WAX VOLCANIC GOES TO SOUNDWAVE
Two Conspicuous and Polarised Demographics That Vastly Outnumbered the Mythic Hoards of Snarling, Lank-Haired, Sun-stroked Men That I Imagined To Be Spilling Freely Through Soundwave 2014:
1. Small, roaming packs of older folk, grey-skinned, silver-haired and leather-hatted, ambling carefully through a growling swamp of young humans in safe numbers.
[*Sub demographic to D#1: Lone, older women, almost industrially sun smart and always with raven black or metallic red hair and the most extreme band t-shirts (eg. Anthrax, Cannibal Corpse)…]
2. Silent pairs of teenage lovers, pimples studded over their pallid complexion, always gripping one another’s hand and slouching through the Flemington dust in Amon Amarth t-shirts, like slow-melting ice in the midday sun.
The Largest Unified Group Who Came Closest to Being a Demographic, but for Definitional Reasons, Didn’t Make the Cut:
Everyone who attended Gwar’s set and was stained pink after the ritual beheading of their Tony Abbott effigy.
Why I Found the Suddenly Zombified Members of Soundwave, Covered in Remnant Fake Blood After the Gwar Set, So Disturbing:
Because it was, in purely cynical terms, the most effective ‘branding’ I’d ever seen at a music festival, which, after some thought, made it all the more metal. Gwar remained on everyone’s minds (and clothes and skin) for the rest of the day, way cheaper than a billboard or a run of band t-shirts. It was a stark reminder that Heavy music fans show adoration through visibly displaying the music they love, making it a self-perpetuating engine of consumption. Despite the shock-politics responsible for the spillage of fake blood (decapitation of Tony Abbott manniqin), the zombification of the Gwar crowd had a sort of Shopping-Mall-From Dawn-Of-The-Dead type sociological ring to it.
A Cursory Sampling of T-Shirts at Soundwave 2014 (Other Than the Oceanic Proportion of Avenged Sevenfold T-Shirts):
- Jesus Is A Cunt
- Doggy Style First
- Chaos Reigns
- Delightfully Tacky, Yet Unrefined (a Hooters shirt)
- Farken Brutal Farken Aussie Metal
- Fuck You Asshole
- The Way of the Fist
- Worship the Devil – Tasmanian Black Metal
- Can’t Help But Love This Shit
- Shit Piss Fuck Cunt Cocksucker Motherfucker Tits Fart Turd and Twat, I Fucked Your Mom
- May Contain Strong Language, Excesive Violence and Explicity Sexual Situations
- What’re You Looking At Dicknose?
- Seven Ways To Die: Wrath/Greed/Sloth/Pride/Lust/Envy/Gluttony
- Bitch We Got a Problem
- Support Mid North Coast Hip Hop
- Alpha, Omega, I am the Creator
- One, Two, Fuck You
- Australian Hot Rod Assoc. www.hotrod.com.au
- Like a Disease, Spreading Death, Erasing Your Life
How the Geographic Positioning of Soundwave Became Culturally Instructive (External Observation):
Soundwave, as the crude illustration above shows (poorly), unfolded at the Flemington Racecourse, and was caught between two prominent landmarks. One, relatively close by, was the $45 million VRC Grandstand, an opulent icon in a sport steeped in civility and tradition. The second was the 1960s era high rise Commission flats on Racecourse road in Flemington. The positioning of Soundwave between these places seemed apt. The Commission flats felt somewhat representative of a societal disaffection quite prevalent (as you can imagine) in the heavy metal scene. But while enjoying some pretty dark stuff, metal fans aren’t disaffected in the same way. They’re orderly, even polite, and most importantly, seemingly well off. I was whipped in the face 3 times by thrashing locks of male hair, and every time it was like falling into a basket of freshly picked blueberries. They were riddled with expensive tattoos and cloaked in overpriced merch. They’re not quite at home in the grandstand on the other side, trussed up in their Sunday best, but I can definitely spot more potential Harvey Norman Assistant Managers (HNAM) than I can Dandenong mall rats.
