27/2/2011

Reflecting the Soundwave

Filed under: — Bravus @ 9:31 am

Preamble

Alex and I had a big, big day yesterday. In the morning we were in Lismore for the ordination of my brother, Paul, as a pastor. Got to see the family, and will write more about Paul and the ordination later. At one point during the church service when a lovely little old lady was singing a solo hymn in that vibrato-heavy old church style I leaned over to Alex and whispered ‘This is one extreme of your music experience for the day.’

Then we jumped on my bike after a short chat with the assembled family members after church and heading the 2.5 hours north to Brisbane. Combining that ride with the wooden benches we sat on later in the day, ‘The Iron Butt Challenge’ was considered as an alternative title for this post.

We’d planned to make it to the Soundwave festival at about 3, but church ran long and then we had to at least briefly hang out with the family, so it was more like 4 by the time we arrived.

We headed to Stage 1 and got into it. The rest of this post features guest commentator Alex, who was at her first big festival and also seeing her first metal gigs, giving her complementary reactions and comments.

Primus

David

I did want to see Primus, and I’m glad we made it. Les Claypool is a freak-genius player of the bass, and their funky anthems are a lot of fun. Got to hear ‘Tommy The Cat’, and then a couple of others I didn’t know, and Les donned a pig mask partway through. Definitely fun, but for me the whimsy kind of overpowers the music, so that it’s a novelty act more than something I want to listen to seriously. We meandered off after 3 songs so as not to miss Dummi Borgir.

Alex

For the first real metal show I’ve seen live, I was shocked, but pleasantly surprised at the quirks and oddities of the Primus show. The pig mask definitely made me look twice. In terms of their music, it was weird and funky and probably not something that I’d listen to on an iPod just becuase I think that you’d need the weirdness of the live show to complement the weirdness of the music. But, live, they were a great show and very entertaining.

Dimmu Borgir

David

When we were planning our day at the festival there were only two non-negotiables for me, these guys and Iron Maiden (though of course Alex could have gone and seen something else). I didn’t get any real argument about either of them anyway, but I definitely wanted to see this band, and they didn’t disappoint. Highlight of the festival for me in terms of discovering something new.

I was kind of peripherally familiar with their brand of symphonic Norwegian black metal, but the show was just amazing. Corpse paint really needs a grim and frost-bitten northern midnight, not a big blue sunny Brisbane afternoon, but they played with great power and conviction, chatted with the crowd and just put on a great metal show. They used backing tapes a fair bit, but that’s understandable given that their last album heavily featured a symphony orchestra and choir. I could say more, but I’ll just say see these guys live if you get the chance.

Oh yeah, and I yelled to Alex during this set ‘…and this is the other extreme!’

Alex

Dimmu Borgir was the band that surprised me the most in terms of my reaction to them. I really, really enjoyed the show and the music. I had thought that because they were on the heavier side of metal their songs would all be similar with fast guitars and faster drums but this was definitely not the case. Each song had different and interesting riffs and melodies and, although I couldn’t understand the growl-y words at all, it was not unpleasant to listen to.

In terms of the performance, it was amazing, although I couldn’t help but laugh at the very metal-ness of the show. The corpse paint, long hair, costumes, it all seemed a little too stereotypically metal, like maybe it was a loving parody (think: Spinal Tap). This was before I realised that metal shows were exactly how they were portrayed and, while it seemed a little comical at first, I really enjoyed the epic-ness of the performance and the show that the band members put on for the fans.

Ill Nino

David

Crank had told me this was a band to check out, and they were on right next to the stage where Dimmu had just finished and where Slayer were next up, so it was convenient.

In general I enjoyed them, but they focused on the heavier end of their spectrum, and it all got a bit repetitive and ‘samey’ after a while. Too many profane exhortations of the crowd. They were massively groove-heavy, with two drummers as well as bass and two guitars, and I suspect I’d probably enjoy their albums, but they just didn’t do a huge amount for me live.

Alex

My reaction to Ill Nino is very similar to Dad’s. I enjoyed the groovy-metal music for the first few songs but after a while, all the songs kind of melted into one continuous stream of drumming and bass riffs. I did really enjoy the singing-growling mix that the singer did and felt that that helped to break up the general monotony of the music. Like Dad, I suspect they are better on their albums when you can hear and understand the lyrics a little better.

