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Day one of Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio had a promising start before storms rolled in and caused a lengthy delay. The skies continued to drench the area throughout the night and the morning of the second day was quite overcast, but we were hopeful that it would be a better day. Weather forecasters had been saying for some time that Saturday would be the best day weather-wise for awhile so we weren’t going to let the clouds dampen our spirits. We were excited to see some of our favorite bands perform and had others we definitely wanted to check out.
Not long after we had entered the grounds of Mapfre Stadium, we were advised to “shelter in place” due to approaching weather. We were herded into the concourse area under the stands where thousands of people did nothing but wait for the rain to pass for about two hours. Although I understand the need for caution, people were growing very restless and angry with the delays. As the forecast for Day Three had been projected as the worst of the weekend and it was the day when the highly anticipated Metallica was scheduled to close out the festival, I began to fear what might happen if weather caused them to shorten or, God forbid, cancel that evening’s performance. You could definitely feel a shift in attitudes as we waited for the rain to end.
Once again, the promoters had to juggle the set times, but it seemed that all the bands would be on stage, even if some of the earlier bands had been allotted shorter sets. We analyzed the revisions and chose to head off to the Zippo Stage to begin.
Fire From The Gods
This Austin, Texas band took command of the stage and energized the crowd – just what was needed after a long rain delay. A large crowd gathered to listen to their mixture of melodic power metal with just a hint of rap. They label themselves as hardcore but I’m not certain they belong in that category. Although the band has been together for about six years, I had a tough time finding information about them. It seems they have garnered the respect of other metal groups including Jonathan Davis of Korn, who produced one of the songs (“The Taste”) on Fire From The Gods‘ newest release, Narrative Retold. I loved their energy and I enjoyed their music. They dedicated their song,“Transmissions”, as a tribute to Chris Cornell. It looks like they are on many festival bills this summer, so give their show a chance if they are in your area.
We left the Fire From The Gods set early so we could find a good place at the main stage for the next three bands there. My husband is not one to enjoy being in large crowds and does not like dealing with moshes or crowd surfers, so we generally watch shows from the outer edges. For these next few performances, he asked me to get us much closer and toward center stage. Surprised but determined, I used my dormant pit placement skills to get us to an area that would suit our purpose. Based in Columbus, Ohio, Starset‘s sound is a mixture of symphonics, electronics, and riff-driven hard rock. Being back home, a large crowd was on hand for their “demonstration” (the term this band uses for their concerts). They have an elaborate back story for the band and all but the lead singer, Dustin Bates, wear white space suits complete with the helmets. The drum riser was surrounded by a screen that could be opaque to disguise the drummer or clear to view him. The entire set had a very dramatic feel even though they only performed 7 songs. As usual, the band sounded just as good as they do on their two albums and the audience loved them. I did find it unusual, though, that they did not do one of their biggest hits, “Halo“. Not sure if they had to trim a song due to the earlier rain delay or if they just wanted to concentrate on more songs from their latest album. This is not the first Starset demonstration I’ve attended and it was great to see they have remained consistently entertaining.
As others filed out to check out bands on the side stages, we inched a bit closer to the main stage for my husband’s favorite band, Alter Bridge. I have seen them several times and they never disappoint. Although they can headline stadiums in Europe, the United States has been a bit slower to embrace them. We were pleased to see a large crowd in the stadium for their Rock on the Range performance. The band sounded great with guitar riffs provided by Mark Tremonti and the amazing vocal stylings of Myles Kennedy. Curiously, they played no songs from their current album and only 6 songs total. Again, I feel this can be attributed to the shorter set times as well as a way to build up their fanbase here in the States by doing more familiar material. Whatever the reasoning, the performance was as flawless as always. During one of the most emotional tributes to Chris Cornell that I witnessed all weekend, Kennedy proclaimed, “We’ve cried an ocean of tears. We miss you, brother” before playing “Blackbird” in his honor. The powerful ballad about the loss of a loved one perfectly conveyed the overall tone of this weekend.
