The eve of the Soundwave heavy metal and hard rock music festival. I was sitting at the outside table with my girlfriend Trish, overlooking the backyard while smoking a joint and sipping whiskey,
“I hope you’re not taking any of that with you tomorrow,” Trish said.
“What? Whiskey or pot?” I asked.
She pointed at the tightly rolled piece of paper between my fingers, “That.”
I shook my head.
“No. I’ll be there to do a job T, there’s no point in being stoned off my head when I’m working.”
We laughed and spent the rest of our night in the company of one another.
Soundwave day. It was 9:30am when Mark made his way over to my house to shake me out of bed with his aura of almost combustible energy. The look on his face and the excitement I saw in his wide opened eyes as he stood at the end of my bed, told me that he was ready to scream, smoke and head bang his way through today’s event.
“You’re still asleep? What the hell man?” he asked.
“Yes. Its 9:30am, you’re lucky its soundwave or otherwise I would have left you outside to melt in the sun. How the hell did you get in anyway?” I replied.
“T let me in. Damn kid, you’re always a cranky shit in the morning,”
he said as he offered to share 1 of his 4 joints with me. He pulled one out of a zip lock bag which was shoved into a purple coloured pouch tied to the draw string of his pants
“I’m good. I have a job to do, you go hard though,” I said.
As Mark claimed my spot from the previous night, I showered and Trish made us breakfast. Bacon, eggs, toast, 2 sausages and a glass of cold water. I heard her call out to us that it’s ready and hurried to finish my shower.
After we ate, I gathered the stuff I’d need to do my work. In my pocket would be 2 Artline200 fine along with my phone, and in my hand 1 slim, easy to carry notebook. Mark kept hold of the tickets.
“Alright. Let’s drink some Chivas Regal and hit the road. The first band starts in just over an hour and I want to be there so I can see the state and face of the crowd from the start right to the finish,” I said.
“I’m in! Where are the shot glasses?” he asked.
We had no shot glasses. So we ended up taking swigs straight from the bottle. About 4 or 5 each, and I could already feel it starting to have an effect on me. I put the bottle back and Trish walked us out the door. I kissed her and said goodbye, she then let me know that the door would be unlocked so we wouldn’t make too much noise when we got home.
After a short walk Mark and I got to the train station and were presented with a sight that’s only seen on this special day. Mohawks, gothic style make-up and the sight of public drinking. We had gotten our first dose of the Soundwave crowd. The train came 5 minutes after our arrival and upon boarding it we became embezzled by the same type of crowd that was waiting at the station. Except now songs from bands such as Slipknot, Slayer, Metallica, were playing on peoples phones to enhance that state of everyone’s excitement.
After arriving at Central station, we boarded the special “Exhibition train” that took us to the location of the festival. We stepped out onto the “Exhibition Platform,” and we all mobbed our way to the main gates to get our wristbands that distinguished between those who were under and over the age of 18.
“Shit,” Mark said in a worried tone, “There’s cops with dogs on the other side.”
I expected the presence of police. Usually they do random pat downs and use the dogs to sniff out drugs because they know the tendencies this crowd has for the consumption of controlled substances,
“Calm down,” I said, “You won’t be the only one carrying something today.”
Then I remembered the sight of other people on the train, who were clearly outcasts from this sort of scene – I also remember the undeniable smell of marijuana. They kept looking people up and down as they clutched their belongings closer to them and scrunched up their noses up in such a discrete way that it was actually impressive. But anyone could tell, they were far from comfortable,
“And besides,” I continued to say, “You’ve done a good job at hiding yours. Just stay away from the dogs.”
I paused for a moment to get my wristband attached and then passed through the gate. Then in a very low tone I said,
“Because if you stay away from the dogs, it will be alright. You can always talk to a Police Officer – But you can never reason with a dog unless you’ve trained it.”
This gave Mark a relaxed vibe and we breezed through the crowd of Police Officers with ease.
No bands had started playing yet but I had already started working. We found a spot under a tree and Mark looked over the set times as I turned to watch members of the festival interact, get patted down and be innocently eyed by cops as they entered the showgrounds.
Members of this culture have a very good relationship with law enforcement inside these grounds. Even with their facial piercings, artful tattoos and rugged smokers throat, all of them comply the best way they can with the law and are usually the better types in society to cooperate peacefully with Police Officers. People here only get arrested for drug possession or disorderly behaviour after the festival is finished. But for this particular scene – the few do not speak for the many.
As many of the bands began to take to the stage, the people began to empty the various drink stalls. Beer and Canadian club cans were the two choices of booze so I bought 4 cans of Canadian club. I suspected this would not be allowed later on during the festival so we made the most of it while we could. We drank our 4 cans at a moderate pace and walked around to get a solid location of the stages. I was taking notes when I had a free hand – trying desperately to capture the unseen spirit and atmosphere that only the Soundwave culture can offer. As morning gave way to the afternoon and the afternoon slipped into night, the big bright lights of the grounds came on and exposed what had become of the people.
