Rock on the Range
Crew Stadium – Columbus, OH
May 19th 2013
I was a little disappointed when I checked the Lollapalooza website this year and found it sold out. I’ve always wanted to make the trip to Hyde Park and with Nine Inch Nails, Queens of the Stone Age and The Cure playing it seemed like this would be a good year. Then I checked the Rock on the Range website and realized that I could see a better lineup while traveling a fraction of the distance.
I’ve always found Rock on the Range to be hit or miss with its lineups. I’ve only been there once before in 2009; primarily because Alice in Chains were headlining. While they usually do a good job of picking some decent up and coming hard rock and heavy metal acts, a lot of the bands on the bill are of the radio-friendly, cookie-cutter variety. With Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Bush playing on Sunday this year it was futile for me to resist the urge to go. Once I found a ride I bought the tickets and packed my bags.
I can’t say that I was extremely impressed with the rest of the weekend’s lineup. Over f Friday and Saturday there were only a handful of bands I would have cared to see: In Flames, Stone Sour, Clutch. It would have been awesome to have seen Cheap Trick (made even better by the fact that I wouldn’t have had to sit through Aerosmith to get my moneys worth). Though Smashing Pumpkins were one of my favorite bands growing up I haven’t listened to a new album of theirs in at least a decade, there’s only one original member and judging from the chatter on the ground Sunday I didn’t miss much aside from a don’t-do-drugs PSA anyway.
We didn’t get there as early as we wanted. My traveling companions were hoping to see Sick Puppies but we arrived just a little bit late. We did have plenty of time to grab some pizza and check out the PBR stage. Big Wreck was playing. They had a semi-big hit way back in
Columbus skyline from Crew Stadium
’97 and haven’t done much since. They’ve broken up and gotten back together. I just saw their album at a thrift store. I’m not a fan, but they had a good presence and helped me to start off my day.
Then we headed to the Monster Stage and caught Sevendust’s performance. I’ve never been a huge Sevendust fan but they put on a good live show. Plus they were innovators of the whole Nu-Metal genre. They’ve been doing that since before it was Nu-Metal.
Afterwords I wanted to check out the Jager Stage where I was thoroughly disappointed by a band called O’Brother. While they had some good blues-based instrumentation, the nasal emo singing is always a big turnoff for me. Plus I find it hard to enjoy bands where I have to argue about the gender of the singer with anyone. “She has boobs, I tell you!” “She has hair on her chest!” “Well look at that shirt! Can you blame me for making a mistake?”
That was the last we visited the Jager Stage.
Next up was Steel Panther. It’s hard not to fall in love with guys in spandex and hairspray making fun off 80’s metal. Even though they’re a joke band, I feel they write some of the best songs I’ve heard in a few years. “Community Property” had some of the greatest melodies played at the concert. And their between song banter was hilarious.
We made our way back to the PBR Stage to check out the Swedish occult band Ghost. It was my intention to catch a few songs from the Satanic group before heading back to the Jager Stage for the Christian band Thousand Foot Krutch. My logic being that by splitting my time between the two groups I would be sent to purgatory after death (I think it works that way). Unfortunately, Ghost is quite a good band. While most death metal acts growl or scream indecipherable lyrics, Papa Emeritus II sings in a clean voice where you can hear his odes to the dark lord. This makes them all the more terrifying. Couple that with the Guy Fawkes meets Darth Vader masks that the band wears and you get the feeling you’re in the middle of a satanic mass.
Afterword I said a few Hail Marys then bought the CD and stood in line to have these psychos sign and stamp it. I did miss Skillet and In This Moment while waiting to get the autographs, but they turned out to be quite polite and just as scary up close as they were on stage. Plus now I can resell the CD for the same price I paid for it on eBay!
We kind of dragged our ways back to the main stage for Volbeat. I remembered them as being a countrified version of Danzig but that wasn’t what I got (perhaps they’ve gotten away from that sound). While they are a bit of a more radio friendly hard rock band they still sound fresh due to their singers boxing announcer voice and the fact that they mix up so many different styles of music. During their short set they played hard rock, punk, Slayer inspired metal and even a reggae type tune. Part of me wants to hate them for being a radio-friendly group but deep inside I think I’m really digging their stuff.
