Nita Strauss shows Trees Dallas why she is one of the best female guitarists in the world. Nita Strauss / Trees Dallas / 6-20-2019 Photos By: Ronnie Jackson A...
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– Words by Jordan Buford – Photos by James Villa –
When a festival first starts, there’s a lot of speculation around it. Right at the forefront is will attendance be lower or higher than expected, and stemming from that, will the festival succeed or fail?
Everyone is different, but right from the start it was evident Louder Than Life would fall into the former category.
Right around noon there were droves of people filing in through the gates, heading past all the booths and vendors that were set up, with the main destination being the main stages.
The Monster Energy Main Stage North and South set directly beside one another and loomed in the distance as you approached them. The true festival look was definitely there, as was the festival spirit, as the hundreds and hundreds of people who were already there ignored the cold (the high was only in the mid 50’s), wrapping themselves up in the non-stop music that was just getting underway.
Nonpoint christened the Main Stage South, packing a killer performance into just a little more than 20-minutes, ending with “Bullet with a Name”, which had many of the early birds singing along.
The Las Vegas-based hard rockers known as Otherwise kept people’s blood flowing with another action-packed set, beginning with “Love & War”. Vocalist Adrian Patrick joked that everyone here was a virgin this night, given that this was the first ever Louder Than Life. He also got serious, mentioning he didn’t care what people thought about them. Love them or hate them, that was irrelevant. “…Show us your heart,” he asked of everyone, noting, “If you’re here to support rock ‘n’ roll, then you have a heart and soul.”
Their performance was blistering, with guitarist Andrew Pugh doing some tight spins when he jumped at times; and bassist Vassilios Metropoulos got down to business early on and kept it up through the closer, which begun with him atop one of their cabinets before leaping off it. At the end, Adrian mentioned he and his band mates were looking forward to meeting everyone they could afterwards, however he actually had to catch a plane home so he could meet his newborn son.
The two main stages may have been beside one another, but the Marshall Headphones Stage was all the way back by the entrance, and now a small migration took place, as some of the audience headed there.
Those who didn’t missed out on what was in some ways the show of the day, and it came from Wilson.
“When I say ‘Full blast’, you say ‘Fuckery’!” frontman Chad Nicefield instructed at one point later in the show, leading the crowd in shouting what was essentially the bands mantra. The two prime moments of it both came during “Susan Jane” — their next to last song. For starters, Nicefield pulled out a stand that had some empty beer bottles on them, and he proceeded to use them as a percussion instrument, banging on them with a pair of drumsticks. While that was going on, it was fairly easy to miss guitarist Kyle Landry ascending the scaffolding on the side of the stage. What could not be missed was when he got to the top piece of scaffolding and hung upside down from it, using his legs to secure him, while his hands were still free to shred. And shred he did. It was hands down one of the most amazing concert moments I’ve witnessed.
Back on the main stage, Brett Scallions of Fuel was glad the weather was the way it was, mentioning he preferred it like this so he didn’t have to sweat his ass off. They focused largely on older songs, like “Empty Spaces” and “Bad Day”, while also working in the title track off this year’s Puppet Strings record, a song Scallions mentioned Robbie Krieger of The Doors had sit in on and done some guitar work.
There was something funny about “Cold Summer” this day (Scallions acknowledged the irony); while “Hemorrhage (In My Hands)” brought about a massive sing along that was audible even to those far off at the back of the crowd.
Before even getting underway, Leigh Kakaty demanded that everyone put their hands in the sky, and with that, Pop Evil was off with “Last Man Standing”, a song that ended with him grabbing the base of the mic stand and holding it into the air. While knocking out “Sick Sense”, drummer Chachi Riot tossed a drum stick to one of his band mates, who then threw it back to him.
The audience really seemed taken by “Beautiful”; while “Deal with the Devil” and “Trenches” wrapped up the show nicely.
Thousand Foot Krutch was supposed to play next, but for one reason or another they postponed their set until five, which kept me from seeing them this day.
Instead, people wandered back to the main stages, where Steel Panther soon offered a break from all the serious music that filled the rest of the day.
The band is a send-up of the 80’s hair metal genre, while also playing some seriously good metal music that mines the classic style. They’re incredibly raunchy, which made the crowd enjoy them all the more as they talked about having a “heavy metal bukkake”, in-between doing songs like “Pussywhipped” and “Asian Hooker”. They don’t rely solely on that, though, and also joked about one another, like when bassist Lexxi Foxx became the center of the joke when his band mates said Louisville was their favorite place to play. “You said it was Cincinnati?” Foxx responded, sounding confused, before he was told to “shut up”. “If he were smarter he’d be the guitarist, but it has six strings…” cracked frontman Michael Starr.
