FESTIVAL REVIEW: ROCK ALLEGIANCE 2016 – Day 2 (Sunday)
After yesterday’s metal madness, this old boy found it rather difficult to drag my sunburned and sore self out of the motel bed and over to Denny’s once again, before setting course to Toyota Park for Day Two of Rock Allegiance’s compilation of even more big band performances. With rain and thunderstorms in the forecast for late afternoon, we can only hope that it’ll hold off until Avenged Sevenfold closes this years’ festivities with an ultimate performance, as I’ve witnessed several times in the past.
Beginning this glorious day on the Liberty Stage was both Hundredth and Death Angel, each laying down their own brand of thrash/metal core beats to adrenalize and awaken a wiry crowd. It didn’t take long as the growling vocals of Chad Johnson and crew of Hundredth pounded our souls as they killed it with opener “Unravel” and kept the audience mesmerized until they ended their set with “Weathered Town”. Right on their heels was Death Angel, a brutally intense thrash metal band from Daly City, California, since 1982 by Rob Cavestany (lead guitar). With their latest release of ‘The Evil Divide’, Lp (the latest of eight studio Lp’s), these madmen ripped into “Evil Priest” with warp speed as Cavestany and Ted Aguilar unified their guitars, bringing about intense excitement to these now wild/wide-eyed fans. Yet another band I hadn’t previously witnessed, but you can be sure it won’t be my last!
AEGES unfortunately entertained their overly enthusiastic audience with their unique brand of desert rock genre – low tuned guitars and sludgy sunbaked riffs at the same time slot as Death Angel performed. I missed out on quite a performance, from what others’ have said. Luckily for me, Devour The Day was nearly set up to deliver a bodaciously badass show on the other side of the mainstage (River Stage), so I didn’t have far to venture this time. Front man Blake Allison led the charge as these hard-rock boys from Memphis, Tennessee, since 2012 ripped into “S.O.A.R.” with a vengeance, unleashing a spectacular diversity in off-beat kid hammering compliments of Ronnie Farris, as well as decibel defying rolling bass notes from the axe of Joey “Chicago” Walser. Ending their six song pile-driving set, all fists and horns from the fans were at full mast, as they led us into “Respect” and a dying hunger for even more. No time to waste as I meandered through the masses I grabbed a quick burnt coffee and made my way out to the Liberty Stage, as Twelve Foot Ninga was being introduced by none other than Jose Mangin of Sirius XM Radio. This Melbourne, Victoria ensemble self-dubbed as fusion metal, intrigued the ever growing audience with “Invincible”, a somewhat melodic number by with intermittent thrashing and guitar riffs of the talented Steve “Stevic” MacKay and throaty punches by Nik “Kin” Etik. It’s obvious that those Aussie mates truly have been busier than a blowfly at a barbeque as they climb up the ranks of hard-rock’s ladder of success.
The next band on stage was yet another band I knew little about, but was filled in by a close friend of mine, as a band with Led Zeppelin-like stage persona as well as the front man somewhat resembling Lemmy Kilmister and the gyrating moves of Robert Plant. Ladies and gentlemen, I now present to you Crobot! On the music scene for just five years, these head-bangers from Pottsville, PA began their pseudo-psychedelic journey of six captivating songs with “Skull of Geronimo” and ended with my new favorite number of the weekend (thus far), a heavy bass pounding “Plague Of The Mammoths” off their 2016 release of ‘Welcome To Fact City’ album. Rest assured that I’ll be following Brandon Yeagley and Crobot more as time allows.
Passing by so many appetite enticing smells wafting through the air from the overwhelming choices of exquisite food vendors as my stomach growled loudly, I returned to the Bridge Stage to take in the first three-member band to take stage at this juncture. Originating from Los Angeles, CA, 2008, Eddie Veliz (vocals, guitar), Tony Castaneda (bass, back-up vocals), and Pepe Clarke on the drum kit, KYNG brought the fans up on the rail with their heavy metal/stoner metal front and center with such mid caressing numbers as the fast paced “Falling Down” and “Down On Me”, both from their 2011 release of ‘Trampled Sun’ disc. I’m extremely impressed with the diversity and precision unification of all three members.
Sevendust. Need I say more? I had better or Lajon Witherspoon (vocals) and my boss will lop off my head! With ten successful studio albums to their credit, this Atlanta, Georgia alternative/hard metal band came, conquered and left us with dropped jaws after an electrifying six song performance. Beginning with the well embraced hit “Face to Face”, in which Joey Belladonna joined Witherspoon with vocals, and wrapping up with “Thank You”, each and every note//word uttered kept all present in a temporary trance, as member Clint Lowry (guitar) let loose with screeching neck stroking causing many up front to pick up their air guitars and strum along feverishly. One thing noted was the high-hat cymbal effects in their single “Pieces”. Kudos go out to Morgan Rose (skins), John Connolly (rhythm guitar), and definitely Vince Hornsby on bass…well executed!
