending than after all of my gushing gushing about The Bronx, Iron Maiden and Primus put together. 

The band returned briefly for "Song for the Dead" (awesome), and left the stage with wheelchair mosher, no doubt to continue the party. Earlier on in the set Homme had declared his love of Melbourne, of "partying in St Kilda! Throwing up on Brunny street!", and I for one, hope he well and truly took the Melbourne night life and got it pregnant behind the gym before setting off for Adelaide. 

Anyway. After a brief yet enthusiastic and excited conversation with an old high school friend of my brother's (my, how they grow...), it was time for Iron Maiden. Or rather, a little bit of Maiden before The Bronx. Or rather, a ten minute introduction video and a couple of songs before The Bronx. The introduction video itself was a sight to behold. It was almost as if the band had sat behind the guy animating it and intermittently yelled out, "An explosion there!" 
"Now, cut to outer space!"
"Cut to fire!"
"A space ship!"
"Now more explosions!"
"An exploding planet!"

It was pretty ridiculous. Also pretty awesome. It transcended the ridiculousness to be awesome. We saw maybe two songs before rushing over to see The Bronx, but I was happy to see Maiden take the stage, and to see the reaction of the crowd. There's no denying the guys, especially Bruce (the world's #1 Over-achiever) rock out just as hard or even harder than the much younger bands around today. According to a quick Google, the songs we saw before bailing were "Satellite 15" and "The Final Frontier". Good stuff. I suppose it's one of those, "I have seen them! I can now tick that box on my life's To Do list". I do really like Maiden. I have a great fondness for Maiden. But having said that, seeing The Bronx was one of the main reasons I had bought that over-priced ticket in the first place.

I'd seen The Bronx before, at the Meredith Music Festival in 2008 (the muddy one). They'd been pretty fucking great. They were pretty fucking great, but it also wasn't a true Bronx gig, in that there wasn't really a Mosh, a FUCKING MOSH MAN. Earplugs in, boots tied up, bag done up, Dave, Bob, Lozz and I sidled our way to the front. The Melvins played on the stage next door, a most pleasant surprise. I guessed TG must've been there. Probably just recovered from the Primus. His pants must've been a mess, frankly.

A puzzled glance at a guy YELLING VICTORY about Essendon or someshit, and seemingly endless minutes of waiting and finally The Bronx began. I was promptly pushed and stumbled over my own feet (ever a vision of grace) and landed on the ground in a heap. I hauled myself up, slightly mortified to have fallen over before anything had even begun ("I thought you fucken.... died, or something." Dave remarked later).

They opened with "Knifeman", I remember that much. It was awesome. It was crowded. It was shoving and pushing and jumping and arms in the air and yelling and grinning and laughing and being pushed into the guy in front of me. "FUCKIT!" yelled Dave, as he liberated himself from his jumper and t-shirt. "Rape Zombie" followed. More of the same, but even better. Shoving and pushing and oh SHIT that crowd surfer nearly squashed me WHOOPSLOL nearly pushed over jumping and jumping and my fist pumping the air. Then "Shitty Future".
SHITTY FUTURE! I screeched and jumped and there was a circle pit behind us but that was okay because ONE MORE TIME YOUR SHITTY FUTURE.

Fucken, good.

I'm not sure what was next. "Inveigh", I think. At any rate, my too-full bag kept getting caught between people and nearly dragging me backwards onto the ground. Annoying. Note to self: travel lighter during next Soundwave I attend. "I think I gotta bail!!" I yelled at Dave. I took my leave and shoved my way out of the mosh. I'd travelled a couple of meters to some relative calm and turned back to look at the crowd. Circle pit, jumping and pushing...I cursed my momentary pussy-dom. What the fuck was I thinking??
"FUCK THAT!" I thought, at the song's close. I hitched up my tights and marched back into the throng. Best decision ever. Even though I only caught glimpses of the guys from that point onwards, it was still fucking great. Forgive my constant expletives, but they're really kind of necessary. At one stage I nearly scrambled my way back to Rowan and Dave, but to no avail. No matter however, as there was much to make up for being just out of reach of my pals. Fucken, of course there was. Frontman Matt Caughthran, prone to whipping crowds into frenzies and crowd surfing with a trail of mic lead behind, hauled himself into the crowd multiple times. Each time the crowd responded with crazy approval. It was great. "They Will Kill Us All", "False Alarm" ... a girl rushed past me with blood pouring from her mouth. Circle pit. I wasn't game enough to actually through myself into the pit, but certainly felt the reverberations (is that the right word?) from where I stood, pretty much directly in front of it.

From here.
"Heart Attack American", "White Guilt" and "History's Stranglers" (WOO!) closed their set. As did much of what I'd just been describing. To describe it again would probably serve to entertain no one but myself, but suffice to say it was full of pushing and shoving and jumping and yelling. And awesome, of course.

At the set's end I spied Locky and slapped him on the back, trying to formulate a coherent sentence out of my gasping and beaming smile. I'm pretty sure "OIMAAAAN!!!" was all I could muster. We wandered over to the shipping container (designated meeting point), and I saw everyone (TD, Bob, Lozz, Rowan) standing around, looking disheveled, tired and sweaty and happy. Dave was hugging everyone. He turned to me and at that moment I bizarrely wished to myself that I had a camera. The look on his face was of undiluted, elated, joy. His smile was pretty much taking up his entire face. Frankly, I wished that I could have captured that image somehow, as I didn't know I'd ever seen him quite look like that. He grabbed me in a huge hug, probably exclaimed something, and covered me (more) in the sweat of countless fellow Bronx fans.  

And you know the best bit? We got back to Iron Maiden just in time for "Number of Beast", and met up with various friends at the back of the crowd. WELL PLAYED, UNIVERSE. Well, that was my day done. Bronx, then "Number of the Beast". Then "Hallowed Be Thy Name". Muy bien.

Any Maiden fan that reads this will probably shoot me, but it was after that point that Dave, TD and I decided to bail. Honestly, the prospect of battling for upwards of an hour to get out of the showgrounds was something we wanted to avoid. So we left. Yes, it sounds like a pussy move, but anyone who's tried to leave a festival on public transport will know that it's not only tedious and horrid, but also fucking annoying. After a day of being in the elements, moshing, rushing around, the last thing one wants to do is inch your way towards the one train platform to be herded onto a train and stand a centimeter away from a smelly dude's face and make the long journey home. So we left. To be honest, I kind of do regret pussying out after those two songs but there's not much I can do now apart from wait for the next Maiden tour. If the band's energy is anything to go by, I'm sure there will be at least one.

I returned home and staggered inside.

"How was it?" my dad enquired.
"Euuuuuurggghhh. Good."
"You hungry?"
"Eeeeeeuurrghhhhhhhh. Imgonnabed."

"See Maiden?"
"Mostly Bronx. Saw Number of the Beast. I hurt... mosh. Everything hurts."
"Good stuff, kiddo. That's my tough girl!"

Good day. Good bruises. Good stuff.

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