Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Collider: Paraguay Zero

And so our journey through Collider ends where the Great Men story began: our first ever track.

CW - I’m not interested in football, so when the World Cup approached in 2006 and I realised I’d lose my friends, housemates and living room for the summer, I took action for the positive and decided that when football left me under siege in my room I would have the duration of the match to write, record and mix a track. This project, which has also spanned the 2008 Rugby World Cup and 2010 Football World Cup, is called “Widdleman VS The World Cup”. The very first one I did was “England 1 Paraguay 0”, which a couple of years later became the first song Regan and I would learn to play together.

R-Man - 1st thing ever.  Debuted in my living room to 3 people who I think were honestly expecting us to be pointless noise.  We sure showed them...

CW - For other Widdleman Vs The World Cup victories, check out our Live in London EP, or Shazam session videos, for a couple of tracks that came out of the 2010 World Cup: Spectators at an Execution (England 0 0 Algeria) and Messerschmitt (bits of Uruguay 2 3 Netherlands and Germany 0 1 Spain).

Monday, 17 December 2012

Collider: No Fear Of Humans

CW - The heavy riff and guitar solo in this one originally came from a track I did in my room in Lincoln Hall at the University of Nottingham, called ‘Night of the Badger’. It was inspired by a news story about a badger going on a rampage and attacking people; one witness said the badger had “no fear of humans at all”. The commanding bass line is all R-Man, and the post-rock second half was born from jamming in Regan’s living room back in the early days when I used to use his Akai Headrush (long since retired).

R-Man – Heavy, Heavy, Heavy– I remember a friend of ours who was a big fan of Zero 7 telling me the quiet bit in this was their favourite bit.  I felt a bit sick.  The logistics of getting the manual switches for the drum machine right always turned Chris into some form of nodding tap dancer...and...now!

CW - He said Tap dancer.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Collider: Number 6

CW - I wrote the original version of this in 2008, with a whammy bar, slap bass, and samples from superlative 60’s TV series The Prisoner (hence the name). Recording this was great fun; I got a little silly on the solo and looked up to find Benn creased over laughing, which only encouraged me to get sillier (and try not to fall apart whilst recording)!

R-Man – This is a classic example of Chris’ dream of a percussive funk classic being ruined/improved (delete as applicable) by my smearing a kilo of sleaze all over the bass track…

CW - Some years after writing this song, I also watched the recent Battlestar Galactica series. This song hence has no relation to the Number 6 Cylon, and is all about Patrick McGoohan. The Prisoner is a tremendous piece of work that still reverberates through TV now. And the theme tune is one of all my all time favourites.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Collider: Lady Cakes

Track 1 of Collider is Lady Cakes. Here's what Mr Regars and I have to say about it:

CW - I think this might be the finest song we’ve written together. In terms of recycled material, only my clean guitar part comes from a previous composition, everything else was written in the spare room at Regan’s house. I’m especially fond of the guitar solo in this. A friend of mine said the first time he saw us live that when we hit the unison riff in this track, he nearly fell over.

R-Man - It’s not until I’ve tried to explain it that I realise quite how complicated this track is.  It’s doing about 5 different things but always driving.  I couldn’t begin to remember how it came about- the pieces just happened while we were at the height of our powers.  It’s something I’m immensely proud of.

Some time between the recording and the release of Collider, we did a live session for Shazam and Lady Cakes was the only album track we included; here's the video:

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Collider: MSP

CW says - The riff that comes in halfway through the track is one that I wrote in my university room sometime in 2002/2003. 6 or 7 years later I played it in Regan’s living room and he told me it sounded like Manic Street Preachers. I was abhorred; as a former teenage metaller I had catalogued the Manics (based on ‘Design For Life’ and ‘If You Tolerate This...’) under “wuss music”. After being thrust a copy of their Holy Bible album, I was forced to recant any previous opinions: Holy Bible is now one of my all time top albums. MSP is also the airport code for Minneapolis-St Paul.

R-Man - THAT riff is a super pop hook, and sure fire million seller.  We’re just a bland vocal and a dodgy haircut away from never having to work again.

There is a moment after the intro where we had a choice of which guitar track to use...if you listen carefully you can hear some string buzz on the one we chose.  A little organic garnish on a bed of machine mash!

