Louisville, Kentucky’s premier rock festival has once again come and gone. It was the 2nd annual Louder Than Life festival in Champion Park and music wasn’t the only thing drawing crowds towards the Ohio River. Before we get to the music, which was our whole reason for being there we have to chime in on the gourmet man food, whiskey, craft beer, and this year NXT wrestling was added as well. I think all of these things are amazing and just add to the reasons to attend the festival. The wrestling brings people into the festival that may not have any interest in music, it’s just another selling point the promoters came up with that seemed to work rather well. This year’s lineup of bands was a little more mellow and southern rock than it was last year. I like the idea of a theme with the bands. Last year seemed to be more of a 90’s throwback lineup and this year was more of a southern rock year it seemed. It leaves everyone curious what we are in store for next year.
Saturday was cold and wet but it didn’t keep fans from making their way down River Road. The gates were delayed being opened in an effort to let a storm pass. A couple bands like Raveneye actually had their set pushed until Sunday. One of the first bands we got a chance to see was Red Sun Rising. The band had amazing energy and of course played their single “The Otherside” off their debut album Polyester Zeal. The guys from Akron made a ton of new fans, going forward that day in any crowd you could hear their name being mentioned over and over. One of the few bands to repeat from the inaugural Louder Than Life fest was Butcher Babies. The band inspired by The Plasmatics would have surely made Wendy O. Williams proud with their performance. One of the things that made the day even more special is that it was one of the vocalists Carla’s birthday. I don’t think there is any way better to spend your birthday than with thousands of people. She wasn’t the only musician celebrating their day of birth in Louisville, more about that later. As the ladies prepared for one of their final songs they screamed out to the crowd “Where is my crowd surfers” and they no more than ended the sentence and people were going up in droves.
One of the largest crowds of the early day was for one of the heavier acts of the day was Florida based band Trivium. Evidently I wasn’t the only person looking forward to their set and also their new album which I may add is bad ass, Silence In The Snow. At this point in the day everyone was either wet, cold or both. One thing front man Matt Heafy did notice is how un-energetic the crowd was. He quickly urged them to move and it would quickly warm things up. Moments later you could notice an immediate reaction in the crowd as they started to liven up. I might add that Trivium had one of the best looking stage set ups of the day showcasing some of the amazing artwork from their new album.
Next up was the futuristic band Starset. Their axe men were in space like suits and it garnered the attention of everyone within seeing distance of their stage. They owned that stage too. While playing their popular song “Carnivore” which has been a mainstay on satellite radio the crowd came alive and moved like I hadn’t seen them move all day. The fans moving around quickly turned the wet ground into mud. The guys in that band are really about the fans, and let everyone know they would be glad to take pictures and meet fans after their set. The one good thing about metal bands is they are usually more down to earth and about the fans than other genres. I was a little late making it to the stage to see Atreyu. Luckily over the years I have seen the band several times. They never disappoint. At the time I got within ear shot I heard them covering the Bon Jovi tune “You Give Love A Bad Name”. I think even Jon Bon Jovi himself would have approved of the heavier version of the song. Before exiting the stage singer Alex Varkatzas made sure to let everyone know this was one of the best festivals he could remember playing in a long time. It’s great to know that not only the fans are having a great time but so are the bands.
I will admit now that my must see band of the day for Saturday was veteran metal band Sevendust. I was able to speak with Lajon backstage prior to his set and learned it was his birthday as well and his daughter was there with him to cheer him on stage right. Being not only the great dad he is, he made sure to keep his language PG when on stage and his daughter could hear him. Sevendust has always been the band that all the other musicians want to see. If you look closely at any festival you will normally see other band members along the side of the stage trying to catch their set. Sevendust’s new album Kill The Flaw which dropped the day prior to the show just shows the band keeps putting out amazing and near flawless records after being together for 21 years. Also unlike most bands through the majority of their career it has been the same 5 founding members in the band. Lajon said he couldn’t pick a better place to spend his birthday and we were more than happy to share his special day with him. Their set like always was amazing and people were literally wading through mud to get closer to the stage.
