Whew…that was some day (A day 2 review of Rock on the Range)

CHRIS:  I know that hindsight is 20/20, and no one can see what the future holds, but I 99.999995% KNEW that Saturday was the best day at this festival. Stellar performances, great food AND I discovered heaven.

Let’s start with the bad…Mother Nature continued her candidacy for Douche Nugget of the year by delaying the start of the day’s activities by an hour and a half, thus making everyone play shorter sets…but all in all it was just a minor inconvenience on this day. More like a gnat on the face of this awesome day 2 at ROTR.

So let’s take a look back at what I wanted to see, and what I did see.

APRIL:  I was okay with the delayed start, I had a chance to make biscuits & gravy for our group and we didn’t have to rush to get into the venue.  We bought a travel trailer a couple of months ago and this was our first opportunity to use it, holy crap was it worth the research and money.  I have an oven….yes, a functioning oven while we are camping….okay, okay, it really isn’t camping anymore, we are now glampers but I’m okay with that.  It was while I was making the gravy that I realized how our ‘camping’ experience has evolved for ROTR each year (this is our 4th year attending) and here it is:

2014 – We camped in a yurt (a permanent tent with actual beds) at a state park about 30 minutes away from Mapfre Stadium. 

2015 – We stayed in a small (understatement of the year) cabin at the same Ohio State Park as the year before

2016 – We borrowed a friend’s (shout out to our friend Murray) popup camper and again stayed at the state park about 30 minutes away from the stadium (Delaware State Park is very nice and quiet, if you need a place to camp during ROTR and miss out on the camping package)

2017 – We stayed in our brand new 26’ travel trailer and purchased the camping package offered during the early ticket sale process

Mark asked how we are going to get better than our travel trailer, to which I responded there are always Class A motorhomes…..obviously joking.  I think we will keep purchasing the camping package going forward, it was so convenient to not have to worry about traffic, parking, etc.

Anyway, on to the actual festival!

CHRIS:  Starset (???pm, Monster Main Stage) – I had no intention of watching this band, but for once, Mother Nature’s douchiness worked in my favor. I was supposed to be interviewing a few artists in the media tent during their set, but because Mother Nature “shed thy grace on thee” all of my spots were cancelled (welcome to the bottom of the totem pole, more on that later). So, as Johnny on the Spot, I got to see Starset and boy am I glad I did.

Being from Columbus, this was a home show for Starset, and the size of the audience certainly backed that up. For a band that’s relatively unknown, they had a very nice turn out for their set. Proggy at times, spacey at others, and a visually stimulating performance made for a band that I took home with me.

**Side note – I always bring home 2 or 3 bands from a festival. Bands that I fall in love with on the spot or decide they need to be checked out further. ROTR produced 3 such artists.**

Starset has a great mix of commercially accessible music, heavy music, and a great singer with a dynamic style, I suspect they will be around for quite a while, and moving up on the marquee as they go along.

APRIL:  We were walking in when Starset was playing, so we missed them.  The line to get into the stadium was obnoxiously long on Saturday and they were going overboard with the searching.  I know it is for everyone’s safety, so it isn’t a big deal but it can really chap your ass when you hear a band go on that you wanted to see but you are missing it (2014 ROTRTrivium, same experience).

To be honest, I am not familiar with them at all.  Since Chris is saying they were awesome, I will check them out though.  I will report back on our Day 3 article what I thought.

CHRIS:  Alter Bridge (???pm, Monster Main Stage) – I’m not a fan…there I said it. When Alter Bridge came out in 2004, and I found out that it was basically Creed with a new singer, I bailed. I’m ashamed to admit it but my strong disdain for Creed made me make a snap judgement, and I never looked back. I THROW MYSELF AT THE MERCY OF THE COURT!!

Thank you for your forgiveness, now let’s move on…HOLY SHIT…Myles Kennedy is a GOD. I can tell you that Alter Bridge’s music does very little for me. I mean they are adequate and Mark Tremonti is a tremendous guitarist, just their music doesn’t thrill me, but Myles Kennedy…that’s another story.