CW - Oh yeah, since I’ve not mentioned the dweebery yet, the guitars on the whole album are my Gibson SG Special and Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster (the ‘Black Lodge’ Tele with my custom paint job, but before we rewired it I think), basically just into a Rat into a Vox AC30. For pretty much the whole album there’s just one track of each guitar, playing the same thing, however Benn decided to mix it!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Collider: Riots

This week you get not only myself and R-man's liner notes for the track Riots, but also a brand new exclusive video from award winning directors the Turrell Brothers!

C-bomb - This has its roots in a track of mine called Hot Riots, but is rawer and heavier. I really love the interplay between the guitar and bass in the middle section, it’s one of our most beautiful bits as a duo I think. Benn and Regan did the first mix of this without me and to my surprise and delight they’d gone for a “space bass” sound in the mid-section (a hallmark of my solo work that is usually shot down well before it makes it onto a GM track!).

R-ManThe unmistakable sound of small arms fire; this highlights the mixture of inspiration and mundane practicatility that goes into creating a GM track. We used to listen to a lot of Thelonius Monk who was famous for a stop/start technique with really heavy percussive attack. Riots reminds me of this, but i think its sound actually lies in my sloppy playing.  When I was a kid I listened to and learned to play along to  Reggae and Dub and so in Chris’ ears I was coming in “late” (or “right” as I was concerned) I recall having to really exaggerate the on beat in songs to get out of the habit, with this as prime example.  The middle section is pure Jah Wobble of course...

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Collider: Hot Meat

Continuing our meandering journey through Collider, here's some insider info on Track 5, Hot Meat.

CW says - This is a descendant of a track I did a few years ago called OHM In A Storm. For the first guitar “solo” I had the idea of rigging up a Marshall cab as an extension to the Vox AC30 we were using throughout, and boxing me in between the two on my knees so I could get a bit silly with feedback without disturbing the mics on the Vox. We called it the Feedback Den, and an early favourite title for the album (from me anyway) was Postcards From The Feedback Den, until the Manic Street Preachers pipped us to the post with Postcards From A Young Man. Here's a photo of the action...

R-Man - Ridiculous name, stupid solo.  I Laugh my head off every time I hear it remembering C-Bomb scrabbling around on the floor like some shredding mole-man. The name was cheerfully stolen from the starter of a curry we had while breaking from the writing sessions this came from.  We tend to end live shows with this, by which point I’m reduced to shouting “ Hot Meat Hot Meat Hot Meat!” like a crazed restaurant owner/ bordello pimp.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Poison City Weekender

I just got back from a fantastic weekend in Melbourne, watching the cream of Australian punk bands playing across 3 days. So many shows and so many beers, unfortunately some of the details are a bit hazy, but here's what I recall:

Hopping on a plane straight from work on Friday, thanks to the miracle of human flight we got to the Tote Hotel in time to catch Grim Fandango, who were solid with some nice guitar interplay. Being 2 British beer drinkers it took most of GF's set for us to recover from the shock of an $11 pint! That pretty much pays for a night out in some pubs back home. Unfazed, we soldiered on, surrounded by our bearded brethren (I'm pretty sure I only saw 1 clean shaven guy the whole weekend!). Up next were my highlight of the night, I Exist. With 4 guitarists on stage, plus bassist, singer and drummer, it initially looked like there'd been a mix up with the scheduling and 2 bands were setting up at the same time. The singer looked like Wayne Campbell and sounded like Phil Anselmo, and the riffing had a heavy Pantera groove; all delivered with a tongue in cheek ("this song's about 500 women; it's called 1000 Boobs") - I had a massive grin on my face for the duration.

I think Luca Brasi are probably the first Tasmanian band I've seen, and I was not disappointed.'Nuff 'spec to the guitarist for sporting a Queen t-shirt. Rounding out the night after them was Extortion, playing the "fast, heavy, short" brand of anarcho-thrash pioneered by Napalm Death back in the day. I suspect they were scheduled last as the organisers knew it would be too much for some audience members, but I loved it and stayed for the duration.

