Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Melbourne Soundwave

After making all the arrangements to return to Melbourne from Hawaii on Valentine's Day, I found out that AFI would be playing a show only blocks away from my aunts apartment days after I planned to leave. AFI is my favorite band. Well, tied with Nickel Creek for favorite, at least. I've alway loved going to concerts. It started with country concerts in Nashville, then music festivals in Chicago and Milwaukee, and later favorite bands touring near me. I've seen AFI twice before, the last time in 2009, and they are definately worth seeing again. Before leaving Minnesota, I missed an AFI concert, and I was missing another in Hawaii. I decided to bookmark the tour dates so I wouldn't miss any again. That was when I found out they were scheduled to play two concerts in Melbourne within the month! Either they or God clearly wanted me to go to a concert! Right? :) Unfortunately, I couldn't justify the price of a ticket while traveling. The first Melbourne concert came and went. I was bored in Melbourne, trying to occupy my time with free activities while waiting for my next trip. The night before the last Melbourne concert AFI would be playing, I called my aunt Bernadette. I didn't even need to ask. She said that she knew I was dying to go. Instead of buying the ticket and going, she knew I would save the money and spend all week depressed about it. Being the best auntie in the whole world, she offered to buy the ticket for me so I could finally go see them! Yes, I know I am spoiled. (I will likely have to pay this back at some point in my life.)

This specific AFI concert was part of an Australian music festival called Soundwave. (Though 95% of the bands were American.) I cannot fully explain how excited I was about this! I made a list of people I sorta kinda knew that were going to the festival. A lot of the bands were metal, which occasionally brings in large men who like to dance in form of punching and kicking. When you are a just over five foot tall lady, it does some good to surround yourself with a group of people who prefer light head banging, however stupid it may look. 

Here are some things I have learned from years of going to concerts:
1) Never wear heels. The pros of heels are that they increase the likelihood of actually seeing the stage, and they can be used as a weapon if a zombie apocalypse happens at the festival. (Too much of The Walking Dead.) The cons are that your feet will be in agony halfway through the day (if you are used to heels), and you will undoubtedly step on someone else's foot, making them angry.
2) Wear black tights or comfortable, light pants. Exposed skin burns and jeans are way too hot when you are in such a confined space for hours. 
3) Bring layers. It always gets really hot and then really cold. This is especially true in Melbourne.
4) Sunblock is essential. You will still burn.
5) Always hold the front barricade. Front row seat every time with no danger of being swept into a mosh pit. 
6) If you are being trampled, get out. No band is worth dying in a pool of man sweat and spilt beer.
7) Only sing the words if you actually know them. 

I'm sure nobody cares about this part, but I looked adorable that day! I wore a casual red and black knee length dress with pockets, and completely black tights underneath, with Toms for my shoes. My hair was in a messy braided top knot. I greatly dislike when I'm at a concert and the hair of the person next to me flies into my face. Before I left, I ate a PB&J and brought a peach and some dried fruit to snack on. That was all I ended up eating until I left the festival 14 hours later. 

The festival was close, but a bit too far to walk. The train would've taken me all the way to the city and back. I don't like taking trams because they are usually crowded and make horrible screeching noises. This left the option of a bus, which would take a straight shot from my apartment to the festival grounds. After I took a seat, I pulled out my phone GPS to make sure I would recognize my stop. A middle-aged Australian man sat next to me and inquired where I was going. I distractedly said that I was heading to the Soundwave Festival. And then he began talking... "I live close by there. I reckon there will be a lot of drunk trouble makers out tonight. Several years ago, I was out at the bars and some mate hit me right in the skull! See that?" He pointed at a scar on his head. I nodded in appropriate sympathy, while trying to not pay so much attention that he would think I was interested in hearing more. He didn't catch on. "Didn't do a thing to this man and I got a month in the hospital. You know what he had to pay for it? Nothing! Places like America you can sue for anything!" This began a longer rant about America and how we can make millions by getting fat or being offended, and how he should've made money from this bar fight. Somewhere in the middle of his speech I noted that even if I wasn't there, he would still have given this rant to an empty bus. In addition, he definately had no idea that he was sitting directly next to an American. 

When I arrived at the festival, I did not fit in. Black band t-shirt was definately the crowd approved wardrobe. I was quite confident that my outfit was perfect and everyone else's weren't as pretty, so that wasn't a problem at all. The fact that I had no sun block was a bit more serious, and there was no way I was paying festival prices for a tiny tube of it. Instead, every time I needed more sunblock, I would look for someone in the crowd with plenty to spare. Everyone was super nice and kept me in sunblock all day. Thanks strangers! Still got burnt, but at least I tried. 

The first band I saw was Amor Amarth. I had never heard of them before, but they were the best band playing at 10 in the morning. Plus, I was mesmerized by the smoothness of their long blonde hair despite the ferocity of their head banging. Someone please find out what conditioner they use. Five Finger Death Punch was on the same stage right after Amor Amarth, so I wedged closer as people lost interest or weren't paying attention. I don't push my way into the front, it's more like a respectful glide into the best spot of the concert. 

