Live Festival Review and Photos: David Locklear
The sound of ice trucks replenishing the campground ration store freezer, mixed with the low voices and smells of sweat and old beer permeated the air. The sun was already shining rather brightly at 9 am, stirring many of us rock and roll vampires into daylight. John and I chatted briefly with our camping neighbor, Josh, a marine in his late 20’s who was attending the concert solo and we bonded over early morning grub and beverages and him showing us videos he took of Alice in Chains, while many people crowd surfed nearby.
We ran to the media tent after lunch and began setting up for our interview with the Butcher Babies. We set up all equipment and prepared to do a Facebook live stream with the band. When the band arrived, Guitarist Henry Flury, bassist Jason Klein, and drummer, Chase Brickenden, mics were set, live stream ready and boom! Let’s chat.
Aaaaaand Facebook live shits the bed 3 minutes into the interview. The backup camera works, but the band Shaman’s Harvest is playing right outside and renders the audio difficult to hear. The band, however, were gracious enough to allow us to take a portrait with them before they went to perform their acoustic set for the Zippo Sessions.
Toothgrinder were taking the stage just as we finished hiking the length of the festival grounds to the Gold stage. Adorned in Tuxedo t-shirts, that very much classed the place up, they began their crunchy set with the soon-to-be-classics, “The Shadow” and “Diamonds for Gold”. It was really exciting to see “The Shadow” played live; the song, about the duality of choice in human nature, seemed to really come to life watching how the band presented it: bassist Matt Arensdorf would alternately stalk the stage and then roar to life with no real predictable pattern of movement, vocalist Justin Matthews spewed out his expanded vocal range, showing confidence with a guttural bark and gentler melody, guitarists Jason Goss and Johnuel Hasney with drummer Wills Weller never seemed to stop the headcracking momentum, insuring that this locomotive wouldn’t stop, hell or high water be damned.
Touching base with Erin at the Zippo Sessions tent again, she took us out for day 2 of the surprise acoustic sets with some of the artists on the roster again this year. We managed to grab our spot for the Butcher Babies and watch them turn their songs of strength with ambitions hammer into a surprising set that saw several songs take on a swagger and boogie that I wouldn’t have thought possible, even with their newfound melody.
It was fun to watch the band just play their songs without overwhelming fan energy that usually accompanies a Butcher Babies show. This is, after all, the band that wants the world record for crowd surfing, and I am always in favor of the fun of crashing bodies while rock and metal is played, it is nice to hear the music without getting a sneaker in the face.
At the Carolina Stage, In This Moment’s stage props were already set up and really made me anticipate a spectacle. Several elevated stages off to the side, a large shelter with a black cape emblazoned with white crosses and lots of stage lights looked promising.
Vocalist Maria Brink slithered onto the stage from behind the cross curtain and began shrieking the lyrics to “Blood”, a song I have always enjoyed. Covered only in one VERRRRY loose piece of white satin and a crown, the wind of the festival grounds playfully whipped her dress up periodically, making every audience member lean in closer when it did. (She was actually wearing a body stocking, otherwise, she would’ve frozen her ass off). Guitarists ————— flanked the stage covered in blood and kept watch from their positions, while drummer ———- pounded the rhythms of the song to an end. As they played further into their set, playing “Adrenelize”, “Big Bad Wolf” and “Whore”, Brinks would disappear behind the curtain and come back with a different and elaborate costume change, even employing two extras to stand behind her and give her the appearance of multiple arms, like a hard rock goddess of death. But that detracted from the concert for me: No one moved from their positions and the spectacle was confined to the immediate space around Brinks. They certainly have a sense of showmanship, but I felt energy paid the price for pageantry.
Breaking Benjamin strode onto the stage just before 7 pm, and their fans were salivating for them to play. I for one, am not a fan of their music. It comes down to a heaviness factor-my tastes tend towards the slow and aggressive, so bands like BB and Shinedown don’t appeal to me. But they were playing right after In This Moment, and I didn’t feel like venturing very far at this time of the day, so I figured: “what the hell. Let’s check ‘em out”. They played their hits well, noodling confidently through “I Will Not Bow” and “Breath” when they really grabbed my attention: the played a roughly 10 minute medley that mixed Tool’s “Schism”, Pantera’s “Walk”, Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and Metallica’s “Sad But True”. I know that they were catering to the crowd by doing this, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t prime me to enjoy the rest of their set. When the band ended with “The Diary of Jane”, I was singing ‘something’s getting in the way!’ right along with the crowd the weak-willed bitch that I am.
Afterward, we took a break from running to eat, rest, and download media. We then decided to take our time to casually take our time to walk towards the Gold Stage for Hatebreed and just take in the environment. The place is a zoo, in the best sense of the word: music animals from all walks of life congregating to listen to music that, for whatever reason, has touched us and became a part of us. All the different types of expression, on display: signs that say ‘Free Your Tits!’ made by horny teenagers, the joy on their faces when tits are freed for a half second because of their minimal efforts, perfectly straight mohawks standing 2 feet high of a guys head, the freaks with kilts and the Carolina Panthers logo painted on their chest, and the parents holding their kids aloft in a crowd creating memories of rock music to last a lifetime.
Arriving at the Gold Stage, Jamey Jasta and the rest of Hatebreed casually take their places on stage. They seem very laid back as they begin playing “To The Threshold” and “Looking Down the Barrel of Today”. They are one of the bands I like to point to when people criticize rock and metal as being incessantly negative. Hatebreed’s songs are angry and aggressive, but the message is always one of a good personal trainer: “You can do this! Push forward and master your dreams!” always seems to be the philosophy of their lyrics. (Of course, I’m not going to mention they also have a song called “Destroy Everything” and solidify a critic’s resolve.)
So watching them play almost a dozen songs (which is a lot for a festival this size) rapidly and with such ease, they really gave fans a great show. They played a healthy mix of their catalog and the crowd never got really aggressive, but really just kind bounced and swayed and enjoyed the show. The sun was beginning to set and an evening breeze was gently massaging everyone, so it seemed appropriate that everyone was just a little mellower.
Godsmack was a band I didn’t think would be big on spectacle. They have a good heavy swagger and a blue-collar sensibility, so I figured their performance would be high energy and fun, but most likely stripped down.
Wow. Big ‘nope’ there.
I have seen Kiss in concert a few times, and Godsmack has taken those basic concepts and drove straight up a mountain with it. Firebombs constantly shooting flames into the air, the light show swaying, blinking, triggering seizures and just a general sense that they were screaming “PARTYYYYY!” with a huge budget. It was interesting to note that they still seemed like a group of NYC boys in the middle of all this fun chaos, and not adorned with corpse paint or playing with their guitars on fire. A general look of “Isn’t this fun as shit?!” was on vocalist Sully Erna’s face for their entire concert.
They hit all the right notes with their song selection, especially when they played “Cryin’ Like a Bitch” to “Keep Away” and then right into “Voodoo”, you could feel the audience almost get dizzy by the time the show was done. They may not be the heaviest band in the world, but Godsmack got shit done. Another day of music, challenges, and fun was done.