Rock on the Range 2016
Day 2: Saturday, 5/21/16
Mapfre Stadium – Columbus, OH
Rock on the Range 2016 started out with a bang on Friday (coverage here). Saturday stacked up to be just as good – bands like Parkway Drive, Lamb of God, Five Finger Death Punch, and Rob Zombie made the lineup feel a bit more metal-focused than the first day, at least on paper. That being said, the day was still chocked full of variety, with bands like Lacey Sturm, Aranda, Pop Evil, and Clutch to cleanse the pallet. We headed to Mapfre Stadium from our hotel, stopping at Kroger (as we do every single ROTR day) for a made-to-order breakfast and the ever-crucial Monster Rehab. I grabbed a poncho on the way out of the store on a whim, juuuust in case it decided to rain on Saturday. Best decision ever: As painful as it was to wear something with an Ohio State logo on it, it was totally worth it. (Sorry folks, but The Music Pill is in Indianapolis, in the heart of Hoosier country).
It rained pretty much all day on Saturday, but try as she might, Mother Nature couldn’t put a damper on Rock on the Range. Saturday’s crowd was every bit as rowdy and engaged as the crowd from the day before, in spite of the cold and rainy weather. As the day progressed, it turned into a sloppy mess, but that didn’t stop it from being a fantastic day of music.
Speaking of music – lets get to it! Following a similar format as the Day 1 (Friday) blog, I’ll discuss the shows that were rock solid first, and then move on to a few that were slightly disappointing. Finally, I’ll explore the shows that really blew my mind in a bit more detail, and try to describe what made them so great.
Day 2. Let’s do this!
Rock Solid Shows
Ex-Flyleaf singer Lacey Sturm has been relatively quiet since deciding to prioritize her family over her music career in 2012, so this slot was a bit intriguing for me. I had high hopes, as I always felt that Sturm’s voice was really the driving force behind Flyleaf, and this show proved me right. She started the show proving that she still has it – the first three songs were off of her recent solo album Life Screams (released this past February and worth a listen). After a cover of “Roxanne” by The Police, she went into a medley of Flyleaf classics (“All Around Me”, “I’m So Sick”, and “Fully Alive”) that made the crowd explode. Finally, after talking briefly about her Christian faith, she backed it up by closing out the show with a really cool version of the song “Forever” by Kari Jobe, which is an extremely religious song. (You have to give Sturm props for practicing what she preaches) Overall, I thought the show was a great reintroduction to Sturm – she sounded fantastic, and looked as comfortable as ever on the stage. She twirled and bounced and smiled while unleashing those fierce screams that made her famous. Here’s hoping that she’s back for good. Great show.
After an early focus on rock shows, Saturday really picked up the pace with a great show by Parkway Drive. Within minutes of the start of the show, singer Winston McCall made it clear that being a passive observer wasn’t going to cut it for this show….his energy was off the charts, which made him a ton of fun to watch. The show opened with the song “Destroyer”, and that’s all it took to wake up the crowd and get the place moving. Other highlights include the song Wild Eyes (video here), and a brutal closing song called “Crushed”, which I wasn’t familiar with, but can’t get out of my head, even though it was two weeks ago.
I know that Parkway Drive has been around for a while (their first album came out in 2005), but they are poised to ride the success of others in their genre, and they most certainly have the talent to explode. If you hear a noise, it’s the sound of me jumping on the Parkway Drive bandwagon. Great show.
Steel Panther is a comical 80’s hair metal band that focus more on their ridiculous looks and their crude jokes than their actual songs. That’s ok though, because they don’t intend on being taken seriously…. (I mean with songs like “17 Girls in a Row” and “Party Like it’s the End of the World”, how could you take them seriously?) The result is a hilarious set that features coordinated hip swaying and long discussions about who in the band has had more botox. If you can get past all of the ridiculousness (which is not an easy feat), there is some really solid 80’s hair metal being played, but let’s be honest – that shouldn’t be your focus anyway. This show was a lot of fun, and even though it was my third time seeing them, their routine still seemed fresh and made me laugh….especially the song about their conquests in Asia. If you haven’t had the pleasure of an introduction to Steel Panther, try to catch them sometime – if you don’t laugh, I owe you a beer.
Clutch puts on a live show for the ages, and thankfully I’ve been able to catch a lot of their shows. At ROTR, their time slot competed with Ghost, which made this a REALLY tough choice, but I decided to go with what I knew. The thing that sets this show apart from other Clutch shows was the song selection: They eschewed some of their greatest hits for deep tracks that I’ve never heard live, which made this show really unique. Instead of “The Mob Goes Wild” and “DC Sound Attack” (neither of which they played), they played “Sea of Destruction”, “Noble Savage”, and “Firebirds!” I can see how this could be disappointing if you were just a casual fan, but for me, it made for an interesting experience.
