COLUMBUS, OH –   …and then there was THREE

CHRIS:  I woke from the coma that day 2 had laid me into in my cozy Hotel room, under nice warm blankets, with the A/C blasting and a Jimi Hendrix documentary was on TV (it’s called “Voodoo Child” and it’s told through his letters to his father…pretty awesome stuff). I thought it was appropriate that a documentary about a musician who has arguably one of the most memorable moments in rock festival history to his credit (the Star Spangled Banner @ Woodstock in ’69) was on my TV after the day we had at day 2 of Rock on the Range. I didn’t actually believe that Day 2 could be topped, especially with Metallica headlining the last day (see my RotR preview for an explanation about Metallica, http://bloodrockmedia.com/rock-on-the-range-a-preview/), and then I looked outside. Mother Nature’s festival of douchery continued, although the forecast was calling for only showers on and off all day with a slight chance of a T-Storm late in the day.

We get in the car, and let’s give one last shout out to 99.7 FM The Blitz who were right on top of all the happenings at Mapfre Stadium the entire weekend, from the good to the bad. I tune in and they tell us that everything is open and going as scheduled. Perfectly imperfect, it’s wet and grey, but it’s warm and we’re ready to rock. Let’s look at what we wanted to see, and what we did see:

CHRIS:  Mother Feather (1130 Bud Light Stage) – Super unfortunate that my dumb ass can’t read a schedule and didn’t realize that the festivities started a tad earlier than on the first 2 days. So I missed all but one song from this dynamic act, but I will say I like what I saw and I will be checking them out again in the future. OH, and I got to speak with the two lovely ladies from Mother Feather, so you’ll get to hear that interview in the coming weeks.

APRIL:  We caught Mother Feather at Warped Tour last year, they were quirky and fun.  I would classify them as pop, punk rock but I believe they classify themselves as like cock punk rock or something silly.  We didn’t catch them at ROTR because we got a late start to the day due to irritable bowel syndrome within a couple of members of our group.

CHRIS:  Royal Republic (1220 Bud Light Stage) – This was the surprise of the festival. Four guys dressed in suits playing a brand of rock reminiscent of The Strokes or The Hives. I’d have to hear more to really nail them down but they have a swing and a jive to their music that made them stick out from the rest this weekend. More than the music though (which was great btw) was the performance and antics of the singer/guitarist Adam Grahn. He taunted the audience in song, out of song, made fun of America and told quirky stories all while playing a brand of Rock and Roll that sounds dated, but in all the best ways. It’s obvious that the majority of his taunting and insults were very tongue in cheek, and even if it was serious, it was infectious and entertaining. When you hear a Swedish guy tell a story about when a reporter asks him what would they want to bring back to Sweden with them from their first US tour, and he says “No Thank You,” to several thousand Americans in Ohio? You’ve got a damn entertaining and ballsy artist. Royal Republic was hands down the surprise of the festival.

After Royal Republic, I interviewed Mother Feather as I had mentioned earlier, and they were fantastic. Interesting, and engaging, look for my interview with them sometime next week. I had another little interesting moment regarding the radio/media situation which will come up during my rant in a little bit, so I’ll save it for then.

Also, during this lull where I had no specific destination, it was the first time that none of the acts on any of the stages grabbed my attention. Rival Sons was on the main stage, and they are ok, but not my style of band. Great singer, and a decent Classic Rock sounding band, but just not my thing. I love retro acts, but something about Rival Sons misses the mark.

CHRIS:  Radkey was on the Zippo Stage and I don’t know why. First off, they are basically straight Punk Rock, which would be fine if they did it well. This band was flat out bad. Maybe it was a bad day, but even their recorded music is underwhelming.

CHRIS:  Wage War was on the Bud Light Stage, and frankly, I judged this book by its cover. I’ve never heard Wage War, but from their name and a distance, I wasn’t impressed. Perhaps I’ll give them a chance in the future, but this day was not that day.