Look, Myles Kennedy isn’t new to me, I’ve heard Alter Bridge and the stuff he did with Slash, but something about seeing a singer live changes my opinion of them in either direction. Myles Kennedy blew me away, ESPECIALLY when it came to his tribute to Chris Cornell. I don’t know if anyone else was in tears, but I was pretty damn close when Myles Kennedy embodied the spirit and the voice of our dearly departed Chris Cornell when they played “Say Hello 2 Heaven” by Temple of the Dog. HANDS DOWN the most poignant, and effective tribute to Cornell the entire weekend, and based on the reaction my video of his performance got on my Twitter feed, it may become a legendary moment in an already stellar career.

APRIL:  Chris…..CHRIS-TO-PHER……how in THE hell can you actually not like Alter Bridge?!  I’m dumbfounded…everyone has a right to their opinion, even if their opinion is wrong (I’m kidding).  Alter Bridge is not Creed and even if they were, Creed was phenomenal in their time.  Scott Stapp, being the weirdo he was, was not what made Creed.  The musicianship in Creed was bar-none and honestly, their lyrics still move me to tears at time (judge away).  Mark Tremonti is a phenomenal guitar player, if you aren’t aware of his solo project, Tremonti, check it out.  It is heavier than Alter Bridge; Mark Tremonti not only plays guitar but is the vocalist.  It is fucking fantastic.  I would not lie to you.  Not to mention, I don’t’ think there is a nicer guy than Mark Tremonti.  He is always smiling and having a good time.  We’ve had the opportunity to meeting him a couple of times and he is always super nice and interested in what you are saying. 

With that said, we saw Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators at Welcome to Rockville in 2015, and I will say that I was not impressed.  Not because he can’t sing, of course he can sing like a mofo, but it seemed as though Myles Kennedy was trying to be less Myles and more Axl.  And don’t get me wrong, I fucking love Axl Rose, GnR is one of my top 10 favorite bands of all time.  But when someone is covering another artist, I hope that it still sounds like the covering artist…if that makes sense.  I would rather someone make one of my favorite songs their own; to the point you almost forget that it is a cover.  An example (don’t laugh) is Alien Ant Farm’s cover of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”.  To me, that is one of the best covers EVER and while it honors the original, it is also very Alien Ant Farm.  Anyway, I digress and sorry for the tangent.

Now back to ROTR, Alter Bridge is always great, they put on an amazing performance and Myles Kennedy has a spectacular range.  He is something to watch and listen to.  The tribute to Chris Cornell was beautiful and so meaningful; you could feel the emotion in Myles’ delivery.  Absolutely breathtaking! 

CHRIS:  Skillet (???pm Monster Main Stage) – This was an interesting set. First off, can I say without being creepy…this band is fucking hot, and I mean physically. They are pretty and badass all at once. Singer/bassist John Cooper looks like a badass biker dude who would give you’re a hug and smile pretty for the camera. He is almost the epitome of the 2017 man. Big ass jet black beard, muscular tattooed arms, and a super sweet and nice demeanor…BUT has the ability to bust out some anger and rile up a crowd.

Then there’s his wife, Korey Cooper, the super sexy pink haired, tattooed Goddess who plays keyboards and rocks a mean axe while running around the stage. Guitarist Seth Morrison looks like he was plucked from the Alt Rock version of an Abercrombie catalog and don’t even get me started on drummer/singer Jen Ledger. Let’s just say if I could “wife” Jen Ledger, I would abandon my children for the chance.

Ok, enough with the superficial nonsense…were they good? In a word, YES! Look, I’ll admit a few things here:

-Yes, I use to be a bible thumping Christian who LOVED Christian rock and metal. Till this very minute as I write this, Stryper remains an all-time fave of mine, but I’ve since moved on from those Christian days and I’ve become a heathen like the rest of you.

Skillet’s music hasn’t appealed to me for some time now. I loved “Alien Youth” and “Collide” and back in the early 2000’s I went to a few Creation Fests and they were always a highlight for me. Everything since then has been generic in my opinion.