One small negative here – they did have some audio issues, probably due to the rain. It wasn’t enough to spoil the show, but certainly was noticeable. Even with the sound problems, I still felt the show was really solid. I could watch Neil Fallon all day long.
- Texas Hippie Coalition puts on a really fun show, and if you haven’t seen it, it’s absolutely worth the effort to check them out. They feature solid hard rock songs, and have a shtick that makes their show as funny as it is musically solid. (It’s in the vein of “We’re here for your booze and your women”) However, this show proved to me that unless they evolve or release more music, seeing their show once is probably enough.
- Saint Asonia is extremely talented, and there’s no question that they sounded good. However, it’s undeniable that their three best songs weren’t Saint Asonia songs at all. In an incredible display of douchebaggery, Adam Gontier at one point said “We get asked a lot if we play cover songs. We don’t play cover songs. We play songs that we wrote for other bands.” Wow. He also said “To all the haters, like it or not, Saint Asonia is here to stay”. I’m crossing my fingers that Saint Asonia is here to stay. However, I hope we get more infectious guitar hooks like the ones in the song “Better Place”, and less of Gontier’s attitude.
- I am a big Pop Evil fan, but I have been less than thrilled at their shows in the past. (See this, and this). This show was a big letdown for me. Singer Leigh Kakaty mentioned several times how high he was, which is awesome unless it affects your performance, and it was pretty clear to me that it affected his performance. In addition to that, he spent a ton of time soaking in the experience, running through the crowd and holding the microphone above his head while he smiled. This band has great songs, and so maybe I have too high a standard, but I’m looking forward to a time when stages this big become the norm for Pop Evil, and they can just buckle down and perform.
I’ll be the first to put myself on bias alert (I’m a huge Aranda fan), but I thought this show was fantastic. Even with an early afternoon set, their crowd was packed, and I loved that they were getting respect at such a big event. Brothers Dameon and Gabe Aranda are the two primary members of the band, and their general disposition on stage is awesome. There is a relaxed confidence about them – they just seem like normal dudes who love playing music.
Their music is a pretty killer version of post-grunge rock and roll, but with a heavy vocal component. Those vocals are usually what draw my attention when I’m listening to Aranda (I mean these dudes can SING). While their vocals were pretty strong, the element of this show that really blew me away was the incredible guitar work by Dameon Aranda. I mean I knew he could play but I was really taken aback by some of the shredding that he did as part of this show. For just a taste, check out this video, which features a couple solos in the closing song “Whyyawannabringmedown”, as well as an element they call Das Boot that ends their show. The best part is Dameon’s face while crushing guitar solos – he has that fantastic “OMG This Solo is Disgusting” face that I can’t help but laugh at. It was awesome.
From a song selection standpoint, they opted to keep the show pretty fast paced, choosing songs like “One More Lie” and “We are the Enemy” over some of their great slower material (i.e. “Gravity”). The slowest the show got was a really heartfelt performance of “Don’t Wake Me”, which they prefaced by explaining that the song was written about a good friend of theirs that lost a battle with heroin. I also loved their uplifting message during previously mentioned “We Are the Enemy”, where they reminded people that even when you’re down, on the verge of quitting, you have to keep on fighting, and remember that the battle is already won. (A reference to their Christian faith).
Overall, awesome show – Aranda definitely took advantage of the opportunity to perform in front of so many people. An Aranda headlining show is a bucket list for The Music Pill.
Lamb of God
Placing Lamb of God in this category is all about respect. Whether you are their biggest fan or just a casual observer (I’m more of the latter), this show was undeniably fantastic. They were given the opportunity to headline the second stage, and I wasn’t sure if they could hold up to the brilliant Megadeth show the day before, but they really stood toe to toe. For some reason the set felt a bit short, at only eight songs, but man did they pack an awful lot of destruction into that short time. From the get-go, the show was chaos – people were jumping up and down and screaming before they even walked on stage, and as they chewed through the riffs in the opener (“Walk With Me in Hell”), it got even more nuts. Throughout the entirety of the show, I never saw less than two circle pits running at once, and sometimes three or four. Say what you want about Lamb of God, but their music resonates with people, and when it does, those people MOVE.
I’m not intimately familiar with all of their catalog of music, but the I thought the best material from this show was off of their 2007 album “Sacrament”. I already mentioned “Walk With Me in Hell”, which was a clear highlight. They also played “Blacken the Cursed Sun” which was a really cool live, and the best part of the show for me was the closer, “Redneck”, which you probably know even if you don’t think you do. Ultimately, Randy Blythe and company crushed this show, and it felt like non-stop insanity. I loved it.