Unlike some of the earlier acts, Theory of a Deadman was none too keen on the weather. “It’s colder than a witches tit,” Tyler Connolly remarked after “Lowlife”, adding that he always found body heat to be the best way to get warm. “Bitch Came Back” really excited people, especially The Flash (or at least a guy wearing a The Flash costume), who was seen crowd surfing during that one. “Savages”, the title track from their brand new record, was really the song that stuck with me. For some reason, it just sounded more powerful than the previous times I’ve seen them and heard it. I honestly felt it was the highlight of their set, even rising above the closer “Bad Girlfriend”, which came after a partial cover of “Sweet Home Alabama”, which they changed to Kentucky.
Miss May I was already going when I returned to the side stage; and their throngs of fans were already caught up in it, many singing along to “Refuse to Believe”, obeying Levi Benton when he asked for everyone to get their hands in the air. “…We need you to jump around!” he roared after giving a quick shout-out to Steel Panther, as guitarists Justin Aufdemkampe and BJ Stead, drummer Jerod Boyd and bassist Ryan Neff ripped into “Relentless Chaos”. It was then that Benton asked to see a circle pit, and those who were weary took several steps back in order to avoid those who were already throwing themselves against one another. It happened a few times this afternoon; and a really cool moment came during “Gone”, when people were asked to put their hands up, and nearly everyone did, creating a sea of hands waving from side to side.
Back on the Monster Main Stage, Mastodon was all about the music, keeping all the dialogue at a minimum. Instead, they let the progressive metal music do the talking for them, and that was quite sufficient for those who were watching. The most captivating thing about them had to be the prowess they all four have as musicians, and Brent Hinds, Troy Sanders and Bill Kelliher were constantly showing off how technical their playing style was. Hinds and Sanders swapped out for much of the set, with each singing a song before giving it up to the other, as they powered through tracks like “Tread Lightly”, “Once More Round the Sun” and “Blasteroid”, which had a multitude of fans screaming as soon as the first note was struck. Drummer Brann Dailor even got to show off his voice a little later on, on “The Motherload”; while “Blade Catcher” concluded their 43-minute long set.
They destroyed the Monster Main Stage South, and it was great getting to witness and marvel at their superb musicianship. The heavy hitters just kept on coming, and now Alter Bridge had control of the other main stage.
“Addicted to Pain” began their 46-minute long set, which was packed full of one killer song after another. They quickly started making the audience a part of it, having them clap along during the following track and such. Kennedy checked in with the crowd after a few songs, making sure everyone was eating good food and getting drunk. “Speaking of drunk…” he said, introducing Scott Phillips to everyone, who laid into his drum kit, before Brian Marshall layered his bass over it, as they created an intro of sorts for “Metalingus”, a song that required no rhythm guitar, so Kennedy was free to be a frontman.
He later mentioned that until now, they had not played together in three months. “…We weren’t sure what kind of jazz odyssey we were in for…” he laughed. That was interesting to know, because in watching them, they had it all down, never wavering. I guess that speaks to what chemistry they have as a band. He also got somewhat personal for a moment, mentioning how excited he was to be playing a show with Judas Priest, saying he had bought one of their albums on cassette, and that pretty much set him down the road he chose.
Memphis May Fire closed out the Marshall Headphone Stage for day one, and the Dallas-based band seemed proud of where they came from, letting people know right after their opener, “No Ordinary Love”. Matty Mullins asked everyone to lend their voices for the next one, causing the crowd to cheer. The hardcore metal songs were flowing, as were the inspirational messages, like when Mullins stated, “…God made you beautiful…”, before the broke into “Beneath the Skin”.
It was a solid set, one that everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy, and a good way to set up the big headliners for the night.
“This is how we do it in Kentucky!” declared Fred Durst once Limp Bizkit took the stage. The audience was ready for it, and only grew more so once Durst said they were going to party like it was 1999. That meant opening with “Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle)”, which didn’t quite get the response the vocalist was expecting.