It was actually my first time seeing Chevelle. After being a fan of the band since their first release Point #1. Most people don’t know they actually started out as a Christian band, and that debut album was on the Christian label Squint Entertainment. All albums going forward were on other labels though. I was always told the band didn’t have great quality sound live, but they actually had one of the best quality sets of the day. I will say that they weren’t easy to see, the sun had just set and they did have some lights but for the most part you just seen the shadows of the band members. They played through their list of hits and each one sounded just as good as the last. If it wasn’t for the applause in the crowd you could have closed your eyes and thought you was listening to the album. They weren’t much for small talk or anything spectacular as far as a stage show, they simply came out, rocked out and that was it.
Moving on to the headliners we were able to catch. Godsmack who tore things up with Sully doing his routine drum battle showcasing his drum skills. This one however was a little different than the one I saw in the past. Sully was exported out on a raised platform drum kit and not only played a drum kit but the bongo drums as well. Sully took a break from singing to remind everyone it was breast cancer awareness month….kinda. He said “You’all need to get some ladies on your shoulders…..I wanna see some boobies.” The cold and rainy day may have played against him that day. Being a little far from the stage I’m unsure if his wishes were granted. It was all in good fun. One of the hardest things to do is not sing along to the hit songs by Godsmack in the late 90’s early 2000’s. The band has managed to stay relevant unlike many of the bands they broke onto the scene with. They are coming up on 20 years together and they are still able to draw crowds and headline festivals, it’s just mind boggling.
The night of course ended with the Astro Creep himself Rob Zombie. What makes Rob Zombie so great as a headliner is not just him but the fact that he has one of the best guitarists in the business playing in his band. John 5 could keep the attention of a crowd with his guitar alone, his guitar playing just brings another element to Rob Zombie. The stage of course was dressed up with some iconic old school horror characters. Rob being the horror fan he is brings not only great music to the stage, but also some theatrics that are some of the best in metal. Of course they can play their original music to perfection as well as “More Human Than Human” an old White Zombie hit, but the band hit an all new level with me when they rocked out to “We Are An American Band” by Grand Funk Railroad and then moved on to some James Brown hits. I feel good is exactly what I was uttering to myself. From the lighting to the attire of the band everything just fit perfectly like a glove. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better John 5 breaks into a guitar solo that had everyone playing their own air guitar. The solo led right into a cover of The Ramones “Blitzkrieg Bop.” The festival was a huge hit, and everyone was walking away with a smile on their face or still in awe of the happenings of the day and this was only day 1.
Sunday began and the weather was the complete opposite of the day prior. Warm and sunny, it felt nothing like October. As we arrived I was able to catch the tail end of All Them Witches set. I had seen the band a week prior in a small little venue in Eastern Kentucky, but it wasn’t enough to satisfy my need for their signature sound. The Nashville based band unleashes their own brand of rock n roll onto the crowd leaving almost everyone shocked. They are one of those bands that you just can’t pigeon hole into a specific genre. The band has this folksy melodic groove that is overwhelming in a live setting. I had told everyone for months they were the must see band at the festival. One of the biggest surprises for me was the band The Glorious Sons. Prior to that day I had never heard the band at all. Once the Canadians started to play I was blown away. Singer Brett Emmons has this magnetic voice that keeps you raring for more. The song “Sometimes On A Sunday” is probably one of the best new songs I have heard in a long time, and it stayed in my head for a week. At one point during their set Brett yells out to the crowd “Get your hands out of your fucking pockets and move.” How anyone could stand still while listening to these guys is beyond me. I noticed after each song more and more people were moving toward the front of the stage. It’s amazing to see a band gaining fans right before your eyes. The great thing about attending a festival is seeing bands you normally wouldn’t listen to.
