Photos by: Julius Richardson
Words by: Shadow Editor
After a successful kick off night for Exit 111 Festival, we got some much needed rest and shifted gears to what it would be turn into another day of endurance, energy and full blown fun. Saturday came at you quick so if you party too hard the day before; you may not make it to the 1PM starting time for the second day.
We pick things up quickly at the Hell Stage, where we brace ourselves for Southern California’s Them Evils. The trio has been riding high off a very successful 2018 following their EP “Rollin’ Stoned and Livin’ Free”. The guys bring it on this early day 2, and while a small crowed gathered around, this is enough for their bass player, wildman Jake Massanari to burst out of the stage with high impact antics and energy. The guys do their best to get the crowd pumped for along day of headbanging ahead. If you get a chance to check the guys out on the road, I approve that assessment and good on you.
Next we head over to the Heaven Stage to meet up with New Zealand’s own Alien Weaponry. The guys have been breaking ground since last year in the metal scene with their unique blend of groove metal and their traditional Maori chants, make it a unique experience to witness live. They put on a good show with Lewis de Jong taking front and center as their bass player Ethan Trembath is missing their fall tour to finish high school. Yes folks it brings it down home doesn’t it, these guys are young but they perform with admiration and skill. Their future looks bright and if you get a chance to check out our previous coverage of their live set in Europe and interview, bang it right here. The AW shirts we’re in full effect in the crowd as well proving that their impact as a new band is far and wide. Cool cuts from the set we’re “Raupatu” and “Whispers”.
The daily grind continues as we quickly trek over to the Hell Stage again for Graveyard. The Gothenburg Psychedelic Rockers bring another eclectic sound to the fold. Very deep, groovy, muddy and sludgy is the best way I can describe their vibes. Front man Joakim is an interesting character, with his hippy attire and thoughtful guitar playing, he brings his own particular feel to this set. I thought the crowed had a hard time getting into the music, but myself as a fan of a myriad of rock and metal genres, I can appreciate a band such as this, beating the odds as well after splitting for a brief time a few years ago, they are back on the scene and still have a nice fan base.
Moving back over to the Heaven Stage I witness what I dare to say was one of my favorite and most surprising sets of the whole festival. Enter Fever 333. I have to admit this band has slipped by me, I was not familiar at all with their sound. A short bio on the Exit 111 page showed me a lot of energy and a bit of Rage Against The Machine vibe to them. I decided to give them a chance and boy was taken by their high impact set!!!
Where do I even begin here. Well Jason Aalon Butler is one hell of a stage presence. This man has energy to burn and his on stage antics on this day we’re legendary. You can feel when a band just leaves everything out there and just rolls with it; yep that’s Fever 333. Whether he was humble and appreciative of the type of music they play, (many consider it Rap Metal), or thanking the fans for accepting them in into the scene; at the end of the day is Rock in it’s many forms and these guys know how to bring it and are making a point to stick around.
Songs like “Made in America”, “Pray For Me” and “Out of Control” are evident of the wall of sound these guys create. Kudos to guitar player Stephen Harrison who does his best to keep up with Butler’s non stop stage antics. Best moment of the set came when Jason’s jump suit completely comes off and leaves him in his boxers. Yes it was probably planned, but hell why not? Great set ended too quickly and I instantly became a fan. They captured the moment just right with songs that deal with meaningful social issues and things that sometimes we don’t want to talk about. To me this was one of the best sets of the festival, without question. Check them out!!!
After sprinting back to Hell Stage to witness a brood mosh pit and faces being smashed in thanks in part to Texas Metallers Power Trip, I didn’t stick around the whole set as I wanted good view of another Texas act in Nothing More at the Heaven Stage.
Along I went to see what all the fuzz has been about with Nothing More experimental and inventive set and to check out some of the songs that has garner the band big success the lasts few years. Is hard to describe their sound as a mix of metalcore, alternative metal meets Blue Man Group. They have a yet another distinctive style and it shows in their great live set here at Exit 111.