“No pit?! You’re a bunch of grandpa’s!” he said once the song was done, before switching gears to saying how cool it was to be playing with Korn, noting that without Korn, there never would have been a Limp Bizkit. The party talk was then brought back up when he said that was how he wanted it to be for the 45-minutes they had the stage. Mind you, he didn’t want this party to get out of hand, and even stopped after the breakdown during “Hot Dog”, when the mosh pit got a little too physical. “Help each other up,” he said, making sure no one was left on the ground before completing the track.
A fun moment came when he invited a guy in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume up on stage, saying he loved turtles, though he was most curious about what it was like sleeping with April. The turtle danced around during one song; before doing something everyone knew and could sing with in the form of “My Way”. A few covers were also thrown in this evening, from an surprising rendition of Guns n’ Roses “Welcome to the Jungle”, to paying tribute to those who paved the way for them, in the form of “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine, a song that Wes Borland (who was shirtless with his torso and arms painted charcoal black) owned on.
Through the whole 55-minute set, Durst was quite humble, thanking the crowd for partying with them, as well as letting them into their home. He even stayed on stage for a minute or two after “Break Stuff” had ended, clapping for the fans, letting them know he appreciated them. Stone Temple Pilots received the most mixed feelings of any band at Louder Than Life.
It was clear fans were still skeptical (that’s perhaps putting it mildly) of Chester Bennington fronting the band, but at the same time, I didn’t see really anyone walking away, either. Their set was filled with the classics, beginning with “Sex Type Thing”, where it was instantly clear that Benningtons’ mannerisms were similar to that of the former frontman. Thus began the mixed opinions, where some fans enjoyed the similarities, while others didn’t.
Regardless, it is fact that he, guitarist Dean DeLeo, bassist Robert DeLeo and drummer Eric Kretz gave it their all while they were up there. They started hitting their stride a few songs in, specifically when they got to “Wicked Garden”. The quartet didn’t waste any time they had been given, with the most speaking Bennington did being to either say, “Thanks,” or shouting-out all the other talent they were playing alongside. There was also one moment he noted their next song was one the four of them had written, and I personally quite liked “Out of Time”.
As they neared the end, Bennington informed everyone they had one song left, and gave people options. Three were proposed, and the crowd had trouble deciding, leaving him to say, “Fuck it, we’ll do two.” Those two were “Dead and Bloated” and “Trippin’ On a Hole in a Paper Heart”, which fans were still receptive to, as they should have been, because even if it’s a different person providing the vocals, they’re great songs in all regards.
All day long, a sheet had been draped over the drum kit for the headliner, and now, at long last, it was revealed. The lights went out, while some lights on platforms powered on, making them look like massive speakers. And the stage was set for Korn.
As soon as Ray Luzier emerged and seated himself behind his kit, he began hammering away on the drums, instantly making you think, “Wow!” in regards to his chops. “Louisville, Kentucky! Are y’all ready for this shit?!” Jonathan Davis asked before they tackled “Falling Away From Me”. Even far in the back the rhythm section was purely brutal, and you could feel Reginald Arvizus’ bass lines shaking your insides, and it was only intensified by the drums.
“In the back, I can’t hear you!” Davis roared afterwards, before a giant smile crept across his face and they abruptly broke into “Twist”. The hits kept coming with “Got the Life”, where the entire audience was urged to place their hands in the air and clap along. They were on fire, and you realized that even though they had just completed a lengthy summer tour not long before, it just pushed them into even tighter shape than what is normal for these long running rockers.
“You will never fucking bring me down!” bellowed Davis after “Hater”, before he, Brian Welch, James Shaffer and the rest left the stage, leaving people wondering what was coming next. It wound up being “Shoots and Ladders”; and it was after that where they amped things up exponentially. “Coming Undone”, “Here to Stay”, “Never Never” and “Freak On a Leash” all came one after another, working fans into an even more excited state with each one. They were on stage for 59-minutes, and before that time was up, Davis mentioned that in just a few days, their debut record would be twenty-years-old. The spectators applauded that upcoming milestone, before singing along to “Blind”.
The band stayed on stage a couple minutes after, throwing out picks and some drum sticks and other little things like that as a way to express their gratitude to fans for sticking with them so long and always supporting.
Attention then shifted back to the Monster Main Stage North, where one of the relatively few legendary rock bands that still performs was about to hit the stage.
A Judas Priest banner covered the stage and was dropped once the band took the stage. With a new album recently being added to the discography, they played some stuff off it, doing the lead track, “Dragonaut”, first. I know everyone, regardless of the band in question, always prefers the old songs they know and love, but at the same time, these new tunes sound just like classic Judas Priest. Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner served up some amazing guitar licks that were completely classic metal.
