Soundwave 2008: A Retrospective
Last Sunday, a tsunami swept through Sydney Park, creating a peak of alternative, hardcore, emo and punk rock bliss that brought together a diverse group of acts and churn (although mostly dressed in black) of music lovers. The result was 2008's Soundwave Festival.
The annual Soundwave Festival - Australia's definitive punk rock and emo music festival - rocked on in a surprisingly sunny setting last Sunday. Bands such as the Offspring, Thursday, Motion City Soundtrack, Matches, and Incubus played on more than five stages, in what can only be described as a rock style Disneyland. The happiest-slash-most-depressing place on earth.
Pop punkers Plain White T's played to a crowd of devoted and prompt punters. The band performed eloquently, with a solid sound that matched the standard set in the record. Lead singer Tom Higgenson sang his heart out in a red cardigan, despite the 30-degree heat, while the crowd sang along as they played their most mellow and recognizable song "Hey There Delilah", and then ended the set with the up-tempo "Our Time is Now'".
New Jersey band Thursday played an intense set, getting the crowd moshing to their version of post- hardcore rock by playing fan favourites such as "Understanding The Car Crash" and "Jet Back New Year". Frontman Geoff Rickly declared to the crowd his affinity with Australia, proclaiming his wife is from Newtown, much to the cheers of the audience. He continued channelling masses by parting the crowd and issuing a challenge that was accepting by the people, creating Soundwave's ultimate mosh of the day.
Motion City Soundtrack carried on the momentum generated by Thursday as they played an energetic set of solid pop punk tunes. The band's music perfectly blended indie riffs and bittersweet melodies, resulting in a uniquely emotional yet upbeat sound. The band played songs from the previous albums Commit This To Memory, I Am The Movie and last year's Even If It Kills Me, including a pumping rendition of The Future Freaks Me Out.
Sparta frontman Jim Ward played an solo acoustic set to a small crowd on Stage 5. This singer-songwriter found a way to connect to the audience despite playing in a festival environment. His solo music was articulate and poignant, incorporating acoustic rock, folk and a dash of country. Jim also performed a few acoustic versions of Sparta songs such as Air and Collapse, giving them full honours by starting off the set with them.
The crowd hung on to every word sung by Jim, and even got to share an intimate moment with the artist. He reflected on the environment around him when the sun set, and described looking out into the crowd. While admitting that when he tours, he always misses home, he still declared that the grass had never been greener than at that moment, and that there was nowhere else he would rather be. The audience agreed unequivocally.
Soon after Jim, Incubus started the business end of the proceedings, performing to a massive audience at dusk. The band played crowd favourites like Drive and Wish You Were Here but we are sure some punters were bitterly disappointed that songs such as Pardon Me and Stella were missing from the set list. Brandon Boyd played on as a packed crowd watched in awe. However, as the band continued, they were sporadically hit with shoes being thrown on stage by the punters. It reached the point where Brandon intervened, declaring that they "had enough shoes" and asked for underwear instead. On cue a pair of men's underwear was thrown on stage, after which Brandon insisted that only girls underwear be thrown on stage! Incubus ended the set with the electric rendition of Megalomaniac.
Headliners the Offspring drew arguably one of the largest crowds of the event. They played a rock solid set filled with crowd-pleasers, including big hits Come Out and Play and Pretty Fly (For A White Guy). On our part, we think they were pretty fly for a bunch of old guys.
The final act brought a Northern California rock sensibility to the festivities. The impeccably dressed Matches led by Justin San Souc played tracks from their album Decomposer, but also incorporated new songs such as Wake The Sun. The music inspired festival-goers to dance their heart out. To the two punters who engaged in an impromptu-synchronized fit of dancing, rock on! In short Matches provided the perfect closure to a long day of rock awesomeness/wonderment. Despite the fact that this band was one of the last to perform at the Festival, the crowd exuded energy as if they were the first. Without a doubt, Matches was a highlight for many, and we thank you for creating musical magic.
Music magic was also copiously supplied by bands such as Alexisonfire, Kill Switch Engage, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Saosin and many others. But like all good things in life, the magic came at a price. Punters who arrived around midday were met with lines that lasted up to 2 hours, with many disappointed fans missing out on bands such as Sugercult and Plain White Ts. Security was snappy, there was long wait for food, and the set up/layout meant getting from stage to stage was chaotic. And tickets to this event were not only thing that sold out, as towards the end of the day they ran out of water too.
Fortunately, chaos is an expected part of the punk rock vibe, and these shortcomings didn't deter enthusiasts or this reviewer from having a blast. In fact, as we left the venue we couldn't help but look forward to our next encounter with a rock wave as surging as this one.