Words By: Gretchen Piening & Mark Bryson | Photography By: Travis Eisenhard
This years Rock Allegiance in Camden, New Jersey was one no one wanted to miss. One full day of hard rock and brotherhood among fans. Unlike some of the other weekend long festivals Rock Allegiance gives us the chance to go all out for one day and not worrying about conserving energy for tomorrow. This years headliners made the festival even more special with Papa Roach, and Limp Bizkit leading the way followed by well-known established acts like Motionless In White, Skillet, and Bullet For My Valentine. To make things even more special we also got some bands that aren’t often seen on Danny Wimmer produced festivals like Insane Clown Posse and Gwar, regardless if you like either band there is no denying they both bring something to the stage that no other band does. Of course we can’t forget those up and coming bands that play in the heat of the day. These are the bands that in a few years will be headlining stages across the country. Some of those bands we had been looking forward to were Blacktop Mojo, Sylar, Stone Broken, Bad Flower and the Kentucky Hardcore heroes Knocked Loose. Unfortunately due to some of the bands set times overlapping and also conducting interviews we weren’t able to see every band, but we tried to see as many as possible and if you missed a performance hopefully we can clue you in on what went down.
The first band of the day, opening up the Wiggins Waterfront stage was UK’s own Stone Broken, hard rock that reeks of cigarettes, beer and sex. They ooze southern grooviness reminiscent of Black Stone Cherry. Singer, Rich Moss introduces song, “Let Me See It All” by explaining that it is the #1 song in strip clubs at the moment and how some of the gentleman may recognize it from somewhere. Stone Broken play with anthemic choruses and dirty rock n’ roll riffs.
From Ashes to New is the band to break in the main stage for what is to come, and there isn’t a more exciting act to do so. From Ashes To New have been blending their influences of hip-hop, rock, and electronic since 2013. At this point in time in features vocalists Danny Case and Matthew Brandyberry, Lance Dowdle on guitar, and Mat Madiro (Trivium) on percussion/drums. They opened the main stage at Rock Allegiance 2018 with a captive audience. Their personal lyric style blended with hard rock and rap shows an inspirational presence of Linkin Park. So much so vocalist Matthew Brandyberry cited Chester Bennington as inspiration, performing a cover of “Heavy/Papercut”. Brandyberry also mentioned struggles with mental illness, explaining that performing music was his own form of therapy. They combine electronic, hip hop and melodic rock with their dueling singers. Their act was very engaging, asking the audience to get as low as they could and jump up when the song kicked in.
Blacktop Mojo brought their homestyle rock and roll to the Plaza Stage of Rock Allegiance. Nothing like some good ole’ rock n’ roll on a Saturday afternoon, thankfully Blacktop Mojo was present to do the honor. Close your eyes and you feel like you’re tearing down Route 66, “Where the Wind Blows.” This band could just as easily be playing Rock Allegiance as they could be opening for Chris Stapleton at Red Rocks, their sound is so balanced. In an age where bands want to add more layers and more sound, they bring it back to where it came from, even going into a “Kashmir” moment towards the end of the set. Easily one of the highlights of the day. Touring most of this year, the band plans of finishing work on a new album. Their heavy style of southern rock was something refreshing to see among all the 90’s rap metal acts. Vocalist Matt James has a 70’s arena rock aesthetic, making a point to use his mic stand as a prop. Playing some of hits like “End of Days” and the title track from ‘Burn The Ships’, they are pushing to reach more fans. I think they made some converts that day. Their sound is very accessible and there is no reason they shouldn’t hook up with a major label soon.
Fozzy had great crowd reception. It was easy to spot the many Chris Jericho fans amongst the audience. He utilizes heavy vocals over a classic hard rock sound. “Judas” from their latest record by the same name, became a tremendous choir as the crowd sang right back to the band at full volume. Jericho picked up a device to shoot smoke up over the pit.
A more alternative route for the festival, LA natives, Badflower definitely stood out on the bill as a band with a more stripped down rock sound. “Ghost” currently tops the mainstream rock charts. Their debut album is on its way to be released soon, having recorded it in Nashville earlier this year.
Are you ready to get your face ripped off? If not, too bad, because Knocked Loose already came on. “Oblivions Peak” is most disgusting way to open ones set. Big meaty riffs that still pack a groove make it impossible to stand still. Knocked Loose had, without a doubt, the roughest pit of the festival. A fantastic hardcore show with plenty of finger pointing, to say the least. Common folks, beware.
With a band like Gwar, it more than the music that make them so captivating. They have traditionally put on a massive blood (and other fluids)-soaked show full of theatrics and rock and roll. These intergalactic warriors have been proudly practicing their first amendment rights for more than 30 years. Bringing their controversial show to Rock Allegiance, Gwar was a lot of fun to behold. Although their set was short, they made their presence known with blood-splattered glory. Gwar has always made it a point to create characters to “kill” on stage as a part of their act.The character they have chosen to slaughter at Rock Allegiance was someone we see in the news every day: President Donald Trump. So much presidential blood was spilled that day. Even without their late frontman Oderus Urungus (Dave Brockie), Gwar is going strong. “Fuck This Place”, a track off their 2017 release ‘The Blood of Gods’ really stood out during their set. Their music is silly at times, but lyrically has always had a political satire edge to it that has meaning buried underneath. Calling out their leader, Oderus, they miss him in their own twisted way. Some of the silliest content the world has created has something deeper behind it. Whether it is political disillusion or just mourning the loss of a friend.
