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Junkman's Roadtrip: Rock On The Range

By Junkman, On-Air Personality
Wednesday, July 2, 2008 @ 0:02 AM

At Crew Stadium

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Once again, I headed out to America’s heartland to attend the Rock On The Range festival, a now expanded to two days rock festival, in Columbus Ohio. Located at the Columbus Crew stadium, where the cities professional soccer team plays, it featured about 20 of today’s best and upcoming rock bands on 2 stages. Headlining the first night was the first appearance in years from the newly reformed Stone Temple Pilots. This alone was a major coup for the promoters, and it sold out quickly.

After arriving in Columbus Friday afternoon, I was restless. I left my hotel and headed down the block to the “Arena District” named after the arena where the Columbus Blue Jackets hockey team plays. There is a series of bars and restaurants located there, and I needed to unwind. Heard a live band playing outside of one place and decided to head inside for a cold one. I ended up having such a good time that I stayed most of the night. It was called the “Frog Bear and Wild Boar”. It’s located right in front of the Nationwide Arena, yes, the one the district is named after. Great food, live music, nice beer selection, lots of girls, all my favorite stuff. I ended up having drinks with the owners, an absolutely wonderful couple who told me the place boasts the longest bar in Ohio. I highly recommend this place if you are visiting Columbus, it is “Junkman Approved”!

My photographer friend Jeff arrived around 1 AM and was pleased to find out that we could get food that late at night. We explored the rest of the downtown district and stuffed ourselves till around 2 AM. We then rolled back to our hotel suite and hit the hay. Big day, Saturday, gates opened at around 11 AM.

After arriving at the Crew stadium in a cab shared with a bunch of girls who came from Canada for the show, we secured our press credentials and headed for the second stage at the crack of noon to see the days first act, Drive A perform. They are a very young band, in their teens, and with their pubescent voices straining with every verse, they sounded, to me anyway, like the female band the Donnas.

After an uneventful set by the next band Ashes Divide, I headed to the main stage, located inside the stadium, for the stage’s first set by Finger Eleven. Into the photo pit I went, and checked them out for a few songs, I know they played “One Thing” but other than that, I was too focused on preparing for sets from some of the other bands that were playing throughout the day.

Back to the second stage, located outside the stadium I went. My purpose? The next band due up was none other than Airbourne, from Australia. I have been playing a few of their songs on my show on KNAC.COM and they sound like a very young AC/DC. I had to see what they were like live. I was not disappointed. After hitting the stage at 2 PM, they put on what turned out to be my favorite set of the day.

Sporting Gibson Explorer guitars, these lads from down under, blasted out an outstanding set of old school rock that had me smiling from ear to ear. So big fuckin’ deal if some of their songs sound like AC/DC? What’s wrong with that? These guys really kicked the crowd in the ass with their energy and arsenal of great songs like “Runnin Wild”, “Cheaper Wine, Cheaper Women” and the hit single “Too Much Too Young Too Fast”. Singer Joel O’Keeffe is a great frontman and plays a mean guitar as well. I spoke with him afterwards, and he told me that the band will be playing on the upcoming “Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Fest”. Don’t miss them!

By now I was pretty well pumped up and definitely in my zone. It’s amazing what a dose of rock n roll can do for you. Again I ventured into the stadium for the next band on the main stage, one of my personal favorites of the last few years, Shinedown. Hailing from Jacksonville, Florida, these guys bring the rock. They have a great frontman in singer Brent Smith, and an excellent new CD, which was featured throughout the set. Opening with the new single “Devour”, the band, including my friend, new guitarist Nick Perri, formerly from Silvertide, tore through an awesome, energy filled set that got the stadium rocking. Another highlight was the performance of the song “Save Me”, what I consider to be their best song. The crowd, by now swelling up the Crew stadium, loved Shinedown. Smith, who eerily resembles Ozzy Osbourne at times, brought that love back to the audience, and smiling as he belted out each angst ridden word. Great band, great show.