CHRIS:  Nothing More (205pm Monster Main Stage) – I’m so torn on this one. Deeeeeeeep Breath here……….OK, I’m so torn on this set by Nothing More. They are one of my “new” faves over the past 5 years or so. I saw these guys for the first time at Aftershock 2013, and they were a breath of fresh air. Exciting, dynamic performers with emotionally charged music and angry, politically driven lyrics and a technical but accessible brand of music I hadn’t seen in a long LONG time.

This set was wrought with problems in my opinion. Let’s start with Johnny Hawkins voice, it seems to have lost something. While he seems to have developed a nice, clean falsetto, his edgy high voice seems to have left him. I don’t know if this is a conscious choice, if it’s it just wear and tear taking its toll. I think it’s telling that the new song they played featured this clean falsetto heavily, I guess only time will tell.

OH, speaking of that new song that I’ve been waiting like 2 years to hear? Underwhelming is the best word I can use to describe it. It was obviously written with crowd participation in mind, and not that THAT is a bad thing, but when it’s that obvious, it’s hard to like. I’ve been concerned about a new Nothing More release being not so good for a long time, and again, time will tell, but when it takes you this long to churn out new material and this is what you’re leading with…I’m a little more than concerned now. I’ll withhold judgement until September when the album comes out, because that’s what I do for any artist, especially ones that I love.

One last bit of mild criticism, if you can call it that. Maybe I’m not that smart, but what in the fuck was that contraption Johnny Hawkins used. Can anyone explain that to me? For years, Nothing More had a lot of buzz about their live shows because of the dynamic things they would do. A giant set of drums on the front of the stage that singer Johnny Hawkins would abuse throughout the show, drums on the side of the stage that the other members of the band would bang on, on occasion, and a bass guitar contraption that the 3 front stage members would do a very cool bass solo on. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before.

This thing they pulled out at Rock on the Range…I don’t know what it was, and I don’t know how to feel about it. Visually, it was pretty cool. It looked like a post-apocalyptic transformer, with handles and buttons, and it basically played Skrillex music.

I know this has been a mostly negative review of Nothing More, but it’s mostly because I have a very high standard for these guys. They arrived as one of the most exciting bands to come along in a long while. Maybe this was an anomaly, they have been touring for like, what it feels like 10 years. I’m anxious for new material, and according to them we’ll get it soon.

APRIL:  I actually thought Nothing More sounded amazing and owned the stage.  Johnny Hawkins must seriously mainline coffee because he has more energy than anyone I’ve ever seen perform life (not just on stage).  He is everywhere and it is fantastic.  I have never seen them live before and boy, had I been missing out.

The contraption that Chris mentioned was a bit strange; it was a special effects machine that was made to look very futuristic.  I mean, I was trying to figure out what he was doing when he was flipping it over on the stage but once he did it, I thought it was kind of cool.  I mean, most bands would have used backing tracks or even a keyboard to create the effects, but he used his own voice.  Personally, I thought it was very unique and impressive.

CHRIS:  The Dillinger Escape Plan (505pm Zippo Stage) – I’m sad that this was one of the last times I’ll get to see this great band. I have to say that they were somewhat subdued and boxed in by a few things in this spot. DEP is a headlining band that plays smaller venues, and I think having to play a shorter 35 minute set and being so physically far away from the audience hindered what is normally a borderline religious trial by fire. There was some craziness, several pits and a constant barrage of crowd surfers which by the time we get to VolBeat, you’ll hear all about.

With that said, Dillinger did deliver a fantastic performance. Greg Puciato remains one of the most entertaining and fierce vocalists in the game, and his stage persona is unmatched. Ben Weinman jumps around and performs as if he’s a front man, and maintains his guitar hero brilliance note for note while doing it. This band will be sorely missed when they eventually end this tour, I just hope I get to see them one or two more times before it does.

APRIL:  Deafheaven (505 Bud Light Stage) – I missed The Dillinger Escape Plan to catch the guys from Deafheaven on the other side of the festival.  This is the second time we’ve seen these guys, the first time was when they were opening for Lamb of God and Anthrax; there is a review on our site from that show so you can understand why I had to check these guys out again.  They are not something that is fully appreciated until you’ve heard a few tracks or if you are like me, after their set is over.  When we saw them a couple of years back, I was confused their entire set and had no idea what the hell I was listening to.  As soon as their set was over, I was like ‘holy shit, that was amazing and I love what they did’.

