This year Danny Wimmer Presents takes us from a two-day event to a fully stocked three-day banger in the heart land of the Midwest Columbus Ohio. With the weekend forecast calling for rain over the festival this year, Friday was all sunshine and daydreams in Buckeye country. Dubbed the Largest Rock Festival in the US we were in for a treat for sure with Acts like A Perfect Circle and Alice in Chains to Close out the night and hot up and comers Underoath, 10 Years, Atreyu and the insanely popular Greta Van Fleet all made appearances at this year’s opening day festivities as Rock on the Range officially opened in grand style for 2018.
With a Main Stage set up in the MAPFRE Stadium end zone and two smaller stages set up on both outsides of the stadium, The Bud Light Stage and the Zippo Encore Stage respectively you were packed with music coming from all sides. It was Beautiful. Also on site we had the Artist’s Experience tents where you could check out some of the cool autographed guitars, photos and acoustic sets as they hosted meet and greets throughout the day. With Maynard James Keenan onsite for two for the three days he also brought along his wonderful collection of Caduceus Cellar Wines from his vineyard’s in sunny Arizona. With all the incredible food vendors set up across the park as well as our Rocktenders ready to serve up a storm of drinks over the weekends madness, it was running like a well-oiled machine.
First up for the day we had a bunch of bands start it off with I See Stars on the Zippo Encore Stage and Spirit Animal taking command on the Bud Light Stage. As all the concert goers are entering the stadium grounds for the day, they are splitting up and trying to decide who to go check out first and who’s up next you could feel the anxiousness as people came through the gates. As I See Stars gets everyone warmed up. Next up is The Fever 333 this trio is a bucket full of energy right out the gates, their radical theatrics, the groove and the immense passion in the lyrics gets this crowd fired up and I mean red hot. With Mutoid Man causing a Whiplash Bash over on the Bud Light stage with their heavy NY brand of fuzzed out metal, you could tell already this was gonna be a wild weekend of debauchery.
First up on the Monster Energy Stage was California Hardcore Punk band The Bronx these guys have been spitting out punk since 2002. Releasing 5 studio albums and 3 addition albums under the handle Mariachi El Bronx these guys kick the fuck outta Punk but at the same time and will Mariachi your asses to death. If you haven’t seen them yet you need to check them out, they will be touring across Europe throughout the summer. Again, they split it up with both Senses Fail and Dance Gavin Dance hitting their respective stages at the same time, with that I had to pick and went with Dance Gavin Dance and wow was I impressed. I picked this band because I knew nothing about them and by the end of the set I was very impressed as the singer Tilian Pearson’s voice soars over the clean precise rock vibe their sound gives off. Over at the Main stage 10 Years was about to go on and by 3pm on a Friday, the place was now packed with people all ready to get rocked hard. These southern alt metal rockers 10 Years put on one hell of a show for all those in attendance, also dedicating their hit song Wasteland to fallen rockers Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell.
Moving on from that touching performance to the smaller side stage as I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz for this band out of Baltimore Maryland called Turnstile these punk rockers remind me of a throwback to the 90s with a hint of angst and aggression, Rage 2.0. These kids on stage went straight wild. Love seeing a band in the complete zone and going nuts at the same time. They were lightning in a bottle. Was very impressed. Now with one of the hottest acts coming out of the USA we have another throwback with Greta Van Fleet. This foursome consisting of twin brothers Josh and Jake on vocals and lead guitar as their younger brother Sam lays down the bass and keys while family friend Danny Wagner pounds out the thunder on drums. These very humble lads came out and threw it all out there for us all. What a breath of fresh air these guys are. That classic rock sound had everyone running to the main stage to catch them in action. By the end of their set I swear almost everyone in attendance was watching Greta Van Fleet just crush it. From small town boys from Frankenmuth Michigan to being the voice of a new music revolution I was proud to watch them rock Ohio.
While we are talking about rocking Ohio, once their set was finished I had to B- line it over to the Bud Light stage as Metalcore heavy weights Atreyu were about to hit the stage and man do these guys come locked and loaded. While running over to catch their set I noticed I wasn’t the only one running as a massive group of concertgoers were matching me stride for stride as we all were trying to get in a good spot to check out this act. Alex Varkatzas and Co. were on point as the crowd was loud and rowdy and ready to mosh it up hard. In the middle of their set bass player Porter (Marc) McKnight jumped off the stage and ran into the crowd causing everybody to start a big mosh circle. Porter stood in the center of it all and hammered out some epic bass lines. For the day, so far this must be the craziest pit I’ve seen so far this weekend and it ruled. Getting stuck in the madness of what is Atreyu I missed the performance by Hawthorne Heights part of the festival life is you must pick and choose sometimes. Now from 5-6pm I had to cover 4 bands. First starting off with Ohio’s own Machine Gun Kelly on the main stage. A fitting spot for this hometown hero. He brought his whole band of misfits with him and man did they rock that stage.
