COLUMBUS, OHIO – Some things belong at the end, and some at the beginning. Now, considering this was my first ever Rock on the Range experience, I’m going to have to say that the jury is still out when it comes to ranking it as the best festival I’ll attend this year with at least 3 more already booked. With that said, the bar has been set mighty high. When you start your season out with such a well-orchestrated festival, it’s very hard for any other to measure up…but it can be done.

CHRIS:  Let’s start with mother-nature, who was mostly a negative throughout the weekend. She’s a douche, I’m sorry …it had to be said. With the threat of a thunderstorm and/or a tornado warning present almost every minute of the festival it seemed, it made for a slightly uncomfortable weekend to be outside. Now I will say that for some reason I felt like the ever present threat of rain made for an old school feel to the weekend, and it also created some drama on the last day, which I will get to in the day 3 review. It also helped keep the temperature at a very comfortable 70-80 degree range throughout the weekend.

Now, as far as a review goes, I could hardly blame the festival organizers for the weather and their concerns about the safety of people. Unlike the keyboard, juggernaut ass-hats on FB, twitter and any other blog or shitty outlet these negative douche canoes go to slam the festival because the weather sucks, I will NOT slam the festival for that. It’s unfair, and on the whole, I thought the festival organizers and the security team at Rock on the Range and Mapfre Stadium did a damn good job managing what could’ve been a very ugly situation.

APRIL:  I agree with Chris on this, I felt the organizers of ROTR and the staff handled the weather situation like pros, with one HUGE exception… one could hear the announcement to evacuate.  The announcement was made and could only be heard by ‘Gate 5’, where no one was likely to be.  The only reason we knew to evacuate is from others mentioning it and unfortunately it wasn’t staff people, it came from other festival-goers.   While everyone made it out safely, this could have been a very dangerous situation if there was an immediate need to evacuate versus the half an hour notice or so we received.

Another rant, not related to the weather but the camping package.  This year we opted for the camping package offered early in the ticket sale process, we were quite excited about being so close the venue, not having to worry about parking, driving, or waiting for anyone that wanted to stay longer than we wanted to.  We arrived to the camping area, there was no attendant to give us instructions or for us to check in with.  We waited a good 15-20 minutes and finally pulled into a site and simply placed our camping pass in the window.  It worked out, no one came and hassled us at all.

So we got our camper all setup and went to hook up the water and sewer… sewer on the site, despite the documentation indicating that each site had power, water, and sewer.  Sewer is actually ‘community’ and you have to go to the dump station up front. Fine, we can deal with that, we will just use the community showers, if they aren’t too full.

 We left the show early to avoid the crowd of drunk, stinky people in the showers….guess what?  Day one and the showers do not work.  No water at all comes out of the shower heads.  Can you say bummer?  Oh I could, not only could I say it, I could smell it and it smelled like raw onions and moldy towels.

Not only were the showers inoperable, the bathroom was a complete disaster and did not have toilet paper for at least 14 hours, thankfully I’m always prepared and BYOP (bring your own paper), just in case.  So everyone in our camper was able to wipe…thankfully.

I also improvised on the showers by boiling water in our camper and filling the sink so we could ‘hoe bath’ it.  While that seems a reasonable solution, that is not what we paid for nor were told was part of our package.  If there was an issue due to the storms that had passed, a notification taped to the wall of the bathroom would have been nice…..I mean, when you are covered in hundreds of people’s sweat, you kinda NEED a shower, not want one.   So to push the water button and nothing comes out, I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t because I would have had to wipe it with my disgusting hand, so I refrained.

Saying that, the camping package overall was awesome.  We loved being so close and initially we were scared that people would be obnoxious all night long, but thankfully everyone was pretty quiet and respectful.   We will definitely purchase this package again next year just for convenience of being so close to the venue…..but please for the love of God, have working showers next year. 

CHRIS:  I will however slam the Chris Cornell tribute on Friday night, or lack thereof. Look, I’m sympathetic to how difficult it probably was to try and replace a headliner the caliber of Soundgarden on such short notice, and honestly, I wasn’t expecting one. But, upon my arrival, when I heard that there was going to be a VERY SPECIAL tribute to Chris Cornell after LIVE’s set, I was stoked. I thought to myself “self, the potential here is great, with all of the artists that are already here, and whichever ones have showed up because they are playing on Saturday…this could be one of those moments in music history they talk about for decades. What a great way to honor a fallen hero.”

