Sonic Temple 2019, MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, May 17-19, Part 3 of 3

Sunday showed up gloomy, and the weather looked like it might be our enemy. It’s always a bummer when the weather turns on you during a festival, but it is a fact of festival life and completely beyond anyone’s control. Bad weather is a risk at outdoor events and is entirely unpredictable. The first two days were immaculate so unless we thought we lived in a perfect world, we had to expect some rumbles on Day 3.

When we arrived, the 3rd stage, the Wave Stage, was temporarily closed. It turned out to be closed all day. The winds were too strong and made the rigging unsafe. All bands scheduled for that stage therefore had to be cancelled: Demob Happy, Scarlxrd, Basement, Black Pistol Fire, Refused, and Scars On Broadway.

Music started on the Echo Stage with only a small delay. First up was the LA band Teenage Wrist. A positive externality of one stage being down is the bands on the other stages have a bigger audience, and there was a good crowd, especially considering it was Sunday and before noon. The fan base swelled for the next band, Dirty Honey, a bluesy throwback that is somewhat less hippy than Black Coffee was the day before. Dirty Honey is making several festival appearances this summer and they are also opening for Slash on a few dates. They are a band to watch and it is always a good sign when they are on the bill.

Amigo The Devil (Danny Kiranos) gave a delightful performance full of hate, love, revenge, and death. It is just him singing and playing a guitar part of the time and a banjo the other part of the time. He has a dark sense of humor, and if you don’t see the funny in it you are taking it all too seriously. One highlight was the appearance of two dueling acoustic mosh pits as fans played along by making gentle circular revolutions at a speed somewhat slower than a square dance but every bit as friendly and inviting. At the beginning of his final song, Danny looked up at the tons and tons of swinging lights and rigging above him and said, with a chuckle, “Worse case scenario … I love you guys.” Everybody laughed. It was getting gusty.

Later, during the three o’clock hour, The Struts gave a fantastic performance on the Stadium Stage including, as usual, lots of audience participation. If you don’t know about The Struts you need to catch up. I like them more every time I see them. They play good-time music in a rock/pop vein that always leaves you elevated. We needed that in the crowd because things growing a little darker in the sky. Indeed, after the Struts finished, an announcement was made that the stadium field had to be evacuated. You could stay in the stands if you wanted (it’s a soccer stadium), but you had to get off the field and performances were going to be suspended for a while. The high winds were making the stage riggings unsafe.

One stage was left, the Echo Stage. Music continued there most of the afternoon. The Interrupters were a highlight – pub music on a big stage. The lead singer, Aimee Interrupter, has astonishing charisma and she is simply a wonder. Yet another band I had never seen before that I want to see again – here we come across one more entry on the long list of great things about going to music festivals: hearing bands for the first time. The next band to take the stage was a bit of a surprise. White dinner jackets, black pants, and bow ties … that’s The Hives. Their sound reminds me a lot of Cheap Trick with its straight-ahead rock and roll with a happy-go-lucky sway. Halfway through The Hives set, the lead singer announced that the music would stop for a while after they finished because of the weather. I think we all saw this coming but nobody wanted to hear that the last stage was closing down, too. As it turned out, before they could wrap up their set an emergency announcement came over the PA in the middle of one of their songs stating that the venue had to be evacuated. All fans had to go to their cars, or if they were carless they had to go to a building off site. This happened just before 6:00PM. At about 7:30PM, the danger had passed so the all clear was announced and we went back in. The re-entry process was very quick.

Music resumed at 8:30PM with Joan Jett and the Blackhearts playing a somewhat shortened set on the Echo Stage. They played the hits everybody wanted to hear and re-energized the crowd. I love Joan Jett and hadn’t seen her preform for a long time. She sounded great, the band was tight, and we were having a good time again.

The Foo Fighters played on the Stadium Stage to close the festival, doing a longer set than any other band had performed. I have never heard anybody say Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters didn’t kick out the jams – they gave a great performance. The festival ended as it was intended.

All together, the weather took a big chunk of music away on Sunday. The Wave Stage was closed all day and all the comedy acts scheduled to be in the Comedy Tent were also cut. There were no acts cancelled on the Echo Stage, but The Hives set was cut slightly short by the emergency evacuation. On the Stadium Stage, The Distillers, Chevelle, and Bring Me The Horizon were cancelled because of the dangerous weather issues. Even so, there was still a lot of music that day, and the organizers, staff, and law enforcement did everything they could to deal with the environmental situation that no one caused.

