Rockfest in Kansas City is one of the biggest one day music festivals to occur every year, and has been doing so for the past 26 years. While making its home in a few locations since its inception, Rockfest finally made a more suitable and permanent home at the Kansas Speedway. 2018 marked the second year the festival would be at the Speedway, using the outside of the stadium as the grounds for rock (and some metal) music, with the stadium providing shade on one side for those that party a little harder than others.
Doors opened a little after 11:00 a.m and the lines were long for both sides, especially the general admission. Hundreds were already gathering for the start of the show, a great sight to behold. The weather was mostly overcast and the temperatures at around 80 degrees.
Hyborian were the local band to open for Rockfest at the smaller of the two stages, playing a straightforward style of stoner rock. While it wasn’t a surprising sound to hear, they straight up proved they deserved to be there as their set was tight and they accomplished the goal of getting people involved and energetic. This had been the first time I heard of the project as well and made me eager to hear them again if given the chance.
Opening up for the main stage, 10 Years took to the stage with high ferocity and were one of my favorites of the day. Jesse Hasek was an amazing frontman for the entire set, reminding me of the time I’d seen the group help open up for Breaking Benjamin a few years ago. Fan favorites were played such as “Wasteland” and the newest off of their latest work “Novacaine”. They didn’t miss a beat and the crowd was immediately piling up in droves, making it pretty difficult to get close to the action if you arrived late to the party.
Other acts that caught my eyes and ears early on did a great job in bringing in the crowds were Bad Wolves, Powerman 5000, Shaman’s Harvest, Sevendust, and Butcher Babies.
Bad Wolves brought about the resurrection of Tommy Vext, with his superbly clean vocals and contrasting devastating growls, to the forefront. He had previously been the vocalist of Divine Heresy, but after some complications personally and professionally he had been kicked out, and I was quite surprised to hear him being the frontman for this unknown project. Their newest album had recently been released and was reaching new heights in terms of charts and receiving audiences. Their set was clean and interactive through and through, and I’m hoping the group’s future reaches even farther.
Powerman 5000 was a favorite of mine back in high school, with hits such “Drop The Bombshell” and “When Worlds Collide”. Their energy was pretty unmatched with Murv Douglas pulling some funny robot dance moves while playing the bass and Spider One bouncing all over the place with the mic, getting the crowd pumped up to the max. If you missed out on these guys, well that is mostly your loss.
Shaman’s Harvest brought about a flavor of southern rock from Jefferson City, MO with their motto being “Country as Fuck!” on t-shirts and screaming it through the sound system. I really liked the mic stand that Nathan Hunt used, it had an animal skull mounted on the top, and the horns each housed two separate mics that he could use to go from one side to another.
Sevendust was another crowd favorite of the day, with Lajon Witherspoon belting out some of the best vocals of the entire venture. Today marked the band’s last day of their tour supporting their newly released album, ‘All I See Is War’, which I’d been spinning quite a few times beforehand. Lajon even brought out his kids during the set, to show his appreciation for Kansas City since he recently moved to the outskirts of the city.
Butcher Babies were another surprise, quite honestly. While I had never delved into their music previously, I had an idea of what to expect when they hit the stage. They came out, guns blazing, playing a style of groove, thrash, and metalcore. Their stage presence was quite astonishing, as Carla and Heidi would put themselves on top of the speakers in front of the stage and even went above and beyond by leaving the stage and going into the pit to meet the crowd by the fence. Even if you don’t consider yourself a fan, their showmanship is at an ungodly level compared to most other bands.
With the night winding down, other bands caught the eyes of many as well, including legendary grunge rockers Stone Temple Pilots. Jeff Gutt showcased why he became the new frontman of the band and didn’t disappoint. His vocals were on point all the while keeping a calm and collected persona on stage. He also decided to leave the stage and try to join the crowd by the barricades of the main stage, which was quite surprising considering how big STP is. I would definitely catch one of their shows coming through town if given the chance.
The last two closers before the headliner, Five Finger Death Punch, were Ghost and Underoath. Each band were almost polar opposites of one another but in every great way possible. Underoath put on a unique light show with a huge LED screen in the background, portraying their new album art as well as some cool lighting designs. Ghost had a light show in of their own but in more of a theatrical fashion, with the Nameless Ghouls getting their time to shine during solos and Cardinal Copia with his ritualistic passages. Ghost is another one of those bands that put on a show unlike others and should be witnessed even if you’re not too much into their sound. Either way, both bands brought their strengths and absolutely slayed the crowd.
Five Finger Death Punch were the last to take to the main stage, and they put on quite the show. Chris Kael interacted with the photographers and crowd, giving off the most energy, throwing the bird occasionally and throwing a plethora of guitar picks frequently. Justin Moody was much more interactive than I anticipated, constantly moving from one side of the stage to the other. They put a lot more energy into their set than what I was expecting. Thousands of people could be seen in all directions just to see these guys play.
Overall, Rockfest was an absolute hit. Kansas Speedway proved to be a great venue for music, food, drinks, and partying all around. Every band brought their A game and really brought out the best in the crowds and sound of the festival. While it may not have been the best festival to hit Kansas City (in regards to some opinions), it definitely brought out some of the best that the city has offered in recent years. Rockfest continues to shine and will hopefully do so in the upcoming years.