It’s been about two weeks now since one of the biggest music festivals stormed through Louisville, KY and forever stamped the Louder Than Life name on the Bluegrass State, offering one of the best lineups the festival has ever hosted. 2 days, 37 bands, and 60,000+ ‘Loudmouths’ fueled by what seemed like an endless supply of alcohol and a desire to rock. For many, (myself included) it was the first time attending the festivities, and I can assure you that I will be returning if the chance ever comes around again. There were people from all walks of life, adults and children, goths, punks, rockers, any type of person you could think of – they were there.
A month prior to the festival, I decided that my wife and I were going to take advantage of the festival camping and reside on the Champions Park grounds for the duration of the event, and if I may, I suggest that everyone go this route. Our worries of dirty showers, long lines, and repulsive port-a-johns quickly dissipated when we arrived, as the event staff did an AMAZING job at keeping everything tidy and easily accessible the entire weekend. After having some breakfast (shots of Crown Royal and a few cold beers), we merged into the river of people and made the trek from the campgrounds into the venue where the festival openers, Palisades, could be heard kicking off the music for the weekend with their 7-song set that laid the foundation for what the rest of the festival had in store for us all. The band powered into “Through Hell” to start, and offered the crowd nearly flawless performances of hits such as “Better Chemicals”, “Fall”, and “Aggression”. The energy that poured from the stage was indescribable for the entirety of their set and continued as Palisades wrapped up with their well-known “Let Down”, ending a set that they were surely proud of.
Joining Palisades as the opening acts for the festival, For We Are Many, New Year’s Day, He Is Legend, and Sleeping With Sirens all delivered superb performances in front of a massive collection of drunk, sweaty, dancing fans – and this was all before 3pm. As the next act, Starset, took the stage, you could really feel the band’s aura that transported us all into an otherworldly setting when the band appeared donning futuristic space suits and if the venue had had a roof, Starset would have blown it off. The band gave the performance one could only expect from such a great band, serving up hits like “Satellite”, “My Demons”, “Ricochet”, and “Monster”.
One of the most entertaining acts of the day had to be the comical stylings of Eagles Of Death Metal. The band kicked off with “I Only Want You”, accompanied by Brent Hinds of Mastodon on guitar. Although the set was only 5 songs , EODM managed to pack their set with heavy hitting tunes such as “I Want You So Hard”, “Silverlake”, and a fantastic rendition of the David Bowie hit “Moonage Daydream”.
Gojira was next on my list of bands to see, and the French metal heads absolutely destroyed Champions Park, acting as one of the day’s heavier bands. It was my first time getting to watch these guys, but it definitely will not be the last if I can help it. The overall quality of each song couldn’t have been more precise as the guys ripped through hits including “The Heaviest Matter Of The Universe”, “Stranded”, “Flying Whales”, and “Vacuity”. Meanwhile, on the Zorn Stage, Steel Panther graced Kentucky with their satirical, X-Rated, Hair Metal – inspired rock anthems that gave a not-so-prominent comedic theme among the Louder Than Life attendees. The sex gods blasted through hilarious jams like “Goin’ In The Back Door”, “Asian Hooker”, and “Community Property”, but not before surprising the hungry-for-more crowd with a perfect note-for-note cover of Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love”.
As Steel Panther closed their set with “Death To All But Metal”, a walk to the other side of the park would allow you to hear the powerful, pitch-perfect howls of Halestorm frontwoman, Lzzy Hale, as she belted out the lyrics of “I Am The Fire”. Ms. Hale gracefully delivered each note as the band unleashed an arsenal of jams including “Freak Like Me”, “I Miss The Misery” and even, as Dewey Finn would describe it, a gut-busting drum solo just before “Mayhem”. (Some of you got it.) Moving into the headlining acts of the evening, Mastodon hit us hard with “Sultan’s Curse” right out of the gate. With authority, the band seemed to control the entire setting for the duration of their time onstage and privileged the crowd with “Crystal Skull”, “Black Tongue”, “Colony of Birchmen”, and “Megalodon” among others. The Viking-inspired sound that blasted from the PA seemed very appropriate in proportion to the time of day. It was the perfect ending to the heat, as well as the perfect beginning to the night ahead.
