Apologies for the hiatus – I have been writing up a blog, but my editing skills had gone wandering, and now I look back on it, some of it isn’t quite appropriate. So I shall skip to yesterday, when I went to Soundwave Festival. Another of these one day jobbies, as they all seem to be here, this is Sydney’s biggest metal festival.
Now, the last couple of metal festivals I have attended, I have sworn will be my last.
For a start, the metal scene is so stagnant. This year, one of England’s huge metal festivals, Sonisphere, was cancelled, basically because there were no bands. No bands! I spend my life overwhelmed by the sheer volume of good music that there is to find, of how many artists there are constantly emerging and making pioneering stuff. But the metal scene? I’m talking the festival mainstream metal scene, seem happy with the same bands reliving the classics again and again. Well, I’m tired of seeing the same old bands, most of whom are way past their prime. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to stamp on the classics. But yesterday I actually had to avoid bands because I’ve seen them so many times.
Besides this, the festivals are always crap. The general crowd are ugly drunks who are uncompromising in their music taste and scornful with it. You get judged on your music choices, your clothing choices, what band you have on your t-shirt, what bands you’ve seen, your knowledge of metal. The music finishes early, with nothing much to do at night except ‘fuck shit up’. And lesser known bands have to play ludicrously early, no matter how heavy they are, to the sparse crowd whose alarm clocks worked, blinking blearily at them and still eating bacon sarnies. (You have to eat bacon, or sausages, or burgers, or fried chicken. And drink beer. ‘Cos it’s metal, ennit.)
Anyway, I’m pretty over it. But then something always happens that makes me go, ‘OK, I’ll make an exception just this one time.’ And yesterday was A Perfect Circle. One of the most significant bands ever for me, and one I had kind of given up on seeing live. The last time they played in England was in 2003, a one-off gig supporting Deftones. I can’t even remember why I missed it, but it was probably because I didn’t have any money (£20!) or some other feeble excuse. To this day I kick myself for missing it.
So I tried to right my regrets, gulped down my misgivings and investigated the Sydney metal scene to see them.
Now this is not just a fundamental band for me – A Perfect Circle are a supergroup, they are comprised of members connected with huge names, they have platinum status, their last tour sold out in under a minute. They are big.
So why was the crowd still, silent and drastically unreceptive throughout their performance? I didn’t care – I closed my eyes the whole way through and spent the time in my own world with them and their beautiful sounds. But when a band makes such incredible music, they deserve recognition. They left time for an encore, but I was the only one shouting.
Anyway, I don’t want to review A Perfect Circle, I just wanted to point out the crowd. It was like this throughout. In Slayer, I sat down, four rows from the front. There were signs with ‘No moshing, stage diving, crowd surfing at any time’. But no one wanted to. Everyone was so lethargic. I saw a pathetic attempt at a circle pit in Bullet For My Valentine, and that was about it! I found myself constantly doing that annoying, ‘in England, the festivals are so much bigger. In England, the crowds are electric. In England, everyone knows the songs. In England..’
Now, maybe they are all feeling the stagnancy as I am, but for most of these people, they don’t have the opportunity to see half these bands very often. And they didn’t seem to care. There was no crushing need to reach the front, no sweaty head somewhere near you headbanging violently, strands of his hair sticking to your sweaty skin. There were no random outbursts of passers by to each other when they spotted a t-shirt they appreciated. There were no stomps and singalongs and screams of appreciation. There were no musteline crowd surfers who couldn’t make it to the front without smashing people in the head. No circle pits, mosh pits, surges in the crowd that pull people over in waves. No injuries, no boob cam, no banners.
Partly, I attribute this to the one day dilemma: no one really had time to let go, and as it was on a Sunday, everyone had work the next day. Partly, not that any metaller would admit it, it is the fault of the anaesthetized metal scene. And I can also apportion some blame to the heat of the day. But so what?! I expected to be swept along in the wave of nostalgic bands and catch the crowd’s excitement. But it was tame. And civilized. And oh so flat.
Maybe Australians just aren’t angry enough. Maybe they just don’t have the balls for it, or have enough to rebel against. Whatever the reason, let’s just say, Sydney can’t do metal.