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A Family Of Apes At Rock On The Range
Rock on the Range 2011 gets strange and rowdy as ever
Photography by KellieAnn Reynolds
Rock on the Range 2011 was our first true venture into the madness of a massive rock festival. The sheer scope of the two days and 70,000 screaming fanatics revealed a whole new face of the consumer monster to us. Water at Crew Stadium cost $4.00 a bottle while the inhabitants slowly cooked like ground beef in a stew of sweat and $8.00 beer. Nobody was allowed re-entry after leaving the venue to ensure food and drink were consumed from within, and at stadium prices. While many with the media were invested in the story and subtle messages written in the art of the performers, a majority of other festival inmates seemed desperate to inject entertaining stories into their lives. A family of apes on acid and ecstasy could not compare to the bizarre creature that we witnessed at Rock on the Range.
Since the recent Osama Bin Laden circus, we expected security at Crew Stadium to adopt naked-body scanners, molestation, and other TSA practices that ensure our freedoms are safe and cozy. We were certain that our contraband of rebel granola bars and terrorist cheese crackers would get confiscated and that we would be promptly hanged, drawn and quartered. Thankfully, security hardly went overboard. There were many members of the staff that did not find it necessary to act like complete tools and allowed us to carry on with our freedom food.
By noon, hardly an hour after we had first gained entry to that weekend's holy of holies, we had the chance to watch some tough-guy spray vomit into a trash can. His gut must have evacuated $40 dollars worth of beer in 30 seconds. We couldn't help but think about how thrilled Crew Stadium would be with the profits which vomit represented. All in all it was turning out to be a good day to consume, waste, rock and repeat.
We are not inclined to slap cheap labels all over music. When we do so, it is only for the sake of attempting translation into words something which goes beyond description. Music is something to be played, experienced and absorbed, and we feel that each person responds to it very differently than others. With that in mind, words are oftentimes misleading. The only true way to understand the raging torrents of double-bass and thrash guitars displayed at this event would be to allow it into your personal space and decide for yourself how you feel about it.
We expected a majority of the bands that were lined up to peddle generic, commercial, and mostly mindless drivel to the masses. We were not entirely wrong on that front. However, our prejudice was occasionally slammed against our eardrums when we watched a few of the more modern bands.
Asking Alexandria, who came out of Yorkshire, England, was the first heavy act we got to soak in on Saturday, and while it isn't something we would constantly feed to our CD player, we did enjoy the bursts of metalcore they occasionally ejected from the stage. We still found Asking Alexandria to be a brand of metal that is becoming increasingly marketable. We can only hope they grow and evolve as a band together before fame and glory isolates them from their souls.
We can't say much about bands like Rev Theory, Hinder, 10 Years, or Saving Abel other than we found them to be mindless pop-rock that quickly became repetitive. However, the crowd ate it up, and yet we still walked away empty-handed. We wanted something to dig into, but the style of music they played was not something we care to subject ourselves to, even on an irregular basis.
We ventured over to see 2 Cents, and while we were amused with their antics, it was only out of the observation of how shallow their presence was. Getting the mob to chant, "Take me farther, fuck me harder, give me drugs and walk away," summed up the majority mindset we encountered in the consumer cage of Rock on the Range. The singer made time to insult some of the female members in the crowd by calling them bitch for not telling him their name for $20 dollars. Sure, 2 Cents was heavy and the bassist kept busy by flicking his tongue at random girls with stretch marks around their mouths, but those things aren't what create memorable music with a substantial purpose.
Back to the main stage by 3:00 pm, we caught Sick Puppies who packed a powerful performance and had the crowd pumping their fists in the air with their first song. They shook the stadium with their high energy and carried a few measures of Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name Of" while the crowd roared the lyrics back and threw anything they could into the air. Crowd surfing was beginning to really pick up, with people being launched four to five rows at a time over the swelling mass of spectators.
Saturday evening, we found Danzig at the western edge of the venue trying to remember what it was like to be a badass. Glenn Danzig has been known to kick out photographers with photo passes at his headlining shows before, so it was not much different at Rock on the Range. It hardly mattered, but at least with a photo we might better remember his performance. Regardless, the man is still trying to rock even if many of us weren't feeling it.
