Day 2 (Saturday) was the day I was anticipating the most. The lineup for Saturday was chock full of heavier bands that I had been wanting to see or already seen and love very much. The first band I got to see was Red Sun Rising. The band had this amazing intro that started up and then came to a screeching halt before kicking back in, the crowd lovingly applauded. It was just barely noon and these guys had more energy than half the bands the day before. It was nonstop movement on the stage as they played their hit songs “The Otherside” and “Emotionless.” Vocalist Mike Protich took this stance or pose on stage while singing that reminded me of the late great Scott Weiland. Not only was Mike mesmerizing on stage but his vocals sounded just as good live as on the record.
Next up was Andrew Watt. I’ll admit I wasn’t entirely ready for his set. I didn’t really know much about him prior to the show other than knowing about his previous project California Breed. The band was a three piece which included Watt in guitar, Jason Bonham on drums and the legendary Glenn Hughes on bass and vocals. The band was short lived but it really got Andrew’s name out there. I went from no expectations to blown away in less than 60 seconds. Andrew Watt came out and took the bull by the horns and won the crowd over instantly. After the first song the guitar player started in on the next song and Andrew walks over and slaps his hand and says “I don’t wanna play that fucking song North Carolina.” It was a great moment as he started playing a different song by describing it to the crowd. “This song is about having sex in an elevator” he yelled as the first few notes of the song started. It was just a natural moment in his performance that show’s he likes to change things up and the crowd isn’t always getting that same performance as the town the day before. Since his performance I haven’t been able to stop listening to his music. The title track from his new EP “Ghost In My Head” is amazing and well worth a listen. The album is very guitar heavy but each song is composed well and the songs will stay in your head for days. Listen to his song “High”! You will thank me later.
Saint Asonia may seem like a newer band but the members of the bands have been around for a while. Both singer Adam Gontier and guitarist Mike Mushok are veterans in the metal world with their former bands 3 Days Grace and Staind respectively. Of course Mushok was also in the incredibly kick ass now defunct band Newsted as well. The good thing about seeing this band live is that you not only get to hear their originals but they also play some of their former bands material as well, like Staind’s “For You” and 3 Days Grace’s “I Hate Everything About You”. They opened with the original “Let Me Live My Life”. Between songs Adam talked about the band’s new album and made it a point to let the crowd know he didn’t care how they got it as long as they hear it. “Steal it, download it, rip it, burn it, just get it” he said. It’s also not often you hear a love song at a metal show, so I can mark that off my list as they played the song “Dying Slowly”.
The clock had finally made its way to 2:15. What that meant to me was being able to see the band I was looking most forward to out of every band playing the entire weekend. Audiotopsy is the combination of two bands I absolutely loved. Those bands of course are Mudvayne and Skrape. Greg Tribbett (Tribbs) and Matt McDonough from Mudvayne give us the guitar and drum parts and the vocals are from Billy Keaton formerly of Skrape. Even before they put out any material I knew the band was going to put out pure ear ecstasy. I wasn’t surprised at all when ‘Natural Causes’ came out and it was amazing. You can only imagine at this point how eager I was to see them live. I was front and center awaiting them to step on stage. I quickly learned that “Headshot” sounds just as good if not better live. Seeing Tribbs shred a few feet in front of you is just mesmerizing. Audiotopsy didn’t bullshit around, they played song after song in perfect form. ‘The Calling’ and ’21 Gun Salute’ went great and the crowd was eating it up. “Disguise Your Devils”, “Darken the Rainbow” and “Lylab” was amazing to hear live. Audiotopsy was everything I expected and more.
Speaking of expectations Sevendust is always amazing. Always. They never have a bad night. The band was nominated for a Grammy this year. That doesn’t happen very often in the metal world. They really earned their spot at the Grammy’s. We were lucky enough to hear the song “Thank You” which earned them that nomination. Carolina Rebellion was fortunate enough to get 4 of the 5 Grammy nominees in that same category. Sevendust is the one that really stands out. They are the veteran group of musicians that everyone looks up to. It’s also a big nod when Anthrax vocalist Joey Belladonna joined them on stage. The surprising thing to me is that as far as I’m aware Sevendust was the only band that dedicated a song to the late great musician Prince. Sevendust played “Death Dance” in his honor. The bands up next were unfortunately playing at the same time. Sometimes it’s so hard to pick between two bands that you try to catch the first 2 songs of one band and haul ass to hear the last 2 songs of another band. That is exactly what happened to me with The Sword and Parkway Drive. It looked as if their fans were split up evenly because both bands had a huge crowd. I only wish I would have been able to catch the entire set of both bands.