Then the THUD happened. LIVE played an inspired set, their first in 8 years together with the original line up, of hit after hit. Ed Kowalcyzk lead a rousing rendition of “I Am The Highway” in tribute to Cornell after saying a few nice words, and then closed with an emotional performance of “Lightning Crashes” (appropriate for the events earlier in the day that saw the fest be suspended for nearly 3 hours due to…LIGHTNING CRASHING).

LIVE leaves the stage, and then while the stage crew removed LIVE’s set, and sets up some stools and acoustic guitars, with mics center stage, a lit candle appears on the screen with a pic of Chris Cornell and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” playing over the speakers. It was a great set up for something stirring. Then, another bit of audio comes over the speakers, it’s an isolated vocal track of Chris Cornell singing “Black Hole Sun” and a video montage plays on the screen. This was hauntingly beautiful in a stadium filled with roughly 40K people singing along. This was certainly setting up to be very emotional and memorable…fitting of a legend.

Then, Corey Taylor (Slipknot/Stone Sour) and guitarist Christian Martucci (Stone Sour) come out and play acoustic versions of Pink Floyd’s “Wish you were Here” and Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike,” with the audience emotionally belting out Cornell’s parts on that one. Corey Taylor sounded great, and appeared humbled and emotional during this performance, it was a great moment.

The problem is it was the ONLY moment. On a day where the weather tried to stop us from celebrating ROCK, we needed the healing power of togetherness that only music can bring, and two songs on acoustic guitars was all this day, which saw 20 bands play, could produce? IDK if this is an organizer/promoter issue, or if it was the artists that were there, but I’m having a hard time understanding why Ed Kowalcyzk couldn’t come out with Corey Taylor and do something. Where was Gavin Rossdale or any of the guys from BUSH, who played earlier in the day? How about Sum 41? They are peers to Chris Cornell (in timeframe only I assure you). I understand that BUSH and LIVE were playing in Jersey the next day but COME ON, this is a fallen brother who was supposed to play ON THIS STAGE.

I am a former musician, and no I’m not comparing myself to some of the best hit makers rock has ever seen, BUT I will say that if I had the chance to honor my brother and heal the fandom at Rock on the Range a little bit, I’d be clamoring to do so. I honestly feel that if this would’ve happened in the 70’s, 80’s or the 90’s, the response would’ve been overwhelming in the other direction. That artists would’ve showed up that weren’t even on the bill to honor a fallen hero. Hell, Corey Taylor played the NIGHT BEFORE and he was there. This is why Slipknot fans are rabid about that band, because Corey Taylor understands the moment and what it means to US.

Look, I’m sure it’s not as cut and dry as plug and play, but it should be. I’m not privy to the conversations that took place but to call throwing some YouTube videos on a screen and two songs by Corey Taylor (which were awesome, Corey Taylor and Christian Martucci are the only true heroes here) a VERY SPECIAL TRIBUTE to Chris Cornell is a bit of an overstatement. Actually, it’s a crime…but I digress.

With all that was wrong with the “Tribute” there was SO MUCH that was right with this event. So let’s look back at what I was looking forward to, and compare it with what I saw, shall we?

APRIL:  Unfortunately, by the end of the night I was exhausted and wanted a shower so I left before the tribute but could hear it from our campsite, it was underwhelming to say the least.  I did expect more than just simply a ‘touching tribute’, I expected another headliner to step in seeing how ROTR tickets are not cheap and most folks who attend are really paying to see the headliners.  Obviously, Chris Cornell’s death was unexpected (as death usually is), so while I hoped for a Stone Sour or similar to step up to the plate, it did seem quite impossible.

Goodbye June, Badflower and Thrice started the day on the various stages they had at ROTR (3 in total), and I REALLY wanted to see them, but it seems that the weather that would affect the bulk of day 1 was attached to my car, because I was driving through it and it added about 2 hours to my already 6 hour drive. So I missed them, but I did hear Thrice on Sirius/XM Octane as they provided coverage throughout the weekend, and they sounded fantastic.

**Let me take a moment to give a shout out to possibly the coolest radio station I’ve heard in this country this past weekend. 99.7 FM The Blitz in Columbus kept us informed all weekend long whenever a weather situation threatened the area, and they play some bad ass music. Keep up the good work in Columbus.**  

CHRIS:  Gojira (545pm, more like 730pm Bud Light Stage) – Sorry for the redundancy but OMG (Oh My GOJIRA!!!) they did it again. They were the second band I saw after Norma Jean, who was very good, but no one was ready for what was coming. Jose Mangin of Sirius/XM came out and announced the arrival of Gojira by telling us a story about how Gojira almost bailed after the weather delay went into its second and third hours. Jose said they begged them, that the fans, WE needed this, we needed them. They must’ve felt the weight of the day, and what their performance would mean for us, and WE responded.

