Sunrise, Florida (April 28 – 28, 2018) – I hardly got any sleep last night – I was so pumped up from a great first day at Fort Rock! Yet here I am wide awake early in the morning as I am excited to see what the day brings. Onto the show! It’s another beautiful day, YES! That is an advantage to kicking off the festival season in Florida; the weather is always perfect.
Kicking off the festival is Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown. These guys are just dripping with the blues. If you were lazy about getting up to get your rock on it’s your own loss. It really shows that these guys have had time on the big stage with acts like AC/DC and Guns ‘N Roses. Towards the end of their set, drummer, Caleb Crosby, took a drum from his kit and sat on the edge of the stage and played while the fleet-fingered Tyler Bryant played a vicious slide guitar. With that kind of energy to start the day, who needs coffee?
Check out our TB&TS interview!
When TB&TS wrapped up, the rapidly filling crowd shifted to the other stage, so they could see New Jersey’s own, Toothgrinder. This weekend marked a first for the guys from Asbury Park; they were playing a major festival; the big stage and large crowd didn’t intimidate them at all. Halfway through their time slot, the first mosh pit of the day broke out.
Red Sun Rising was next to take the stage. Out supporting their second album that was just released last month, Thread, they made sure to include their latest hit, “Deathwish”, in the set, as well as “Amnesia”, “Emotionless”, and “The Otherside”, from their debut album, 2015’s Polyester Zeal.
So far day two of the festival has picked up right where yesterday left off, with one amazing performance after another.
When Avatar took to the stage, it seemed as though everyone in the whole park had to stop and see these guys do their thing. This Swedish heavy metal band is something to see for sure. The theatrics and carnival-like nature of the band makes for an amazing live show. With his harlequin clown face painted on, Johannes Eckerstrom knows how to work a crowd into a frenzy. Opening with “A Statue of the King”, from their latest release, Avatar Country (2018), found the guitarist, Jonas Jarlsby, in his throne. After all, he is the king of Avatar Country! Closing out the time slot they played their hit, “Hail the Apocalypse”. I would love to see these guys play a full show; I believe they could be a headliner at any festival!
Now it was Sevendust’s time to play. If you have never had the chance to see them live, you are truly missing out. These battle-hardened veterans know how to put on a show. Lead singer, Lajon Witherspoon, is larger than life and deservedly – the focal point. Their opening song was “Dirty” from their latest album that is dropping 05/11/18 – All I See Is War. After that they played their big hits such as “Denial”, “Thank You”, and “Face to Face”.
After all these great performances, thank god there was plenty of food to be found! Yes, it was a lot of your typical festival fare, but everything was close by, so you wouldn’t miss anything.
Pop Evil took the stage and dove right into their hit song from 2013’s Onyx, “Deal with the Devil”. After which they played their latest hit song, from 2018’s self-titled album, “Waking Lions”. They dedicated their next song, “Torn to Pieces”, to their producer, Kato Khandwala, who recently passed away. Closing out their set, they played a rousing version of “Trenches” to a crowd that didn’t want them to leave the stage.
If rap/metal is your thing, then you were thrilled that Hollywood Undead was coming up next. If you aren’t familiar with their live show, it is mesmerizing – every member has their own unique mask. Opening with “Whatever it Takes”, this wasn’t your usual opening. Drummer, Matt Oloffson, came out first to start laying down the beat to the song. Next, Charlie Scene came out to do his part. After that the rest of the members trickled out to do their parts; this allowed each member to shine as they performed this anthem. As their show went on, they took off their masks and picked up their instruments, showing that they could do far more than rap.
As soon as Hollywood Undead finished, everyone rushed to the other stage as people were curious as to how the latest version of Stone Temple Pilots would be. Since the death of lead singer, Scott Weiland, the state of the band was rightfully questioned. Who could possibly replace the late singer? The Deleo brothers took their time but found their new frontman, Jeff Gutt. Ripping into 2003’s “Wicked Garden”, STP is back in business! Gutt certainly did a fantastic job of taking over for Weiland. The rest of the set was played like a greatest hits album. Playing songs like “Down”, “Big Empty”, their top iTunes track – “Interstate Love Song”, from 1994’s Purple. And of course, their first big hit, “Sex Type Thing”.
As the crowd was waiting for Stone Sour to take the stage, there was electricity in the air. If there was a roof on this place, the moment they hit the stage it would blow off! When Corey Taylor and the guys hit the stage, the crowd went nuts. Playing songs like, “Whiplash Pants”, “Absolute Zero”, “Rose Red Violet Blue”, they were flat out awesome! After every band played I would think things couldn’t possibly get any better, but Stone Sour really delivered the goods! In between songs Corey brought out a Confetti cannon, firing it at will towards the audience. My personal favorite moment was when Corey came out alone playing “Bother”. It is amazing how one man with an instrument can create such a powerful moment.
Breaking Benjamin was in a tough place for sure. How could you possibly compete with the previous band? Well, they were up for the task for sure. Opening with their first single, “Red Cold River” from their latest album that was just released a couple weeks ago, Ember, they immediately claimed the venue for themselves. As the sun went down, Breaking Benjamin was able to have an amazing light show. This worked so well when they played the Star Wars imperial march/ Schism / Smells Like Teen Spirit. After this medley, it was time for an utterly amazing drum solo. The last song they played was their huge hit, “The Diary of Jane”. Usually, a crowd has a bittersweet feeling; they are loving the song being played, but they also know the show will be over soon. However – that wasn’t the case tonight. The energy just keeps building.
Soon it will be the Oz man’s turn and the audience is now shouting “OZZY! OZZY!”.
Then the stage lights dimmed, and the crowd roared because everyone was about to get exactly what they wanted Ozzy Osbourne reunited with guitar God, Zakk Wylde. The huge video screens on either side of the stage started playing pictures of young Ozzy progressing to every major point in his legendary career. Then Zakk started playing that telltale riff introduction of 1983’s “Bark at the Moon”, and the place went nuts!! Many rockers, as they get older, have had to alter their songs as they can’t quite hit the notes they used to, but not Ozzy. He hit every note perfectly. The rest of the set was filled with almost every major of his including, “Mr. Crowley”, “I Don’t Know”, “Suicide Solution”, “No More Tears” and “Road to Nowhere”. When it came time to play the Black Sabbath mega-hit, “War Pigs” it was Wylde’s time to show everyone why he is one of the greatest guitar players of all time. His extended solo was fiery for sure, and he entertained the crowd as he left the stage to play amongst the fans to everyone’s delight. When Zakk finished, it was now time for a wild drum solo by Tommy Clufetos. With the individual solos done, it was time to get back to the songs. Next was “I Don’t Want To Change the World”, followed by “Shot in the Dark” and “Crazy Train”. Finally, it was time for the encore, which included “Mama, I’m Coming Home” and the classic Black Sabbath song, “Paranoid”.
All I can say is what an experience Fort Rock was! Every band that played brought their best to the stage. The promoters really put on a first-rate concert. From getting in – to food – to stage setup – it made for the exciting time for all the concert goers. I’m just wondering how the hell can they top this year’s festival? I guess we’ll find out in 2019!
Photojournalist: Mark Matson