So with that in mind I say this, they were INCREDIBLE. What a fantastic performance all around, despite me saying in my head the whole time “I hate this song, but wow…what a performance.” John Cooper has become a wonderful front man, the band was tight, and their stage production was one of the best on the bill. Risers, smoke cannons, and a great light presentation…just a great show.

APRIL:  I had never had the chance to see Skillet before ROTR, I was impressed.  I thought they sounded great, their stage presence was awesome, and a chick drummer is always awesome to see.  Honestly, I didn’t even think I knew any Skillet songs before ROTR and apparently I’m very familiar with at least three, who know?!  Not me.  A couple of months back I had the opportunity to interview Lacey Sturm, formerly of Flyleaf, and she spoke very highly of Skillet and specifically, Korey Cooper so I was glad to finally catch them live.  I see what the draw is, they have charisma and you can feel the positive vibes emitting from them.  And holy shit does music these days need positive vibes, the satanic shit is getting out of hand.  IT IS EVERYWHERE.  So thank you Skillet, your ‘juju’ was well received.

And I am not saying everyone has to be a Christian, I personally am, but that is my personal choice, but people come on…..put negative out, you get negative back in.  That just doesn’t apply for music; this applies to every single thing in life.  That isn’t to say that everything in life can be sugar coated, it can’t be….sometimes you can’t polish a turd, but think about the worst moments of your life or those times that it seemed as though everything was going wrong…..why?  Because your brain changes when you put negative in, so all you see is negative.  During those moments, you probably had one or two ‘terrible’ things happening but ten awesome, but you couldn’t see the great because you were so focused on the bad.  I feel the same goes for music, news, people, and the list goes…..put negative in, you get negative out.

Damn it, there I go with a rant again……carry on, Chris

CHRIS:  Kyng (???pm Zippo Stage) – Unfortunately, due to Alter Bridge and Skillet putting on such captivating performances, I did not get to see Kyng, although I will give props to Sirius/XM for broadcasting a lot of the bands performances…so I caught on the way home that night..

It was at this point that my partner, 14-year-old son of mine Rory (he’ll come up more on Sunday), and I decided it was time to explore the other facets of this festival and what they had to offer.

FOOD – HOLY HELL, we ate at the BBQ place where they put cheese, bacon and BBQ pork on my fries, and Mac and Cheese on my Brisket sandwich…WTF? It’s Wednesday and I’m still full.

VIP LOUNGE – This is literally what I hope happens to me after I die. It’s an air conditioned tent with beautiful metal heads (men and women, I’m secure enough in my manhood to say it), live stage coverage on big screen TV’s on 4 of the 4 walls, Beer and craft cocktails and huge plush couches. I actually told my son that I was leaving him and his siblings to live there from now one (I know that’s the second time in half a page that I mentioned abandoning my kids, but these were extreme circumstances. I love those kids more than anything…ok almost anything.)

COMEDY TENT – This was cool, but a challenge. I think if it’s possible, it needs to be somewhere else. Being stuck between two stages where loud music is blaring, it’s hard to really get into the comedians on stage. I will say though, they comedians we saw were quality (Adrian Cosby and Steve Sabo) and I will be checking them out further.

APRIL:  Chris, you haven’t lived until you’ve had Island Noodles, it is probably in the top 2 reasons we come to ROTR every year.  Okay, it is really the first reason and the music second….we like our carbs smothered in carbs, YODO (you only die once….I should trademark that phrase).

APRIL:  Whitechapel (???pm Bud Light Stage) – I warned the people in my group that I wanted to get as close as possible for their set because I LOVE WHITECHAPEL and that it was going to be super intense.  So hydrate, remove sunglasses, and move backpacks to the front of their bodies…..I think they underestimated the brutality of Whitechapel and what I had told them before they came out on stage.  The entire time, I heard them both saying ‘oh shit’, ‘oh my God’, and ‘this is crazy’.  And it was….in the best way possible. 