Their musical style hasn’t lost a step, even after all these years; and a couple songs in, Rob Halford informed everyone that “The priest is back!” Then came the good part: when they jumped back to the classics, like “Devil’s Child” and “Victim of Changes”. Even the new “Halls of Valhalla” had a superb sound to it that was nothing short of epic. Faulkner, Tipton and bassist Ian Hill roamed and raced about the stage, while Halford strode about, even ascending the stairs that led up to the drum riser, though you couldn’t help but notice that he took each step very cautiously.
Fans were truly surprised when after “Breaking the Law”, Halford told everyone “goodnight” and they disappeared behind the stage. Some people felt cheated based on the conversations I happened to overhear, though I think most knew there was more to go.
Sure enough, there was; and after hearing a motorcycle rev up, Halford rode out on his bike. They delivered “Hell Bent for Leather”, before again leaving to prepare for a second encore, which consisted of “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’” and “Living After Midnight”.
Judas Priest did not disappoint with their performance, and the show was a nice blend of old and new material. There were some moments Halford seemed a little frail, and he often took things slow on stage; though his voice remains unchanged, and that’s the most important part of it all, because even forty years or so later, the music sounds just like it did. It was freezing outside at this point (well, it felt it at least), and everyone was glad to leave, though their sights were already set on day two.
DAY 2 The second day of Louder Than Life was better than the second in almost every way, and that’s saying something, as day one at set the bar pretty high.
The weather was more pleasant and even more people were there earlier on in the day, making some of the parking even crazier and navigating inside the festival grounds a little more hectic.
Several bands started getting the attendees warmed up, and that included the Gothenburg, Sweden-based Avatar.
They captured a circus freak show atmosphere right from the start with the creepy, even horrific circus style music that played while the band members made their entrance. Johannes Michael Gustaf Eckerström marched on stage with a flag in his hands and he placed it on one side of the stage, before going up and grabbing the microphone, as they began with “Hail the Apocalypse”. “…The rules are very, very simple: when we play, you jump,” he instructed before “Vultures Fly”. The audience followed the command with earnest; and there was a neat moment during that one where on the hulking screens on either side of the stages a father was shown with his young daughter atop his shoulders, and you could tell seeing herself on the video board just made the little girls day.
“Let it Burn” boasted one of the best moments, when guitarists Kungen and Öhrström, bassist Henrik Sandelin and Eckerström all thrashed around; and after the second chorus, John Alfredsson rose up from behind the drum kit as he surveyed the crowd. Eckerström even injected some humor into the show at times, asking everyone to sing along on “Paint Me Red”, telling everyone even if they didn’t know the lyrics, just to fake it. “I’ve been doing it all morning and no one seemed to notice,” he laughed.
The melodic death metal band was thoroughly entertaining, incorporating an awesome element into their performance, and one that’s fitting of the music they play.
Some personal (admittedly, biased) preference went in to it, but Nothing More was perhaps the act I was most excited to see this day. The quartet from San Antonio, Texas have been making some serious waves this year, though many of the people here at Louder Than Life seemed unfamiliar with them, which made it all the more sweeter to watch from my perspective.
They were on rapid-fire as they cranked out “Christ Copyright” as well as their brand new single, “Mr. MTV”. It was after that when frontman Jonny Hawkins grabbed a rod from the side of the stage and placed it into the metal cage that surrounds the small drum kit he uses. Daniel Oliver then sat his bass in it and locked it in, and that was when things got good.
It was so cool to see other people’s reactions when Dan and guitarist Mark Vollelunga proceeded to play it, holding down and plucking some of the strings, before Hawkins got his pair of drumsticks and started striking the fret board. People got wide-eyed when Dan then sent the bass spinning in circles, looking at their friends in awe. The three continued playing it as it hung upside down, while Paul O’Brien laid a beat down on the drums during that rhythm solo.
“…I’m curious how many family we have here?” Hawkins asked afterwards, getting a decent response from those who had seen NoMo before. “This song’s about learning to let go,” he stated before their single “This is the Time (Ballast)” which was the lone song nearly everyone seemed at least somewhat familiar with. Just because they didn’t know the songs by heart didn’t mean they weren’t enjoying hearing them, though; and the love the band was being shown made them enjoy it all the more. “You’re making me smile…” remarked Hawkins, before dedicating “Jenny” to anyone who had dealt with addiction, be it personally or perhaps having a family member battle with some demons. Crowd surfers were going up left and right during that one; and much of the audience was again amazed during the drum solo that came during “Salem”, where both Oliver and Vollelunga grabbed a floor tom and darted around the frontman, while he spun around, hitting both of them, along with his kit.