Slayer

David

I’d seen the other three of the Big Four thrash bands (Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax) live and enjoyed them, so in a Pokemon sort of way I needed to complete the set by checking out Slayer. Friends whose taste I trust {waves at Boogerhead} had assured me I’d be converted to fanhood, but I had my doubts and I’m afraid they were confirmed.

I think I gave them a reasonable shot, but given the intensity and roughness of the crowd, we ended up bailing after 4 songs.

Part of the problem was the mix: maybe it was intentional, but the guitars were completely buried. The kick drum could be felt whole-body, which was great, and while Tom’s monotone roars, which don’t impress me much, were kind of audible, Kerry King and Geoff Holt (from Exodus – standing in for the ill Jeff Hanneman) almost might as well not have been there.

Alex

I must say, I wasn’t too impressed with Slayer. It might have been because the very rough crowd pushed me aside every few minutes and so the music wasn’t really worth dealing with the sweaty, stinky metal fans. Similar to Ill Nino, the first few songs were good but the monotone singing made it difficult to enjoy for very long. We left pretty early into the gig (something that involved hitching a ride behind other fans because both Dad and I are too polite to shove our way through the crowd) but I don’t feel like I missed out on a real metal experience at all.

One Day As A Lion

David

I’d been anticipating this show – Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against The Machine with a drummer and a fuzzed-out Rhodes electric piano, rapping and singing. And for 3 songs or so, it kinda worked. Then you realise that a fuzzed-out Rhodes doesn’t really replace the complexity of bass and guitars. And it all starts to sound the same. The fact that we didn’t know the lyrics and couldn’t hear them was unhelpful too, since this is political hiphop/rock and the content is important. Have to say, an hour of it ended up being a bit of an ordeal.

Alex

I hadn’t really heard of One Day as A Lion before Soundwave so I was fairly open to anything they did but I just found them a little boring. The music was good although it did tend to sound the same after a while. The performance lacked flair so I found myself watching the fans instead of the band. It was just a little hard to be amused by one guy running around stage for an hour while the other two did nothing particularly interesting behind their instruments. Again, I think they’d be better recorded when you can hear the lyrics and do something else while listening.

Queens Of The Stone Age

David

We’d intended to head back to Stage 4 to see Rob Zombie, but sanity intervened: Maiden is Maiden, and if you don’t want to stand for a 2 hour set you capture a seat early. So with some misgivings I decided to skip the Zombie experience and stay where we were seated in front of Stage 1 for Maiden. That meant an hour of QOTSA first.

I was only peripherally aware of their body of work, but had a sense I didn’t like it. And yeah. Not horrible, rocked pretty hard, riffy, sometimes trippy, kind of punky in spots…

But lots of simple, repetitive riffs. And maybe I’m just too old for it, but ‘This song is about screwing’ as stage banter just doesn’t do it for me. It all just seemed tedious and a bit dumb, though lots of people around us seemed to be into it. Maybe I’m missing something… but I won’t be seeing them again. I left Alex minding the seats (and our bike gear) and wandered off to find some food and a couple of drinks.

Alex

QOTSA just tried a little too hard, I think. I’m not really sure about the performance because I spent most of it people-watching but when I did look, they seemed to be really trying to get the audience involved and it was just a little annoying. If fans want to jump, they will, stop asking. But, that being said, the music was good. It was interesting background music to my watching and it didn’t get same-ish after a while so I didn’t mind listening. Good time filler while we waited for Maiden.

Iron Maiden

David

I might leave this one to Alex, since I’ve seen them before and written about them here before. But they definitely did not disappoint, with a set heavy in the new stuff and some from the middle career, but enough old classics sprinkled through as well. Great show and a great end to a big day.

Alex

I don’t even know where to start with Maiden. It was fantastic! The stage set, I’m told, was relatively simple by Maiden standards but the band’s energy and geniune enthusiasm was electrifying. Bruce Dickinson performed with his usual antics, sprinting all around the stage, jumping, dancing, generally acting like a child who ate too much candy. The guitarists played amazingly, and entertainingly as well, dancing and running around as they played. The entire time my eyes were drawn to the stage and delighted by what I saw. They made my aching butt worth the pain, and, if you’ve ever ridden pillion for a few hours, you’ll know that that is saying something!

Conclusion: Incredible ending to an incredible day.

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