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RIFF Fest 2019: The Perfect One Day Festival Featuring Shinedown, Seether and Pop Evil

Shinedown © John Swider

Clarkston, Michigan (July 13, 2019)-One of the hardest rockin’ parties of the summer took place this past Saturday as Detroit’s rock radio icon 101.1 WRIF played host to the 2019 version of RIFF Fest. This year, the FM giant brought in 9 of the hottest bands in the land to wreck havoc on the 2 separate stages during the one-day event.

Seether © John Swider

The party was already in full swing when Broken Hands opened the festivities on the Hall Financial Stage. Strapped with only a 20 minute set, their time was used wisely by featuring tracks off the upcoming release Split in Two. If the new album plays close to what these guys sound like live, you might be hearing their name mentioned a little more in the near future.

Dinosaur Pile-Up, who’s new single “Back Foot” is receiving massive airplay nationwide, stepped up to the microphone next. The band from Leeds riviting sound features a searing guitar lick and a pounding bass line mixed with the raspy lyrics from front-man Matt Bigland. Granted, the set times were limited, but the guys ripped through their set that highlighted cuts off their latest LP Celebrity Mansions. Catch these guys currently on tour in support of Shinedown, you just might find yourself giving them a nod of approval!

If the heat didn’t get to you by now, the next two metal mavens did. Diamante, the blue haired vixen was in rare form cranking out her hit “Haunted” along with “Sleepwalking” and “Bulletproof.” The highlight of her performance was a raucous cover of Bad Wolves megahit “Hear Me Now.”  Even though Diamante is a duet partner on the original, she made just enough changes in the delivery to make it her own tonight. With her multi range delivery, it was refreshing to hear the radio favorite in a new yet different perspective.

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Closing out the afternoon session on the Hall Financial Stage was the hard driving New Years Day. Lead by the consummate metal front woman Ashe Costello, the California based NYD blistered through cuts off their current release Unbreakable. If the ear melting sound wasn’t quite enough to get the metal heads banging in the pit, a thoroughly vicious cover of Pantera’s “Fucking Hostile” along with the set closing “Skeletons” did!

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With the preliminaries over, it was time for the crowd to pack into DTE Energy Music Amphitheatre, where the party band Wilson was waiting. Hailing from the Motor City, the local favorites tore into their set with fan favorite “Dumptruck” followed by “Wrong Side of History” and “Windows Down”. With energy and power reminiscent of Detroits favorite adopted party band, the J.Geils Band, Wilson and their front-man Chad Nicefield worked through the set with attitude and full on debauchery . Ending their night with “Like a Baller” and the every so sweet “House of Fuckery”, you start to understand why they were moved inside to the big stage at DTE.

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Badflower, the red-hot L.A. based rockers, quickly amped up the crowd with a few cuts off their own recent release Ok,I’m Sick. Opening with the sinister “xANAx” and then reaching back to their first L.P. for “Drop Dead” their set was fluid yet immensely entertaining. Lead singer and guitarist Josh Katz is known for his antics on stage and today was no different. Playing his guitar while laying on his back or doing crazy backbends while facing the crowd, Katz was a show himself.  Badflower’s time on stage was brief but they left a lingering impression with a haunting performance of the megahit “Heroin.” Katzs’ eerie whispers along with the controlled anger during the hook mesmerized the crowd and left them wide-eyed and reeling. If that wasn’t enough to get the crowd buzzing about the performance, the closing hit “Ghost” finally did. It was a great set by the relative newcomers and we would bet that they scored a few new fans to boot!

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Pop Evil, the powerhouse rockers from western Michigan brought their “A” game to the home state gig Saturday. Right from opening notes of “Bosses Daughter” Leigh Kakaty was the man, effortlessly delivering the his powerful vocals to some of the biggest hits in the Pop Evil library. Whether it was “Deal With the Devil/Bodies” or “Be Legendary,” the memorable performance erased any recent questions and  doubts about their live performance. Kakaty worked the stage  as well seasoned pro should, often waving and pointing into the crowd while Davey Grahs and Nick Fuelling wailed on their guitars stage front throughout.

Pop Evil © John Swider

As most well travelled bands often do, they often save their most popular music for the end of the night and Pop Evil was no different. Finishing the forty-five minute set with 2 of their most recognizable hits, “Walking Lions” and “Trenches” surely reinforced the notion that this may be the most under appreciated band in the business. That’s to bad, these guys always put on a hell of a show and tonight they may have eclipsed any previous effort!

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With the heat and humidity draining the crowd, it was South African rockers Seether to the rescue. Shaun Morgan began the burn down with a full-on version of “Gasoline” and then went back to back with “Let You Down” and “Rise Above This.” Under normal circumstance and an opening run like that, the packed venue would have been up and jammin’ for the complete sixty-minute set. Not tonight and to be brutally honest the crowd must have been emotionally checked out. Seethers set list was packed with so many familiar jams that if they were the headliner, it may have shaken the core of DTE with the show of fan appreciation!  Bassist Dale Stewart along with guitarist Corey Lowery were both engaging and worked the crowd relentlessly trying to build on the interaction. By the time the fans started coming around, the band was winding down the night with their final 2 songs “Remedy” and “Fake It,” which ironically could have been have been a description  for the crowd. Too bad if you were one of the fans who checked out on Seether, this was a fantastic performance that one day you are going to look back on and wish you could have another chance at.

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After a long, hot day of music, it was finally time for the RIFF Fest headliner Shinedown. It was long day for fans, but when the opening chords for “Devil” cut through the thick night air, the anxiety from the long wait was instantly lifted. Long recognized for their energetic and pyrotechnically filled live shows, tonight’s endeavor was a “by the book performance.”  “Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay Boom Lay Boom),” the second song in the set, started the pyrotechnic onslaught with large plumes of fire along with the appropriate sonic announcements that surrounded drummer Barry Kerch. This continued throughout the set, often finding frontman Brent Smith perched on the drum riser along with Kerch, enveloped in plumes himself.

Shinedown © John Swider

Shinedown wasn’t all fluff and no substance by any stretch of the imagination. True fans know what to expect going in and Smith and the band delivered by the truckload. “Monsters,” ”Black Soul,” “45” and “Bully” mixed between “Enemies” and “Unity” just to get the show rolling! A good run for any artist but that was only the first stanza of the distinctive 3-part show! The second, a semi-acoustic stanza highlighted the vocal abilities and range of the talented Brent Smith. Along with guitarist Zach Myers and cloaked in total darkness, the pair moved into the crowd and performed the mega-hits “If You Only Knew,” “Second Chance” and a vastly under rated and the mostly unheard of “Through the Ghost” off the 2012 release Amaryllis. Illuminated by a single white spot-light, the pair shook hands with fans as they performed and moved about. A memorable moment from a group that has not forgotten the roads travelled and the fans that have continually supported them from the beginnings.

Shinedown © John Swider

When Smith and Myers appeared on the main stage to start the final run to the finish, Shinedown came out armed with some of the strongest music in their repertoire. The Lynyrd Skynyrd classic “Simple Man” started with a acoustic solo from Myers and from that moment on, the momentum built. Following the fan sing-a-long, the band now fully re-energized, blistered off 3 burners back to back to back. “Cut the Cord” lead the assault with “Get Up” and the ever-popular “Sound of Madness” supporting the back end. The night ended on RIFF Fest 2019 and Shinedowns set with the appropriate and often overlooked “Brilliant,” the last cut and the album “Attention,Attention.” It was the right choice to end one of the more memorable music festivals at Pine Knob,er……. DTE Energy Music Theatre!

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New Years Day:


DTE Energy Music Theatre: