The goal of every band in every local music scene is to eventually sprout wings big enough to fly the coop and tour the world. The inevitable fallout is a natural disconnect from the scene that spawned you when you return with heightened prodigal son expectations. Our band began touring across the Atlantic over a decade ago, and today, trips back home are sometimes more of a visit than a return. This has led me to have gradually grown unfamiliar with my hometown.
Couple this realization with the fact that, despite my extroverted onstage self, I'm quite quiet in my personal life and over the years have slowly become a hermit in-between tours. This doesn't bode well when socializing and/or networking within the music biz where deals are often struck in rock bars and dressing rooms in the twilight hours. Successive crops of next-big-thing Toronto bands have come and gone with me hardly ever being aware they even existed. This isn't out of spite or malice, but rather a bon afide result of constant movement and exposure to deafening noise that has resulted in an inverse need for stillness and silence.
However, if you spend enough time staying away from home, eventually, home will find you. I just didn't know it would happen in Australia.
The Soundwave Festival is the biggest festival in Australia, traveling all over the continent mid-February for two weeks (February 19 to March 3). Bands on the bill are grouped together on airplanes, shuttles, hotels and hangouts are almost forced upon you. Even though hanging out isn't exactly my favourite pastime, Soundwave had me giddy like a 12 year-old school girl when I saw this year's impeccable 2013 line-up.
Whether it was chatting it up with Mike Dean (Corrosion Of Conformity/Kyuss Lives), attending the Metallica BBQ, sharing a dressing room with Kingdom Of Sorrow, sharing a bus with Sick Of It All and Madball, or sharing the stage with Duff McKagan's Loaded and Fucked Up, I was in seventh heaven; half-trying to be cool enough to hang and half-unable to contain my fandom. Even our whole crew noticed my changed disposition: I was handing out hi-fives and hugs rather than my usual grimace. It was the equivalent of the greatest summer camp a silly music fan like myself can be thrown into. I was on tour but, looking back on it now, I was also on vacation. I'm not used to vacations.
Also, this year's Soundwave line-up had a lopsided dose of bands from Toronto and I knew I'd come face to face with other Torontonians. Despite our shared hometown and mutual friends, I was nervous that I'd have nothing to say to them past a "hello" and once again get tagged as "the asshole in that band."
Strangely, I've found myself in this position on more than one occasion. It's how I became friends with Damian Abraham of Fucked Up when we hung out for a night in Holland at the Lowlands Festival, never before meeting each other in Toronto. I was convinced he hated our band, but nevertheless was enamored with his. Before I had a chance to head out to their stage to watch them play, he was already introducing himself to me and immediately assuaged any uneasiness I had.
Again in Germany, a year or two later, when our band played with Alexisonfire at another festival, I hung out with guitarist Wade MacNeil (now of Gallows). I've since become good friends with these gentlemen and it's all through the magic circumstance of being Canadians abroad starved for camaraderie. Knowing Fucked Up and Gallows were going to be on Soundwave put me at ease.
Did Soundwave's exemplary treatment and organization help? Or the beautiful +30 degree February weather beating down on a bunch of Canadians that had just come from snow and ice? Or was it the laudable assembly of bands that put everyone in a mood to mingle, including, of all people... me? I'm not sure, but I walked away from Soundwave with a bunch of incredible memories and a list of new friends from my hometown all acquired between Melbourne and Perth.
To Fucked Up, Billy Talent, Cancer Bats and Sum 41, you are an upstanding group of people. Good hangs, gentlemen. Let's continue to hang when we're somewhere between Bloor & Yonge and King & Front.
To the Soundwave Festival, thank you for the opportunity to play your beautiful country. I had one of the best times of my life, playing some of the funnest shows ever. And thanks for giving me the opportunity to meet a bunch of Torontonians.