Like I said, as a longtime Nothing More fan, it was awesome looking around the crowd and seeing people experience them for the first time. Considering how quickly they’ve started building a name for themselves now (what with their high-energy and completely original performances), too, I doubt it will be the last time anyone of these people see them, either.
Hellyeah was next up, and vocalist Chad Gray made it known from the start the he wanted “to see some fucking action”. He got plenty of it during “Hellyeah”, before taking a moment to connect with the audience by mentioning that this was far more than a rock show. “…This is heavy metal therapy,” he remarked, stressing that you shouldn’t live for yesterday or tomorrow, instead just the here and now. That led them to “Sangre por Sangre (Blood for Blood)”, and behind them all were some scrims that read “Sangre por Sangre”.
Gray used a megaphone at times on that tune, before mentioning that play time was over as they the segued into “Demons in the Dirt”. Mr. Vinnie Paul downright killed it during that one; and once it was done, he threw a stick out into the audience. Gray continued his one-sided conversation with the crowd, now preaching about the importance of heavy metal music, and he was quick to say it had saved his life in the past. “Music will always be here…” he stressed.
Perhaps the greatest moment of the day happened during Hellyeah’s set, and actually, it didn’t have anything directly to do with the band. The cameras focused on a woman crowd surfing, zooming in on her and showing it on the big screens. She was in a wheelchair and having the time of her life, and it was pretty cool to see. I don’t mean to undermine Hellyeah’s set, though, as it all came from the heart, and these guys are clearly passionate about what they do.
Butcher Babies were getting ready to take over the Marshall Headphones Stage, and once duel vocalists Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey joined their band mates on stage, Shepherd asked the onlookers if they were ready to party. They were constantly interacting with the crowd (with Shepherd later calling everyone “family”), from simpler things like getting everyone to pump their fists into the air, to Shepherd getting into the photo pit during “The Mirror Never Lies”, standing up on the guard rail to get even closer to fans.
She and Harvey were constantly moving about and jumping around the stage; with the ultimate moment coming during one of their later songs, when Shepherd mentioned they were going to play a game called “The Climb of Death”, and they needed every person who wanted to crowd surf, to do that for the duration of the song. Things got pretty crazy, but never out of hand; and it was quite fun to watch.
P.O.D. was all set up on one of the main stages; and Sonny Sandoval got right to the point, asking if the audience was ready to rock ‘n’ roll, ‘cause they only had thirty minutes up there. “I better see some of you move,” Sandoval stated after their first track, telling everyone to, “Stop waiting on some pop star to get up here and tell you what to do.” P.O.D. was more about being a little spontaneous (over a popstar), like when the front man left the stage and got on the barrier in front of it during “Boom”; and fans excitement escalated during “Lost in Forever (Scream)”.
The deeper Sandoval, guitarist Marcos Curiel, bassist Traa Daniels and drummer Wuv Bernardo got into their set, the more dominance they started displaying, to the point there was no disputing they were easily the best act of the day thus far. The singer was half joking before “Southtown” that it was older than one of the kids he saw out in the crowd, adding that for twenty-two years this band has been making music for the love of it, before informing the audience that it was their responsibility to “keep real music alive.” He got quite passionate when singing one of the lines of that one; and “Youth of the Nation” and “Alive” really got the fans going. He never called them that, though. Instead, he referred to them as “my friends”. “
Be happy my friends. Love one another,” he said in closing, and you could tell he was completely sincere with it.
There was a lot of swagger in their mannerisms on stage, which made each bean member all the more riveting to watch.
The genre changed a bit now, as Buckcherry had the other main stage, and began knocking out a series of songs that run more along the lines of the classic rock genre, like “Lit Up”. Aside from the older stuff, they threw in a couple of new tracks form their latest EP, and “Somebody Fucked with Me” was the first of those, which had Josh Todd using a tambourine for a fleeting moment, while guitarist Stevie D. flashed his middle finger in the air on one of the choruses.