Immediately after their set I walked a mere 25 yards and was able to catch Skid Row. I think a lot of people that don’t really keep up with music all that well expected Sebastian Bach to be with the band even though he hasn’t been in the band in years. The singer of Skid Row currently is Tony Harnell who is most well known for his work with the band TNT. Tony did pretty well and is worthy of the position as lead man for the band, but I feel Johnny Solinger who spent the most time at the mic is really the best singer they have had. They of course went through the hits “18 and Life”, and “Youth Gone Wild”. I think they were really the only hair metal band showcased at the festival.
Now what I had been waiting for all day was the hometown boys in Flaw to take the stage. They were the ribbon cutters at last year’s inaugural Louder Than Life festival being the first band to play. After spending the majority of the year touring and with a new single released “Bleed Red” I just knew the band was going to sound better than ever. I was right. Chris Volz voice along with Jay Daunt’s guitar work is just something magical that works so great together it creates this chaotic harmony that is like ecstasy to your ears. The band was limited on time and their set had been pushed back but they were able to play several old favorites and then dominate the crowd with their new single.
Some other acts I barely caught the tail end of were 10 Years who had an amazingly energetic stage presence. Lead singer Jesse Hasek climbed out into the crowd and was right in the middle of all the fans while singing a couple songs. His shirt which was hilarious read ‘Who The Fuck Is Justin Beiber’. Black Stone Cherry were playing their final show of the year. They are currently recording their new album with David Barrick in Glasgow, Kentucky. One thing they always make sure to do is play a song in honor of our nation’s military and veterans. It’s something I’ve seen several bands do but you can always tell when it means something to the band by the way they speak about it.
All the talk recently has focused on Slash and Axl on speaking terms again. Honestly I could care less about a GnR reunion because at this present moment Myles Kennedy is 10 times the singer Axl Rose is. I was very pleased to be seeing Slash & Myles Kennedy together and singing not only some of their amazing songs, but also covering “Paradise City” and “Sweet Child Of Mine.” Slash of course broke out his double headed guitar and showed us just how much of a guitar god he truly is. His playing has only gotten better since he came on the scene in the 80’s. With Slash beginning the headlining bands of the evening things started to wind down.
The most famous Southern rock band in the world was about to take stage, Lynyrd Skynyrd. It’s unfortunate that there is only one founding member still in the band due to the plane crash, car crash, and just life in general. Lead guitar player Gary Rossington shines as Skynyrd’s only founding member still active. The band sounded amazing as they always have. Ronnie Van Zant’s brother Jonny made his brother very proud and took the reins on the microphone when his brother passed. The band played a phenomenal set and it just so happened that 4 days later Gary Rossington suffered a massive heart attack from which he is still recovering. We are very happy we were able to see Gary and the rest of the band especially considering he is still battling for his life and we are sending good vibes his way.
Next up was Shinedown who actually was disappointing in a way to me. The band covered “Simple Man” a Lynyrd Skynyrd favorite just 20 minutes after the originators of the song played it. I know Shinedown’s cover of the song is very popular with their fans. A lot of people first heard about the band because of them covering the song, but I thought it was in very poor taste to play the song immediately after the original band playing it. The end of the night was now upon us and everyone awaited the Texas group that made beards famous to hit the stage. The three piece group ZZ Top struck their first chord and the crowd went wild. Fans both young and old alike were ecstatic to hear them play hits like “Legs” and I think everyone was singing along to “Gimmie All Your Lovin’.” The crowd surfers were even overly active during the bands set. Sometimes it takes a legend to close out a show, especially when it’s two days jam packed with amazing bands each legends in their own right. So the Texas gentlemen that had been together since 1969 closed out the show in pure 100% rock n roll style.
Once again Louder Than Life was a major success and I can only see it growing in the future. The bands we spoke with seem to live the festival, and the majority of all the fans were very pleased. Of course with a new festival of this size it takes some time to get everything streamlined. For year number two I think they keep raising the bar and we can’t wait to see what year 3 has in store.