Rock on the Range 2016
Day 3 – Saturday 5/22/16
Mapfre Stadium – Columbus, OH
Rock on the Range 2016 Day 3 featured one of the most exciting and unique lineups in recent memory. Not only did it offer the chance to see several bands who were playing Rock on the Range for the first time, but from a genre standpoint, the lineup was all over the map. The main stage was a wild mish-mash of genres, especially early in the day, as we would be treated to bands like Highly Suspect (rock), Wolfmother (stoner rock), The Struts (English glam rock), Death from Above 1979 (dance punk), and many more. In addition, I was really excited about solid representation for punk rock, something that rarely happens at Rock on the Range. I couldn’t wait to see how the crowd reacted to bands like Anti-Flag and Pennywise. Finally, the day would close out with Bring Me the Horizon, Deftones, and Red Hot Chili Peppers, all of which had extremely high expectations to live up to.
Would this day be as good as it looked on paper? Would the metal-crazed audience at Rock on the Range appreciate the variety? Or, would they agree with many on the internet who complained that the day was way too “soft”. We fought off the headaches and sore backs and headed up to Mapfre Stadium to find out. Sunday was a beautiful day – after two days of rain and clouds and cold, it was sunny and warm with a cool breeze. It was the kind of weather that made you thank God you are alive, and thank Him even more that you were at a music festival. On a day like that, I can’t imagine wanting to be anywhere else.
Time for the pièce de résistance. Rock on the Range 2016 Day 3. Let’s do this.
Rock Solid Shows
The Glorious Sons
The Glorious Sons were the first band that we saw on Sunday, and thus were the first to suggest that this might be a really great day. I had never heard of the Canadian rockers, but I really enjoyed their show. They somehow found a way to blend their laid-back Canadian rock with a ton of energy and engagement. The clear highlight of the show was the song “Heavy”, which they really picked up the intensity at the end, but even in more chill songs like “The Union” and “White Noise”, I was still totally roped in. This isn’t the first time that ROTR has pulled in a killer rock band from Canada (see: Monster Truck), and I certainly hope it’s not the last. Great way to open up the day.
The Struts are an English rock band, similar to The Darkness, and admittedly I had no idea what to expect with this show. Pleased to report that it was really solid – it felt real and authentic, even though we are 50 years past the mainstream success of their style of music. The Rock on the Range crowd was unfamiliar with the band, but absolutely loved the sing-a-long choruses, and by the end of the show, were waving their arms back and forth while chanting words they had just learned. For a taste of their music, check out “Where Did She Go“, but don’t blame me when you’re singing that song later against your will. From an image standpoint, The Struts embrace their roots. Singer Luke Spiller was born to be on stage, and while he’s no Freddie Mercury, he certainly dresses like him. Solid performance by these guys on the big stage – but I’d sure love to see them at a little pub in Derbyshire.
Pennywise made quick work of dismissing my concerns about punk rock at Rock on the Range. This show really good – it was fast and loud and the crowd absolutely loved it. As Pennywise dominated the stage, a never-ending wave of crowd surfers flooded the front of the stage, and the mosh pits were some of the biggest I saw on the side stage. No question this band has droves of fans, and can lean on decades of experience performing on stage.
Musically, I loved their punked up version of Beastie Boys “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)”, which was faster, harder, and much more intense than the original. The other highlight that stands out is the song “Bro Hymn”, which is a tribute to a previous bandmate that passed away, and had the entire crowd singing the Woahs. “Bro Hymn” was their closing song, and towards the end they started inviting people up on stage, until the stage was packed full of people having a blast. Overall, a really solid show.
I have seen Deftones before, and this the strongest performance I’ve seen them give yet. The contrast of singer Chino Moreno’s incredibly hard screams and his dramatic, graceful clean vocals had me constantly intrigued. He also connected with the crowd in a very visceral way, spending a good deal of time off of the stage and down in the pit area, high-fiving fans while traversing effortlessly through his vocal parts.
It took until the second song for me to really get into this show, but once “My Own Summer” hit the verse, Moreno lost his mind screaming “SHOVE IT SHOVE IT SHOVE IT”, and so I figured I might as well lose my mind with him. From that point forward, I was pretty hooked. I loved the song “Diamond Eyes”, which took me off guard a bit, and the song “Rosemary” was also great. However, the clear winner was “Change (In The House of Flies)”, which is a personal favorite of mine and was really stellar live. I really enjoyed this show.
A final interesting point – when Deftones started playing, it was light out, and they played through dusk. Something about the vibe they put off mixing with the sun setting made for a really memorable experience.
- Death from Above 1979 brought a really interesting dance-rock sound, which could have been refreshing and interesting. Unfortunately for me, their sound was just too erratic for me, and visually, the show felt stale. I dig their album sound, but wasn’t thrilled with their show.
- I really like Red Sun Rising’s sound, as they have two tracks blowing up Octane right now (“The Otherside” and “Emotionless”). I can’t point to a specific element as being inherently wrong with this show. They just simply got overshadowed by better performances by better bands. Lots of potential here, so I’ll be staying tuned.
