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.]