Columbus Crew Stadium - Columbus, OH
See, that's the beauty of ROTR for a person like me. If you love metal, you probably go to the New England Metal Festival or Mayhem. If you love rock, maybe you go to Bamboozle, or Cochella, or Carnival of Madness or some other festival. But I love it all, and ROTR gives you a taste of everything. This year, everyone from Aranda to Marilyn Manson were present to grace Columbus Crew Stadium with their music. New, unknown bands (like Emphatic and New Medicine) were there, and old favorites (like Soil) were there too. There were bands with a young audience (Falling in Reverse and Attack Attack!) and bands with an older audience (Slash, The Darkness). Finally, some of the biggest shows in the world today, like Shinedown, Incubus, and Rob Zombie, closed out the show each night. ROTR is a true melting pot of music, and for that, I will always love it.
So, in an attempt to share the incredible 2012 experience, and force others make plans next year, I'm going to break this years ROTR down into three blogs - one for Saturday, one for Sunday, and then a picture blog. I'll discuss the best shows, the biggest flops, and the amazing experience that we always get at ROTR.
Rock on the Range Day 1:
The first day at ROTR was clearly the day of lighter music when compared Rock on the Range Day 2. We arrived early and the tailgating started around 8:30 am. The sun was scorching, which seems to almost be a theme every year, and by 11:30, we were ready to head in and enjoy the music. Here's a brief recap of my five best shows of the day, and the days biggest disappointment.
Saturday's Best Shows:
Halestorm always puts on a great show, and this was no exception. The great thing about this show is that almost all the songs that Lzzy Hale and the gang played were off of their new album that just came out. The strength of that album really came through in this show, and combined with Lzzy's powerful voice, made it a show to remember. Their patented drum solo by Arejay was more brief than usual, but very entertaining, and when I think about the overall Rock on the Range experience, not many moments stand out more than "Ms Hyde" and "I Miss the Misery" back to back. Every time I watch this band, it blows my mind how little effort Lzzy seems to exert. She looks like she's barely trying, all the while sporting a huge smile that shows how much she really enjoys what she does. As my musical tastes slowly transition into harder and harder music, performances like this remind me why it's always worth taking a look back to my hard rock roots. Overall, a GREAT show by Halestorm.
After seeing Shinedown headline a small venue about a month ago, I knew they had the potential to be really good. However, their show at ROTR in 2009 was quite mediocre, as sound issues and a bit of overall sloppiness left a bad overall impression of this bands ability to do a really big show. They definitely put those concerns to rest, as they provided the first show of the weekend that reminded me of the true scope of the ROTR crowd. As always, Brent Smith had great vocals and did a tremendous job engaging the crowd. The show started off huge with Sound of Madness, Diamond Eyes, and Enemies, which are three of the hardest (and best) Shinedown songs. In addition, for something new, they ended the show the polar opposite way, performing a mini acoustic set of some of their older hits, like Simple Man and Fly from the Inside, while sitting on stools at the front of the stage. All in all - a very solid show throughout with a lot of variety, great music, and a very passionate crowd that thoroughly enjoyed belting out the always-singable Shinedown hits.
Emphatic was a total unknown for me before Rock on the Range this year, and I was a bit confused when I walked up to a giant crowd preparing for Emphatic to play the first set of ROTR. They seemed right at home with the giant crowd, and played a really good show. Their show was only six songs long, but there wasn't a dull spot throughout. The opening of the show, a song called "Do I", pretty much instantly set the crowd into a frenzy, and you could tell they were all as excited as I was to get this show going. "Put Down the Drink" was also really well done, but the song that set them apart was "Bounce". If there's anything that will give you a "holy shit - we're at ROTR" moment, it's 10,000 people jumping in unison to a song called "Bounce". The biggest accolade I could give Emphatic - I bought their 2011 album to listen to while I wrote this blog, and distinct memories of the show put a big smile on my face. Kudos to a job well done for this up and coming band.
I'll be the first to admit that my opinion is extremely biased on this show. First - I've loved Kyng's debut album since last year when I found it, and so was extremely excited to catch this show. Second - this was one of the only true metal bands on the bill on Saturday, so I was definitely ready for a break from the lighter stuff. Kyng played on the tiny Jager stage on the back side of the venue, with a tightly packed crowd of people, most of whom walked in with no knowledge of the band. They overcame all of that and more, as their show was outstanding. No frills, no backdrop, no fireworks or video screens, just a three-piece band who can flat out play jammin out to some heavy metal. No doubt most impressive were the spot on vocals and guitar work of Eddie Veliz, who made singing and shredding on lead guitar seem like they were easy to do simultaneously. "I Don't Believe" was a great part of this show, as it's Kyng's version of a slow song, but somehow continued to carry the intensity of the show, and it sounded really cool live. They ended the show with a portion of the song Shorelines, which is my favorite song on the album and one that I didn't think they would play. Overall, a very powerful show that was certainly one of the strongest at ROTR this year. I couldn't help but thing....what if this band DID have all the frills like Shinedown or Death Punch?
I saw FFDP on a tiny stage late last year, and while that show was great, it just really felt like Death Punch was cramped and had outgrown the smaller venues. After their latest album reached commercial success, I really felt like they were primed to blow up. ROTR gave them the perfect opportunity to do so. Honestly, there isn't much I can say here - anytime Ivan has a crowd that big to engage with, the result is always going to be a great show. I was really impressed by their set design - while all the Ford props were fairly annoying, the rising drum platform was a nice touch for Jeremy to show of a bit of his skills. They closed this show, as they always do, with The Bleeding, which is one of my all time favorite songs, and always seems to create a cool vibe as it builds from slow to fast to finish out the show. They played all of their hits, and while this show didn't necessarily distinguish itself from other FFDP shows, part of what made it great was that it felt really, really powerful. The other highlight that stands out in my mind was when Ivan pulled a bunch of kids on stage and let them rock out with him after telling their parents that they are shitty parents for bringing them to a metal show. I've probably seen Five Finger Death Punch approaching 10 times now...I'm comfortable saying this is the best I've ever seen them perform. Kudos to Death Punch for scaling their show appropriately as they have gotten more and more popular. This was definitely one of the best of the weekend.
(Note: Due to a slight miscalculation in the amount of tailgating I did, I missed the majority of the Incubus show because I was exhausted. What can I say? I'm getting old. However, most people in my group who saw it said that it was really great I look forward to seeing them soon!)
Falling in Reverse - Bottom line - Ronnie Radke sounded great, but the rest of his band wasn't polished enough. I still think this band has potential, but this show wasn't too reassuring.
And that's it for Saturday my friends. We were exhausted, sun burnt, and I had a throbbing headache. Time to get some rest, and do it all over again the next day. Stay tuned for Sunday's blog!
"I don't believe, it's happened to me. Crawling back into your hopeless world. I don't mind, cause it's all the same. And now we're face backwards, with nothing to gain."