“Everything” and “Sorry” slowed down the pace a bit, but it was still every bit as enjoyable; and they also did a couple of covers, like putting their own spin on Icona Pop’s “I Love it” (“Say Fuck it” was Buckcherry’s rendition), along with a partial cover of “Big Balls” by AC/DC. “Say I want it! Say I need it! Say I love it!” Todd asked of the crowd, a fitting way to lead in to “Gluttony”. They eventually ended with none other than “Crazy Bitch”, and that was the one that really got the crowd going and singing along.
I had seen them just about a month before this, and personally, I felt this performance was better. From the audience’s perspective, there were a lot more people getting caught up in this one, which made it all the easier to feel it and get into the music. They kept it all straightforward, going from one song to the next, and sometimes, that’s the best way to do it. A couple of tours wound up on this day of Louder Than Life, and now a solid block began, getting started on the Marshall Headphones Stage with Motionless in White.
The Metalcore band from Scranton, Pennsylvania immersed everyone in the heavy style of music with “Devil’s Night”, and Chris “Motionless” Cerulli was quick to inform everyone he was not asking but “fucking telling” everyone to bounce with them. The number of people gathered around the stage at this point was impressive, even rivaling the total numbers of some smaller festivals, and Cerulli seemed impressed by that. “…We were not expecting this at all,” he remarked at one point, sounding genuinely surprised by not only the turnout, but how many people were actually paying attention to them. That energized the five of them, and they delivered a knockout punch.
The England metalcore rockers Bring Me the Horizon now had one of the main stages, and they had a take no prisoners mentality about them. “It’s time to wake the fuck up!” demanded Oliver Sykes after they had done the brutal “Shadow Moses”. “Jump! Jump! Jump!” he repeated over and over, pumping up the crowd, to the point I think a lot of people forgot it was a bit chilly out.
Later on he wanted to see a circle pit, and his request was granted, while he, bassist Matt Kean, guitarist Lee Malia, drummer Matthew Nicholls and keyboardist Jordan Fish devastated the stage.
A Day to Remember kept things going, managing to fit ten songs into their time on stage; and from “The Downfall of Us All” to “The Plot to Bomb the Panhandle”, the Florida rockers put on a show that was worthy of a later timeslot.
Chiodos was the final band who was on tour with A Day to Remember, and they brought down the Marshall Stage.
“How many of you know who the fuck we are?” Craig Owens asked before “Thermacare”, and literally just about every hand shot towards the sky. Keyboardist Bradley Bell started a clap along before “Two Birds Stoned at Once”, which they wound seamlessly into “Under Your Halo”, and there was a great moment where Owens stood at the forefront of the stage with his arms outstretched, as if he were basking in the love they were receiving.
They took things down a few notches with “3 AM” towards the end, before doing one last number. Chiodos was a personal favorite act of mine for this day. I had never seen them before, and while the style is not what I typically like, I would not at all mind seeing them again.
Volbeat wound up with the best timeslot of the day, because the sun was setting, creating a nice natural lighting affect, while they also got to use the vibrant stage lights.
Their co-headlining tour with Five Finger Death Punch has been going on for a few weeks now, leading to a very polished performance from the Denmark-based band.
They knocked out a couple rock songs, like “Guitar, Gangsters & Cadillac Blood”, before singer and rhythm guitarist Michael Poulsen stated it had taken them a while to catch on in America, and thanked everyone who had helped make them a mainstream band over here. It was then he joked that a lot of people were probably wondering why he looked like Johnny Cash, and with the slicked hair and just his overall attire, it was an easy comparison to draw. They even did a partial cover of “Ring of Fire”, though Jon Larsen, Anders Kjølholm and Rob Caggiano gave it more of a punch over the original of that country classic.
“Cash told me he loves you. I talk to him every night…” Poulsen said in a serious tone, saying the next song they had was inspired and perhaps even stolen from the legendary musician.
The crowd was very receptive to “Lola Montez”, a song they clearly knew; and when the singer mentioned he needed everyone to “Bring the noise!”, fans did so.
“The Mirror and The Ripper” (which Poulsen said was fast, “Like sex”) and “Still Counting” rounded out their show, leading to very theatric exit, with some excellent music playing over the PA system, while they waved at all the screaming fans.
Volbeat’s music is interesting, because there are some Johnny Cash elements thrown in to what is otherwise rock music. It’s different, and obviously by all the fans they’ve amassed around the world, quite good. It was certainly was this night.
Things had now gotten into the headliner portion of the night, and now the reins were given to Papa Roach.