Running from that performance to the OG for real Mr. Ice T and his band Body Count just incredible to witness in person. Some of the younger generation only know him from TV Show life, but man this guy was one of the pioneers in the hip-hop industry when I was coming up. Straight Gangsta. Now on stage with his California Thrash Metal band lead by the wizard behind the Axe Mr. Ernie C. They came out ready to fight. Ice T was calling out the crowd for being pussies for not coming down from their seats to mosh it out right off the hope, to telling people he changed his name from “Ice T” to “MOTHER FUCKING ICE T” a consummate performer he had the crowd eating out of his hand as the band wailed away. After walking away from that show I felt like I needed to go calm down for a bit. Pure energy on that stage.
With everyone gathered for Body Count it left the crowd area over at Quicksand’s performance a little light on fans. I’ve been a huge fan since they first formed in the 90s so for me and the other over 40 crowd, we loved that we had a little extra arm room to pump our fists. Quicksand only ever came out with a couple album so it was great to finally hear it all after all those years. The new stuff from their 2017 release “Interiors” was killer as well. So glad they have stayed together this last little while. They still have it musically, but their stage performance was lacking. The 3-piece band seemed to spread out on that stage with not enough action going on to keep you into it.
Up next with a huge fan base that also pulled people away from the Quicksand set was Breaking Benjamin. With a new album set to hit stores June 23rd and a Top 5 rock radio hit with the song “Failure”. Breaking Benjamin keeps it going like they never stopped after a long 6-year break between albums. The fans where ready to hear the old stuff and examine the new stuff as well. The crowd was over the moon with their performance as you could see and feel the new life within this band. Before the two closers on the main stage Alice in Chains and A Perfect Circle we all gathered for the return of Grammy nominated, Tampa Bred “Underoath”.
This sextet came out to the full crowd and you could tell they could feel the energy as well. Blistering through there catalog, fans were going bat shit crazy for the show. Body after body was crowd surfing it was intense to watch. With their heavy industrial sound, they crushed favorites “On My Teeth”, “Rapture” and my favorite jam “Writing on the Walls” and left us all wanting more.
With the end of their set comes the beginning of the end for the night. We all waited for Alice in Chain’s crew to set up the stage for the night’s closers. The hot summer day turned to night it was still sweltering out and no one was going anywhere as Jerry and the boys stepped on stage to a loud roar from the crowd. With that roar came the sounds of “Check My Brain” as they opened to a full house. Ripping through classics like Again, Them Bones, Dam the River, and Down in a hole before moving onto the newer song “Hollow” off “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here”. With a 15-song set they were throwing a huge part of their best at us all night. Pushing forward with We Die Young, Nutshell, No Excuses, and the nostalgic Man in the Box and then hitting us with their new hit single The One You Know. I love the dirtiness of this song, it has a great backbone, and the harmony between Jerry and William is very comforting. Very excited to hear the rest of the new album due out in August, but yet to be titled. After giving the fans a taste of the new stuff to get their lips wet they dove back into their large catalog to finish the set with Would and Rooster. As an Encore and a homage to Chris Cornell who passed away to the day one year before they played covers of Soundgarden’s Hunted Down and Boot Camp to close their set out. Alice in Chains are one of the classiest bands I’ve ever had the opportunity to meet and chat with so for them to do this at the end of their set didn’t surprise me one bit. They are class one hundred percent. Everyone was in love with their set and the passion they put into those final two tunes for Chris.
Last up on deck to close out night one of the largest rock n roll festival in the US was A Perfect Circle. With Maynard James Keenan on hand you never know what your going to get but tonight I know one things allowed and that’s cameras so everyone was taking their fair share of photos. With Maynard, all tucked up in the back like he does, with his wig and suit, he acts more like a backup dancer then the lead singer as Billy Howerdel is more the lead character in this ever-evolving band of musicians. At one time the pinnacle of innovation with their raw aggressive music and wildly entertaining frontman. Know to me it seems as if they are just phoning it in at times. I’ve been following this band since the early 2000s and I realize 18 years has pasted but they need to get better on their stage presents as it was lagging for band that was closing out day one of the largest Rock Fest in the USA. Their music was on but their stage presents wasn’t. All in all, day one was wildly successful with the highlights for me being Atreyu, Body Count, Underoath, Greta Van Fleet and Alice in Chains. Day one was stocked with amazing talent.