FESTIVAL REVIEW: ROCK ALLEGIANCE 2017 Live at BB&T Pavilion & Wiggins Waterfront Park, Camden, New Jersey
Once again, I find myself in an extreme state of anxiety and anticipation as Danny Wimmer Presents smashes our faces with explosive energy from some of today’s most sought-after artists. Bringing another edition of Rock Allegiance to BB&T Pavilion, Wiggins Waterfront Park in Camden, NJ normally hosted in Chester, PA at the Talen Stadium, this year proved to be a slight challenge for all those attending, as the 2nd stage was quite a distance from the other two, as well as overlapping of stage times or simply not enough time to get from one to the other. If nothing else, it proved as an excellent means of exercise for this old fart.
Let’s get this show on the road, shall we? There’s so much to cover despite being one a one-day festival, but with combined efforts of Monster Energy, FYE, Live Nation, Road Runner Records, and of course Danny Wimmer Presents…to name a few. With the day heating up and the humidity slowly rising through partly cloudy skies, Radkey opened the festival on the mainstage, promptly at 1:35 pm. Led by guitarist/vocalist Dee Radkey with brothers Isaiah (bass/vocals) and Solomon (drums) Radkey, these guys from St. Joseph, Missouri who’ve only been together since 2011, hammered away at their punk/garage genre as the crowd began to fill the amphitheater and lawn as well. Biters based in Atlanta, Georgia (2007) brought a moderate setlist of monster metal mind-mashing, with “Hallucination Generation” and “1975” to name a few. On the 2nd stage was New Year’s Day fronted by the lovely Ash Costello and originally from Anaheim, California..a perfect last minute fill-in for Marilyn Manson, who earlier this month broke two bones in his leg, while performing in NYC. This explosive quartet not only put on a stellar seven-song set to the thrill of their diehard fans, but also was extremely entertaining while being interviewed by multiple media outlets. Both Steel Panther and DED respectfully began their performances on both the mainstage (Steel Panther) and 3rd stage (DED), so having covered Michael Starr and the boys many times, I opted to see the Tempe, Arizona American nu-metal/hardcore show of DED instead. With Joe Cotella on vocals accompanied by David Ludlow (guitars, b/up vox), drummer Matt Reinhard along with the badass bass beats of Kyle Koelsh, these west coast dudes surely put a hurtin’ on the east coast music scene with barely one year under their belt as touring artists. With a newly dropped disc titled ‘Mis.an.thrope’ (July 21, 2017), and four singles to their credit, they assaulted each of their hits with thunderous diligence as they wildly tore through hit such as “Remember the Enemy” and “Anti-Everything” (truly a crowd pleaser!). For more on this up and coming headliner band, go to firstname.lastname@example.org.
He Is Legend hit the 2nd stage as if on cue, as this Wilmington, NC rock band took the audience to their feet with an elaborate seven-song set with several hits off their latest disc ‘Few’ (2017), including “Air Raid” and “Attack of the Dungeon Witch”.
Hot on their heels and judging by the sea of fans clamoring up the stairs to their mainstage seats and filling up the lawn area, the next band up is going to rock our socks off. Without further ado, I present Maria Brink and the bad boys of In This Moment! Opening with my all-time ITM favorite “Blood”, Brink and guitarists Randy Weitzel and Chris Howorth enticed and titillated us with non-stop hits and riffs, as the fog/steam shot from the front ‘canons’ settled upon both artists and stage and mixed with the constant blue and red lights, making for a somewhat difficult viewing from the lawn. Drummer Kent Dimmel was set off to the far stage left(right side for viewers), almost as if detached from the other members, but kept a steady, hard-pounding beat with bassist Travis Johnson, especially with heart-stoppers such as “Adrenalize”, “Oh Lord”, and of course Brink’s favorite “Whore”, in which she proudly displayed her famous white dunce hat. More insight to the fabulous collaboration of talented musicians can be found at http://www.inthismomentofficial.com.
Starset, founded in 2013 and based out of Columbus, Ohio hit the 3rd stage, bringing their cinematic rock after a well-received drop of their second album ‘Vessels’ (2016). Fronted by the ever talented Dustin Bates on vocals and occasional keyboard/rhythm guitar, Ron Dechant (bass), Brock Richards (lead guitar), drummer Adam Gilbert and accompanied by touring members cellist Jonathan Kampfe and violinist Siobhan pulled their weight with true professionalism as the band entertained us with everything from “Frequency” to “Ricochet”, to their closing number “Monster”. Additional information can be obtained at http://www.starsetonline.com.