I couldn’t help but think that bands like Ghost and Volbeat are probably Sweden’s version of Justin Bieber and they were kicked out of their native Scandinavian countries the way Canada deported Bryan Adams. Don’t take that to mean that their not heavy; their DAMN heavy, just not near the level of heaviness that bands like Amon Amarth and Arch Enemy have achieved.
After Volbeat we ventured back to the PBR stage one last time to find out that David Draiman in a band by any other name still sounds like Disturbed. I feel I should give Device more of a listen; I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about the album. It’s just that I was never a huge Disturbed fan and they don’t seem much different. I guess having a voice that distinctive is both a blessing and a curse. Part of my distaste for them could also have been that we couldn’t get that great of a view among the few thousand people crowded in front of the stage. They did a good cover of “Close My Eyes Forever” with Maria Brink from In This Moment, but I can’t say I cared much for their version of “Wish.”
I was hoping to grab a pizza real quick and make it back to the seats in time to see Bush but due to a monstrous line and a tidal wave of people moving to the main stage it took forever. Well, it probably only took twenty minutes but during that time I was shoved, jostled, groped, sweated on and generally made to feel uncomfortable more than at any other time during the day.
And I missed “Machine Head” dammit.
Bush played a great set. I wasn’t expecting Gavin Rossdale to be such a madman but that dude was jumping all over the stage, humping his amp and even running out into the crowd during their performance. While they played “The Sound of Winter,” a new song and an awesome cover of “Come Together” the rest of their set was tunes from Sixteen Stone. While that’s a great album and they did some great stuff with the material (like the a Capella verses on “Glycerine” and “Comedown”) I wish I would have heard a few tunes from other albums.
Bird’s eye view of the madness
I didn’t feel like fighting the crowd to see Lamb of God and didn’t want to lose my great spot for Alice in Chains so I took advantage of one of the special things about Rock on the Range. I went to the nosebleed section and looked out. From there I could see the entire crowd and hear “Walk With Me In Hell.” I always thought it would be cool to have a “mosherologist” at shows to do live commentary on the pit. Just like they have at sporting events. Unfortunately, Rock on the Range is one of the few shows where you can get a good enough view to do that.
Alice in Chains played a much better set than I saw from them in 2009. Back then William DuVall was still the new guy and they were more like a cover band playing the greatest hits. Now they’ve had time to solidify the new lineup and sound more like Alice Version 2.0. They played a few selections from Black Gives Way To Blue, a few off their upcoming album and a few they wouldn’t have touched before. DuVall pulled out an acoustic guitar for songs like “Down In A Hole” and “Nutshell.” Plus it was nice that they didn’t have to play “Angry Chair.” I think that shows they’re focusing more on how they can continue and best utilize they guy they brought in to fill the gap Layne Staley left behind instead of simply trying to replace him.
I was pumped to see Soundgarden. Those guys changed my life way back when I was a young lad. I listened solely to country music until I was at a friends house and MTV was on. The video for “Black Hole Sun” came on and it was all down hill from there. Personally I loved their set. They opened with “Flower,” which I thought was kind of a bold move and I was a little jealous of the young-ins in the pit during “Jesus Christ Pose.” In my older age I’m more content to pay less for the stadium seating than to have to wrestle with a crowd for a good view all day, but at that moment I would have liked to have been on the floor.
The worst part of their set was how people were leaving. I had been disappointed to not be able to make it to Lollapalooza 2013 and was sure this wasn’t Lollapalooza 1993 when I saw the mass exodus after “Black Hole Sun.” Sure it’s not Soundgarden’s fault, I guess it just made me feel a little sad. I suppose Alice in Chains have had the most impact on rock radio and the heavy riffing of Soundgarden may not appeal to the younger generation. My biggest complaint with them is that it took me so long to see them live. I’ve been listening to them for close to twenty years. Hopefully it won’t be another twenty before I get to see them again.
It wasn’t until we stopped for gas that I realized how bad I smelt of other people’s sweat and not until the next morning that I really felt the sunburn, but it was all worth and a great day. I’m already keeping my fingers crossed that they’ll have a good lineup and I’ll head down to do it again next year.
If you liked this post you may also enjoy Garbage @ House of Blues, How to Destroy Angels “Welcome Oblivion”, Blow Up The Outside World, or Notes on “Bleach”
Also check out this awesome review of the Ghost album I bought at the show: Black Metallurgy