After already seeing Anthrax singer Joey Belladonna once already in the day I was more than ready to see him at mic for one of the thrash bands on earth. Scott Ian made sure to ask the crowd if they loved thrash metal and they eagerly reacted by screaming “yes.” Three of my favorite Anthrax songs made it to the set list. First was “Caught in a mosh.” You can only imagine how crazy the pits got after this classic hit. Next up was the Joe Jackson cover “Got the Time” and then they played my all-time favorite Anthrax track “Madhouse.” As if they hadn’t inspired the crowd enough Joey Belladonna questioned the crowd “Anyone out there smoking some weed?”….after pausing a few moments he said “light it up.”
Probably the biggest crowd of the day was for the Swedish occult rockers Ghost. The amount of people swarming around the stage was almost impossible to get through or around. The band as always made an amazing entrance. The moment Papa graced the stage the crowd went wild. Not only do they have amazing theatrics and stage presence but their sound is always impeccable. They got things started with “From the Pinnacle to the Pit.” Papa took a few moments between songs to make sure the crowd was being safe. There was crowd surfer after crowd surfer and the security was being quite rough with anyone and everyone that came their way. He advised the crowd to take care of the girls and the small boys. Everyone within earshot laughed hysterically. Every time Ghost plays they gain dozens of new fans. It’s impossible to see them live and not feel like you are floating on air afterwards.
Up next was a band I had somehow always missed live through the years. You can imagine my excitement in seeing Megadeth live for the first time. Not only am I getting to see Megadeth, but I am seeing them with an amazing lineup that includes Lamb of God’s Chris Adler pulling double duty that night. Does it get any better than hearing the band open with the track “Hangar 18” from classic masterpiece ‘Rust in Peace’. “Sweating Bullets” was another favorite of mine they happen to play. Seeing Dave Mustaine shredding live and in the flesh with his red locks flying every which way is something you will never forget. It is almost impossible to put into words just how electrifying Megadeth is in person. As they finished their set they all came out and took a bow and prior to exiting Dave says “You have been great, we have been Megadeth, Thank you.”
Just a couple hours later Lamb of God took the stage, and Chris Adler is behind the drum kit for the second time tonight. Lead singer Randy Blythe is one of the most aggressive singers you will ever get the chance to see. He is all over the stage and gives 110% every show no matter what. Lamb of God has really become the poster boys for American metal. For years the best bands in metal came from abroad and they brought the attention back to the United States. With songs like “Ruin” and “512” on the set list anyone that wasn’t already a fan is surely one now. Randy at one point came down from the stage and jumped into the crowd. He was singing the entire time and never missed a note. That is a skill set not all singers have. Even though no one wanted their set to come to an end it finally did. But it couldn’t have been with a more perfect song. Closing things out with “Redneck” was the perfect touch to an amazing set.
Personally at festivals I am usually more of a fan of the non-headlining acts because they usually appeal more to my taste in music. Five Finger Death Punch however, is a different breed of headliner all together. Their music has progressed over the years but they keep pumping out amazing songs. Over the last couple months there has been rumors circulating about the band possibly breaking up and Ivan having some struggles. A few songs into their set Ivan took a moment to denounce those rumors saying “There is a lot of shit going on the internet right now about me and my band. We aren’t going anywhere.” He put that shit to bed real quick. I do have to take the time to mention my immense respect for bassist Chris Kael. Not only is he a member of one of the most popular current metal bands but he is a guy that not only plays music he loves it. Keep your eyes peeled at metal shows because he’s been known to attend shows routinely. Great guy and great musician. The band of course went through the onslaught of hits and sing along songs they have like ‘Never Enough”, “Wrong Side of Heaven” and “The Bleeding.” My favorite however is the always family friendly “Burn Motherfucker.” The band deserves major respect because they always show appreciation for the troops fighting for our freedom and for the young metal heads in the crowd (Both of which are very important).
The last band of the night was Shinedown. I will openly admit I’m not the biggest fan of the band. They did take the time similar to Sevendust to pay respects to Prince. They took it a step further though by covering “Purple Rain.” They played this right after their normal cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s classic song “Simple Man” which we heard the night before by the originators. I’m still a little annoyed they played it at Louder Than Life as the band directly before Lynyrd Skynyrd. So the song was played twice within an hour time frame. They ended their night with “Sound of Madness” which the crowd loved. The song is nearly impossible not to sing along with. This day was jam packed with heavy bands. It ended on a mellow note but it was an amazing day of music.
Best Performance: Audiotopsy & Ghost