Recovering from the Itchy Green Pants ale and the [well deserved] kebab, Saturday saw us roll up to the Old Bar in Fitzroy for some chilled out acoustic acts, and the first of many Mountain Goat beers. Wil Wagner roused the crowd with acoustic renditions of his Smith St Band anthems, but for me the highlight of the acoustic troubadours was Lincoln Le Fevre, another Tasmanian I believe and maintaining the success rate for the island state.

After a jazz apple cider followed by a successful trip to the Little Creatures flagship pub, we headed across town to the Corner in Richmond in time to see Restorations for the second Saturday in a row, having caught them at the Annandale in Sydney the previous week. A top notch US touring band; highly recommended. Inevitably it was now time for the ubiquitous Jamie Hay to make an appearance onstage, with the final ever gig for A Death in the Family, yet another solid act. Headlining the night was US "big name" Rival Schools, who were very good but I felt the pacing was a little off, RS being a little more considered and laid back after the high energy punk rock of the preceding bands. The Corner is a great venue but my advice to you is this: don't bother trying to get in a taxi; it's open warfare between arrogant cabbies and drunks down in Richmond. We eventually walked home and saw a possum weeing out of a tree.

Sunday's festivities took place in what, to a Melbourne noob like me, felt like the middle of nowhere, in a surprisingly large pub/venue called The Reverence in Footscray. We eventually found the 2nd, larger, stage concealed in a separate building out back, through an unassuming doorway, reminiscent of the "people training to be in a James Bond film" scene from Wayne's World. We were just in time for Milhouse, whose more dynamic and angular approach set them apart as another highlight for me. The camaraderie of the scene was evident, with Wil Wagner jumping onstage a couple of times to shout some extra vocals and exchange sweaty man hugs with the bass player. Back over at the front stage, Lincoln Le Fevre was making his second appearance, this time with a band backing him. Impressively he managed to pull off 2 distinct sets over the weekend that each felt perfectly arranged, rather than simply the same approach with different instrumentation.

Finally on the acoustic stage was old [but surprisingly young] favourite Jen Buxton, with the inevitable and welcome Jamie Hay appearance. I felt the set lost its way a little with too many lineup changes onstage - all great performers and songs, but why not give them their own, longer sets instead of a last dash potpourri? Our crew were unanimous in enjoying Jen and Jamie's duets as a highlight of the weekend. Finally, back in the sweaty secret room out back, the weekend closed off with a triumphant set from the Smith Street Band, probably on their way to being Australia's next biggest punk idols. The crowd-surfing was endless, the HULK SMASH shirt ripping from Wil Wagner was probably a trifle unnecessary, Jamie Hay inevitably made an appearance, and through it all the venue's glass collectors tenaciously gathered every empty vessel as if they were being paid by the glass.

All in all an excellent weekend, with not a bad band in sight, and wonderfully not a single idiot in sight either (I'm going to give a bye to the people who jumped in our booked cab in front of us. I only hope they've not continued to assume our identities.) It was also a great way to see more of a fairly unfamiliar city. Thanks to the bands (and sorry for the ones I forgot to mention here, but not a single bad one!) and the folk at Poison City Records for making it happen: a triumph!

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Collider: Ghost in the Machine

In the absence of a lovely paper booklet with loads of interesting stuff to pore over as you listen to the album, and because we love spilling words out in front of you, we're going to use this here blog to throw some extra commentary on the Collider album. To mix things up we'll start with the closing track, Ghost in the Machine. If you haven't made it that far through the album yet, now is a perfect time to pop it on and listen while you read!

CW, he say: This one grew from R-Man’s bass solo, in fact most of the parts in this one were from his fair hand. Counting enthusiasts will notice that the drums and bass are operating in two different time signatures for the first half of this track, and the guitar has a go on each. I have fond memories of the 2 of us in Regan’s back room practising this and concentrating intensely to make all 3 parts wind together at the right time. We’re idiots.

R-man: This is one of the most beautiful things I have ever been involved in.  When we play this live there is a moment in the intro where the whole song hangs on the edge of feedback before crashing back into drums and riff.  Its what I imagine that moment when you jump off a cliff might feel like: genuinely heart stopping.  

The recording doesn’t quite catch it but the smoothness of the whole track more than makes up for it.  If there is an archetypal Great Men sound this is it for me.  It sounds complicated and angular but actually Ghost is pretty damn whistle-able.