Scheduled next on the second stage was Red. My friends and I decided to check out the grounds instead, and stay near the main stage. Beers, of course, were at a premium, the local food and merch booths were doing a brisk business. Hell, one booth offered a pizza for 30 bucks!!! It was now mid-afternoon on a Saturday, and I saw maybe a half dozen people being hauled out of the place with their toes dragging on the ground, no doubt from too much consumption. It would be a familiar site over the next two days.

Next up was Killswitch Engage on the main stage (yeah I know, that rhymed…). Guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz was a show all to himself. Running onto the stage in tattered pants and with a blow up doll strapped to his back through the entire performance, he was clearly the focus of the bands set. He was also quite vocal in his call for “I wanna see white people crashing into each other” to stir up the various mosh pits that had started with the bands first note. Another of his rants compared the female vagina to “a big plate of sloppy calamari”. Oh yeah, and he played guitar too…Singer Howard Jones was almost an afterthought although he has a great set of pipes. The band did an excellent cover of Dio’s “Holy Diver” towards the end of their set. Very entertaining. Just what this crowd needed.

I say that, because of the very uninspiring set that followed on the second stage from the band 10 Years. I really saw nothing that stood out about this band, although their song “Beautiful” had many in the crowd singing along. Kind of this year’s Hinder if you ask me. Hell, they sold a lot of records so what do I know? Chicks dig em. Speaking of chicks, many of them had taken to crowd surfing, and, standing in the landing spot for most (aka the photo pit) I enjoyed watching them being dropped off and making their way back out to the crowd, only to return within 10 minutes or so the same way. Sort of like watching someone repeatedly ride a roller coaster. Always a lot of fun to see from a distance.

Once again we made the trip back to the main stage for the next set by System Of A Down singer Serj Tankian and his band. Dressed in a white tuxedo and a tattered top hat, Tankian and his black tuxedo clad band, performed mostly SOAD tunes minus the energy that makes that band so good. Although this bands’ focus was on Tankian himself, it was like a (literally) night and day difference between this performance and the whirlwind that is System Of A Down. Great performance, but the soul was not there.

I made my way to the side stage pavilion afterwards, ran into some friends, and looked out on the ever-growing number of fans filling the stadium. It was close to sundown and people were still rolling in. I was missing the performance of Theory Of A Deadman, but I didn’t care, too much about that. I bumped into David Draiman and Dan Donegan from Disturbed and we chatted a while about their new CD and upcoming performance later in the evening. David is a really great guy. Very intense as you can imagine, but, I feel comfortable around him whenever I see him. More on their performance in a bit. Staind was the next band on the main stage.

I have seen this band maybe three or four times in my life, and I swear I have seen the same show. I really can’t remember anything about it other than they come onstage, play their songs like “Its Been Awhile”, “Fade”, and “Outside” (thankfully without Fred Durst interrupting it) and then you feel like shooting yourself. Really depressing stuff without much of a stage show. I like the song “Mudshovel” a lot, but it might be the only uptempo song that they play. Singer Aaron Lewis seems like a real nice guy. I saw him throughout the day in the press tent, smiling and conducting interviews but his songs are so depressing. Nonetheless, most of the crowd was enjoying their set as I left the stadium to catch the final band on the small stage.

Filter is a band that has been out of the limelight the last few years. Singer Richard Patrick has cleaned up his act and cleaned out his band. After recording a CD with STP’s DeLeo brothers Dean and Robert and my friend, drummer Ray Luzier, entitled Army Of Anyone, Patrick recorded a new Filter CD this year entitled Anthems For The Damned and put together a new band featuring Mitchell Marlow on guitar, John Spiker on bass, and Mika Fineo on drums.

Filter’s performance was excellent as well as very political. Dedicating the performance to Senator Ted Kennedy who had entered a hospital that day, Patrick declared his devotion to the Democratic party, and bashed George Bush a few times. But it was the songs and his stage presence that stood out for me. Great stuff like “Take a Picture” and “Hey Man, Nice Shot” were well received, as was the new Filter single “Soldiers of Misfortune” which deals with the war in Iraq. I’m glad to see this band back on the road.