Deafheaven takes absolutely beautiful melodies and layers on seriously heavy vocals to create something I’ve never heard before in my life.  While one part of you is entranced with the gorgeous guitar work, the other part wants to head bang like a mad person.  It is confusing and wonderful at the same time.  I am so glad we checked them out again at ROTR, it reminded me of how magnificent they are.

CHRIS:  Primus (540pm Monster Main Stage) – Primus is one of those nostalgic bands for me. This was my second time catching them in less than a year after not seeing them since the late 90’s, but every time I hear them I harken back to my high school, MTV watching, “Sailing the Seas of Cheese” days and it makes me happy. Other than meeting my soon to be lifelong radio partner (a wonderful young lady who seemed to know as much about music as I do, at the age of 21…oh and her name is Peach, no shit. Be on the lookout for that show) and my 14-year old not getting Primus, there’s very little to report. Primus kills, and that’s what they did. Avant Garde, quirky and strange at times, it still blows my mind that this band has achieved what it has. It might be the most inaccessible music to come out of the 90’s, and yet everyone either loves or at least knows a Primus tune. I, for one, love Primus, and I’m glad I caught the last half of their set.

APRIL:  I’m going to say this as nicely as I possibly can, Primus cannot fucking suck any more than they did at ROTR or do in general.  We decided that Primus was a good opportunity for us to try to get in a good spot toward the front for Volbeat and Metallica, holy hell did we regret that decision.  They had some funky basslines, and when I say funky, I really mean there were a couple of seconds here or there that I didn’t want to shove a rusty corkscrew into both my ears.  Otherwise, if I had room and time to find said instrument of deafness infliction, I would have used it.  Primus sucks so badly that on the way home on Monday, Sirius was replaying the live performances and I considered finding a Red Hot Chili Peppers song to distract me and anyone who knows me knows how much I absolutely abhor RHCP.  It was so bad that I decided to leave the stage and lose the opportunity to be close for Volbeat and Metallica….I was less than 10 people back from the stage and Primus was not worth it.

APRILAmon Amarth (630 Zippo Stage) – After barely escaping Primus with my eardrums intact, Mark and I ventured over to catch Amon Amarth.  Viking metal is a thing and everyone should experience it at least once.  I mean, it is savage and vicious, but who doesn’t like Vikings?  Well, other than those pillaged for their treasure but they don’t count (don’t be so sensitive, you matter just not when it comes to Vikings).  Amon Amarth is cooler than you or I and that is really all you need to know about them.  They slay dragons and broads, that is basically what Vikings do, still your riches and your women.

CHRIS:  Volbeat (715pm Monster Main Stage) – A lot like Primus, there’s little to say here except VolBeat delivers EVERYTIME. If this band isn’t headlining one of these things soon, I’ll be shocked. I’ve seen them grow from a mid-afternoon spot at Aftershock 2013, to direct support for Metallica in 2017. That’s a fantastic rise, and honestly I don’t see it stopping there. With catchy hooks, infectious melodies and skull crushing heaviness at times…they have something for everyone.

**RANT TIME – I had two rants planned for this piece, but I abandoned my other one because I viewed it as childish and petty…so I’ll save THAT one for another time. This one though, it is time to address a VERY serious issue in the concert going community.

Look, I love crowd surfing. I mean not me personally, I haven’t let myself try to take my own life by letting drunk people decide whether they are going to gently pass me to the front of the crowd, throw me as far as they can or just decide to drop my ass to the ground thus killing me on site, since the mid-90’s. With that, I love crowd surfing. It pumps up the band, it pumps up the crowd and brings us all together as a family as we support a brother or sister in their goal to get to the front of the crowd.

Let me also preface this by saying that I’m NOT a fat or a body shamer, I’m NOT a person that calls names or tries to exclude people due to physical appearances, and I often struggle with my own body issues, and yes…I’m a dude.