I’d like to claim that the title was inspired by Koestler and his take on Descartes’ Mind/ Body Dualism and the artwork certainly was...however the truth is that I really like the cover for The Police’s Album of the same name. It was suitably retro sci-fi in a Bladerunner sort of way, so we nicked it.

Thursday, 6 September 2012


After much anticipation, Great Men are delighted to announce that earlier this week we released our debut album Collider!

You can download it for free on our brand new website, what R-man crafted himself from rocks and earth: www.great-men.co.uk

We recorded the album in London with Mr MCG of Ulterior, who kindly contributed chrome production, huge snares, cyborg pterodactyls and man screams. We then shipped it off to Amsterdam for Mr Zlaya (producer of Sonic Youth amongst many others) to master. Big thanks also to Mr GWM, bourbon drinker and nonsense-tolerator, for designing the graphics.

We're tremendously proud of Collider and would love to hear what you think. If you do find something you like, please tell your friends!

Enjoy Collider with our compliments,
Chris and Reegs

Monday, 20 August 2012

Fascinated by Faith, Repulsed by Religion

I may have gotten soft in my old age but recent experience has given me pause for thought.  While naturally inclined to the Richard Dawkins copyrighted “fire and brimstone” branch of atheism, I have begun to wonder if there could be a better approach, something a little more inclusive, a little more human.  

I am fascinated by faith and always enjoy speaking to those who "get" it precisely because I don't. Where it "feels" true to them in their soul I feel a gloriously empty space - the fact there is no god seems as obvious and natural to me as the fact praying is useful does to them.   I can't imagine that we could ever come to a compromise position and I have long passed trying to de-convert the godly.  But could the Atheist movement (whatever that is) be  a place more welcoming to the waverers?  As most Atheists I meet are both warm and lovely this seemed sensible.  I enjoyed the idea of some-one who might still have faith but can no longer follow the diktat of their religion could find a place where they could stretch their spiritual legs without ridicule. I agree, by the way with Sam Harris on using that word.  There is a clear distinction between those of private deist faith and a fundamentalist psychopath and so it would be stupid to lump all of those with faith in the same box.  After all some of my best friends are Christians...

Ultimately though, I guess I enjoyed the mischievous idea of sticking a friendly 2 fingers at the pious and saying “see we’re even better at being nice then you are”.

So resolute in my softening approach to those with faith, I hoped to engage and enjoy the  world of faith in a more cheerful and cheering way. The world of religion responded with some of the most stupid, ignorant, bigoted, evil, motivated by God nastiness it had available.

While reeling, confused by the notion that 3 girls are being sent to a penal colony for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” or more accurately “dancing in a church”, I was appalled by the news of a young girl in Pakistan. The idea that she should face any censure let alone the death penalty for maybe burning some pieces of paper literally makes a beggar of belief.

Patriarch Kirill can spit against every notion of moral modernity and be smugly protected by blasphemy laws. A Pakistani Mob can burn people from their homes in a rampage of ethnic cleansing and be applauded for upholding the values of their faith.

But we might say (if we were being faintly post-colonial polite racist) these places are poor, they are not educated, there will be many local issues that have contributed; we don’t understand enough to judge.

Well, in that case we wouldn’t have the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland playing “I’m taking my ball back and you can’t play” over gay Marriage.  Or for that instance Todd Atkin a Missouri Republican Who recently had to invent new definitions of rape in order to square the circle of his religious belief and the constitutional right of a woman to control her own body. I am left wondering which semester of his Divinity Masters Degree did he learn about half rape.

Both these guys have every benefit that being a white, educated male born in the west during the second half of the 20th Century can bring.  Neither is stupid, nor I would presume evil, but both have been pushed into behaving abhorrently by an out-dated doctrine they cannot shake and feel compelled to follow.

So sorry god(s), I will keep trying to show understanding to your flock and I do realise that having faith doesn't mean a person will be an automaton of your capricious will.  But while your rules and sacred texts provide cover and inspiration for the taking of political prisoners, ethnic cleansing, homo-phobia and misogyny I will reserve the right to be as dis-respectful about you and those rules as I wish.  And I will apologise to those nice faithful friends who I might upset, but the flip side of your coin is too unpleasant for me to ignore... 