I tried to tell them that at Warped Tour 2015, I seriously witnessed a double amputee rip off her prosthetic legs, throw them to the side, and run full tilt on her residual limbs (or non-PC term stumps) into the wall of death during Whitechapel.  That is just how gangster their pit is…….they obviously believe me after ROTR, you’re welcome.

Whitechapel is heavy….very heavy….quite possibly the heaviest band at ROTR and I appreciate them being on the lineup.  Everything at festivals doesn’t have to be radio friendly; it can be intense and brutal.   These guys deliver EVERY SINGLE TIME I see them.  It is amazing to see such aggression coming from someone as small in stature as Phil Bozeman but holy shit, he is an angry little man and I absolutely love it.  I know I said a moment ago about negative in, negative out….sometimes you need to release your anger and aggression in a healthy way (ie not throat punching people), Whitechapel is that outlet for me.

CHRIS:  In Flames (???pm Bud Light Stage) – What else can be said about these boys from Sweden. They deliver every time. This was my 4th time seeing them, but my first at a festival and they owned their audience, and what an audience they had. I had been close to the stage for any of the bands I wanted to be close for…I couldn’t even get close for In Flames.

Guitarist Bjorn Gelotte continues to be the only man whose beard I fully envy, and he continues to blow my mind with his riffage. Outside of Tony Iommi, this dude might be the best riff writer in the business. Vocalist Anders Friden has also thrown his hat in the ring of the “best beard in metal” contest with his own majestic red beard. As usual, he was quirky and funny when he spoke, and powerful and captivating when he sang. In Flames continues to be one of those staple metal bands that everyone loves (seriously, who dislikes In Flames…NO ONE) and that you MUST see when they come around.

APRIL:  In Flames are seriously the happiest guys in metal.  I don’t think there is a moment on stage that Bjorn Gelotte and Niclas Engelin aren’t smiling and having the time of their lives.  And that is awesome.  I love their energy.  They are so damn talented and have a great melodic, alternative/heavy metal groove to them.  If you haven’t checked them out, you should.  While Anders Friden’s growling vocals may seem intimidating, they are actually quite mild and will appeal to even those fans that prefer more clean vocals. 

Unlike Chris, I was able to get all the way up front for In Flames by staying put after Whitechapel.  So glad I did, it was great and I was able to snap a couple of pictures of the guys.  I cannot wait to see them again.

CHRIS:  Coheed and Cambria (???pm Zippo Stage) – This performance was shocking to me for several reasons. Let’s take the bad first, Coheed only got to play 6 songs which by my estimation couldn’t have been longer than 35 minutes, even with 2 of those songs being in the 7 to 8 minutes range…that’s way too short for a stage closer.

With that being said, boy did the boys from Woodstock, New York throw down the gauntlet and let the Hard Rock/Metal world that they are now one of THE premiere acts in the game today. Currently on tour doing their “Neverender” tour which is when they take one of their albums, and plays it cover to cover. This “Neverender” is for the album Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness, or in shorter form IV, which is widely regarded as the breakout album for Coheed. The most popular song in their repertoire is “Welcome Home” and is the first full song on the album IV, which made it the first song they played in this set.

Now, if you know Coheed, you know that “Welcome Home” is traditionally their closing song, so to open with it is literally a first for me out of the roughly 12 or so times I’ve seen them and I have to say, they should continue doing so going forward. WOW, what a fucking opener. The crowd went bananas. I’ve never seen that much crowd surfing at a festival, and definitely at a Coheed and Cambria show. Singing every word to every song, reacting to the screens and jumping up and down at the appropriate times, Coheed owned this audience in a way I’ve never seen them do before.

Claudio Sanchez’s voice sounds as good as it’s ever sounded, and his performance has gone to a whole new level. Without even really speaking to us, the audience, a whole lot, he seems to connect with relative ease, and it’s something I’ve never really seen before. It was a bummer that their set was so short, but even with that, it would appear that Coheed had ownership of this day…that is of course until I saw what happened next.