We will admit that we don't even like Staind and we were prepared to regret being close to the stage when they came on, but we have to acknowledge that they were very fucking heavy and kept the crowd fired up for their entire set. An endless stream of crowd surfers transformed from a trickle into a river while Staind filled the air with their pounding metal. We even caught ourselves keeping rhythm for a few songs but when it was all over, we still wouldn't go out and buy an album from them.
The sun was sinking into the horizon by the time Korn took over the main stage. This is a band that has been generating a unique and pulverizing sound since '94. They have filled our lives with their music for long enough to be called veterans of metal, and everybody was delirious with excitement when they struck the first few notes and blasted the crowd with their song "Blind." Jonathan Davis exploded with energy as he stomped and flung himself all over the stage, occasionally hanging from his sexy custom H.R. Giger microphone stand. It was bizarre to watch someone thrash so violently while at the same time sing without any waver in their voice. So far on that day, Korn put on the best damn show since the sun came up and it was awesome to experience them Live.
The last band that we would watch that night was Avenged Sevenfold. We had never heard of them until a few years ago when we met a talented cover band from Northeast Ohio called Angered Orchestra, who had tuned us in with their covers of Avenged Sevenfold, All That Remains, and Bullet for My Valentine. We've heard Angered Orchestra play so many times and so well that we quickly became familiarized with the music of those groups which swaths of bodies came to see at Rock on the Range. Despite being ready for the music, we were completely unprepared for the stage presence that Avenged Sevenfold was about to unleash upon 70,000 screaming fans.
When Avenged Sevenfold stepped out, the sun had gone and the stage burst with elaborate fire effects, super saturated lighting, massive tapestries, and fireworks that sounded and felt like artillery going off right inside your head. It was one hell of a spectacle to behold. They opened with "Nightmare," which felt appropriate considering it was virtually played on an endless loop through all the rock stations in Ohio leading up to Rock on the Range. Some memorable quotes from the singer, Matt Sanders, were "God hates us," and "Show me what you've got Armageddon, right fucking now!" that had the crowd in a shrill of screams. Avenged Sevenfold slammed the capstone on Day 1 of Rock on the Range with a mosh-pit showdown between the left and right side of the field competing for the craziest show of moshing mayhem. The left side created a massive whirlpool of madness that had the singer commenting "I think these guys got it right here," then they left the crowd screaming for one more song as they departed from the stage.
When everybody began to file out, thousands of little piles of crushed plastic beer bottles, shattered sunglasses, orphaned shoes, broken cell-phones and shredded t-shirts were left behind by the herd of humans. Going through the parking lot one fan commented, "That was only Day-fucking-One!" over the drone of car stereos and drunken ballyhoo.
Day 2 of Rock on the Range greeted us at 8:00 that morning with pain. We had barely gotten any sleep thanks to our friend, Dave, who snored in the next bed like a heavy metal singer growls. We actually wore ear plugs in bed longer that night than we did at the show the day before. We dragged our asses into the local Waffle House at 9:00 to cram our gullets with lots of coffee and eggs before we hit the road again. We arrived at Crew Stadium a little after 10:00am.
The sun must have been pissed that day, because we could hear the radiation frying the flesh off our bones while we waited in line for the gates to open at 11:00. It was to be the hottest day that month and things were looking up for water sales at the stadium. After fixing our backpack zipper which security accidentally broke off, we headed over to the east stage to catch the Fox Rocks winner, 7th Cycle.
We didn't know what to expect from 7th Cycle, as we didn't know who the band was before that day. This would be the first time we heard their music, and they sounded as if their heart and energy were left behind. We are sorry to report that the original songs they played were repetitive, sappy and failed to inspire. Sadly, they ended their set by completely butchering House of Pain's "Jump Around."
We waited until midday and came back with bated breath for the next band we knew would rock the ground beneath our feet: Red Fang. These beard-sporting, asphalt-thrashing, beer-swilling soldiers of rock inspired us. And we mean really fucking inspired us. Their logo, the saber tooth tiger skull, is befitting of a band we would dare call the prehistoric predators of weaker vegetarian music. Here to clean up and restore rock's foundation in the world, we can't praise Red Fang enough for what they offer. Their music shows soul, character, and substance that is priceless in this era of mediocrity. We shall expect more to come from Red Fang in the near future.