Insane Clown Posse closed out the Plaza stage, likely due to the amount of Faygo that was moments away from flying every which way. The freakshow theme ran through the entirety of the set, drawing inspiration from the classic traveling Barnum and Bailey shows from the 1800’s. “Hokus Pokus” instantly grabs the attention of every last person in the audience. These people are nothing if not dedicated. Tons of fans sporting the Juggalo makeup, and no shortage of “whoop whoop’s” thrown around, artfully. Talking with a few concert goers before the set, they all were giddy with excitement to see the band they loved, most having seen them plenty of times before. These people mean business.
Everyday is Halloween for Motionless in White. A pumpkin backdrop and a weeping angel statue on stage solidify their commitment to their craft. Motionless In White stage presence was macabre and channeled a little bit of Rob Zombie or Marilyn Manson with their Halloween aesthetic. Jack-o-lanterns, candles, and sepulchre stage props gave them a dark and eerie process. A larger stage production than years prior has really benefited them. Their set was diverse, chock full of heavy hitters like “LOUD (Fuck It)” and more melodic songs like “Eternally Yours”. Frontman Chris “Motionless” Cerulli commands attention center stage, making connections with fans in their audience. Being a later addition to the festival was not at all detrimental to the band, in fact they were one of the most well received acts of the entire day. More recent material from the band takes a more nu-metal road with inspiration from Korn, but some of their old songs are hard. Seriously. “Soft” is anything but, exclaiming, “You’re mine, motherfucker!” Motionless consistently delivers an excellent live production. Motionless In White have been rising in popularity over the past few years and they have proven themselves at Rock Allegiance.
“OVER THE TOP! OVER THE TOP!” The entire crowd is chanting as Bullet for My Valentine closes out the Wiggins Stage for the night, they are playing “Scream Aim Fire.” The always exceptional Welsh band had a draw bigger than some of the mainstage acts. Frontman Matt Tuck has this shy charisma that is somehow endearing. Rising to power in the mid-2000’s it is expected that their classics are audience favorites. Blistering solos and timeless choruses; Bullet always deliver, the only disappointment was that they didn’t have a longer set.
With more than 20 years under their belt, Papa Roach is on the move and they don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. The last time I saw Papa Roach was almost a decade ago. This band just keeps getting better. Their set was packed with old favorites, covers, and brand new songs that were released the day before. Frontman Jacoby Shaddix was pumping the entire venue with a tangible energy, more energy than I have seen out of almost any frontman. He commands the audience with such power, when he speaks they listen. He somehow though still has the ability to stay humble, explaining to the crowd, “when I’m on my deathbed, moments like these are the ones that I will look back on…” Who thought rap metal was dead? Not Shaddix. They had a playbook chock full of hits from 2000 to now. And of course, much to my liking, they finished up their performance with ‘Last Resort”. Arguably their most famous track, I’m sure it gave nostalgia to many.
Limp Bizkit tore down the sucker like it was 1998. Vocalist Fred Durst came down from the stage, bringing his energy right in your face. The nü-metal legends kept up with their now classics which was a pleasantly nostalgic. Combining this with covers of Ministry, Cypress Hill, Rage Against The Machine and Pantera the band shows their range and influences of metal and hip-hop. Those covers are a far cry from the George Micheal cover we got back in the late 90’s. Fred represented the rap crowd and of course axe man Wes Borland represented the rock crowd with his all black attire and face paint. Even if you are on the I hate Limp Bizkit bandwagon it’s hard to be negative about their set. They bring tremendous energy to the stage, and get the crowd involved. Hearing the band perform these covers off the cuff makes the performance even more special. If you didn’t already know their performance was a drop-kick of a good time.
At a glance, Rock Allegiance 2018 looked like an outdated lineup that was channeling some Woodstock 99’ vibes. It was certainly an interesting experience watching up and coming bands earlier in the day emulating headliners that would later be playing that day. For example, a band like From Ashes To New would not exist without the rap-metal influence of Limp Bizkit or Papa Roach. That’s not to say this lineup was not diverse. Hardcore up and comers Knocked Loose shared the stage with southern-rockers Blacktop Mojo. Everyone attending had the chance to watch a band they may not have seen otherwise. The variety of vendors also lent to the overall diversity of the festival. I mean how many of us can say we got to chow down on a grilled cheese while watching Papa Roach? While Monster Energy was the main sponsor for the tour, there was a diverse assortment of beverage options, alcoholic or otherwise. The stages seemed a little far from each other, but a little exercise is good for you. This festival is a prime example of how diverse rock is. So many festivals, especially in the states, tend to pigeonhole artists on festivals. Having the same artists constantly playing within their own sub-genre. Having a diverse lineup allows a fan’s mind to open up to more fanatic possibilities. More festivals need to take note on what Rock Allegiance has accomplished this year. We can’t wait until next year and the lineup possibilities is endless after seeing this years roster of bands.