Sonic Temple 2019 was a success. The art was beautiful and engaging, the festival experience with food, drinks, and merchandise was top notch, and the line-up rivaled all other rock festivals this year. I’m looking forward to round two in 2020.

[All photos by Wayne Edwards. The schedule below is from the festival’s Instagram feed, marked-up by me to indicate the cancelled bands.]
©2019 Wayne Edwards.

Sonic Temple 2019, MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, May 17-19, Part 3 of 3

Sonic Temple 2019, MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, May 17-19, Part 2 of 3

Day 2 dawned with minor sunburn aches and major music expectations because the heaviest bands of the festival were on the ticket today: Lamb of God, Gojira, The Black Dahlia Murder, and Killswitch Engage. I started my musical experiences with a band I had never heard of, No1Cares – a duo peopled by brothers, vocal/guitar and drums. I was just as pleasantly surprised on Saturday as I had been the day before with the duos. The guitar was sharp and the vocals were memorable. The fullness of the sound seems to be coming from the drums filling in for the missing bass. Speaking drums, there was a drum solo in last song, just long enough to showcase the musician’s talent and not so long as to allow the fungus of boredom to grow. An excellent showcase. I rushed over to stage two immediately after No1Cares to catch Evan Konrad. He had a full band with him, but he began the set by playing a solo version of “Black Hole Sun” on the piano as a tribute. It was beautifully rendered and the fitting memorial to Chris Cornell.

The opening act on the main stage was Black Coffee, a retro rock and roll pseudo-hippy band with great chops that relies maybe a little too much on nostalgia. Their set was good, although they played a 6+ minute cover of a Led Zeppelin standard, a curious choice when they only had 30 minutes to work with. It sounded great, but it also meant they had to sacrifice a lot time that could have been used to deliver their own original material. The fans certainly did not seem to mind.

Fever 333 lead singer Jason Aalon Butler is famous for his acrobatics during shows. This time, the band played the Stadium Stage so he was obliged to climb up into the bleachers to get a little crowd interaction. The band’s high energy musical effervescence was unleashed on the crowd with the usual rousing result. Fever 333 always conveys positive social messaging during their performances and I often wonder whether it is going to go over well in some places, but it always does. Rock and roll fans are, for the most part, very inclusive and don’t bristle much to equality messages. It is one of the things I like most about festivals – it is mainly tens of thousands of people having a great time together. With that many people there are always going to be a couple of bad actors, but in truth, hardly any. Crowds love Fever 333 because they go all-out every time. That is what matters.

The Black Dahlia Murder offered a heart-felt if somewhat by-the-numbers set and got the heaviness going. Segue directly into Gojira, the heavy metal influencers from France. Randy Blythe of Lamb of God joined for part of a song and got the crowd whipped up with anticipation. Shortly after, windy conditions caused a fire effect to blow into the face of guitarist Christian Andreu, forcing him offstage. When he returned, his face was noticeably red, but he continued and finished the set. Now that’s rock and roll for you. The pyro effects were suspended for the rest of the performance but the music was not affected at all.

Sandwiched in between bouts of thundering guitars, In This Moment did their stage performance over loud chants from lead singer Maria Brink. It is surprisingly engaging, this drama they put on, and very entertaining – there is no looking away from the stage. Their music is completely different live compared to listening through earbuds because you get to see it acted out, essentially, and the story carries you through repetitive choruses. It was a great show and a good opportunity for a breather before Killswitch Engage and, most significantly, Lamb of God. I saw Lamb of God on the Slayer tour last year and theirs was the stand-out performance that night. They brought that same power to Sonic Temple, and they got to play a longer set here. A heavy metal band for sure, their sound is difficult to drop into a specific category. How about industrial-groove with a thrash-punk spritz? Whatever we might call them, they’re loud and aggressive and always ready for more.

After Lamb, I walked over to the Comedy tent to find it was again overflowing. Andrew Dice Clay was the Saturday headliner and he delivered standard material to an appreciative crowd – I listened from outside the tent once again with my fellow late-comers. He even did a few short poems at the end of his set. The demand was so great that Clay returned later that night for an encore on the main stage before the final act of the night performed.

The last two bands were Papa Roach and Disturbed. They go well together as they are frequently both described as Nu Metal bands. The drive of the music in each case relies on an inherent catchiness and therefore it reaches a fairly broad audience. The crowd didn’t exactly go wild but it did seem happy.