Right as FFDP was about to begin their set, I made it to the front, with only one person between me and the barricade. This person happened to be a large man, well over six feet tall. To either side of him stood equally daunting figures. You may hear this and think that I mistook security for concert goers. I didn't. The security had well marked uniforms. These guys were just jerks who wanted the best seat in the place even if it meant not letting anyone else see. Even when I'm on the barricade, I make sure I'm not blocking the view of shorter people. (This never has actually been a problem for me.) Even relatively tall men around me were complaining about the view being blocked. I kept my spot, despite only being able to clearly see the mean man's backside. When the band comes on stage, the crowd always shifts massively. When the band plays their first fast song, mosh pits and a few seriously awkward dancers open up spaces in the crowd. I stayed in the hope that I could use that to my advantage and get a decent spot. What actually happened was the crowd rushed forward, squishing me into huge guy's back sweat filled t-shirt, and then started pushing and pulling me straight toward a mosh pit. I decided this one was a lost cause and that it was time to bail right as I was about to hit the mosh pit. There were two guys behind me. One asked if I was okay and if I wanted to get out. I screamed over the music that I was fine, but couldn't see so wanted to leave this band. The other guy yelled that it was too tightly packed and the only way out was up. They offered to crowd surf me out and I accepted. Each guy grabbed a leg, hoisted me up, and pushed me over the crowd toward the front. I remember thinking "Man, I'm glad I wore black tights!" and then I was at the front being helped down by security. 

It was as I was walking off the side that I looked down and noticed my bag was open. Somehow during crowd surfing it had unsnapped, dropping my iphone. Thankfully, that was the only thing that fell. Upon looking at the crowd, I realized that it would most likely be in the center of where the mosh pit now was. I turned around and asked the security guard where lost and found would be brought. He told me they didn't have one and it was my own fault. This was not an acceptable answer to me, and I'm sure by the end of the day he got a decent talking-to about it from his supervisors. :) 

I stuck around the far edges of the barricade to see if anyone would bring up an iPhone and to listen to the remainer of that set. A girl standing next to me was texting on her iPhone, so I asked if I could post something on my Facebook using her phone, after I explained what had happened with my own phone. She had no problem with that. I figured it would be at least a few hours before I'd get my phone back, and I didn't want people (Mom) to worry if I didn't answer for a long time. 

Near the end of the FFDP concert, a tall French boy (guessing around 17) came up next to me and explained that he too had lost an iPhone in the crowd. He had asked around and found out that an iPhone had been given to security, who said they would bring it to lost and found. So it had to be one of our phones. The stupid security guy was still no help, repeatedly telling us that our phones were lost forever. We searched the area after the concert and found nothing. So, we went on to every group of security we could find. Turns out there were three different security companies working the same festival. Security Company 1 said there was no lost and found. Security Company 2 said there should be a lost and found, but they didn't know where it was. Security Company 3 said lost and found was at the Coat Check. Coat Check said that they were not lost and found. We finally tracked down the security bosses, who seemed thoroughly annoyed by their staff not reading the "clearly stated lost and found spot in the training manual" and were very understanding about our situations. They went to the Coat Check to make sure the employees there knew that it was the lost and found spot, and then sent a tough looking older lady wearing a cowboy hat to help us find our phones and straighten out the stage security. I used her phone to try and call my own. Thankfully, my number is Australian. The French guy hadn't switched over his phone yet, so he couldn't call himself. It took a while, but a mystery number called her phone back. Someone had found my phone! The identifier he gave us was that he was a tall guy in a black band t-shirt. As you can imagine, it took a bit of time playing this advanced rock concert version of Where's Waldo. Eventually, I found him and gave him a hug for returning my phone, which he obviously had no idea how to respond to. The cowboy hat wearing security lady gave him a gift card for his good dead and told me that I needed to pay it forward to someone else in my lifetime. Then she grabbed the French boy and they went off to talk to the mean security man who told us we would never find our phones. It took an hour to get my phone back, but at least everything got figured out with the lost and found. You're welcome to everyone else who lost anything after that.

AFI was just about to begin their set as my phone was returned. I ran at full speed to the far left side of the stage, on the barricade. Asking Alexandra was playing their last few songs as I took my spot. Once they finished, must of the crowd left, allowing me to get a great front row view before other AFI fans arrived. At that point I looked down at my phone to see that I had receive several missed text messages from some of the people I sorta knew who were also at the festival. I decided not to meet with them in order to keep my good spot. As AFI began, I text them explaining that I just found my phone after losing it, and was already too close to the next stage to leave. Meeting with people seemed like way more of a hassle than a benefit by that time. 

AFI was great. The lead singer's voice croaked out a few times, which I've never seen happen before, but I certainly didn't mind. Halfway through the set, he walked upright through the crowd, as he always does. Thankfully, I was in the sweet spot where I could see everything, but wasn't pushed around by the crowd. There was only one song I didn't know in their playlist. That was disappointing since I was pretty sure I would know them all. I guess that's to be expected with a band that's been playing since before I was born.