Just like those soldiers, we marched back to the Crew Stadium for the day’s final two acts. Disturbed has become one of the more commanding acts in rock over the last few years. Motivated by their new CD, ‘Indestructible”, the band was quite a force on the first day of ‘Rock On The Range”. Their show really has not changed much the last few times I have seen them, but singer David Draiman can motivate a crowd with the best of them. I wait for his “let me see those devil horns in the air” statement that he has ALWAYS done at his shows. It took about two songs before that was said. Guitarist Dan Donegan cranked out the crunchy riffs to all the songs one would want to hear, as well as the new songs “Perfect Insanity” and “Inside The Fire”, closing the set with, of course, their biggest hit “Down With The Sickness”. Always a treat to see these guys live.

Of course the most anticipated set of the day was the one that followed Disturbed. Stone Temple Pilots have not appeared together for 7 years or so, and picked ROTR as their “Coming- Out Party” of sorts. I’m sure everyone is well aware by now of all the things that band has been through, such as the drug busts, Talk Show, solo albums, Velvet Revolver, Army Of Anyone, etc. I really don’t have to recap, this band is THAT BIG; they really are.

At 9:30 or so, on May 17th , Columbus Crew Stadium was about to explode, the lights had dimmed, everyone was giddy from a day of beer and rock n roll and bad food, and anticipation. You could feel a very strange vibe going through the crowd. “What would they open with?” “Would Scott Weiland be able to make it through the set without a breakdown?” “Is the band going to sound flat after all this time apart”. These are the questions I had heard asked throughout the day and into the night, as I roamed the grounds, and now we would all find out the answers collectively.

The lights dimmed, and the band hit the stage to…drum roll please… “Big Empty”, the bluesy, dreamy song from 1994’s “The Crow” soundtrack. Not exactly the up-tempo explosion that I had expected. But, the next 90 minutes or so made up for that. Weiland, dressed in a black suit and wide-brimmed fedora led the band through a series of hits that basically blew the crowd away. Stating that he sometimes had trouble remembering the endings of the songs, everything you would want to hear from this band was represented. Weiland, along with brothers Dean and Robert DeLeo, and drummer Eric Kretz, seemed like they had never been broken up at all, during the rockers “Vasoline,” and “Crackerman,” which sent the crowd surfing stadium into a frenzy. Slower numbers, such as “Sour Girl” emitted screams of delight throughout the crowd and the band seemed to be enjoying themselves onstage, clearly free of showing the jitters one would expect. I snapped away as many pictures as I could during the first three songs and then headed about halfway through the crowd to enjoy the rest of the show and reflect on a great day. And to think, I had another day of this madness still to happen. Here is STP’s setlist. I can’t really think of anything else I would want them to include, there are just so many great songs.

STP setlist:

  • Big Empty
  • Wicked Garden
  • Big Bang Baby
  • Vasoline
  • Lady Picture Show
  • Lounge Fly
  • Crackerman
  • Sour Girl
  • Creep
  • Plush
  • Interstate Love Song
  • Coma
  • Down
  • All In The Suit That You Wear
  • Sex Type Thing
  • Trippin On A Hole In A Paper Heart
  • Dead And Bloated
Back to the hotel I went. I think I was asleep before I hit the pillow. Sunday morning arrived before my brain did. I gathered my gear and was loaded into the back of a Jeep, along with 3 other photographer friends to hit a local place for breakfast, and then off to the stadium for day 2. After once again, climbing into the back of the Jeep and having its cover zipped up, I heard the words “uh-oh” coming from my friend packed next to me. It was then a foul odor engulfed the Jeep , and it was then I realized, that I had been “Dutch Ovened” (look it up). Strangely enough, it wouldn’t be the foulest smell of the day.

Day 2

We arrived at the stadium and entered through the press gate, making it to the second stage sometime around 12:30 PM missing the days opening set by Saving Abel. It was then we learned that the band Flyleaf had cancelled their appearance because their singer Lacey Moseley was having problems with laryngitis.

