Published on theMusic.com.au | 05.03.14
BACKSTAGE AT PERTH’S FINAL SOUNDWAVE
5 March, 2014
Green Day’s Time Of Your Life has become something of a stock-standard farewell tune since it first appeared on 1997’s Nimrod. It’s been the soundtrack for many a graduation, saw out nine years of glorious Seinfeld, and was the final song at Perth’s last ever Soundwave. “It’s something unpredictable” may have been one of the last lyrics echoing across Arena Joondalup and throughout its grandstand, but Soundwave is far from unpredictable. Sure, crazy things happens on every run– take Gwar ‘decapitating’ Tony Abbott on stage or local Metal Poet Gareth Williams being added to the Perth line-up this year – but when it comes down to it, Soundwave is one of few festivals that’s purely about the music, which probably has something to do with the fact it’s run by people who love music just as much as the punters.
Gwar, at it again. Pic by Court McAllister.
Founder AJ Maddah – who said he was “devastated” they are pulling the plug on Perth – proposed to Jimmy Eat World frontman Jim Adkins at Adelaide airport, or so Twitter has it. And backstage at Soundwave, that kind of thing is the norm.
The bands are in pretty close proximity for the couple of weeks the festival treks around Australia, so you can imagine it’s pretty much one big party backstage. Add to the fact that, for some of these bands, 2014 was their second or third time on a Soundwave tour and the whole thing seems more like a family. With WA being the last stop on the tour, it seems that some bands begin to get a little crazy. In 2011, Pennywise guitarist Fletcher Dragge (the same one who allegedly threatened the band’s former vocalist with a gun) stumbled out during The Bronx’s, smashed a bottle and began to slash his body.
By the time Soundwave reaches Perth, most of the artists and crew are exhausted, but everyone is making the most of the final hours of the tour – a vibe that was intensified by the fact it was Perth’s final. But also, most of the crew are now home, as a surprising amount of WA-based crew members that do the whole tour, and that’s because they’ve been with the festival since its birth in 2004 – when it was only a WA festival.
The artist entry for Soundwave is somewhat hidden – a little kink in the fence that artists enter by the busload. From there, navigating through a maze of pathways, you eventually get to the artist dressing rooms. There are bands hanging out in each other’s rooms, and playing air hockey and basketball.
Slam-dunkin’ with Asking Alexandria.
Golf carts and vans frequently make the trip between stages and one air-conditioned van ride later, I find myself side of stage for Less Than Jake. They’re known to pick on punters in the audience, but frontman Chris Demakes went overboard, pointing out a punter up the back who used her phone during the first two songs, and told her to “fuck off”, yelling abuse as she walked away. I wish I could provide a detailed account of the situation, but I careful slid my phone into my back pocket and avoided note taking for the remainder of their set.
Although his approach towards phones used mid-set was a bit extreme, it was a reminder for many to actually enjoy the current moment in time, and to fight off the phantom vibrations. I’m sure if you found the victim’s Twitter you’d see #arsehole plastered everywhere.
Seconds after they wrapped up, Alkaline Trio kicked things into gear on the next stage. From out front, there’s a seamless transition between bands. When one finishes, another starts, and that’s happening at 12 stages over 10 hours. It’s insane how much work goes into these things backstage – especially in that kind of heat. Running back and forth with road cases and instruments, it’s almost like a warzone at times. The production at the main stages was insane. Carefully treading around gear, I found myself with a prime view of Jimmy Eat World, standing alongside various other bands singing along to every word. Thanks to #arsehole, I actually took the time to appreciate the moment – contrary to the image below. It’s also interesting to see what other musicians are into. Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba and Dan Adriano were some of the few singing along to Jimmy Eat World, and by that stage probably thought I was stalking them. As long as I stay 50 feet away, they can’t do anything about it anyway.
Jimmy Eat World.
Although the bill was so diverse and huge, most bands have crossed paths before in one means or another, which adds to the party-vibes floating around. Jimmy Eat World did some extensive touring with Green Day back in 2002 as part of the Pop Disaster Tour with Blink-182. Check out the resulting DVD, Riding In Vans With Boys for a better picture of what goes on backstage on big tours – luckily Billy Joe Armstrong didn’t brand anyone with a pool cue backstage at Soundwave Perth. The band definitely did, however, leave their mark on what turned out to be a surprisingly solid turnout with their two and a half hour set, rounding out a day that managed to capture the true essence of what a music festival should be like. And hey, if you live in WA and still want to hit up Soundwave, you’ve got just under a year to starting saving for the trip.