How the Geographic Positioning of Soundwave Became Culturally Instructive (Internal Observation):
The palpable lack of behavioural extremity in the crowd (see above) raised questions about exactly what level the metal crowd at Soundwave are actually operating on. I couldn’t quite figure out if the whole thing (particularly the quintessential elements of the scene like fans dressed in full jumpsuits and rubber masks, gratuitously obscene t-shirts, covered in blood etc) was:
- Tongue in Cheek – a sort of relief comedy, or interactive theatre.
- A response to cognitive dissonance – the domain of HNAM’s (see above), where a distinctly different (even split) personality emerges and aligns itself with the toothless anger and comic darkness of Soundwave, a pressure release in a, to some degree, dissatisfied life. A life full of responsibility, restraint and probably some regret.
- Normative social influence – where the metal crowd represents the most ‘acceptable’ alternative to mainstream society, so its conventions (black eyeliner, black clothes, non-functional buckles, fake blood etc) are adhered to without question because they simultaneously foster a sense of belonging within the tacitly disaffected and manufacture an illusory distance from the mainstream. I say illusory because while being deadly serious, they’re still caught between the flats and the grandstand, their anger/disaffection feels real but isn’t turned on society, quite the contrary. It manifests itself in (very pro-society) consumption of t-shirts, music, hairspray and crazily expensive festival tickets.
Gratitude Expressed to the People of Melbourne From the Stage
1. “ I chose to wear no underwear. So you may see my penis today” Danny Warsnop (Asking Alexandra), spoken in the same oratorical English accent as Love, Actually’s Bill Nighy
2. “Give yrselves a rown’ of applaws, loud as eh cocksuckn mothrfuckr” Phil Anselmo (Down)
3. “Fuck yeah Melbourne” Jonathan Davis (Korn)
4. “Thanks so much for coming out early, we certainly do appreciate it” John Dyer Baizley (Baroness), with guitarist Peter Adams mouthing the words “Thankyou so fucking much” at the same time
5. “You’re all looking beautiful tonight” Richard Patrick (Filter) said at around 3pm in the afternoon.
Ways in Which The Living End Assured Us They Were Indeed Australian
- By playing their ‘special request song’, titled “Uncle Harry Pissing in the Bath”
- Words like: “Are you guys Aussies are ya’s?
- Further words like: “You want me to scull this beer? How does getting fucked sound?”
- Sculling a beer on stage.
How Richard Patrick from Filter Reminded Everyone of the Dangers of Nostalgia
- By changing nothing about his band’s look or songs, in fact, remaining positively allergic to change, eerily slurring through their set as if they’d spent the last decade trapped in an ice cave.
- By asking - a 45 year old man to a fairly young audience - if “anyone” had “taken copious amounts of druuugs?!” before launching into the haggard breakbeat of ‘Trip Like I Do’
- By taking a picture for his kids, so they “can see what Daddy do[es]”. The photos numbered three and took what felt like as many minutes to be taken. Excruciating falls a little short.
- By entertaining an audience that kept falling into a stunned silence, which refused to be motivated. A lot like the crowd you might see at a regional art gallery, museum or city zoo.
Things, Like Mutemath’s Keytar, Soundwave 2014 Could’ve Easily Done Without:
- Brian Malko, withering like an elderly secretary in the heat of the Australian summer
- My choice of apparel, apparently. The general politeness and heavy metal shows and festivals has been well documented, but wearing bone shoes, bones pants, an off-white t-shirt, and peach coloured glasses to Soundwave forced me to recalibrate my opinion somewhat. It made me think that perhaps the kindness at such festivals was more of a nuclear arms race, an unsteady peace governed by hidden fury. In such an arms race I clearly appeared to be New Zealand, or maybe Austria.
- Jesse the Devil’s naked torso
- Tiny split stages, which simultaneously made soundchecking clearly audible, and the indoor stages feel about as epic as an average Australian loungeroom
- The extreme masculine/feminine whiplash of modern hardcore, of gutteral vocal (a la cookie monster) with bone-crushing guitars, to soaring, harmony and falsetto drenched choruses of girlish teenage longing.
- Avenged Sevenfold (*I realise now this is not a popularly held view)
For Cool Accidents