APRIL:  WOW, did Coheed and Cambria shock the hell out of me.  I have never seen them live and holy shit was it good!  DAMN GOOD!  They sounded amazing.  Claudio Sanchez’s hair is the most glorious thing I’ve ever seen in my life on stage.  It should honestly have its own name and be an official member of the group.  It was big, it was magnificent….as though there was a lion positioned behind a guitar and microphone on the stage.   And is it possible that Coheed sounds better live than recorded?  It may just be so.  When they opened with “Welcome Home”, Mark said, “Wow, who starts off with their only big song?  Fast forward 15 minutes and we are consuming tacos and still rocking out to Coheed, why?  Because they are so fucking good: they are progressive, they are alternative, they are unique, and they are groovy as hell.  I will definitely be going to see them again, I thoroughly enjoyed their performance.  And the size of the crowd, HOLY BAWLS, they should have been on the main stage. 

CHRIS:  KORN (???pm Monster Main Stage) – So during my “Rock on the Range Preview” (http://bloodrockmedia.com/rock-on-the-range-a-preview/) I mentioned that the last time I saw Korn, they were mildly disappointing and that I was hoping to see a redemption of sorts. Well I’m here to tell you…REDEEMED 10-FOLD. WOW! That was a masterful metal performance if there has ever been one.

From the opening notes of “Right Now,” to the playfulness of “Word Up”, Jonathon Davis and the boys were in full control of the estimated 45K in the stadium. Jonathon Davis might be one of the most charismatic front men in the game right now. I’ve now seen him on 2 separate occasions command an audience of 45K+ to put a lit device in the air (this time it was cell phones, at Woodstock ’99 he commanded over 100K to put their lighters in the air…it was a different time) and his wish was granted. Over 500 concerts, and I’ve never seen another front man with that much control over his audience.

Korn was so good, when had me rocking out to the song “Y’all Want a Single,” which is a song I DESPISE…and there I was “FUCK THAT SHIT!!!” at the right time. The power of music, and specifically metal, it’s remarkable to say the least.

Korn closed the night like they usually do with “Shoots and Ladders” (which also had a snippet of Metallica’s “One” which I sure they wish they could play as well as Korn did…but more on that later) and “Blind” and we were satisfied, but it would seem that Jonathon Davis was not. As he was walking off stage, he could be heard saying how it was bullshit that the weather cut their set short. I respect that a band the caliber of Korn WANTS to stay longer and give us what we want and need on this emotional weekend.

Korn over the years has become one of my very favorite bands for a million reasons, but mostly because they truly give a damn about us…the fans.

APRIL:  I’m going to be honest and I know this is not a popular sentiment, so I am okay with people thinking I’m crazy…..I am not a fan of Korn’s music.  It doesn’t make me run screaming, but I also don’t leave it on that particular radio station if one of their songs are on, I hit search and see what else there is to listen to.  There are several very popular bands that I’m just meh about; maybe it is that everyone loves them so I am opposed to jumping on the proverbial band wagon.  I’m not certain of the reason, I can’t explain it, but I wish I could. Maybe, or maybe I don’t care enough to try. 

Since I am not a Korn fan, we left after Coheed and Cambria to head back to our campsite and shower.  Remember on Day 1 I mentioned the showers didn’t work and the bathrooms were a disaster?  Looks like they paid the water bill, as we were walking back to the campsite, we check and we had water.  Cold water, but water nonetheless.  After being in the Whitechapel pit, my hair getting caught in sweaty dude armpit, I really needed a shower. So we listened to Korn’s set from afar, and it sounded like Korn.  With that said, the crowd was so pumped out.  You could hear them screaming and singing along, which is very cool.  I love hearing and watching the crowd soak up their favorite artists, even if it isn’t one that I particularly enjoy.  So for this, I give Korn big thumbs up, your fans love you and it sounded like you cater to them.  It isn’t often that artists do this anymore; they feel as though their fans are a nuisance, what they don’t realize is they wouldn’t be up on the stage or carrying around their fancy gear if it weren’t for those fans.

Day 2 in reflection of the whole weekend was the best day, but it was followed up by a fantastic Day 3. Stay tuned for that review tomorrow.

 

Written by Chris Elio and April Baggins for Bloodrock Media on May 24, 2017