Many years ago, Stryper opened my eyes to Christian hard rock/metal and this has been a great interest of mine for awhile now. I have followed Skillet‘s career for more than a decade. I have watched them perform multiple times (this was my 3rd time to see them at Rock on the Range) in many settings. Skillet always has an entertaining, high-energy show and today was no different. Opening with “Feel Invincible” from their latest album, Unleashed, the band ripped through a set of their heaviest tunes to the delight of the huge audience at the main stage. The musicians were in constant motion throughout the set with vocalist John Cooper leading the way. The set list was a perfect combination of new music and older hits that everyone could sing along to and enjoy. Everything about the performance was great from the song choices to the stage presence to the theatrics to the musicians themselves. Skillet left you wanting more – a common issue whenever and wherever you see them. Great show, great energy, great songs. Be sure to see them whenever you get a chance!
After spending so much time in the sun holding our position in the pit for some of our favorite bands, we needed a break to cool off and refresh ourselves before the headlining bands finished off the day. To be honest, I had never been a fan of Papa Roach until the very first time I saw them at Rock on the Range back in 2010. Vocalist Jacoby Shaddix is the ultimate frontman. He knows how to engage the audience, make the show fun and turn it into one big party. In a festival setting with limited time, it is always risky for a band to put too much new music in their set for fear of losing the audience with unfamiliar material. It’s a testament to the power of Papa Roach‘s shows that they were able to do four songs from their latest album, Crooked Teeth, which was released the day before and the crowd loved every minute of it. Toward the end of the set, they brought out Columbus’ own Olentangy Orange High School marching band on the stage to perform with them on “Born for Greatness” from the new release. It was an interesting element for the show and certainly something the kids in the marching band will always remember. With the inclusion of several of their hits to complement the new songs as well as the party vibe, the whole show was tons of fun. If you are on the fence about Papa Roach, you should definitely see their show because they are a GREAT live band. In the 11 year history of this festival, Papa Roach has appeared six times. It seems that Papa Roach loves Rock on the Range and Rock on the Range loves Papa Roach! As long as they keep making good music and bringing a great show, I don’t think anyone will complain.
To be honest, I knew who The Offspring was and could name maybe one song they had done but that was the extent of my knowledge on this punk rock band. Curious, I was ready to learn more. Once the show started, I discovered I knew more of their music than I realized. The band sounded terrific and the show was fun! The Offspring are known for their signature choruses of “whoa”, “hey” and “yeah” which makes it very easy to get the audience involved in the music. I think the vocal stylings of singer Dexter Holland also give their songs a sense of playfulness. As they do not have a new release to promote at the moment (although they are reportedly working on one), they stuck with a greatest hits type of set which worked great for those of us who didn’t think they knew any of the music. I had a good time at their show and would check them out again if they were to appear on another festival bill.
From a band I knew little of to one with which I am very familiar. Korn canceled a few shows prior to Rock on the Range due to vocal cord issues with singer Jonathan Davis, so no one knew if they would be able to headline this night. Davis‘ voice was definitely scratchy and a bit lower than usual, but he still infused the performance with his usual enthusiasm. Otherwise, the nu metal band put on a great show with a good balance of songs from their many albums. Korn‘s performances are always filled with energy and the music makes you want to dance, sing along and headbang – sometimes all at once. My husband is not a fan of the band’s recorded music but even he had to admit that they are great live. The party was in full effect when Mother Nature reared her ugly head once again. After about 51 minutes, we were informed that Korn‘s encore had been canceled due to approaching severe weather. The recorded message we had all come to hate began its continuous loop as we filed out of the venue. The abrupt end to the set made the day seem incomplete.
Sadly, Day Two ended much the same as Day One and the forecast for Day Three was not looking good. Time to get a little rest so we could be fresh for whatever the next day would bring…