Day 2 brought the fun side of atmospheric disturbances with a rainbow in the afternoon and lunar theatrics at night – the moon was full and it was colored an unseasonal yellow of a Harvest Moon. The weather had been predicted to be a little uncertain for the weekend, but for the first two days it was great.

Part 3, wherein you find out what happened in the end, posts tomorrow.

©2019 Wayne Edwards.

[All photos by Wayne Edwards. The schedule below is from the festival’s Instagram feed. Action Bronson dropped out at the last minute with a knee injury, so the act has been crossed off (by me) from the schedule.]

Sonic Temple 2019, MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, May 17-19, Part 2 of 3

Sonic Temple 2019, MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, May 17-19, Part 1 of 3

The inaugural Sonic Temple festival was held at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio during the Ides of May weekend. The event is billed as an arts and music festival, and you can begin to see the art part from a mile away before you even enter the grounds of the stadium. Huge banners hung on the stadium itself, and art installations big and small were to be found all about the grounds. While there were many artworks with Hindu motifs, the art varied considerably while being uniformly of high quality. Artists were painting some of the large standing placards live during the festival and so fans could watch first-hand as the artwork was created. The art part of the arts and music festival permeated the event at every turn and it is one of the important ways Sonic Temple sets itself apart from other festivals.

While the artwork is captivating, the music certainly is the central attraction to the festival, and Day 1 offered up acts ranging from heavy – Beartooth, Black Label Society, Meshuggah – to theatrical – Pussy Riot, Avatar, and Ghost. There were three stages on the grounds, the main one, the Stadium Stage, second biggest, the Echo Stage, and third, the Wave Stage. The action started on the Wave Stage with The Jacks, hoisting some peppy goodtime rock and roll up the flagpole. It was just the right kind of music to drink beer with at 12:45 in the afternoon. Things got heavier and weirder as the day wore on.

Cleopatrick is part of a two-piece insurgency ramming the edges of rock these days. Voice and a six string accompanied by a standard drum kit goes a lot farther than it seems like is possible. The sound, surprising full, gave fans a firm grip on straight forward RnR, which they would need out on the Wave Stage, because the next two acts shook everybody up. Ho99o9 followed and it is hard to describe them. Sort of a pop-punk hip hop group fully steeped in horror themes. The enthusiastic antics of this three-piece left me disoriented but wanting more. What I didn’t know was Ho99o9 is positively linear compared to the next act on this stage: Pussy Riot. One of the main reasons I wanted to come to Sonic Temple was to see Pussy Riot, the famous Russian performance art group who has been in the news in the past eight years for many staged protests and for its members being arrested several times and spending some time in jail. I had seen videos of the group before and I was expecting some kind of screaming violent punk performance art, but that is not what happened at all. There were three principal members in the musical part of the production during most of the performance and two … dancers? A screen behind the performers scrolled low resolution images and text that sometimes seemed to go along with the performance and sometimes not. Most of the singing was in Russian, but occasionally there was a song in English, and the lead sing spoke to the crowd in English as well. The sound of much of the music was a sweet, preteen pop kind of thing, with occasional eruptions into something … else. It was an experience, that is for sure, and there was no other act at the festival remotely like them. I tip my hat to the organizers for including Pussy Riot on the bill and I am extremely glad I got to see them.

Elsewhere at the festival, the day brought solid performances and heightened revelry. Three bands I hadn’t seen before were Wage War, Halestorm, and Avatar. I don’t have an excuse for not having seen Lzzy Hale belt out the rock before, but she got the crowd fired up on the main stage in the end they moved way up my list of bands to see again. Wage War is a newish band with a Breaking Benjamin kind of angle with two vocals on most songs, one growly and the other melodic. They found a lot of fans during their performance, judging by the crowd’s reaction. Avatar gave me a minor fit of cognitive dissonance because the music was great with gruff vocals and piercing guitars, yet the band members were dressed up like they were in a circus*. Between the songs, the lead singer’s chatter hit hard the idea that they were weird and that people in the crowd were also weird and that’s the reason why they liked such a weird band. The word freak came up a lot, too. It’s their act, the banter and the uniforms and so on. They were fun to watch but I think their strength lies most in their musical performance, which was top notch.