- Wolfmother has a unique sound, but with this lineup, unique wasn’t enough to stand out. Unfortunately, I think their show two years ago at Rock on the Range was stronger than this one, and I came away less than impressed.
Highly Suspect opened the main stage with a bang. The trio from Cape Cod, Massachusetts came flying into mainstream with their song “Lydia”, but don’t be fooled into thinking that this band is a one hit wonder. I was so impressed with the six songs they played that I bought their album on my phone while walking to the next show. Their closer, “Claudeland”, has an unbelievably catchy guitar riff that I absolutely loved, and “Lost” was a great song as well.
I also loved watching them perform. Singer Johnny Stevens was an awesome front man – he sounded great and when he addressed the audience, he came across like a pretty genuine dude. The best example of this was during “Lydia” (which was amazing). Halfway through the song, they paused while Stevens smiled, took a long look around the audience, and said “What a beautiful day full of beautiful people.” You could hear the appreciation in his voice, like he was thankful for the opportunity. After addressing the audience, he smiled, and asked if we wanted to help out with the last part. Among screams, Meyer walked up to the mic, launched the song back up, and let it build, until the whole place exploded in unison.
“I CAN’T ******* BREATHE, MUCH LESS BELIEVE, IN THE TRUTH.”
This was a really great show, and the band deserves all the attention they are getting.
Hands like Houses
Hands like Houses is a metalcore outfit that came all the way from Canberra, Australia to play Rock on the Range. It could be their slightly more approachable style of metalcore, or it could be because they just crushed this show, but I have to believe that they left Columbus with many more fans than they had when they arrived. They had the whole package – thick guitar riffs, intricate drumming that kept the show moving, and really tremendous vocals made the band was completely solid throughout. Speaking of vocals, if I’m being totally honest, as I listened to “Colourblind” on Octane on the way to ROTR, the first thought that popped into my head was “no way this dude can hit those notes live.” So wrong. I was so wrong. That song sounded fantastic live. In addition, a surprise hit for me was the song “Introduced Species”, which incited quite the crowd response as singer Trenton Woodley consistently spat the lyrics “We don’t belong here.”
This was a consistently high quality show in which the crowd was really impressively engaged. Hands like Houses proved with this show that they are in the upper echelon of a very saturated genre, and I walked away really really impressed.
I don’t spend nearly enough time in the world of punk, but this show proved to me that that’s a grave mistake – it was an absolute blast. Hailing from Pittsburgh, Anti-Flag got started in the late 80’s and rode the punk wave all the way to the top. They are known for their political and human rights activism almost as much as their music, but their nine studio albums are nothing to sneeze at. This show really took me off guard – I like punk, but wasn’t expecting a show this good. I was blown away by the stage presence and musical talent they had. Lead singer/Lead Guitarist Justin Sane was great, but what stood out most to me was how good their harmonies sounded. They had an extremely tight sound, highlighted by their rhythm section, and I was really impressed.
All eight songs they played were really good, but a couple deserve specific mention. I loved the song “All of the Poison, All of the Pain”, which had an incredibly catchy bass line that I can’t get out of my head. The song “Turncoat” was also great, even though I was apparently the only one in attendance that didn’t know I was supposed to yell “TURNCOAT. LIAR. KILLER. THIEF!” the whole song. (I learned my lesson!) The highlight of the show, however, was the closing song “Die for the Government”, in which the band went into the audience to play. What I mean when I say that is that the band literally carried a guitar, a mic, and six or seven pieces of a drum kit off of the stage and into the crowd, set up on the asphalt in the middle of the pit, and played the last song surrounded by a very tightly packed contingent of rabid fans. It was awesome.
No question the show had high-quality songs and performers, but more than that, it was just a ton of fun. I am now a full-blown Anti-Flag fan, after a single show, and that’s saying something.
Bring Me the Horizon
The start of this show was a really goofy three minute cartoon video, warning the audience to make sure that they throw away all of their weapons and finish consuming any controlled substances. It also told us to make sure we say goodbye to our friends as we may never seem them alive again. I chuckled at the time….but wish I would have finished my gatorade and prepared myself. When the video ended, the band walked out to “S……P.I.R.I.T”, and that’s all it took. The guitar riffs hit, the smoke machines went off, chills took over, and the crowd absolutely lost their mind.
Described in one word, this show was relentless. One incredible song after another, it was a blistering and physical. “Go to Hell for Heaven’s Sake”. “Sleepwalking”. “Throne.” “Shadow Moses.” “The House of Wolves”. Even songs like “True Friends” and “Drown”, which are more rock than metal (and show BMtH’s evolution and growth as a band) were still incredibly physical and intense at this show. In addition, they sounded better than I’ve ever heard them. Singer Oli Sykes just killed it, and guitarist Lee Malia also stood out, showing major strides on guitar from the last time I saw him. I also absolutely love the addition of keys in their music, as it adds a complexity to their sound that is really great.