“Y’all ready to rock ‘n’ roll?!” Jacoby Shaddix asked as they broke into “Obsession”. They bridged many of their songs into one another, as was the case here, when they appeased the old school fans with “Infest”. “One thing I have not seen all day is everyone front to back, side to side jumping…” he remarked afterwards. It didn’t happen from everybody, though a ton of people did begin jumping in place while singing along to “Where Did the Angels Go?”. Later in the set, Shaddix gave the stage up to guitarist Jerry Horton, drummer Tony Palermo and bassist Tobin Esperance, while he ventured out into the pit. There were two sizable barriers that narrowed to a walkway that led to the sound booth, meaning the singer was complete protected as he jogged up it, singing to those who happened to be right beside the barriers. He got inspirational later, saying that this [the festival] was why rock ‘n’ roll was still alive and well, and stressed it was everyone’s responsibility to keep it going. It was in this final stretch when they, of course, pulled out the best songs, finishing with “Last Resort”. “Cut my life into pieces, this is my last resort. Suffocation, no breathing; don’t give a fuck if I cut my arm bleeding…” the audience sang, overpowering the amplified vocals of Shaddix, which was truly awesome. After this, I’m really hating the fact that I had never been able to catch Papa Roach live before this. After twenty-one years, they’ve had plenty of time to perfect their live show, and it’s something to behold. The two big headliners were on totally different sides of the music spectrum. One of those was Five Finger Death Punch.
For me, this was the third time I had seen the band since May, and they had changed things up a bit since then.
Ivan Moody had a baseball bat in one hand as they stormed the stage and exploded into “Under and Over it”. There was something different about them this night. Those two other shows I’ve experienced were great, but their demeanor wasn’t like those others. They appeared even far more focused and determined than usual; and the skeleton make up drummer Jeremy Spencer was sporting added a bit of a cool/fun aspect to things.
Moody waved that bat around for the next few songs, like “Burn it Down” and “Hard to See”. Later in the set, he mentioned that this was a homecoming for bassist Chris Kael, who hails from Louisville. Maybe that had something to do with the extra energy the band seemed to have this night. They dedicated their cover of Bad Company’s “Bad Company” to all of those who had or were still serving in the military; and afterwards, things got pretty fun when they brought a kid on stage. Well, it was going to be one originally, but then more and more kept coming up, leading Moody to joke it was like they had started a “group home adoption agency”. None of the guys in the band were complaining, though. It made for a moment everyone seemed to love as they paid attention to their young fans, who stayed up there for “Burn MF”.
A ton of crowd surfers made their way towards the stage during another full throttle number; and they eventually ended with a song that everyone raved over: “The Bleeding”. It was 58-minutes of raw rock power they unleashed on that stage, never wavering, never faltering. It was incredible, and it left many wondering if the night had already peaked.
That’s not imply any substantial amount of people left or anything like that, though. Instead, everyone moved over towards the other stage where they would have a better view of Kid Rock, who spectators were anxiously waiting on.
He and his band came out swinging with “Devil Without a Cause”; and after taking a momentary breather to mention all the other amazing talent who had played these stages, he said he had one thing he could tell everyone. “You never met a motherfucker quite like me!” he roared as they picked up steam, churning out one song after another.
You can say what you want to of Kid Rock. It seems he’s one of those artists who people either love or hate, but if you manage to see him life, you have to admit, he’s one of the greatest performers of the last couple decades. He was often jumping around, catching some serious air, and the tight spins he’s capable of doing with the microphone are truly impressive. I mean, he never even looks at it, just flips it into the air then catches it. At this point in his career, it has to be second nature.
It may not be a huge hit like some of the other songs, but honestly, “Forty” was one of the best songs of his set, creating a nice bit of humor as he sang. They even did a cover of “Cat Scratch Fever”, before eventually ending with the song that started it all, “Bawitdaba”.
His set entertained all who were there, and some who hadn’t gotten lucky enough to get a ticket even stood outside the gates, just listening to what was going on, which you could tell they thought was better than not experiencing it at all.
Louder Than Life proved to be one hell of a festival. I don’t think the organizers even predicted it to be this much of a success in the first year. The response was overwhelming, and even now, I’m still baffled at how many people were there so early on in the day. That was unlike anything I had seen before.
For year one, they put together one stellar lineup (that applies to both days), and already they were promising to be back at Champions Park next year. I think I speak for everyone when I say, “I can’t wait to see what next year will hold!”
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