Five Finger Death Punch
After a period where Five Finger Death Punch saw their live show get a bit stagnant, I’m thrilled to report that the last couple 5FDP shows that I have seen have been really great, and this one tops them all. As always, the set featured plenty of moments that made me want to break things (like “Hard to See”, “Under and Over It”, and “Burn it Down”), but the show set itself apart by some passionately intense versions of songs like “Wrong Side of Heaven” and “Battle Born”, where Ivan is singing heartfelt lyrics with emotions painted all over his face. Front to back, this show felt like it was delivered with more character and effort than they’ve shown in the past. Based on 5FDP’s history, that is a huge compliment, and it’s well deserved.
One particular surprise highlight for me was the song “Jekyll and Hyde” – I didn’t think much of it when I heard it on their latest album (“Got Your Six”), but Ivan spitting those lyrics about a demon inside really dug deep for me, and I just felt like the live version was was exceptional. Of course, the pinnacle of the show (and the pinnacle of every 5FDP show I’ve ever seen) was “The Bleeding”, which is always their closer. At the start of the song, tens of thousands of lighters and cellphones are in the air, but by the second verse, those lights have been put away because everyone is busy losing their mind.
“THE LYING. THE BLEEDING. THE SCREAMING. IT’S TEARING ME APART.”
The end of the song hit, and Ivan sang “It’s Over. Now.” and then told us to take care of one another before simply walking off stage. This was 5FDP at their best….end to end a great show. Interestingly enough, during a transition between songs early in the show, Ivan said that the last time they were at Rock on the Range, they were told they would never be asked back. If they are going to put on a show like this, they should be allowed back any time they want.
There is never a dull moment when watching a Rob Zombie show. It’s just a whirlwind of songs that you forgot you loved, and aliens humping people on stage. It’s a psycho horror dance party emceed by an undead rock god, and I love every minute of it. This show was really spectacular and put to bed some recent concerns I voiced about Zombie having the lungs to pull off his spectacular shows anymore. No doubt about it, he was awesome at this show.
This show was littered with substance – thirteen straight quality songs – “Never Gonna Stop”, “Living Dead Girl”, “Thunderkiss”, “Superbeast”, and on and on and on and on. This is the fundamental reason that Zombie is able to continue to put on spectacular shows – he has 30 years of great songs to choose from. Not to mention, the musicians in Zombie can’t be overlooked – they are about as talented as they come.
However, the beauty of a Zombie show is that the substance isn’t what you pay attention to. The production value of a Zombie show is so overwhelming and amazing that there’s no way you can focus on whether or not John 5 hits all the notes in a particular solo. (Just assume he does…by the way). This show started with Dead City Radio, and when the intro finished and the light queue hit, it lit up the Mapfre Stadium like it was daytime – so much so that it took my eyes a minute or two to adjust to the light. This show was another example of industry best production value that was so intense and electrifying that it continues to set Zombie apart as one of the best shows available in today’s music scene.
John 5’s guitar solo stands out in my head as a major highlight – it wove in and out of incredible riffs and picking, and ended up with a really cool version of the Star Spangled Banner, which somehow made it seem even more mind blowing than it usually does. In addition, I really loved it when they the covered “We’re an American Band” (by Grand Funk Railroad) – I was surprised at the screams it incited.
That song led us into the encore, which was only one song. It only needed to be one song. It was “Dragula”, and it was fittingly the best moment of music of the day. Zombie absolutely crushed it, and the crowd went nuts. The light show behind it put me on seizure watch, and chills took over.
What a great way to end the day. Zombie’s show was great, but, I knew it would be, because Zombie’s shows are always great. I’m not inclined to put in a Zombie album and listen to it while I’m at work, but I will go to a show any time anywhere, because he simply sets the bar when it comes to consistent excellence. I’m not overstating that, he’s really that good.
So that’s it! Day 2 of Rock on the Range 2016 comes to an end. We were soaking wet, and had the aches and pains and ringing in our ears that could only mean one thing: We were smack dab in the middle of Rock on the Range weekend. One of my favorite places to be!
If anyone has comments or thoughts about the shows I mentioned here, or other shows played that day, please feel free to leave a comment below! I would particularly love to hear thoughts about some great shows that I had to miss on Saturday, like Issues, Crown the Empire, and Ghost. What did you guys think?
Until next time! Cheers!
(For Rock on the Range 2016 Day 1 (Friday) coverage, click here)
(Stay Tuned for Rock on the Range 2016 Day 3 (Sunday) coverage)
“If you’re looking for a fight, I’ll draw the line right in front of me – we are the enemy. If you step across to my side, you better come with an army. We are the enemy!”