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Things I Learned On My Summer Vacation

I recently spent a couple of weeks cruising around the good old US of A. I didn't want to bore you or myself with a full recap, but here a few morsels of observation from my travels, for what it's worth.

Las Vegas is a silly, silly place. No matter how many times you've seen it on TV, in films, on the internet, the reality is they've got a ruddy great pyramid shining a light into space so bright you can see it 40 miles away.

In Minneapolis I went to see Banner Pilot at the legendary Triple Rock Social Club. The first of 4 bands came on at 9:30; Minneapolis rockers do it late!

Wisconsin's billboards are divided evenly between pro-life sentiment and cheese curds.

In Chicago I checked into an unplanned bed and breakfast and my host recognised the tour my Primus t-shirt was from. Then I ate 3 different types of ribs. That's the kind of town Chicago is.

Toledo is a bit of a ghost town, with much of the industry gone; a "mini-Detroit" as my host put it. However its Old West End has some super-friendly locals and bars serving, and in some cases brewing, great beer.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland will easily entertain you for 4 hours.

In Buffalo there is a very distinct racial segregation, weird and sad to see in this day and age. I had good times at a free show at the harbour though, where music and booze united everyone. I've not been to Baltimore but Buffalo felt like The Wire.

I saw Foxy Shazam playing a small show in Asbury Park, New Jersey. If you get chance to see them, do it: you will thank me. Unfortunately Asbury Park itself was less Boss and more Jersey Shore; by which I mean a sub-par British seaside town full of idiots.

In New York I went to Williamsburg Music Hall in Brooklyn to see the great things being done at Willie Mae Rock Camp, teaching girls to rock. Then I hung out in Manhattan, where a passing Deadhead clocked my Zappa t-shirt and gig wristband and became convinced I was a member of Roger Waters' band (in town for his 'The Wall' shows).

Los Angeles is a huge, sprawling metropolis, comprised almost entirely of motorways, which themselves are comprised entirely of traffic jams.

A final thought: living in England I have heard countless people criticise American beer. I am here to confirm that those people are ignorant and wrong - and have probably never ventured further than a Bud Light; the equivalent of judging the UK on Carling or Australia on Fosters. In almost 3 weeks I had plenty of beers and never a bad one. There's a great microbrewery scene going down in the US right now.

Monday, 16 July 2012

There is no God only Bosses

Hello folks,

There’s been quite a hiatus from Chris and I recently (well the last 5 months) which is frankly appalling.  At least Chris has the excuse of living in Australia and therefore now addicted to manly activities such as sport, casual misogyny and eating meat.  I have no such excuse and so thought I’d best put things right with a little catch-up.

Last Tuesday I attended a book launch, organised by the British Humanist Association for the Young Atheists Handbook by Alom Shaha.

Overall, I found the night a little odd as the venue reminded me of a Methodist church as did some of the details of the décor and details replete with lectern and choir… I guess that when the association was formed all public meetings were quasi-religious and looked like this. Old habits die hard in the Secular world too…

The evening itself was lots of fun with a free bar (you don’t get that on a Sunday in St Johns) and lovely canapés.  Of the guest speakers I had heard of two: RobinInce of the infinite monkey cage fame who talked too fast, which was a theme for most of them if I’m honest and AC Grayling who slowed it all down. When I grow up I want to have a lion’s mane of hair just like Mr Grayling… it was magnificent. He also had the best line of the night suggesting that “Militant” Atheists makes about as much sense as “Militant” Stamp Collectors… Look at me! NOT Collecting stamps…Militantly.

The obvious star of the show was Alom, who was clearly giddy and running on the kind of adrenaline I normally only see in skittish grooms.  However his talk (speech? What the hell do you call it?) did hold together and was full of the warm, humble charm that makes the actual book such a pleasure to read. Towards the end, Alom became deeply passionate about the hope he has for Bangladeshi women to be able to free themselves from the some-times horrible lives they find within their religion.  I also suspect he might regret promising to make the entire audience dhal…especially as I’ll be at the front of the queue with my largest bowl!