So, overweight people, why do you insist on crowd surfing? Why do you look at that situation and say to yourself “I’m going to inflict ALL of my poor eating decisions over the past 10 years on ALL THESE PEOPLE!” Look, I don’t care what you do, or how you achieved the weight you’ve achieved, but you need to think about the people you’re inflicting yourself on.

There were many times over the weekend that I had to batten down the hatches so I could carry somebody who shouldn’t be being carried under any circumstances, unless they are DYING, but during VolBeat was when it reached its paramount. During Volbeat, it was sweaty, half naked girls, who should not be being carried. One after another, with their short shorts and bikinis, with ZERO core strength. I’m not trying to be gross here, but wet roast beef keeps coming to mind when I think about where my hands were this weekend (which btw, I’ve sick AF since we got back…thank you, you sweaty animals).

SO, new rule, if you can’t do 2 pull-ups…you don’t get to crowd surf. So when you arrive at a venue, there will be a metal detector, security to check your bags and stuff, and a pull-up bar. They’ll check your bag, check your stuff, check your ID, and ask you to do 2 or more pull ups. Then you will get the appropriate bracelets so WE will know who is crowd surfing legally. Because here’s the deal, if I see you crowd surfing illegally…you’re coming down, and in a hurry. **END RANT

NOW, with that taken care of, let’s move on. Volbeat was slaying, with one ass kicking tune after another, and then without warning it happened. “We are temporarily suspending the rest of Volbeat’s set due to the threat of lightning in the area. They WILL finish their set, but please seek shelter due to the threat of lightning.”

The collective “FUCK YOU” that was felt on the floor was immense. One because it was SUNNY at the time, for the first time all weekend. Two, because people have been waiting all weekend for Metallica and to threaten that was like essentially finding every angry, drunk, white dude in the stadium and insulting his penis size…it would end badly.

So we waited as the typhoon rolled in, and it was just that. The torrential downpour that ensued may have been the worst we had seen all weekend long. We had the luxury of being able to make it to the Media/Radio tent where the security folk were hiding out and I have to say, the panic stricken faces and conversations that were taking place were alarming. The idea of “what do we do if Metallica cancels” was floated and the consensus feeling was “this city will burn.”

I’ve been to 500+ concerts, this was my 16th festival, I’ve never felt like I was in danger except for one time (Rage Against the Machine and Wu-Tang Clan in ’97?? I think was the year. Anyway, so skin heads and gang bangers got into it, and needless to say, it was slightly unsettling. Rage stopped the show, and threatened to walk off.). It was at this moment that I made the decision that I was going to leave. As I’m walking out, I hear Volbeat playing despite the fact that it’s still raining.

So I decide to stick, and I’m glad I did. Volbeat killed their last two songs.

APRIL:  Volbeat always kills.  I love these guys; they bring outlaw country to metal, all while being Danish.  I know, it is baffling but it works.  To the point that I believe that vocalist Michael Poulsen may have picked up a southern twang, from where, I have no idea but I seriously think I heard it when he was talking to the crowd.  Volbeat is awesome to the point that they are radio friendly, but are really too cool to be on mainstream radio.

When the music stopped, I knew something bad was about to happen.  I look to my left and holy shit; the most metal of clouds is rolling toward us.  All hell is about to break loose in the stadium because we are about to be evacuated again and no METALLICA?  That stadium would have been leveled by the fans if that were to happen.  Meteorologist Mark (Mark’s part-time, unpaid job within our group) predicts no rain and then, everyone starts putting their ponchos on.  That is when the rain starts coming down, there is thunder and there is lightening.  Meteorologist Mark has fucked us over big time (not really but you know beer probably had something to do with his forecast folly).  We all move under the bleachers, it seems like an eternity. But it is probably really about 20 minutes.  We all emerge; it looks like it has passed us.  But Meteorologist Mark redeems himself and says; see that line of black clouds?  We are about to get hit with a shit storm of rain.  Meteorologist Mark said and it was so.  Flood like rains poured down upon us, so we sought shelter again.  This time for about 30 minutes and then a familiar sound was heard.  It was Michael Poulsen, Volbeat was back on stage!  The crowd moved back into the stadium, as Metallica must go on!  Volbeat finished up their set and left the stage.