This meant that the rest of the sets would be bumped up. The first band of the day for me was Rev Theory. It turned out to be the set of the day. These guys full on rocked! This NY-based band was touring to support their new CD Light It Up, and light it up they did, with songs like “Hell Yeah”, “Falling Down” and the title track. Singer Rich Luzzi will be a major player on the rock front in the near future. He’s quite a frontman; lots of character and a great voice. New guitarist Rikki Lixx, (formerly with Operator) and guitarist Julien Jorgensen provided a solid wall of sonic boom, a down n dirty style of old school-meets new school guitar driven rock. I enjoyed every minute of this set and my day was just starting.

Off to the main stage I went. The stadium was filling up faster than the day before, as I’m sure a lot of people were returnees from Saturdays onslaught. And what a band to open the stage with. None other than Five Finger Death Punch. Coming out like they owned the place, they did just that-OWNED! Front man Ivan “Ghost” Moody pumped up the crowd like it was a Saturday night and not a hungover Sunday afternoon. He is a moving dynamo, jumping up and down and using the extended stage as his personal playground. Songs like “The Devils Own”, and “The Way Of The Fist”, pumped up this crowd to an extreme level. The amount of crowd surfers and moshers tripled, it seemed. Crunchy guitars, and killer drums along with thundering low end of bassist Matt Snell made FFDP one of the best sets of the weekend.

Back to the second stage I went. I did not want to miss one of my favorite new bands, the young band from Miami, Florida, Black Tide. These kids, and I mean kids, (their guitarist/ vocalist Gabriel Garcia is all of 14 years old) brought it on. Unlike other young bands, these guys sound beyond their years. No whiney, emo, type stuff here. Just full on thrashy metal. They even included a version of Metallica’s “Hit The Lights” in their set, as a tribute to their influences, and I’m sure Hetfield and company approve. They gave the crowd what they wanted with the single “Shockwave”, and were done all too soon. They are touring this summer on The Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Tour. Do not miss them!

Next on the main stage was Alter Bridge, featuring former Creed members, guitarist Mark Tremonti, bassist Brian Marshall, and drummer Scott Phillips. They are joined by singer Myles Kennedy a very capable singer/guitarist formerly with the band The Mayfield Four, and, interesting to me, the guy that played Thor in the movie “Rock Star”. Guy has a great voice, absolutely no stage presence. Turns out he’s in the perfect band for that. Not much to say about this bands performance, I was bored. So was the rest of the crowd it seemed. Some genius had the idea of selling beer in plastic bottles and, during Alter Bridge’s set, they became airborne. Pelting the stage and anybody near the front. It was like an invasion of bees. I got nailed twice with a full bottle, christening my new camera bag. The sun was also out, and near the end of their set out came the titties! Lots of girls, on the shoulders of their guy proceeded to lift their tops to the delight of the Midwest crowd. Yes, it’s a tough job reporting on this stuff, but, hell SOMEONE has to, it might as well be me.

I had to tear myself away from the display of upper flesh and lower back tattoo flashing as I headed back to the press tent on my way to the second stage. I spoke with the members of Rev Theory who were doing interviews, and we chatted for a while, and I had them do some promo spots for my show on KNAC.COM. There were journalists and radio stations from all over the place, and many of them were interested in Internet radio and were well aware of what KNAC.COM is all about. As our official “ambassador” I gladly answered all their questions.

On the second stage was Bobaflex. I hung out and checked them out for a few songs. Nothing special; semi-generic rock pseudo metal featuring the brother act of Shaun and Marty McCoy on vocals and guitar. The crowd seemed to be into them as I was told they had toured extensively throughout the area the last few years. I noticed a lot more girls out on Sunday, as the more pop oriented acts were booked. Met quite a few who had wedged themselves up against the barriers for most of the day. One of them even gave me a band-aid when I cut my finger in the photo pit. I was also hit in the head with one of the largest brassieres I’ve ever seen. Matter of fact, it fit my noggin like a glove.

The next band due up on the main stage was Seether. This band has great songs, but, once again, no stage presence at all. Almost like a more melodic version of Staind. Singer Shaun Morgan, hid behind his purple hair most of the set, rarely showing any emotion. I did enjoy some of their songs, Like “Broken” and “Rise Above This”, but as for their stage set, I quickly headed back to the more rocking second stage.

