Splice Magazine

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Fort Rock 2018 – Day 1

Sunrise, Florida (April 28 – 28, 2018) – It’s three songs into FFDP’s set and I’m downing yet another Monster Energy drink. Man, I need all the help I can get so I can keep going because I don’t want to miss a single song from any of the bands at Fort Rock in the beautiful Ft. Lauderdale, FL area.

Wait a second, I’m at Fort Rock and I’m in Ft. Lauderdale? Shouldn’t I be in a different Fort, say like Fort Myers? Nope, I am in the right place. Festival promoters AEG and Danny Wimmer Presents decided it was time to find a new home as the festival, in its fifth year, had outgrown its old location. The new location in Markham Park is much larger than the previous location. At (ironically) 666 acres, it is a perfect location for one of the festivals that kick off the World’s Loudest Month. Fort Rock 2018 is bigger, better, badder, and a whole lot LOUDER!!!

While I may be overly caffeinated at this point, my day started with the hope that the drive was going to worth it – the lineup looked stellar!

Saturday’s performers were Bad Wolves, ’68, Power Trip, Texas Hippie Coalition, Hatebreed, Trivium, Underoath, Bullet For My Valentine, Halestorm, Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch, and Godsmack. That lineup alone is staggering and more than enough for any diehard rocker!

But wait, there’s more! Sunday keeps everything going in high gear. Starting the day is Tyler Bryant and The Shakedown, then Toothgrinder, Avatar, Red Sun Rising, Pop Evil, Sevendust, Hollywood Undead, Stone Temple Pilots, Stone Sour, Breaking Benjamin, and Ozzy Osbourne with Zakk Wylde. This festival is nothing short of a giant bucket list!

When I got to Markham Park, the first thing I noticed was the two HUGE stages side by side. It made for one hell of an impression. Usually at festivals, the stages are not side by side, let alone the same size. Once the music started, you could see how this was a great idea. Once one band was done, the crowd just shifted over to the other stage. There was no walking around and trying to figure out who was playing where. One stage always had a band playing while the other was being changed over. For the first time at a location, this show was running like a well-oiled machine. There was no waiting around wondering when a band was going to hit the stage. I had to say I was impressed with that.

The first act up on Saturday was Bad Wolves. You may not have heard of them, but you probably have heard their breakout hit, “Zombie”, the cover of the song by the Cranberries. Don’t be fooled by them covering this somber song. This California-based metalcore band, formed in 2017, is HEAVY. Their five-song set featuring songs from, Disobey, that will be dropping May 11, 2018, was tight. Of course, the band knocked it out of the park when it came time to play their big hit “Zombie”. What a way to kick things off!

Next up was the duo, ’68, featuring guitarist and singer, Josh Scogin, and drummer, Nikko Yamada. Dressed in identical black suits with white shirts and black ties, along with a basic stage setup with them facing each other, you knew this was going to be different. When they blasted into their set you could tell they had heavy punk influences, as well as channeling some White Stripes as well. The sheer energy that they had was infectious. As much as they owned the stage during their set, I would LOVE to see these guys in a more intimate setting, as I know they would level the place.

After ‘68 wrapped up Power Trip hit the stage. This Texas-based thrash metal band was a total sonic gut punch. The machine gun-like power chords and riffs of guitarists, Blake Ibanez and Nick Stewart, were a perfect match to the singer, Riley Gales, ferocious bark.  

Next up was Texas Hippie Coalition. This four-man heavy metal band out of Texas fronted by Big Dad Ritch call their brand of music red dirt metal. This comes from the mix of red dirt country that is part of the landscape where they come from, and the metal music they love. This group sounds like a mix of Monster Magnet, Pantera and a dash of Willie Nelson thrown in for good measure. These guys know how to put on a show! Big Dad Rich owned the stage and the rest of the band never stopped moving.

Check out our THC interview!

It’s already been two hours of non-stop action and things are only beginning to get going!

24-year veterans, Hatebreed, took the stage and proceeded to show why they have been around for this long and why they are so successful. For sure their music provides a violent groove that can make for an intense environment.

The next hour and a half Trivium, Underoath, and Bullet For My Valentine took the stage and showed everyone why they deserved to be on the same stage as Godsmack and Shinedown.

Now it was time for the headliners to do their thing. Normally Halestorm would be at the top of the list, but with a concert like this, there is no such thing as a top act because they all are. That’s the beauty of these festivals. So many top acts in one place.  Lzzy and the guys did not disappoint. Every song they played – everyone knew. From “I Am the Fire”, to “Freaks Like Me”, was spot on perfect; there is no stage too big for them. When Lzzy was working the crowd to “Amen” she had everyone in the palm of her hands. Arejay Hale had his chance to shine during an extended drum solo using some of the biggest drumsticks you’ll ever see. When they played their last song, “I Miss the Misery”, you didn’t want them to leave. Sadly, that is the downside to these festivals; short set times.

Normally I would say to myself ‘how could you possibly top that?’; but, along comes Shinedown. Opening their set with “Sound of Madness” was a hell of a way to get things going on their dozen-song performance. When Brent Smith was singing “Unity” and he came to the line “put your hands in the air”, all you could see was 40,000+ arms reaching to the sky. Leave it to the boys in Shinedown to know how to create a perfect moment. In a day of heavy metal, loud guitars and hair flying around, they took things down a perfectly-timed notch with an acoustic performance of “Simple Man”. When the audience sang along with the chorus it was spine-tingling. Their last song, “Devil”, is from their new album, Attention Attention, that drops May 4, 2018.

Now it was Five Finger Death Punch’s turn. Opening with the raucous song, “Under and Over It”, singer Ivan Moody put the attitude into that one for sure. While Ivan didn’t have his usual red hand painted to his face, drummer Jeremy Spencer was decked out in his skull face paint and skeleton bodysuit. They ripped through their set, playing favorites like, “Lift Me Up”, “Wash It All Away”, “Jekyll and Hyde”, playing one fan favorite after another. At one point during the show, Ivan referenced his incident where he had to leave a tour – this was the perfect lead into the song “I Apologize”. When Moody was prowling around the stage with a baseball bat, he stopped the show to give it to a young girl, saying “this is like a Wonka golden ticket. Just more violent!”. When they played their last song, “The Bleeding”, confetti cannons went off making things look like the gigantic celebration that it is!

Finally, it was time for Godsmack to wrap up the first day. The opening song was none other then “When Legends Rise” from the newest album of the same name – that JUST dropped yesterday! When they played “Awake, the loudest pyro that I have ever heard went off! If you weren’t awake beforehand, you certainly were after! While Godsmack came out sounding amazing and did not disappoint, the highlight was the dueling drum solos between frontman, Sully Erna, and drummer, Shannon Larkin. That alone was worth showing up for – not only was the interplay between them awesome, then they threw in all the flames as well! During the show, Sully announced that Godsmack and Shinedown will be touring together! The night ended with their hit single from the Faceless album “ I Stand Alone”.  

From 1 PM until after 11 PM It was nonstop music! Every band’s performance was executed with precision.  Whether you were familiar with the band or not, you got the best version of everyone. As the crowd flowed out smoothly into the night, everyone was still excited about what they saw and that the next day it was going to start all over again. The first day at a new venue for Fort Rock couldn’t have gone any better!

 Photojournalist: Mark Matson

Check out the rest of our Fort Rock coverage!

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