Now, let me introduce the latest phenomenon to hit the airwaves and stages all across the country. Formed in 2012 and with a newly released studio EP (April 2017), under their belts, Josh Kiszka (vox) led Greta Van Fleet into a stellar six-song setlist on the 2nd stage and over the harbor. Based in Frankenmuth, MI this four-piece, founded by brothers Josh and Jake Kiszka (guitars) is heavy into classic rock such as Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane and the late great Jimi Hendrix, although these fine gents prefer to label their musical genre as ‘Renaissance Rock’. Belting out their opener “Highway Tune” followed by “Safari Song”, it wasn’t long before drummer Sam Kiszka and Danny Wagner on bass went off prior to their hit “Flower Power”, into a rendition of John Bonham’s ‘Moby Dick’ solo. Closing with “Black Smoke Rising”, Josh Kiszka (dressed in moccasins and rawhide vest) gave it all he had with his over-the-top vocals. I might add too, that we got to sit down with these lads after their gig, along with their managers, and I have to tell you – the conversations that came from this opportunity were extremely informative as well as inspiring. Greta Van Fleet will undoubtedly become a national headliner in a few short years. To keep up with updated news/events, please visit http://www.gretavanfleet.com. Get out there and go see them – you won’t be disappointed!
August Burns Red based out of Lancaster, PA (2003) brought their unique version of American metalcore/melodic Christian metal, as they tore through an explosive eight-song set beginning with “Invisible Enemy” (which got the crowd jumping with horns high in the air), and both “Front” (Live debut) closer “White Washed” to name a few. Vocalist Jake Luhrs, guitarists Brent Rambler and John Benjamin “JB” Brubaker, Dustin Davidson on bass/keyboard along with the expertise of drummer Matt Greiner all showed exemplary unity and professionalism all throughout their performance. With the end of August Burns Red show, the lights dimmed as the 3rd stage wrapped up its outstanding acts of today.
Next up on the mainstage was the multi-talented and gorgeous guitarist and vocalist Lzzy Hale and brother Arejay Hale (drums), Josh Smith (bass/vocals) and guitarist Joe Hottinger…as the one, the only Halestorm, originating in Red Lion, PA 1998). And here I thought that the crowd couldn’t possibly get any louder as when In This Moment graced the stage…boy was I ever surprised! The chants of “Lzzy…Lzzy…Lzzy” were borderline deafening as Halestorm brought their A-game to New Jersey, with their explosive opener “Love Bites (So Do I)” preceded by an elaborate and extended jam into not wasting time for a brief beat, the Pennsylvania rockers rip faces off with “I Am The Fire”, “I Get Off” (which Lzzy sings 1st verse in acapella), followed by “Freak Like Me”. It was after this, that Arejay Hale went off into a mindless metal drum solo, which had many in the front rows raising the arms up and down, as if drumming on air. Ending with “I Love The Misery”, Halestorm truly outdid themselves – especially after Lzzy Hale fell ill the day/night prior to show.
Another Columbus, Ohio American hardcore/punk rock band to hit the 2nd stage was the ever popular Beartooth, formed in 2012 by vocalist Caleb Shomo. With two studio albums – ‘Disgusted’ (2014) and ‘Aggressive’ (2016) as well as an extended play ‘Sick’ (2013), and nine singles (2013-2017) to their credit, Beartooth proved they came to take no prisoners or take names, as they pummeled the eager crowd with an aggressive eight number setlist. Beginning with “Body Bag” and “Aggressive” (extended intro; wall of death during bridge) they never let up as they rolled into ‘The Lines” (Shomo asks crowd to kneel – and they did it!) with a massive circle pit requested by Caleb Shomo, again during the hit “Always Did”, the crowd totally lost their heads (and probably oceans of ice cold beer) as they jumped up and down, young and old…in unison.
Mastodon, based out of Atlanta, Georgia brought their hardcore/progressive rock to the mainstage minutes prior to Beartooth finishing, but there was no shortage of fans as the amphitheater seats filled to capacity as well as nearly half of the lawn. Comprised of four of the most maniacal metal madmen – Bill Kelliher on guitar, guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds, Troy Sanders on bass/vocals and drummer Brann Dailor slapped our senses silly, as Mastodon came at us with an electrifying eleven song setlist, breaking the ice with their classic hits such as “Sultan’s Curse”, “Megalodon”, “Andromeda”, and closer “Steambreather” as a few examples.