Drowning Pool was the next act up. I enjoyed their set. Former Soil singer Ryan McCombs now fronts Drowning Pool. He and the other members of the band got the crowd motivated with a VERY uptempo set. Paying tribute to the bands deceased former singer Dave Williams, the testosterone level of the crowd hit its peak by the time the band performed their hit song "Bodies". Although it seemed like the bands’ set was somewhat short. The following set from Sevendust made me forget all about it.

Sevendust was the last band on the second stage and proved their status as one of the best live acts in their style of rock. Heading to the stage to the tune of the theme song to the 70’s TV comedy “Welcome Back Kotter”, as a tribute to the return of guitarist Clint Lowery to the band after being away from them for the last four years or so. Singer Lajon Witherspoon brings it every time I have seen him, and today did not disappoint. “Enemy” and “Denial” found him taking charge, and bassist Vinny Hornsby made lots of eye contact with the crowd, who absolutely ate it up. I even noticed an Ohio state trooper getting into it. He told me he was a huge Sevendust fan, and was glad he was assigned to the show for that one fact, typical of the diverseness of their fans. Loads of guys and girls alike, crowd surfed right up to the stage and I noticed a lot of the same people, returning over and over again, a thrilled look on their faces, like a little kid opening presents on Christmas morning. Ahh, the power of a rock show! After Sevendust finished their set, to a huge applause, the place was a wreck.

Hundreds of bottles lined the second stage area. I saw some guy puke into the photo pit, which was the nastiest smell of the day of which I alluded to earlier. Passed out people were everywhere. It looked like a war zone, and, in a way, it was. As the crowd filed out of the second stage area and into the stadium, I told my friend that someone should take the flag with them, and plant it like Iwo Jima. Backstage, the guys in Sevendust were smiling, and pleased with their performance, and rightly so. They had riled up the crowd like no other on this final day of Rock On The Range.

To the press tent I marched, and was pleased to meet Tenatious D member Kyle Gass who was doing on-camera work for General Motors, who had sponsored a Bus and camera crew to report on the goings on at the event. Kyle was very cool, as he posed for pictures and talked with us about the festivals highlights. Some video was posted on General Motors web site. Check it out here.

As I was in the tent, a sign was posted that NO PHOTOGRAPHERS would be allowed to take pictures of Kid Rock, that evening’s headliner. No big deal to me, I’m not much of a Kid Rock fan. Hell, I was pretty beat anyway after 2 days of trudging back and forth in between stages after eating shitty food and drinking cheap beer for breakfast and lunch. I decided to check out the last two acts before the Kid Rock spectacle brought out the assholes.

Papa Roach was the only act that had played at Rock On The Range the previous year and came out blazing. Singer Jacoby Shaddix looked really at home, and, he played to the crowd, and even climbed the barricade to serenade the faithful who, had pretty much been packed in there all day. Blasting out “To Be Loved”, “Getting Away With Murder” and of course “Last Resort”, Shaddix never stopped moving, promising the crowd that he would come back and headline the event next year-quite a prediction, considering that they are thinking of expanding the festival to 3 days in 2009 from what I was told. Papa Roach had the crowd right where they wanted them for their entire set, and along with FFDP, put on what I consider the main stage’s best sets for Sunday.

I decided to check out 3 Doors Down, who were next, and was very disappointed by them, although it seemed the Ohio crowd, estimated at 40,000 or so, enjoyed them immensely. They do have a southern, almost country sound to many of their songs. Hell, these guys are from Mississippi. It was starting to get cold, and being the southern California wussy that I am, decided I’d had about enough. Luckily for me, none of my friends are big Kid Rock fans, so we decided to head out before he hit the stage. I was told that he had brought former J.Geils Band singer Peter Wolf with him as well as Reverend Run from Run DMC to join him onstage. No thank you. I wanted some good food, a beer, and a nice warm bed in my hotel suite.

We headed out to another cool little place in downtown Columbus, and had everything I wished for. We compared stories, looked at my notes and compared pictures, all the while agreeing on 2 things. One, that Rock On The Range was a major success, and two, that we would all be back next year. My thanks to all at Rock On The Range and MSO PR for making my experience possible.

For more check out http://www.rockontherange.com for more info.

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