May 9th, 2015. On this day I do not venture to Wisconsin for pull tabs and dairy air. No sir. On this day, I came to the land of day drinking to Rock. Part of the Worlds Loudest Month, The first Northen Invasion Festival at Somerset Amphitheater promised to be an ear bursting day packed with some of the best Hard Rock and Metal have to offer. Headlined by neighboring state Iowa’s conquering heroes Slipknot.
Crobot was a band put on my radar through fellow Decibel Geeks Chris Czynszak and Billy Hardaway. Their most recent release Something Supernatural is a raging slab of stoner rock but I was seeing them live with virgin eyes. And they were fucking nuts. They came out and stormed the stage like Kanye finding out Beyonce’ didn’t win something. My first thought was they should have been on later when more people could see them. In recollection however, the early part of these festivals often drag as unknown acts with little stage presence keep you looking at your watch hoping they say “We got one more for ya.” Putting Crobot on as the second band of the day made sure I never checked the time.
I got a chance to talk to the band and it was almost as much fun as watching them play. A dash of honesty (it’s an honorable embarrassment to be from the same state as Bret Michaels), and a lot of talk about crotch shots, dick shrinkage (turtling) when jamming, cheese curds, and having a high vocalist. If they play near you. See them.
Shortly after Crobot was Canada’s Thousand Foot Krutch. I had only heard their most recent release the day before so when speaking with singer Trevor McNevan I was surprised to learn they had been a band for 18 years. Which makes me wonder what other secrets Canada has been hiding from me. Before leaving the media tent to catch In This Moment, I had a chat with a couple more Canadians Brad Walst and Barry Stock from Three Days Grace. We spoke of almost nothing of substance as we spent the time with them clearing up myths about Canadians (They are NOT afraid of the dark.) Very cool guys. Catching their show later on the main stage, they delivered their fans a set packed with hits.
Having heard so much about In This Moment’s show seeing them was on my must-do list and Jesus was that a good move. My only complaint would be the breaks between songs while Maria Brink changed costumes. Beyond that, it was a perfectly outrageous show filled with nudish dancers, skeleton guitar players and more phallic symbols than a Disney movie. From there we ran across the grounds to the second stage to catch up and comers The Pretty Reckless. Happy to say there is more than hype. Much attention is given to the singer Taylor Momsen but selling the band short would be a mistake. A recurring thought at this point was “I wish they played longer”.
My personal highlight may have been Anthrax who even without drummer Charlie Benante, out as he battles carpal tunnel, and being limited to a 30 minute set, played one of the best shows I have seen by them. Newest member guitarist Jon Donais fits perfect. And I’m done saying I can’t believe how good Joey sounds because at a certain point it seems insulting. Joey kicks ass and always has. He is as important to the Anthrax sound as anything.
Following Anthrax was Volbeat and then Halestorm. The sun set as Halestorm finished their set leaving only main stagers Five Finger Death Punch and Slipknot. There are no shortage of haters for 5FDP, including yours truly at times. Combine that with rumors this past week of the band breaking up on stage and I was intrigued as to what I would see. And while their brand of meat-head metal may not appeal to everyone, it appeals to plenty as you couldn’t fling a beer cup without hitting someone wearing one of those adorable ONE TWO FUCK YOU t-shirts. But say what you want about them or their music, when it was time to put on a show they worked their asses off and played their music spot on. For what it’s worth I saw no sign of any band tension on stage this night.
Slipknot. I first saw them at this same venue in 1999 as part of the Ozzfest that year. They arrived in a station wagon and played much earlier in the day. Even then their show was something you didn’t want to miss. I have seen them several times since. But much has happened to this band since the last time I saw them. Paul Gray died of an overdose. Corey Taylor and Joey Jordison giving the media conflicting reports about the future of the band seemingly weekly. Joey, in what I can only assume isn’t a coincidence, was fired as the band prepared to record their first post-Paul Gray record .5: The Gray Chapter. This would be the first for my eyes evidence of how the band is holding up. Of course, Slipknot put on a show that few bands bother to do. Describing a Slipknot show to someone who hasn’t seen them is like describing bottled water to sand. The best I can come up with is it’s like the highlights of a KISS concert for an entire show. You’ll never catch it all. Corey Taylor has to be in the best shape of his life as he darted all over the stage while never missing a note. At the end of the evening, the parking lot was full meaning most fought through the late evening winds to watch the Knot.
So how would I sum up Northern Invasion? It was rock. It was metal. It was communal. It was a celebration. And it was fun. And I’m told it will be back next year. Meaning so will I and so should you.