It is my belief that each festival needs at least one legend on the roster to make it an incredibly memorable experience. Well, the good folks at Danny Wimmer Presents seem to think so too, apparently, as they gave us more than that. One of which, of course, is our favorite horror movie rocker, the king of all that is scary, the macabre master, Rob Zombie. Huge white letters pierced the dark spelling out ZOMBIE, one letter at a time until guitarist John 5 entered view and the crowd went nuts. As if someone had flipped a switch, the previously dark stage became extremely busy with swirling colorful lights and the trademark imagery that any Zombie fan would be able to recognize as the band stormed into the groovy “Dead City Radio”. Mr. Zombie was a show by himself, jumping from one side of the stage to the other, dancing his ass off, and nailing the lyrics to each song during – it was just one big party. The guys didn’t disappoint as they offered the capacity crowd all of our favorites like “Superbeast”, “Living Dead Girl”, “More Human Than Human”, and “Thunderkiss ‘65”. We were also treated to amazing covers of the Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop”, and Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” before diving head-first into the classic “Dragula”.
Next, everyone’s attention was directed toward the second stage where Five Finger Death Punch prepared to make their mark on Louisville. I, myself, have personally never really been a huge fan of these guys. However, after seeing what they did with Champions Park, these guys deserve all the credit in the world for putting on the show they did, and I did gain a new respect for them as a band. Five Finger Death Punch took the hour they were given and packed two hours worth of energy, crowd involvement, and just downright fun into it. Singer Ivan Moody wowed the audience with intense, driven, aggressive vocals with clear and precise delivery. The band was tight the entire set as they gave great performances of crowd favorites like “Never Enough”, “Bad Company”, “Burn MF”, and a beautiful acoustic versions of “Wrong Side of Heaven” and “Remember Everything”. The guys closed out with “House of the Rising Sun” but not before laying “The Bleeding” on us.
It was time. The moment I’ve been waiting for since I first heard ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ when I was 7. I’ve dreamed about seeing The Prince of Darkness alongside no one else but Zakk Wylde himself for years, and from the moment Ozzy announced that Gus G would be replacing Zakk, I thought it would never happen for me. But all good things come in time and I waited patiently until the day it was released that Ozzy and Zakk would once again join forces, making a stop in Louisville. Flash forward to me standing amongst 60,000 strong, beer in hand, about to witness this milestone I’ve waited so long for, and as Sirius XM’s Jose Mangin introduced the man himself, the lights go down and operatic, chanting music floods the festival grounds, Ozzy appears, grabs the mic and greets us with “How ya fuckin’ doin’ out there?! It’s good to see you! Are you ready to go fuckin’ crazy!? Let me hear you!”. The crowd roars and he states, “Let the craziness begin!” as Zakk Wylde leads the rest of the band tearing into “Bark At The Moon”.
Despite a couple issues with his voice during earlier songs, which he addressed just before “Shot In The Dark” with “Are you having fun?! I’m having a fucked up throat tonight for some reason…”, The Prince of Darkness powered through and delivered classics such as “Mr. Crowley”, “I Don’t Know”, and “Suicide Solution”. Zakk’s playing was just as I expected it to be as he ripped through each blistering solo and supported Ozzy’s improving vocals with exceptional harmonies. Black Sabbath hits like “Fairies Wear Boots”, “War Pigs”, and “Iron Man” could be heard pulsing throughout Champions Park before “Crazy Train” echoed throughout the property. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Ozzy, Zakk, and the rest of the band break into their first encore, “Mama, I’m Comin’ Home”, and a sea of lighters and cell phone screens blanketed the crowd as Ozzy led a 60,000 member choir in a most memorable sing-along. To end the night on a high note, we were treated to the best performance of “Paranoid” I have ever seen. Upon finishing the song, the band joins Ozzy at the edge of the stage for a bow and they exit, closing out Day 1 and leaving everyone in attendance looking forward to Day 2.