CHRIS:  Metallica (10pm Monster Main Stage) – OK, so the moment had arrived, Metallica. It’s been almost 20 years since I saw Metallica live and in person. I’m not a fan, BUT I know every song, so it’s not a dislike for Metallica that drives me, its boredom. So I was mildly excited to see this set, but apprehensive. This show killed as a whole. It wasn’t perfect and nowhere near the best thing I witnessed all weekend, BUT I’m glad that I saw it. There were some glaring “wtf?” moments, and some that were downright bad. However, along with that there were some very good moments.

The Bad – Although I will give credit where it’s due, Lars Ulrich remains the most overrated drummer of all-time, and that’s with the knowledge that most people don’t think he’s remotely good these days. The song “One” which has some of the coolest stage production I’ve ever seen in the beginning, is almost embarrassing to listen to at the end because Lars cannot keep up. But like I said, I’ll give credit where it’s due, which was the only song where Lars was a factor. He was fairly solid the rest of the night.

The “WTF?” – What was that drum circle bullshit they tried to pull off? Four huge drums on the stage, two on each side of Lars, where all four members of the band manned one of them and proceeded to make it weird for all of us. I still have no idea what they were trying to do, but I know what they did do. They gave me and 54K people fodder to tear them apart. I appreciate the attempt to do something that other bands don’t do, but to be honest, Nothing More did this same thing earlier in the day, and they do it well. This would go in a TOP 5, Wtf? Moments that I’ve ever seen on stage, and I’ve seen Manson like 10 times, so that is saying something.

The Good – Look, for all my bluster about “if all Metallica music disappeared forever that would be fine with me,” I truly love some of their tunes. “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “Sad But True” were well performed and hit me in my ‘90’s spot just right. “Master of Puppets” and “Seek and Destroy” are always fun crowd participation tunes, plus it shows Metallica’s technical side a bit. But when they played “Harvester of Sorrow” I was actually quite impressed. All in all it was a solid set by a legendary band.

Now their stage show was pretty awesome, and their performances physically were right on. James Hetfield sounds as good as I’ve heard him, Kirk Hammett’s playing is top notch and Robert Trujillo…let’s just say I wouldn’t fuck with that mountain if you paid me…and Bloodrock does…they’re the best J. Seriously, his playing was right on.

The stage show has fireworks, pyro, cool screen imagery, all in all if you’re a Metallica fan you need to see this show. If you’re not, but you’re an appreciator of “the moment,” which is taking the time and space that you’re in and understanding that in certain times, the band or event that you’re seeing may NEVER happen again and you need to take that in regardless of your feelings on it, you should see this show for it is a moment. How much longer does Metallica have? No one knows but them.

I had a long talk with my partner in crime over the weekend, my 14-year-old son Rory, who complained incessantly about how boring Metallica is and how tired he was. I told him time and time again throughout the set that we are not leaving, and to his credit, he stopped complaining and took it in, albeit begrudgingly. After the show, during the long walk to the car, I explained to him what he saw. Metallica, whether you like them or not, are legends. When it’s all said and done, they will be on the Metal Mt. Rushmore, and people will talk about them for decades to come. SO, having the chance to see them, whether you’re a fan or not, is an opportunity that I cannot pass up, and neither should anybody. This weekend at Rock on the Range reaffirmed that. I was supposed to see Soundgarden for the first time in 20 years…that didn’t happen. And the reason it didn’t is a sobering reminder as to WHY you don’t bail on legendary artists in what may be one of their last tours, because you may not get another shot. So being over tired and having crushing pain in your feet may suck while you’re watching a band that maybe you’re not a huge fan of, but saying “I could’ve seen them and I left” and having that regret…that won’t go away.