Wrapping up the 2nd stage for the evening, was the well waited for Gojira. Coming all the way from Bayonne, France, Gojira had no problem firing up the already ecstatically energized crowd as Joe Duplantier (guitar/vocals) led these fine Frenchmen in the opening song “Only Pain” and quickly rolled into their other premium numbers such as “Flying Whales” and “Toxic Garbage Island”, while guitarist Christian Andreu rolled riffs off his six-string. Jean-Michel Labadie on bass accompanied by drummer Mario Duplantier certainly held their own, making Gojira a ‘must see’ band!
After a much-needed break as well as the need to satisfy the grumbling felt deep within my stomach, I took a few minutes to hit one of the food vendor stands. So many choices and so little time, so I opted for two slices of sausage and cheese pizza from Nico’s. A bit pricey if you ask me at $19/2 slices…but I was hungry.
With little to no time left, I positioned myself against the back wall of the lawn area, eagerly awaiting the next two headliners – Five Finger Death Punch (fronted by none other than Ivan Moody) and Rock Allegiance’s favorite festival closer, Rob Zombie. Beginning with 5FDP and an eleven song setlist fit for ‘Rock’s Royalty’, the boys from Las Vegas, Nevada have been pumping out hits since 2005, and with Moody once again on top of his game, there’s no stopping these heavy metal giants! From the moment they began with “Lift Me Up”, these rockers fiercely pounded out stadium-vibrating beats out of both Chris Kael on an elongated bass and the relentless hammering of Jeremy Spencer on drums. During their chart-topping hit ”Wash It All Away”, “Got Your Six”, “Bad Company”, and “Burn MF”, guitarists Jason Hook and Zoltan Bathory battled riffs amongst themselves, as if in competition with each other. Moody brought out Maria BrinkofIn This Moment for an acoustical duet during “The Bleeding” – an exceptional treat for those attending. And as tradition goes, they wrapped up with the audio recording of “House of the Rising Sun”. It truly warms my heart to see Ivan Moody at his finest once again…and so happy to be back in 5FDP’s saddle. Kudos Ivan!
Last but certainly not least, is the never-aging performance of Rob Zombie and company. With fifteen classic numbers on this setlist, guitarist John 5 took to his Fender Stratocaster like children take to candy, as Rob Zombie began the audio assault on the tired and weary crowd, awakening them with their opener “The Last of the Demons Defeated”, followed by “Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown”. Half way through this remarkable set, Zombie kicked it into high gear with “More Human Than Human” and it wasn’t long before Piggy D and Ginger Fish brought mind-shattering beats while playing “House of 1000 Corpses”, John 5 methodically finished with “House of 1000 Corpses” and immediately went into one of his famous solos, which anyone in their right mind doesn’t want to miss – totally off the chain. No Zombie show is complete without them playing my all-time absolute Rob Zombie number “Thunder Kiss,’65” (White Zombie cover). They always nail this one, and tonight was no exception! Wrapping up the night, Zombie and crew finished us off with a Ramones cover “Blitzkrieg Bop”, followed by “School’s Out” (Alice Cooper cover) and lastly “Dragula”. It’s always an upmost pleasure to see such an established act as Zombie grace any/all of the Danny Wimmer Presents festivals, and an even more humbling experience being able to chat with Rob or John 5 whenever they have a few free moments.
All in all, I’d have to give this festival review a solid 4 out of 5 stars, not so much for the musical line-up but more so due to glitches that were set forth from the moment the venue was changed from Talen Stadium, Chester, PA. Food and beverage prices were somewhat more costly than all DWP festivals, and there were a few minor issues with security regarding the ‘all access’ media passes and where we were allowed, as well as the overall layout of venue. While the backdrop was exquisite with the harbor and massive sailboat in background, the 2nd stage took 10-15 minutes to reach from the common area just outside the amphitheater. But with these inevitable issues that besiege even the best of venues from time to time, it was quite apparent that all that attended made the most of this gorgeous day and had an awesome day just the same. So once again, my hat is off to Danny Wimmer Presents, along with other top-notch sponsors such as Monster Energy – who was kind enough to keep media area well stocked, Live Nation and Road Runner Records, as well as Fuck Cancer and Dyin 2 Live Foundation. A truly remarkable day indeed…Thank You Rock Allegiance!