They have been on the road with Ghost and the guys roll in here with an intense set. They kick things off with “Let Em’ Burn” which brings the fire instantly. Some other favorites pop in play with “Go To War” and “Jenny” providing the fans with plenty of room to crowd surf. The typical crowd here all bashed and moshed throughout the set and it was joy to watch the folks in costumes come flying through the crowd. Good job Panda, Jesus and all you crazy mofos who kept moshing and picking up the intensity at every freaking set you made the festival that much better. The guys we’re so into the set that singer Johnny Hawkins forgot they needed to play one more song. Again on top of my list of best live experiences to witness from Exit 111 inaugural party, if you missed it shame on you.
It was getting dark and before we get our royal asses destroyed by Gojira’s intense set, I head on over to the “Rise Above” stage to check out Cheap Trick. I don’t have a lot of complaints about the festival, but this one is one I’m hopeful they will improve upon next year if we have another one. Obviously there was plenty of fans who came to see the classic rock bands like Leppard, Gnr, ZZ Top and Cheap Trip, fair play no issues there, but when a big portion of the fan base is hanging in lawn chairs at a stage that is dark as hell without proper lighting towards the back, it makes it a bit hard to maneuver if you walking forward to get a closer look. I mean stumbling over bodies of people chilling on chairs in the dark is not my idea of fun. I don’t know how you fix that, maybe arrange the times different or do something with the stages, but it was one of my major complaints. I didn’t stick around long enough I bailed after a couple songs and headed over to Heaven to survive the war of attrition that was Gojira.
I was there with a couple friends who had come to check them out for the first time and we all knew their set was going to be massive. As expected shit started getting crazy minute they come on stage. The French metallers aren’t messing about, once they made it to “Flying Whales”, the bodies start piling up and dropping and flying and surfing more heavily and more intense then we could handle. Front to back the whole crowd just feeds off their massive energy, epic fluctuation of massive earth shattering groove. What a damn good set, in the end we made it through and it was damn worth it. The most intense set of the festival in my opinion.
Wounded and beat up a bit I was not missing Mastodon. I get a quick bite to eat and head back to Hell Stage to catch Mastodon and their gloomy strobe lights as they start their set. A real damn challenge to shoot photos of, but a pleasure to hear live. A 15 song set list blending everything from their past, performed with stellar precision. Not only do they shine technically, but Mastodons sound has always been their own and it shows live. Some of the best cuts come via “Crack The Skye”, “Bladecatcher” and “High Road”. Feeling reinvigorated I head back to Heaven to meet with a co worker friend just on time for Ghost’s set.
I don’t have to describe much here as most of our readers know of Ghost, they know of the different incarnations of Papa Emeritus, and current Hench man Tobias Forge has done a magnificent job carrying the Ghost legacy forward and earning mass critical success from their last record “Prequelle” in 2018. The production for this performance was phenomenal, from the pyro, to the lighting, to the performances. This felt like a headliner show and it was damn entertaining to witness live. All the numbers we’re great, but tunes like “Ritual”, “Ashes”, “Rats” and of course “Dance Macabre” play to the southern crowd with beautiful appeal, there’s some sorta of stigma about Ghost, again a band doing something different who has firmly cemented their space in the Rock and Metal world. If you get a chance to see them live, don’t miss it well worth your time.
I come back to the Heaven Stage to see final headliners for Saturday in Hard Rock legends Def Leppard. It’s not hard to appreciate a band who’s music has it’s roots firmly implanted with so many great classic rock hits the last 40 years. They play for the crowd, tight and flawlessly, and as the temperature drops into a cooler 40’s at this point of the night, the band keeps knocking out their hits. Favorites cuts come via “Animal”, “Hysteria”, “Rocket”, of course encores classics with “Rock of Ages” and “Pour Some Sugar On Me” end this long day of superb performances on an all time high. Kudos to Joe Elliot’s who still sounds great live, and the body Mr cool Phil Collen who is always charismatic and on point as well.
We wrap up the night and pass out quickly back to camp to recoup from another long and epic day of Rock and Metal.