Monday, March 14, 2011

Some bits from Soundwave

Despite the drug-dog madness that is the Soundwave front entrance area—you can get violently drunk at any of our over-priced piss pits folks, but we’ll be fucked if we’ll let you smoke a doobie on the lawn—the feel and layout of the Showgrounds is a breath of fresh air in an ocean of mediocre, shade and elevation-free festival sites in this town. A line for a line for a wristband for a line for some tokens for a line for a beer and bang, it’s on.

Texas lads The Sword kick things off with some down low, grinding psych. Credited in some circles for the rebirth of doom, The Sword’s bottom endedness brings the overblown theatrics of the singing into check as they pound their way through a sci-fi fantasy with Flying Vs. Closing number Winter’s Wolves seemingly encapsulates life itself in its marvellous grandiosity. An extra half hour and the aforementioned doobage would’ve landed them as contenders for band of the day.

For better or worse, the emo crap the kids were watching while Gang Of Four reeled out the set of the day probably wouldn’t even exist if not for the trail-blazing genius of bands like this. After thirty-five years, they continue to redefine what rock music can be. They are grating. Jon King’s vocals needle while Andy Gill’s guitar infects your very being. Their set revolves around early work with Anthrax, Damaged Goods and Ether from their 1979 release ‘Entertainment’ proving as vital now as they’ve ever been.

The only thing that sucks about Slayer is that they only have an hour on stage. Kerry King is forced to work a bit harder on guitar with Jeff Hanneman’s recent bout of necrotizing fasciitis—an aggressive flesh-eating disease and potential great song title—ruling him out of the tour. Dave Lombardo is the greatest drummer walking the planet and his work on War Ensemble has to be experienced to be believed. It’s South Of Heaven that steals it. Thirty years in and they can still thrash it.

Melvins are forced to wait while Rob Zombie finishes up with the theatrics. Guitarist/singer and be-affro-ed dynamo King Buzzo dons a favourite druid robe with bassist Jarred Warren kickin’ it in half a gladiator costume and shorts. The recent inclusion of a second drummer gives their sludgy sound extra marshiness but you get the impression there’s not a lot of love on the stage. On every other occasion they’ve been here they’ve ruled but today, sadly, they disappoint.

The Bronx’s Matt Caughthran’s face lights up on stage as the L.A. hardcore quintet rip through an identical set to the previous night’s Corner show. There’s no doubt the material from their first self-titled, though commonly referred to as the ‘White Drugs’, record—Heart Attack American, White Tar and Strobe Life—go down the best with an ageing audience, but the choices of newer opening and closing numbers, Knifeman and History’s Stranglers respectively, prove there’s no danger of these dudes slowing down.