I can’t hold out any longer, so a quick pit-stop at Sum Pig Food Catering for a rather pricey yet delicious pulled pork and cheddar sandwich. A well-known vendor from the Philly suburbs of Warminster, PA, these local folks never disappoint! Now with my belly satisfied immensely, I literally had only a few minutes to make it to see one of my all-time bands, consisting of the insane antics of the infamous Chad Gary (Chadness) formerly of Mudvayne. And let us not forget about ex-Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul, who I met and had a brief opportunity to chat with, along with Gray and Hellyeah members Tony Maxwell on ear-splitting guitar, Kyle Sanders on bass, with accompanying riffs of Christian Brady. This ultra-heavy metal super group traces back to the year 2000, but never surfaced until the summer of 2006. Striping our musical souls, Hellyeah shredded the afternoon air with everything heavy from “X” to “Sange por Sangre”, and “Human”, from their 2016 release ‘Undeniable’ Lp. I can’t say enough about this band that already hasn’t been said or felt in the hearts of us diehard Hellion fans other than to say that my day, weekend and month couldn’t get any better! And to top it off, Gray and crew also performed “I Don’t Care Anymore” (Phil Collins cover). Simply exquisite, especially when Sanders spit fake blood all over Gray’s face, which he sported proudly.
Neck Deep and Of Mice & Men were next on tap as threatening clouds slowly began to develop…still, no rain. Neck Deep, a pop punk band hailing from Wales since 2012, brought forth their “Gold Steps” (‘Life’s Not Out To Get You’ disc) as the band electrified the younger generation with this and three other hits, ending with “Threat Level Midnight”. Austin Carlile (vocals), Of Mice & Men out of Costa Mesa, California were next, and these west coast madmen killed it with “You Make Me Sick”, with Carlile calling to the audience to open up a most pit similar to the size Hellyeah commanded earlier. A quick eight songs later, Phil Manansala wailed on his strings during “You’re Not Alone”, leaving no question that these guys are headliner bound in the near future.
Over at the River Stage, Westfield, Massachusetts metal core band Killswitch Engage was moments away from systematically skewering our already frayed brain cells. With Jesse Leach leading the vocals on such riveting numbers as “My Curse” and “Hate By Design”, while Joel Stroetzel and Adam Dutkiewicz gave it their all, bringing on an awesome assault with their Caparison signature guitars. An over the top show, even if it was only a short set. With yet another stage scheduling snafu, I once again had to flip a coin to decide whether to watch Australian metal core band The Amity Affliction or Anthrax. It was tails. Anthrax won. In hindsight, I hope another opportunity arises for me to treat myself to the thrashing of The Amity Affliction at the earliest possible date.
Now, on to Anthrax with Syracuse, NY natives Joey Belladonna (vocals) and Scott Ian on his wailing strings. Formed in NYC during 1981 by Ian and bassist Dan Lilker, Anthrax has released eleven studio albums; the latest being ‘For All Kings’ disc. From beginning to the end of this mind-mutilating set, Anthrax never once loosened their deadly grip on the audience, especially with “Fight Em While You Can” (‘Worship Music’ Lp, 2011). The only disappointment is that they did not have time to play anything off of their 2016 album release ‘For All Kings’, but regardless, it was a superb show just the same!
Swedish band Ghost certainly was up to the task of morphing the fans into their own world, mesmerizing all that laid eyes upon them. Together since 2006, Papa Emeritus III led this band of nameless ghouls (Fire – guitar, Water – bass (recently replaced by an unknown female ghoul), drummer Earth, Ether (rhythm guitar), and the fabulous keyboard wizardry of Wind. As displayed in their opening number “Square Hammer”, with other ghostly heavy metals songs such as “Ritual” and “Absolution”, Ghost is by far one unique band you’ll not want to miss. It was my first time witnessing up close and personal and I can say without hesitation, it won’t be my last.
Brothers Vic Fuentes (vocals) and Mike Fuentes (bass) formed the next band to perform in San Diego, California in 2006 after the disbanding of Before Today (formerly Early Times), bringing true blue American rock as Pierce The Veil. More directed toward a younger generation, the Fuente brothers along with Tony Perry (lead guitar) and bassist Jamie Preciado had these young’uns’ singing right along with Vic Fuentes as they burned through their nine song set ending with “King For A Day” (‘Collide With the Sky’ disc, 2012).