Overall, I was really floored by how good this show was. I mentioned earlier that they had high expectations coming into this weekend, but they exceeded those and more. This was no question one of the best shows of the weekend, a statement I never thought I’d make about a metalcore band. After the show, I was sore, exhausted, and was aimlessly walking around looking for a buddy. When I finally found him, I said “Dude, I was NOT expecting to get destroyed like that.” His response was perfect.
“I mean…did you not watch the warning video?….”
I LOVED this show. More like this at Rock on the Range, please.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Almost every year, the headliner on Sunday at Rock on the Range is a band that not only surprises people, but incites a lot of complaining. Whether it’s Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock, Soundgarden, or A Perfect Circle, the Sunday headliner is usually a well established band that the internet doesn’t agree with. Every year, those people are all completely wrong. Limp Bizkit played a ridiculously good show in 2011 that still has me shaking my head, and that Kid Rock headlining show in 2014 was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. This year, Red Hot Chili Peppers got the same treatment online, and it was their turn to prove people wrong. For me personally, RHCP was a fantastic choice as a festival headliner – I’ve never gotten the chance to see them and I had complete confidence that it would be a good show. I learned my lesson underestimating the Sunday headliner, and I wouldn’t make that mistake again. At least that’s what I told myself.
In reality, I absolutely underestimated this show, because there’s no way I expected it to be as good as it was. It was just outstanding.
I absolutely loved the way it began – RHCP loaded the stage and rather than launching right into a song, they just started jamming. They bounced all over the place musically, making it impossible to decipher what song they would land on. The uncertainty caused the anticipation to build, and build, and build. Finally, several minutes in, they landed on the unmistakable guitar intro to “Can’t Stop” and the place just exploded. The audience went from loud to mind-numbing, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers had arrived.
That set the bar high, and the rest of the show would consistently meet, or raise, that bar. There were really countless songs that I could point out as highlights. The first three songs (“Can’t Stop”, “Dani California”, and “Hey Oh”) were about as good of a start to a show as there is. The fourth song, which was the live debut of a brand new song called “Dark Necessities”, was a really unique look at what brand new material looks like. (It’s a great song, by the way.) “By the Way” was also amazing, especially the fast-paced pseudo-rap sections, where it’s impossible to know the actual words, so we all just screamed. “Under the Bridge” was a smashing success as a sing-a-long that slowed the pace just a bit without losing momentum. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the encore as a highlight. “Around The World” and “Give it Away” were the two encore songs, and that combination was arguably the best moment of music of the entire weekend.
However, focusing on individual songs doesn’t do this show justice, because the show didn’t really focus on songs. The set was completely dynamic and fluid, and some of the best moments of the show were the pure music in the space between songs. These were the moments that made the show great, watching drummer Chad Smith fill for 16 measures between songs just because, or Flea (bass) and Josh Klinghoffer (guitar) face each other and jam relentlessly, until eventually resolving into a song that everybody loved. It felt like the band was in an 80-minute groove, and all of us in the audience were doing whatever we could to keep up.
In the rare moments when the music would break completely, we got a glimpse of the personality behind the band. One time, Flea explained that the way you say Hello in Japanese sounds just like the English word “Ohio”. My favorite was when singer Anthony Kiedis made fun of Smith for having a University of Michigan kick-drum skin. “What’s a Wolverine? Is that like a furry little cuddly animal?” Seeing as how we were 2 miles from Ohio State’s campus, the crowd loved it.
Musically, I’m not even going to touch this show. They were completely locked in and sounded amazing. I’ll mention two things specifically: First, Anthony Kiedis sounded incredibly pure – you could have been playing the album and I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference. Second, despite all the talent on stage, I constantly found myself watching Flea play his ridiculous bass lines. Most of RHCP’s recent work sees him playing a bit more melodically, but on some of those old songs, he goes back to his roots and slaps some of the most funkadelic bass solos I’ve ever had the privilege to watch live. It was incredible.
The final component worth mentioning was the stage design and production. The name of the game here was IMAG (image magnification), as RHCP’s stage featured a giant half-moon shaped screen with four circular screens surrounding it. These screens, along with the two enormous screens built into the main stage by festival organizers, gave them limitless surfaces for video feeds, psychedelic color shows, or giant polka-dot patterns. The fluidity not only made the stage feel constantly fresh and groovy, but because of the size of the screens, it also made it feel strangely intimate, for all forty thousand of us.
Overall, I really can’t say enough about how good this show was. Reviews like this are hard because the show was so good that your mind gets lost in the music a bit. It’s impossible to focus on the pros and cons of what’s going on, because you’re just consumed. This was no doubt one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Red Hot Chili Peppers have been playing for over 30 years, and are still going strong, with an album due out in 2016 and a headlining show like this one. I hope I catch another RHCP show some day, but for now, consider me thankful that I got to see this one.
With that, we conclude another fantastic weekend of music. After a quick stint trying to locate my stolen cell phone, Rock on the Range 2016 came to an end. Three straight twelve-hour days of music, food, and drink, takes its toll, and my group (along with all the other Rangers, I’m sure) were ready to crash, rest, and recover.
How can a weekend feel so long and so short at the same time? See you next year Columbus!!