The Comedy Tent opened at 7:00PM and had a spoken word line-up on Friday, featuring Henry Rollins. It was packed and the line was long to get in during the entire time it was open. In fact, I didn’t get in at all and instead stood with a couple hundred other people outside the tent looking in and listening. It was great to hear Henry tell stories and dispense wisdom.

The two main headliners on Day 1 were Ghost and System of a Down. I had seen both bands on tour last year and they always give the fans what they want. Ghost played their hits and gave a fairly subdued performance with a surprise or two, the most notable being the sudden appearance of Papa Emeritus playing saxophone for a minute or two. I don’t want to be too much of a fanboy about the whole thing but that really put a smile on my face. System of a Down provided a light-filled fast-talking tour of their work that got everybody’s hands in the air. They brought a satisfying end to an excellent Day 1. Sonic Temple was off to a great start.

The Day 2 review posts tomorrow.

*Thanks to Jazmin for the circus analogy. It fits perfectly.

©2019 Wayne Edwards.

[All photos by Wayne Edwards. Image below is from the festival’s Instagram feed.]

Sonic Temple 2019, MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, May 17-19, Part 1 of 3

Welcome to Rockville 2019, Metropolitan Park, Jacksonville, Florida, May 3-5.

Welcome to Rockville returned to Metropolitan Park in Jacksonville, Florida the first weekend of May this year for another three day festival of wide-ranging musical styles. 48 bands performed on three stages stretched across the festival grounds to tens of thousands of fans.

The headlining bands included Tool, Rob Zombie, Korn, Judas Priest, Evanesence, and Incubus, along with Jacksonville’s own Shinedown. These acts always put on great shows, and the two that stood out most were Judas Priest and Tool. Tool’s set closed the festival late on Sunday night after an hours-long rain delay early in the day. It ran about 90 minutes and included two songs performed live for the first time, “Descending” and “Invincible.” Despite the intense and sometimes ponderous nature of the longer songs, it was a fitting and well-received closing spectacle. The night before, Judas Priest gave a blistering hour-long performance of both new/newer songs and classics from their extensive canon. They opened with “Necromancer” off their latest release Firepower, and ended with a trilogy of crowd-pleasing favorites, “Hell Bent for Leather,” “Breaking the Law,” and “Living After Midnight.” Rob Halford’s voice sounded amazing as did the percussion and guitars. Priest’s performance was the highlight of the festival.

The undercard was strong as well, with acts like Meshuggah, Amigo the Devil, The Interruptors, Reignwolf, Flogging Molly, Black Label Society, Bring Me the Horizon, Papa Roach, Crobot, and Chevelle – too many great bands to talk about in this short review so I will just pick a couple out (almost) at random to crow about whom I haven’t crowed about before.

Amigo the Devil was a delightful surprise. A one man act who alternates between an acoustic six-string and a banjo, he introduced himself by explaining he would be singing songs about death. The genre he (Danny Kiranos) performs in is sometimes called murderfolk – self-explanatory, I think. The crowd loved him and count me in the crowd. I had never seen Crobot before – I put them in the category of new energetic bands who are great musicians and performers and will help define music in the coming years. They put on a powerful show full of precision and promise. Reignwolf gets the earnest award for being the most-in of the all-in bands. Their performance was like an episode of deeply introspective emotional eruptions. And then there were The Interrupters, an LA punk band with a what felt to me like a Boston Irish Exile Band sensibility. I experienced great joy watching them in the Florida heat. And then so many others, the always inspiring Fever 333, the indefatigable Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society, the perky Struts … it was a great festival and the perfect kick-off to a fully-loaded summer festival rampage of 2019.

This year was my first time at Welcome to Rockville and before I got there I thought to myself I’d give it a try but I probably wouldn’t go back next year. I have changed my mind. I definitely want to go back. The organization putting on the show, Danny Wimmer Presents, went all out for fans, providing a great lineup, a great venue, and memorable experiences. There were some weather issues, but there are weather issues all over the country in the Spring, and you just have to work around them. The event staff and organizers did an excellent job with some challenging situations and I give the whole event my unconditional recommendation.

The next festival for me is Sonic Temple May 17-19 in Columbus, Ohio. Right now I am making my way to Boston for the Saturday night show at the Paradise Rock Club: Overkill. See you all on the road.

©2019 Wayne Edwards.

(Below are the final schedules for the festival, from the official Instagram account)

Welcome to Rockville 2019, Metropolitan Park, Jacksonville, Florida, May 3-5.