From the outreaches of Chicago comes the next well-known band to grace the airwaves. Established in 1995 out of Grayslake, Illinois, Chevelle has already sold in the states alone, amassing eight discs, with their latest being ‘The North Corridor’ (2016). Guitarist/vocalist Peter Loeffler along brother Sam Leoffler on drums, played to the hearts of many during their gig – especially when they broke into their sixth song “Send the Pain Below”, and kept tearing up the stage until it was time to end this stellar performance with both “Joyride” and “Face to the Floor”, as bassist Dean Bernardini, who’s axe playing kept the Marshall amps at full bore. A lady killer band with all the right stuff…and then some! Volbeat, whom I had met earlier in the day at the signing booth and thoroughly enjoyed meeting, took to the Bridge Stage just as night began to creep in. Comprised of Michael Poulsen on rhythm guitar and lead vocals, John Larsen (on the kit), Rob Caggiano bringing explosive cord combinations of lead guitar, and Kasper Boye Larsen on bass and backing vocals, this Copenhagen, Denmark band hit the airwaves with a vengeance in 2001 with a fusion of heavy metal rockabilly and thrash metal, with a credited six solid albums to date, the last being ‘Seal the Deal & Let’s Boogie’, and has yet to let up. Tantalizing the crowd right from the get go with “The Devil’s Bleeding Crown”, Poulsen went right for our throats, following with a dozen high powered numbers including “Sad Man’s Tongue” (a country/western spin), as well as “16 Dollars” with its 1950’s sound, but a whole lot more upbeat. Ending this musically versatile set, Volbeat bid us farewell as they played one of their hits from the ‘Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood’ album – “Still Counting”, which perfectly complemented their gamut of crowd pleasers. An outstanding performance greeted with the loudest applause so far this fabulous weekend!
The second to last band to perform this cool night is an in-your-face band out of Huntington Park, California. Formed in early 1981 and bashing heads musically, thrashing the globe, is none other than Slayer! Credited as one of the “big four” heavy thrash metal bands (with Anthrax also being one), and over eleven solid studio albums to their name, Kerry King shredded everyone present with his B.C. Rick KKV signature V guitar unlike anything witnessed by me. Joining King on bass guitar was Tom Araya (also provides lead vocals), who beat his axe nearly into submission, while Gary Holt also on guitar, replaced Jeff Hanneman in May of 2013 after his untimely death. Drummer Paul Bostaph replaced Dave Lombardo the same year…no easy feat indeed. These slayers of souls lit up the night sky with every imaginable color known, but the front stage lights brightly focused on each band member just the same. An epic 13 songs to soothe the hungry beast in all of us, including “Repentless”, Mandatory Suicide”, “Fight to Death”, and least but certainly not the least – “Angel of Death” (‘Reign in Blood’ album). By the end of their reign on stage, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one feeling pleasantly violated in body, mind and soul…and couldn’t be more ecstatic either! I’m not sure I can carry on after such a metal melee, but my senses tell me to stay put, as the multi-Gold God Award winners from Huntington Beach, California was about to set forth the strongest assault musically all weekend.
From the moment M Shadows grabbed the microphone, there was no turning back, as Synyster Gates thrashed his strings like a madman while Johnny Christ pounded on his bass relentlessly. By the time they began “Hail to the King”, it was safe to say that it was a good thing the photographers had already exited the pit, as the crowd surge to the front by all brought the protective rail crashing to the ground. Completing their ten song set, they concluded with a slower, more melodic number entitled “Acid Rain” (‘Hail to the King’ Lp, 2013). These metal maestros exited the stage, but came back with an encore that consisted of “Bat Country” and the finale “Unholy Confessions” – which still rings in my ears today. Avenged Sevenfold, we than you ever so valiantly!
There is no denying it – Rock Allegiance out did themselves – not only by extending the festival an extra day, but for bringing some of the world’s finest artists together under one roof. While scheduling at times was somewhat crunched, the event promoters still did an outstanding job with artist selection, compassionate security staff, and I simply cannot say enough about the gourmet manfood selection – an endless array of choices and menus for ravenous festival goers. While I don’t drink anymore, my congratulations also must go out to the craft beer vendors and the awesome folds from Jack Daniel’s Experience, who brought their interactive museum and tempting Tasting Room. I’m not certain if last year’s festival included The Music Experience, but that basically was my first stop on Saturday morning, as fans were allowed to sit and play guitars and amps from a massive selection.
In all, a truly remarkable weekend as the rain actually did hold off until after the stage lights dimmed and went cold. Combined with 39 top-notch bands, superb food and beverages, and a crowd that, for all things considered, wall well-behaved yet extremely interactive, like only seasoned metal heads can muster. Kudos Philly and Toyota Park Talen Stadium!! Once again you delivered the perfect opportunity for such a memorable weekend – five out of five stars!