Many hours of drinking, head banging, screaming and being on all sorts of drugs produced a sight of bloodshot eyes, shirtless hairy chested men and highly intoxicated women who looked ready to pass out or engage in a session of hot, loud and wild sex. This is the humble look one gets after a day taking an adventure of total endurance.
“Shit. I’m a little fucked up at the moment,”
“Maybe I should sit down for a while.”
Mark said, with a sort of chaotic love for this kind of enjoyment.
“You’re fine,” I said looking down at him, “You look like anyone else here. You’ll be ‘right,”
He got up from his crouched position and laughed like nothing had happened,
“You’re right. Come on, let’s get in the pit so we’re close to the stage.”
We made our way through the small opening to the main stage mosh pit and Mark managed to get a plastic cup of water that the volunteers were handing out – a highly craved commodity on this day – and finished the half full cup in one mouthful. Then, as a rebellious gesture, proceeded to light up and smoke his last joint and share it with surrounding others,
“Only here at Soundwave can you do this man,” he said proudly.
“Fuck yeah bro,” one guy said.
“Yeah mate – this is total freedom in here. Just get out of the fucking way if you’re too stoned when the music starts,” another said.
Everybody that heard him began to laugh when suddenly the stage came alive.
Strobe lights flashed on the stage and revealed a huge banner that showed the band’s name in black, ridged writing, “KORN.”
The singer walked out and roared as the crowd cheered. The mosh pit erupted and Mark, indeed, got out of the fucking way. It was to be a 1hr and 30min set for the band and they played well. But during this onslaught of sheer excitement, there was absolutely no way I could take notes. My best recollection comes in the form of mental images:
People were screaming their heads off, singing along, raising their hands and pushing and shoving each other around like a teenage rugby team. It was a chaotic scene, but one you need to be a part of to really appreciate. When standing as a part of the crowd, I thought that those outcasts who look at the people of this culture only arrive at definitions of, “rough,” and “untrustworthy.” But the evidence against this is presented within this very pit. If anyone, a female in particular, is hurt or falls down or is having a hard time breathing, a compassionate bunch of sweaty metal heads will pick them up, make sure they’re okay and get them out if necessary and if anyone is acting wild and foolish enough to cause any sort of harm they will always be dealt with accordingly.
The band had finished and the event was over. Now it was time for each person to come together one last time and heard towards the awaiting train. Not everyone would make the first train, but from the position Mark and I were in we managed to make it out of the mosh pit and to the front of the heard while the band was saying their goodbyes to the crowd.
“Oh thank Christ,” Mark said as he sat down on the train.
Others had the same expression about their faces, but I knew each and every one of them would still be looking out for one another. Especially now in the state they were all in after their acts of excessiveness. Friends lent on one another as others supported their hands to keep their faces from falling into their chests. After we changed trains, I began adding to my notes.
The train ride seemed quick. I had to shake Mark out of the state he was in to get him up and ready for the short walk home. He stumbled down the platform stairs but we both managed to get back to the house. I opened the unlocked door as Mark was doing the Big Spit on the grass and once he was done, I tried desperately to get him through the door quietly. I finally got through him the door and with a solid thud, he collapsed on the couch and passed out – straight away.
I poured myself a glass of Chivas Regal, rolled a joint and proceeded to the outside table to look over the notes I’d managed to take throughout the day. As I read over them, I found that they provided a detailed conclusion of the entire Soundwave experience in a harmonious, clear tone.
“Soundwave. The annual music event that brings the most passionate of metal heads together. A crazy tattooed sweaty bunch of people who love loud music, cold booze and a good time. A culture that converges on the Showgrounds of major Australian cities to beat the living hell out of their ear drums – and each other – for one day a year. But within this crowd of nobodies everyone has something in common – the music. They’re all here to take adventure of something very special. Everyone is here to scream, sing, push, get pushed or dance around like mad loonies who are having the time of their life, but at the same time – These people are not to be fucked-with here. And sadly, those who despise such a scene as this will be blind to the fact that anybody within this crowd would be the first to help out if any devastation were to break out; even in their tired, exhausted and intoxicated state. However, no matter what an insider says, or no matter how hard he tries to describe the good-hearted, beautiful and comfortable tranquillity that lies within each and every tattooed, long haired individual here – nothing will change. As a result of being judged by their image, they will forever be regarded in the wrong way. Even though any person who follows the false ideology of “dangerous,” when they look upon any member of the Soundwave culture, unconsciously wanting what only they can provide, a fun-loving, full-hearted sanctuary where everybody is nobody but where anybody can feel safe.”