Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Setlists and Meet-n-Greets - Melbourne Part 2

Continued from yesterday's 'The Air is Buzzing'...

30 Seconds to Mars
As 30 Seconds to Mars closed their set, a familiar pair of hands gave me a squeeze. Squish and Mini had made their way in to join me, still riding on the high on their recent Sevendust meet-and-greet. My front row buddy ignored me as I requested that we swap and I was absolutely gutted that I was now stuck behind a six-foot tall guy for Slash’s set. I spotted a permanent marker on the ground and picked it up, getting Squish to write ‘Hi from NZ’ across the palms of my hands in the vain hope that the band would spot it above the heads of front row. All was not lost! Mr Front Row heard us talking about the message we were decorating my hands with and turned to me, saying that since I had come all the way from New Zealand to see Slash, I could have the front row if I promised to swap back after. With minutes till Slash started, I was so grateful and so happy that I was now front row, centre. 

The band entered the stage with little fanfare and it was only a few minutes before lead singer Myles Kennedy spotted my hands and smiled with a nod in my direction. Twice more after that he would acknowledge me, as well as Bobby Schneck pointing at me with a grin when he saw my hands, and Bass player Todd Kerns flashing a grin when he made eye contact with me. The shorter-than-normal set was heavy on songs that had epic solos or focused on Slash, and skipped the full-set inclusions that showed off Kennedy's talents as a singer. As it was, we could barely hear him which was a shame -  he is a ridiculously good vocalist. The set was everything I had loved previously and it was the best 50 minutes of the day by miles.  

As the band finished, Squish caught a guitar pick. My envy was short-lived as the band left the stage and roadies began packing down the gear. The second the set list was pulled up from the space below Kennedy’s microphone, I leaned as far forward as I could, pleading for him to pass it to me. He passed it to security in front of the stage and motioned to me. The boys next to me at the time did everything they could to pull it away from him but with a last ditch ‘It’s meant for her!’ from Squish, the set list was in my hands and there was no way I was letting go of it. I may not have met them or got their autographs, and if you’re not a music fan you may not understand my delight, but these small interactions with the band and this piece of memorabilia made the whole trip worth it. 

As all of this was happening, Zach De La Rocha of Rage Against the Machine fame took over Stage 1 with his new band One Day as a Lion. The band write up in the festival program advises that the band is named after a quote that reads “It is better to have lived one day as a Lion, than a thousand years as a Lamb”. I love the idea behind the lyrics and the band, but they didn’t hold my attention as well as some of the other bands had. When you aren’t familiar with a band, I find they either completely mesmerise you, or they bore you, and unfortunately for me it was closer to the later, as much as I am a fan of De La Rocha. 

While making sure our front-row buddy got his barrier spot back, Squish and I managed to stay up front for Queens of the Stone Age, who took Stage 2 after One Day as a Lion. I’ve been a fan of QOTSA since I was 21 and I was stoked to see them at Soundwave, especially since I couldn’t afford tickets to their upcoming headliner in Auckland. 

The Queens crowd was insane, making the show less enjoyable than it should have been. When you go front row, or into the pit, you do so with the knowledge that there are a lot of people behind you and a lot of them want your spot. Unfortunately that doesn't make it any less uncomfortable when your ribs feel like they're touching your spine. I love being close to the band because you see every facial expression, every slight communication between band members. You get more from the experience than you do further back, where you may as well be watching a live DVD. 
Queens were awesome, the set list had a good mix of songs and included a few reliable sing-a-longs like Go With the Flow and A Song for the Dead. Lead singer Josh Homme seemed overly distracted by happenings in the distance and his overall appearance makes me think of the arrogant ladder-climber every business seems to have. I found it funny, looking at the band up close. I realised that most of them look like normal, 40-something men with odd haircuts. If it was your Dad, you would be hugely embarrassed, but because they're rock stars, it's somehow OK. 

Queens of the Stone Age
I also noticed that after every band before them had water on stage, Homme alone had 4 Coronas and what appeared to be a bottle of Vodka. In an era where most with rock god status are straight-laced recovering addicts who've been there and done that, I wonder if Homme is seen as cool or pathetic by his peers. I finished reading 'My Appetite for Destruction' by Steven Adler (original drummer for Guns n Roses) while away and it seemed like he was looked down on by many that had walked his path before him. I'm not saying Homme is an addict for having a couple of drinks, but it did make me think. Don't read Adler's book by the way, it's terrible.

The highlight and lowlight of of the set were both caused by crowd surfers. The former was a guy in a wheelchair who had somehow surfed his way to the front. Homme insisted he be lifted on stage by security, pointing to the crowd as he said "They did it! Why can't you?". Once on stage, the fan sipped from Homme's Vodka and partied it up before being taken backstage.

The aforementioned lowlight was a heavy kick to the head by a crowd surfer. Squish and I are well accustomed to being hit and kicked as surfers are pulled over the front barrier, it's part and parcel of being front row. This final kick, during the last song, bought tears to both our eyes, from force more than anything. As the crowd dissipated and we compared notes, I pointed out that the kick she thought she felt was actually my right cheekbone hitting the back of her head as I was kicked from behind. Sorry Squish, I hope you're not too bruised!

Queens of the Stone Age
Mini had been pulled from the crowd earlier in the set to avoid being crushed so we needed to find her. Headliners Iron Maiden were due to come on any minute and Squish wanted to see them. Lobster, who had separated from us to see Slayer, had been waiting on the Maiden side for awhile by then. As much as I wanted to say I'd seen them, I'm not a huge fan of Iron Maiden and after the QOTSA crowd I was keen to head home. I had a feeling Mini would be in the same mindset so Squish and I separated and I went to locate Mini. When she wasn't at the meeting point we had arranged I realised just how much of a needle in a haystack I was facing. I resigned myself to watching the first few Maiden songs before I attempted any level of searching. 

Thirty seconds later I was hugged from a very low height (Mini by name, mini by stature). In a crowd of tens of thousands, she had run into me.

We made our way to the train station with aches and bruises aplenty, but at the same time full of set list and meet-and-greet energy. To end our night the best way possible, a train was there already, with announcements overhead that it would depart in 60 seconds. Not having to wait is a heaven sent gift at the tail end of festival day! Subway sandwiches in hand, we made our way back to the hostel and vowed to not move again for as long as it was possible. By the time Squish and Lobster got home, we were dead to the world.

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As I write this, I'm on the plane home (it's Saturday). Soundwave was yesterday and I've been up since 6am Melbourne time. My hands still have remnants of permanent marker. Bruises have appeared in more places than I care to count. The plane was delayed 40 minutes and I'm exhausted. Thing is, I'll do it all again next year, because this trip was a blast. Thanks so much Squish, Lobster and Mini for putting up with me and being amazing friends and travel companions.