After AFI, Zebrahead played. I attempted to wedge my way closer to the center of the barricade, but the people in my way were obviously holding out for Panic! At The Disco, as I was. Zebrahead was unremarkable, but Panic was insanely better than I expected. I have also seen Panic play twice before. The first time was at Lollapalooza (Chicago, IL) in 2006. They had just released their first CD, and were touring with a circus act. The show was great due to the performers. Though it was obvious the band was unfamiliar with being on stage. The lead singers voice wavered in every single song. The entire performance hinged on the circus act, which was fantastic. The next time I saw them was at Summerfest (Milwaukee, WI) in 2007. The circus act was gone, and the voices had improved, but the band did little but play instruments and sing. Since I didn't like their second album, and the band broke up soon after, I lost track of them. While in Hawaii, I saw that they had released a new CD which was getting great reviews. It seems half of the band kept going on after the break up. I loved the new CD, so I was excited to hear those songs live. The band blew me away! The lead singers voice was perfect, hitting amazingly high, low, and screaming notes without a problem. Not only was there clear vocal training since 2007, they also picked up a few new tricks from the circus act. My favorite point was when a new song paused halfway through. The entire band froze in extravagant positions. The lead singer, standing in the middle of a flat stage, did a sudden backflip. Simultaneous to him landing, the band continued along with the song as it nothing has occurred. Very impressive.

Thankfully, most of the bands I wanted to see were at the same stage, so I could keep my good spot. Bowling for Soup did a short show between Panic and Pennywise. It was horribly obvious that the crowd was all waiting for Pennywise to begin. Whoever decided Bowling for Soup would be a good opening band for Pennywise, must not listen to either. They played a song or two that hit the charts and spent the remainer of their time playing hit songs that they have been incorrectly given credit for over the years. They finished with the Phinneus & Ferb theme song. I sang along and enjoyed their whole set with the full knowledge that the rugged looking people around me were judging me for actually liking this band. One guy made this clear with occasional negative comments about the music chosen as fillers. 

I have never heard of Pennywise before, but there was no way I was leaving that amazing spot. The crowd was massive for them. I guess that means they are popular... The music was pretty decent, though it was difficult to hear the lyrics of any songs, and it seemed like a band that focused more on lyrics than just sound. There was a group of 10-15 individuals who were running to the back of the crowd and crowd-surfing all the way to the front only to do it again throughout the entire concert. Near the end of their set, the lead singer of Pennywise invited one member of the crowd on stage while singing what I assumed to be their most popular song. This distracted the stage security. Twenty or so people from the crowd took those few seconds to jump the barricade, climb up the speakers, and join in singing on stage. Security went into a futile panic, but the band kept their cool, guiding the group backstage after the song came to a close.

The next opening band was called Finch, but I didn't know them and didn't really pay attention to their music at all. I simply concentrated on not being wedged away from my amazing spot on the barricade by Korn fans. I was pretty unsure about how safe the Korn crowd would be at first; it turned out to be one of the nicer crowds. Even more surprisingly, I fit in with that crowd more than any the whole day. I knew nearly every song Korn played. I danced along with everyone else. It was a great time. My favorite moment was glancing across from me at the guy who had criticized Bowling for Soup so harshly before. He obviously didn't know the Korn song that I was enjoying singing along to. I could tell his surprise that I, a girl singing Phinneus and Ferb songs in a pretty dress, was just a little more of a Korn fan than him. 

When Korn finished, I ran quickly over to the Green Day stage. Jimmy Eat World was just finishing their set, which I listened to as I found a spot. The crowd was already thick with Green Day fans. There were huge screens on either side of the the stage, but I wanted to see the stage for myself. If I wanted to watch a concert on a screen I would've bought a DVD. On the far left side were a few people in wheelchairs with a space behind them. I took that space, but still had to stand on my tippy-toes to see over the people to the right of me. 

I do not recommend ever going to a Green Day concert unless you would like a nice workout for your arms. They played extended versions of all their songs, often stopping in the middle to make people cheer, wave their hands, clap, and so on. They talked a lot. Also, I discovered that I really only know the choruses to most of their songs. I'm usually a very patient person, but I decided to leave a half hour early out of annoyance of them not actually playing any music. 

By the time I decided to leave, it was nearly 11pm at night. The food stands were brilliantly staged by the exit. Every single thing looked amazing after a long day with an empty stomach. I chose the cheapest item, a chicken and fries basket. My goodness, it was heaven! 

As I was waiting for the train to take me home I suddenly realized I had to pee! It had been 9am since I had last used the restroom. Years of long road trips have taught me to hold my bladder without even realizing it. Unfortunately, it was reaching its maximum time. The train was just as crowded as the festival so I had to stand, using every muscle in my body to hold out until the next bathroom. I got off at the first spot I knew that had one, and much happier, I got on a second train to continue the way home. This train was spacious allowing me to sit. It was not until my back leaned onto the seat that I remembered- my dress is an open back dress. There was a large diamond shape of exposed skin that never recieved a drop of sunblock. Ouch. The rest of me was burnt, but that single burn was more like the Eye of Sauron.

I attempted to take my hair down, but it had decided to freeze itself into an impenetrable rats nest. I ended up leaving it half undone, and feel asleep within minutes.

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