FESTIVAL REVIEW: LOUDER THAN LIFE 2017 Live at Champions Park, Louisville, KY – Day 2 (Sunday)
The second day of Louisville’s Louder Than Life music festival was a much more rockin’ affair than the more metal focus of the first day. Despite this, the attendance nearly matched the first day and there was no lack of enthusiasm from the fans. Let’s take a peek at day two.
Taking the place of Biters on the Zorn stage, self-proclaimed art rockers Palaye Royale were a worthy replacement. Rooted in alternative and punk rock, the big choruses and dancy rhythms got the crowd going. Black Map opened the bigger Loudmouth stage with a cool, groovy rock sound that should get them more attention. Following them, ‘68 brought the ruckus to Zorn with a combination of aggressive punk rock and expressive grunge. They’ve been a name to watch for awhile and were just one example of a band from the weekend who had made the significant jump from Warped Tour bills to huge rock festival slots.
Joyous Wolf welcomed a growing crowd on Monster with more of a post-hardcore sound and as such, stood out from the rest of the pack. So far, they have EP and a few singles and are fairly unknown. The potential is there however. It was Greta Van Fleet though on Loudmouth that I had heard much talk about as a live act and their emulation of 70’s rock ala Led Zeppelin. Turns out said talk was extremely accurate and what Greta lacked in presence they made up for in pitch perfect sound with a vocalist whose control and power demanded attention. Greta were the highlight of the morning. I’m looking forward to seeing them again and higher up on future bills.
Next up on Monster were the punk rock stars in Beartooth, potentially this generation’s most well-known name in the genre. Of all the bands on Sunday’s bill, it was them that brought anthems worthy of big festival crowds. They also attracted an ultra receptive crowd, rivaling even the headliners later in the day. Australia’s Ocean Grove sounded like and appeared to be pulled straight out of the nineties and their crowd seemed to love it. As a lesser-known act, they played a set that was earning the attention of passer-by’s due to their heaviness.
Nothing More were one of Sunday’s biggest center points of hype on Loudmouth. With a huge and ambitious sound that combines prog, active rock and electronic music and a deep connection to their fanbase, Nothing More radiate a unique energy. Their stage show has become well-known and earned them comparisons to, of all artists, Imagine Dragons. Playing Louder Than Life for the second time, it’s clear that they’re quite a bit more known now and didn’t have to worry so much about drawing an audience. Now with three records to speak of, they included an array of material mainly from their two most recent albums and one single from their debut. Of course, the scorpion tail came into play and if you looked around, you could see many wide-eyed festival-goers fixated on the literal balancing act that is frontman Jonny Hawkins riding and controlling the console at the end of the set. Never a disappointing set.
Radkey were another newcomer and an interesting one at that. Reminiscent of a more rockin’ version of Danzig, their sound and style kept a consistent crowd at Zorn. Meanwhile, Falling In Reverse made their path to Monster and attracted one of the stage’s most receptive and hugest crowds for the afternoon. Their stage presence and joking with fans made for a lively half hour of tongue-in-cheek pop rock as well as my preference for the afternoon.
With the exception of Thrice the next few slots would be all about embracing more of a feminine side of rock and some of the festival’s most interesting sets came from Lacuna Coil, In This Moment, The Pretty Reckless and Halestorm. Each band had a specific draw during their set: In This Moment easily had the most visually interesting show, for instance. Lacuna Coil have always been notable for their dual vocalist format and great chemistry because of it. They were my personal favorite of the late afternoon. The Pretty Reckless brought with them a lot of soul. Halestorm played the most energetic set out of the four and were also the loudest and most commanding, truly a force to be reckoned with. Thrice, meanwhile, stood on their own as a damned solid rock band and drew adoring and seemingly longtime fans as their set spanned a diverse selection of their catalog.
Now late evening, tents and merchants were beginning to pack up and the crowd energy was beginning to somewhat wane. As I found out shortly after however, the four headliners were about to liven things up a great deal. In my opinion and for my money, Stone Sour were the best of the four and deserved a higher placement on the bill. Bringing energetic hard rock and a few ballads that promoted loud sing-a-longs, it was the stage energy and visible optimism of the band themselves that earned them my favorite set of the evening.
Rise Against were a close second though, playing a consistently upbeat and passionate set of politically charged punk rock. Sing-a-longs were commonplace and it wasn’t uncommon to see one of the musicians jumping into the crowd, despite them all being tied to an instrument. I felt Rise Against captured the essence and spirit of punk better than anyone else on Sunday.
The pair of bands for the finale, while putting on individually fine shows, were undoubtedly underwhelming and decidedly less loud in tone than the previous two headliners. Incubus surely have the extensive and diverse catalog to be a headliner, but don’t bring as much of a show as their more energetic material would suggest. This is not denying the extensive musical talent of their comprising members; It’s just really difficult to follow up the likes of Stone Sour. Incubus do however make for good night music, just not great pump-up material. As a result, Sunday night felt slower.
Prophets of Rage were an even more interesting choice for closer of the weekend. Despite having a star-studded lineup of former and current members of such well-regarded acts as Rage Against The Machine and Public Enemy, playing only covers of those artists’ songs and only having not even two records’ worth of material already sounded messy on paper. It didn’t help that every original song bled into the other, though the set’s energy was undeniably set higher than Incubus’. Lacking diversity and a containing a repetitious singular message didn’t make for an enjoyable hour and a half. I even felt as if I shouldn’t have stayed for the second half of the headliners. This boils down to preference though and the performing qualities of the aforementioned pair of artists were still cool to witness.
Overall, Louder Than Life year four offered a more diverse and varying experience than in years’ past and more than anything, has expanded the possibilities of the festival and its lineup.