After work, I took the next flight and headed to North Carolina to cover Carolina Rebellion that took place at Charlotte Motor Speedway (CMS). Carolina Rebellion was a first for me – I was very nervous going to this festival because I did not know what to expect with taking pictures and watching the bands perform. I kept being told that May is the loudest month to roll into North Carolina – nothing but Rock and Roll and a good time! It was 10:00 am, by the time we arrived at the gate to go in and get situated, it was nothing but open space, with the stages far apart from each other and everyone getting ready before the doors open to the public. It was interesting walking around and checking out people doing soundcheck for the first bands! Steven was telling me how music festivals work and how it was very weird for him to be in the festival and not performing. It was a very sunny day, somewhere between cold and warm. Unfortunately, it had been raining a lot the night before in North Carolina, so it was extremely muddy – we were not ready for that!
By the time doors open everyone came in running, no one expected to be slowed down by how muddy the ground was from the heavy rain! As time went on, it started getting packed with people. We all shared two things in common – we all were there for the music, and also trying to avoid being sucked into the mud! It was brutal. Starting off the show with Dillinger Escape Plan, not only did I get to photograph them – I got to finally see the live! They were insane and all over the place – so much energy from each band member! They seriously got the crowd going, including myself, and I look forward to seeing them live again.
The crowed started to gather before Of Mice & Men hit the Carolina Stage at 2:35pm The metalcore band from Orange County now has a new vocalist – Aaron Pauley, the bassist of OM&M. I have never really been into the band, but I know that everyone loved Austin Carlile. I had no idea that the band was now with a new vocalist, but the crowd seemed to respond really well to the band’s performance, with a whole lot of energy and singing! I was taking pictures of the band’s first three songs, and there was a whole lot of crowdsurfing and kids losing their minds.
So far the first day was going really good. We walked around and interacted with other people, and it was insanely packed by 4:00pm. So many people were drunk, yelling, and running to other stages before bands started playing. I had to rush back to Carolina Stage so that I didn’t miss Pierce The Veil. Now let me tell you – I used to be a big fan of PTV, and have seen them live multiple times. I stopped listening to them for a very long time till I saw them again at Carolina Rebellion. I forgot why I liked them so much back when I was 15 years old, but this performance reminded me of the fact and blew my mind away. Next thing we know, right before the show went on, Mike Fuentes came out with someone with a monkey mask. Mike got behind his drum kit, and the guy with the monkey mask went to center-stage and started getting the crowd pumped before the rest of the band joined him. Vic Fuentes still had an amazing voice, and I capture so many good moments.
Amon Amarth then put up such a stellar set – the way they looked at their fans and pointed out to the crowd was pretty cool to witness. I’ve seen AA so many times, that I know they never disappoint and always give it their all when performing. And let’s not forget the epic Viking boat they always bring up on stage. Johan Hegg is definitely one of my favorite vocalists. So far, I had photographed every single band by this time, but what I seriously loved about AA was how much they interacted with me as I photographed them. They made it so easy for me to capture some of the coolest moments as they played. Johan really knew how to get the crowd going, roaring “ARE YOU FEELING FUCKIN’ GREAT?” followed by a big deep growl. The crowd absolutely lost it!
After a few epic songs, I made my way to the Gold Stage catch a little bit of Every Time I Die. I was a little bummed about how some of the bands I wanted to see played at the same time, but it’s okay, and it was still a sick time! Every Time I Die definitely had a big crowd going – it was hard getting through them! I had never seen them live, so it was cool to check them out. By the time I got there, everyone was mellowed out – just headbanging with nothing much more going on.
The moment I had been waiting for was Mastodon. As I went up to the stage to photograph them, they started of with “Sultan’s Curse”. It was all I had ever hoped for – I had never seen them live, and finally experiencing their music live was absolutely sick. I love Troy Sanders‘ vocals – he seriously sounds exactly like his recordings. I enjoyed every single song, as did the crowd! So many people were singing along and headbanging, and let’s not forget the crowd-surfers!
I had a really hard time enjoying my two favorite bands of all time – Opeth and Gojira. When I first saw the schedule, I found that they were both playing at the same time, which really sucked. But the fans were all so bummed out and making a big deal about it that Opeth played 15 minutes before Gojira, As I patiently waited, ready to photograph them, they opened up with a fantastic performance of “Sorceress”. It was hard taking pictures and not headbang and sing along with Mikael Åkerfeldt. I can say that he is my favorite vocalist of all time – he makes his singing look so easy! Next thing you know, he was growling and screaming after gracefully singing! The fans were all loving it. I saw a girl cry and sing along, and I could totally relate to her as I was photographing a band I’ve been listening to for years. After a few songs, I found myself running towards the other side of the festival to be able to see Gojira. The crowd was huge and crazy as I got there for the last two songs. They ended the set with one of my favorite songs, “Vacuity”. It’s like Gojira never ever disappoint – on recording and live, they sounds the same. They band sounded so tight, and the crowd’s response as always was off the wall – horns and fist up to the sky with aggressive headbanging!
So far, the day was pretty great. I made my way along with Steven to the Rebellion stage to watch a A Perfect Circle. All I have to say is that it was all I had been waiting for all day. Seeing Manyard James Keenan in the background in the darkness was fascinating! He has such moves along with the rest of the band. I can say I was pretty pleased with their set listm as they played a lot of my favorite songs like “The Noose”, “Hourglass”, and “Thinking of You”. Billy Howerdel blew my mind away with the way he played his guitar and moved. They ended with “The Outsider”, my favorite song. As we were all singing along, some couples started holding hands, while others had their hands up on the air slowly moving along to this song. As it built up, people started headbanging and singing so loud it was amazing! And I was definitely feeling it with them!
It was very cold by the end of the night, but everyone was walking over to the Carolina Stage for the last performance of the day – Soundgarden. I have been to way too many music festivals, but I can say I have never seen such a big crowd for a band as there was for Soundgarden. The band was up on stage slowly building up the song as they all walked to the front. I was so pumped that they started the set with “Spoonman” – it brought me back to my summer years growing up and listening to them. It was pretty insane being so far from stage and looking over at the crowd singing along to “Spoonman”. They had a sweet set list going on – along with the famous “Black Hole Sun” – which ended with “Slaves and Bulldozers”. Chris Cornell definitely gave it all he had with those killer vocals.
To summarize, we all survived Day 1 with big smiles. Carolina Rebellion Festival was so far my favorite festival of the year, and outdid any music festival I have ever attended. And there were still two more days to go! Now I can see why everyone says the month of May is the craziest and month for summer festivals!