The book is an antidote to Hitchens and Dawkins or if like me you don’t think these guys need an antidote a far warmer and more personal account of losing God.  Instead of a reference manual that the title suggests this is just Alom Shaha sharing some key memories and thoughts on how he ended up as an Atheist and what it means to him.  Alom has previously criticised Atheism in the UK as too white and too middle class as I| am probably both of those I am largely ignorant of what might be peculiar to Muslims or in particular Bangladeshis.  So I was hoping and expecting for his journey to be quite different to mine and for me to learn more about his (ex)faith through how he lost it.

While this was certainly the case – I didn’t realise that the Koran, being written in Arabic was indecipherable to the vast majority of those who hope to use it – I was struck by how similar some of the experiences were, especially the moments of clarity that he seemed have with his own mind… the fact that it seemed perfectly natural that there was no God.  No epiphany, No big Bang, just No! Its almost as if we're all the same species with the same wants needs and desires irrespective of what God our parents prayed to.

Alom is a Science teacher and had dreams of being a scientist proper so it was a surprise that Science did not inform his decision.  That decision was made long before he discovered the joy of understanding how the world actually is though investigation. A discovery that was hindered, not helped by the science teaching at school.  Like many of us it seems that his Science teachers were crap or cared little for their subject and so unable to pass on the “magic” of it all*.  Sadly most of us are saddled with an (at best) average education but in my case family made up the difference in the arts…It is a shame that science is seen as so specialist that its off the menu at family dinner tables.  I hope people like Alom can bring their readability and smile to popularising this subject.

The Chapter about being labelled a “Coconut” was very timely as with-out it I wouldn’t have realised how unpleasant being called “white on the inside” might be or the significance of the idiot Rio Ferdinand’s comments about his former team mate.

I think my favourite image in the book is when Alom shares his first experience of eating bacon.  We all know how Heaven Hates Ham and this first glorious taste of prohibited porcine pleasure brings to the first page the fun and homely sense that courses throughout the book.  The Bacon Incident highlights how trivial religion is (do you really think he cares what’s in your sandwich?) but because the simple act of having left over breakfast was such a bold step it also demonstrates how powerful and insidious religion still is in the 21st Century. This act got me thinking so if you know any Jewish or Muslim friends who are wavering or perhaps haven’t been brave enough yet …send them round to mine for a sausage sarnie and a chat.

So, having finished the book and feeling confident that there is no super-natural deity I went to see Springsteen…On Woodie Guthrie’s 100th Birthday

* Please take note of a correcting tweet I received from Alom. Sadly one of his teachers Mr Clarke died the year he finished School.

 thanks for writing about book and launch. Have to point out that some of my science teachers were truly brilliant & inspirational

Monday, 27 February 2012

Soundwave Sydney 2012

Unusually for a Sunday, I was up at 9am this week for my first big Australian festival. As opposed to English festivals, which tend to be over long weekends in one place, with people camping over, the Aussie festival norm is a one-dayer that tours around the country. This doesn't mean the bill is a light one though: 97 bands were spread over 7/13 stages (depending how you count - most "stages" are actually paired up to enable rapid switchovers between bands, a definite plus point).

Getting into the festival had a few downsides; the queue was vast and I'm sorry to say that we had to cheekily jump it or we would have missed Royal Republic, who were the whole reason we'd arrived so early! More gates guys, come on! This is especially important on a one-day festival, where everybody is arriving on that day rather than already being there camping. Then to make matters worse, it seems the security protocol extends beyond the usual glass bottles, booze and weapons rules: I had to surrender the 3 sausage sandwiches I'd brought with me, and my friend's toilet paper was also confiscated. No time to grieve though, we grabbed a map and headed for Royal Republic's stage.

The map was another slight issue - it neglected to point out the several buildings that housed or blocked several stages. We managed to find our way into the deserted warehouse hosting Stage 5 just a minute before the Royal boys came on. They rocked as hard as ever, although we did worry about singer Adam's increasing skinniness... the boy needs to learn as I did about Dagwood Dogs, the ultimate in Australian festival cuisine: essentially a battered sausage on a stick. I had 2.

After Royal Republic we popped over to see London's Smoking Hearts, who were up against it with only 4 people in the audience ever having heard of them before, but they won the crowd over and topped the set off by the whole band bar drummer clearing the barrier and playing in the audience. Then it was time to check out the main stages, which were inside a stadium. Here's where Soundwave chalks another point up against the UK festivals: seats, both comfortable and enabling a better view of proceedings.