Gojira hit the stage with “Only Pain” and set the tone for the rest of the festival appropriately. The crowd was amped as I stood between two separate, but large circle pits, like that scene from “Twister” when the tornadoes were converging on each other, and Bill Paxton’s truck was spinning between the two, which is an appropriate comparison with the weather looming large earlier in the day.

Gojira played for about 45 minutes, hurling 10 devastating songs at us, and leaving a wreckage for the rest of the festival to have to clean up. I’ve often said that it’s got to be very difficult to follow Gojira, and this was no different. Up next was LIVE on the main stage.

APRIL:  Have I mentioned how much I love Gojira?  They are seriously one of the most phenomenal bands I have ever heard.  Every note is felt throughout your body when they play and they have so much stage presence.  Joe Duplantier has grown tremendously as a vocalist over the last several years, to the point his deep growls are now beautiful and compliment every note that they hammer out.  And holy shit do they hammer notes out, if you have not watched Mario Duplantier play drums, you are fucking missing out.  The sheer speed, power, and intensity of his drumming is a sight to be seen.  And the guys are always so pleasant and grateful at the end of their set; so happy to be doing what they love, for fans that love what Gojira does. 

As Jose Mangin said, we needed Gojira and fuck did they deliver.  After so much disappointment with the rain delays, Gojira brought that shit so much so I almost forgot that we missed so many artists due to the rain.  Oh, did I didn’t mention that they played my favorite track “L’Enfant Sauvage”, which has an epic ‘old west’ solo guitar riff, followed by an epic balls to the wall shred fest that I absolutely LOVE….damn it, now it is midnight and I am going to listen to this track, then probably another 10 more.

CHRIS:  **Side note, as I waited for LIVE to have their stage set up, they were showing Pierce the Veil’s set on the big screens, but the sound was down, and this was where I made a startling discovery about Pierce the Veil…I LOVE THAT BAND, if I can’t hear them (cue the rim shot). Seriously though folks, from a look standpoint, they put on a hell of a show, I’m just not a fan of their music**

APRIL:  I have seen Pierce the Veil on Vans Warped Tour, they do put on a hell of a show but I would say their music is geared more toward teenagers than middle aged women (yeah, yeah I’m middle aged).  Not my thing, but honestly, they are uber talented. 

CHRIS:  LIVE (810pm, more like 1030pm Monster Main Stage) – I already kind of reviewed this set in my “Tribute” rant above, but here’s what I will say in addition to what’s already been said, Ed Kowalcyzk still sounds great. I mean, really, REALLY great. He may be in his mid-40’s but that voice sounds like it’s 20 years old. Another thing that I think I knew, but still surprises me…how many HITS does LIVE have? EVERY SONG they played seemed like it was a mega hit. A very prolific band that if you get a chance to see them this summer, you should do so. They put on a fun, great show that probably would’ve been SO MUCH BETTER if I wasn’t previously decimated by the mighty Gojira like 30 minutes earlier.

APRIL:  I missed LIVE’s performance due to serious need for a shower and knowing I could hear their set from our campsite.   I totally forgot how many hits they had.  Damn it, I am old.

CHRIS:  Soundgarden (———–) – THUD…that’s all I can say. There were other AMAZING tributes done individually throughout the weekend that were very cathartic and worthy of the artist Chris Cornell was, and they came from places I didn’t expect them to come from.

(PREDICTION – TOOL, Avenged Sevenfold will headline or a jam with all the musicians that are present…OBVIOUSLY AND DISAPPOINTINGLY NONE OF THIS HAPPENED)

APRIL:  Completely agree, when I saw the announcement of a tribute, I thought holy shit, this is going to be huge.  Then I read what the tribute consisted of and decided it was not worth staying.  Chris Cornell was an icon for those my age (shut it), he was at the forefront of the grunge era that put rock music BACK on the map after the hairband days.  I felt like he deserved more, I felt like we could have given him more.  Hell, most of the artists didn’t even mention him during their sets….on any of the days, which I thought was a bit strange.

Stay tuned for the Day 2 review TOMORROW.


Written by Chris Elio and April Baggins for Bloodrock Media on May 23, 2017