APRILMetallica must go on!  That is all we could say, we tried getting a chant going but it wasn’t catching on. But we knew in our hearts that Papa Het heard our cries, Metallica must go on.  Fucking Metallica slays man.  They are living legends and must be respected, even if you aren’t a fan, you must respect ‘Tallica.  I mean, I’m not really sure how someone can NOT be a fan, but I have an entire list of very popular bands that I cannot stand, so I respect that maybe people don’t know when they are looking into the face of Gods (except Lars, he is more like the janitor, but he is still a member of the band, so we will give him at least the respect of a shirt with his name on it).

Metallica didn’t take the stage immediately; there was a long “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly” intro before they were actually present in front of the crowd.  The anticipation for them to actually come out on stage was almost unbearable.   Then, it happened….images from their newest album “Hardwired to Self-Destruct” took the place of “Ecstasy of God” and there they were, kicking off their set with “Hardwired”.  Holy shit did the crowd go insane.  I mean, how can you not?

I absolutely love that they played so many tracks off their new album; there are so many good ones!  I know many people fell off the Metallica-train when they felt they sold out, but Hardwired to Self-Destruct is everything Metallica was when they took their place as legends.  It is thrashy, it has punk elements, and it is true to metal.  And sure there are the radio friendly hits like “Halo on Fire”, “Moth Into Flame”, “Atlas, Rise!”, and of course “Hardwired”, but there is a second disc.  Pop that bad boy in if you want to go back to where Metallica began, they sound like a heavy as shit garage band.  And that is what people fell in love with.

The crowd sang along with every song, I saw dudes high-fiving one another throughout, and hugging their bros while they sang as loud as possible.  Hell, I saw the whitest guy of all time in a cowboy hat, dancing, and having the time of his damn life.  Electrifying unity was felt in the crowd of 45K+ people, there was no color, no religion, no sexual orientation….we were ONE.  Music does that, right?  It brings people together, but this felt different.  There has been so much division of our country in the last decade that was all forgotten for those couple of hours.  It was beautiful; it felt amazing, and something that I wish we could feel every day.  Metallica brought us all together, if only for a couple of hours.  We were all brothers and sisters, the way it is supposed to be.

CHRIS:  Rock on the Range was an absolute huge success in my opinion. With whatever negatives there were, the positives outweighed them 10 to 1. If you get a chance to come out to Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio in the future, I would highly recommend it.

APRIL:  I waited until the end to add my crowd surfing rant because it is probably going to be brutal and some may need some tissues when they read this…I’m sorry (no I’m not).

So here we go, there IS a weight limit for crowd surfing.  If you can’t pick yourself up, then how the fuck do you expect other people to pick you up?  The crowd is filled with women, children, and disabled people and you think you can throw your sweat soaked 250lb body on top of them?  I literally ended up with eight (8) pinched nerves in my arm, neck, and back two years ago at ROTR, why?  Fat asses falling on top of me because I can’t lift 250lbs over my head and even if I could, there is a sea of whales coming over you so you can barely react when the next orca is surging.

Seriously, I am not a skinny girl myself and I’m not only focusing on girls, anyone who is large…or if you can make lips out of your belly chub SHOULD NOT crowd surf.  It is not only dangerous for you but the people that you are falling on top of.  I had to help a 12 year old boy up off the ground because a cold, wet Shamu came flopping over the top of us and knocked him down to the ground, at the same time a moshpit was next to us, so he could have easily been crushed to death because people are trying to protect themselves from every angle.

I do not understand crowd surfing.  I suppose it is fun to have strange hands all over your body and being tossed from person to person, with the thrill of possible safety or being paralyzed.  But I’m not going to stop reasonable weighted people from doing it, but when I see you coming toward me and I’m like HOLY SHIT THAT IS A BIG ONE, I pray for my safety and those around me. So consider us when you are deciding to quite literally throw your weight around.

 

Chris, April, and Bloodrock Media  want to thank Kristine Ashton-Magnusson at Am-Media for all that they do, and the folks at Danny Wimmer Productions. They all do such great work and every festival season seems to get better and better. Thanks.

 

Written by Chris Elio and April Baggins for Bloodrock Media on May 26, 2017