The first band we saw on the main stage was Steel Panther. I was dubious about these guys for some time as they appeared to be mocking the sort of music I love, but I've seen them a few times now and think they're one of the most talented bands out there. Kind of wish they'd ditch the "comedy" aspect though as it still undermines the rockingness of the tunes and the sweet playing a little. Next up was Lostprophets, the Welsh soundtrack to many a Nottingham Rock City club night. Unfortunately the singer was struggling to keep his voice as the set wore on, and they win my prize for "worst onstage moment of the day" with the grating "lalalala" singalong... I've still got a bit of a headache left from that.

I caught Alter Bridge in London a couple of months ago (filming their DVD actually) and their performance in Sydney was strong but Mark Tremonti is still suffering from the inclination to cover all of his [probably impressive] guitar playing with such a ludicrous amount of wah-wah that he might as well be a terrible guitarist. Since I'd seen Alter Bridge recently, and in a better venue, I agreed to miss the end of their set to go and watch You Me At Six, who apparently are big news with the kidz these days. I thought they were pretty weak - like if you were 14 and hadn't heard bands before and these guys were in the year above you at school you'd be impressed. But I'm 28 and grumpy. I became grumpier still when word hit that Slash had joined Alter Bridge onstage. Despite my most valiant efforts to run back to see him, the band had finished before I got there. NNNNNOOOOOOOOOO!!!! At least I've seen him before.

When I was 12 and just starting to learn guitar, the first song I learned to play in a band was Machinehead by Bush (I can still remember my friend talking me through how to play the opening riff: up 2 frets, up 1 fret, up 2 frets). I even had one of their UK tour t-shirts that a friend got me as I was too young to go along. Fast forward a decade and a half and I was finally seeing them live, and better yet: they opened with Machinehead! Overall the band seemed to be lacking a little magic, but Gavin Rossdale pulled out all the stops, heading down to the barriers, rocking out on his knees, and - obviously been hitting the gym in recent years - looking quite like Steven Seagal.

Following Bush and sounding great were Bad Religion. I didn't bother braving the crowds to get too close as I had tickets to see them later in the week headling their own show, or "Sidewave". Another interesting byproduct of the Australian touring festival is that the festival dates typically occur on weekend days, giving bands the week off in between to do press and play their own smaller gigs. This is a great way of giving more to the fans, and presumably easing the financial strain of travelling thousands of miles to play a gig.

Another teenage favourite whose live appearances have until now eluded me are Limp Bizkit. When they played Sydney 11 years ago a girl named Jessica was tragically killed in the crowd, and Fred Durst took the opportunity to honour her this year with a touching speech and giant banner, pitched just right. Fred's juice diet didn't come up. Reflecting on Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland's infamous affection for costumes, it occurred to me that he is now essentially expendable - you could just put someone else a similar size in a costume and face paint and nobody would know. Like Kevin Kline in Dave.

Escaping from the main stadium, the next band I saw was Strung Out. Their set started with such appalling sound that the crowd started throwing missiles at the sound desk, who seemed completely oblivious to the fact that neither guitar was audible at all (amongst a myriad of other sound issues). It was the worst sound I've heard since... well, since Soundgarden at the Sydney Entertainment Centre last month - the southern hemisphere needs better sound engineers! When eventually the sound was sorted, I enjoyed Strung Out, as I did I Am The Avalanche afterwards. I'd checked out IATA online a few weeks back and found their recordings to be generic and uninspiring, but clearly they need a better producer as the live show better portrayed their grunt and character.

With the sun now sunk, it was headliner time. My first ever "proper" gig was System Of A Down at Rock City touring their first album, and over the years I've seen them a few times, growing into a bonafide festival headliner with aplomb. They always seem to be scheduled against other great bands though - last year I missed the first half of their Download set to watch Alice Cooper (well worth it), and this time I missed the second half of their set to go check out Sisters of Mercy, who didn't disappoint when I found them shrouded in smoke in a dark warehouse - exactly where Mr Eldritch belongs!

Overall, a beaut bonzer ripper festival experience, cheers Soundwave!