All That Remains stepped out on stage shortly after 3:00 to the torrential cheers of the audience. This was another band we had been introduced to already so we knew to expect high BPM guttural metalcore. We really enjoyed All That Remains, and the simplicity of their stage presence proves all you really need is a love of making music that rocks.
Next on the fest schedule was Black Label Society, who we had been looking forward to seeing live for many years. Zakk Wylde adorned a feathered Native American headdress as he strode toward the center stage for the opening song, "Crazy Horse." The headdress didn't stand a chance against Wylde's head banging for the first few notes of the song and was thrown to the floor as the band slammed into action. It's safe to say Black Label Society has been, and continues to be heavier than plutonium.
We should take this time to pay respect to the fan in a wheelchair who wanted to crowd surf, and the people in the pit as well as the bouncers that didn't hesitate to send him and his wheelchair over the top of the crowd. That's some fuckin' teamwork right there. Metal coursing through cooperation of the human spirit is a beautiful sight to behold.
Bullet For My Valentine virtually had the crowd thrashing en masse. There must be a mathematical formula for how heavy a band is to determine its relation to the number of crowd surfers. There was definitely a peak in crowd surfer graph charts that day when Bullet played. "Waking the Demon" and "Scream Aim Fire" were excellent live. We get fired up when a band delivers a message through their lyrics while keeping pace with the adrenal fury of heavy metal. It was a very energetic show to behold.
We had time to catch Hollywood Undead perform, so once again we spearheaded through the endless swarm of bodies to try and make it to the west stage before the photo pit was evacuated. We made it just as the other photographers were being led back into the crowd, and lucked out as a bouncer let us sneak back stage to get photos unhindered. The first thing we noticed was that this band was truly asinine bubblegum rock that loses its flavor before its ever chewed. Their song "Young" sounded like a children's indoctrination to some aspirant devotion that could serve as a gateway to harder cults. It didn't help when they waved a flag that looked a hell of a lot like a swastika replaced with a dove carrying a hand grenade. Heil Hollywood? We pray not.
Disturbed played a solid 14 song set to a fully packed stadium of psyched and nearly rabid fans. Despite barely getting past 6 months since developing a throat condition, David Draiman performed honorably that day. There were a few cases where his voice sounded strained, maybe even tapped out at times, but those moments were brief and Draiman recovered quickly. This was another show we were grateful to catch. Disturbed's performance was a highlight that made the grueling weekend totally worth it.
A Perfect Circle opened the show of that weekend when Maynard James Keenan played the crowd like a fiddle as he dropped the word "Ohio" as their only introduction for that night. The crowd responded predictably with a shrill of drunken bleating on hearing their cue, and the band rolled right into "Annihilation." A Perfect Circle seemed to take their opportunity to play seriously, and had thankfully opted for a change of pace from the preceding festival performers. They began by turning off the expensive television sets above the stage and kept their setup limited to a simple mesh tapestry of their logo. Keenan, ever the 'front man' to fuck the norm, understandably took back left stage and stood silhouetted before the crowd. Billy Howerdel, Josh Freese, and James Iha were about as equally difficult to catch a glimpse of while their most recent addition, Matt McJunkins, seemed to be the most active in the spectrum. Getting image out of the way, their message was more clearly offered.
A Perfect Circle's set list that followed proved to be thoughtful and relevant for both the event and times we found (and continue to find) ourselves in. From personal weakness to national blindness, they target a chronic disease that has been infecting the collective psyche for countless ages. A Perfect Circle plays music with a purpose that hopefully encourages us to use our prefrontal cortex and evolve our ideas more quickly. Consider purposeful music as psychological antibodies fighting bacteria such as Jersey Shore, Skins, and the Disney Channel. Without thoughtful music like this being written, it is likely the infection could be much worse. There is clearly a line between performers and artists, and A Perfect Circle defines a band of artists for us all to experience, and we are very thankful to see them performing once again.
After the set was over, it felt like APC had spiked the music with something deep and insightful that many in the crowd were not prepared for. Days later, some of the cattle are still recovering from their hangovers while throwing temper tantrums online about not getting what they wanted out of APC – namely a visual spectacle or some sort of freak show. We are proud to have experienced A Perfect Circle live and found them to finish off the whole production with a much needed poignant reminder of who they are and what we can choose to be.