Virginia Beach, Virginia (May 16, 2019) – In its 19th year, This is surprisingly my first time attending the Lunatic Luau. The Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater is the setting for todays full schedule of musical performances featuring top acts Shinedown, Bush, P.O.D., In This Moment and Fozzy.
It is 2pm and the gates are opening. As the crowd makes our way in, we are captured by the loud sound of carnival style announcer welcoming everyone to come checkout the Hellzapoppin Circus Sideshow tent. We are greeted by a heavily tattooed man in a top hat who quickly began to introduce himself as “The Govna”.
The Govna, also known as Bryce Graves, performed a spectacular show of fire eating/breathing and demonstrations of being whats called on the circus circuit a “human blockhead”, at which he pounded a full sized condom covered screwdriver fully into his nose and then pulled the condom out through his mouth. After asking me to check if the bit on his power drill seems to be the real thing, he turns it on shoves the drill up his nose as well.
More of the act includes Aaron Wollin aka Shorty the self described “Half Man” who resembles Motorheads “Lemmy” dressed in a black shirt with “Lemmy is my spirit animal” printed on the front. This 3 foot 2 inch man has no legs but walked out on his hands and did acrobatic style one handed upside down hand stands on stage and he uses the crowds cheers to push him to go higher.
Next up, The Govna introduced the world famous Erik Sprague aka Lizard Man. Tattooed from head toe in 25 years worth of lizard scale pattern tattoos. This world record holder is a sight to see as he walks onto stage. He has the bold black letters F R E A K tattooed in the middle of his chest and wears it as a proud moniker of being different from all the other “squares” in society.
He pointed out his sharp pointed filed teeth and the surgically implanted horns beneath his skin above his eyebrows. Then he explained how that in the mid 90’s he created the new medical body modification procedure of tongue splitting. His tongue is surgically split down the middle and each side is controllable separately but its muscles. One of the movements he said his wife had named the “Oh My God” in which each side of the young twirls in opposite circular motions.
The highlight of Lizard Man’s act was his performance of “The human Cork Screw” of which he placed a large 15+ inch steel wire corkscrew into his right nostril and begins to twist until it come out of the back of his throat and back out of his mouth and back through his left gauged ear hole piercing. This act is not for the squeamish.
We noticed it is now time for the first band of the day at the events small stage just a quick walk from the entrance.
Local band Seven Ten Oil takes the stage. This heavy rock four piece, who won a contest to open for KISS last summer at this same venue, started the day off with an energetic kick to the face for the fans eager to get the day rocking. There is a definite following of fans in attendance that have arrived early this afternoon to support their local favorites.
The event is ran with perfection. The bands are timed precisely as one band ends on the small stage. The next band starts on the MainStage of the amphitheater.
First up on the main stage is Los Angeles CA’s own Dirty Honey. Members Corey Coverstone on Drums, Justin Smolian on Bass and John Notto on Guitar deliver a smooth blues-rock experience accented by Marc Labelle vocal range and the bands over all stage presence. The band notably enjoys the shows vibe as they exchange smiles throughout the performance between each other and the crowd.
Photographing festivals often introduces me to bands they I may have not seen yet. The next band on the Lunatic Luau small stage blew me away. Nita Strauss in no other works tore the house down.
From the first note they command the stage with the confidence and stage presence of the seasoned veterans they are. Best known for her work with Iron Maiden all-female tribute band The Iron Maidens, Nita’s career has included performing with several rock groups such Femme Fatale and the LA Kiss musical backing group. The band showers the crowd with masterful guitar leads and pounding rhythms that have every metal head rocking their heads.
Nita travels back and forth across the stage engaging with each band member while rocking out the impressive leaves and only pausing for some synchronized headbanging. With the word ‘Hurricane” stitched down her guitar strap, Nita is a rock photographers dream as she kneels directly in front of the photo pit and does a series of epic rock guitar poses as she gazes over her adoring crowd. I see Fozzy’s Chris Jericho side stage enjoying the bands show. It is no surprise that Nita comes from a long line of classical musicians – one of her ancestors is Austrian composer Johann Strauss.
I again head to the Lunatic Luau main stage again as the band Red Sun Rising of Akron, Ohio takes the stage. The band has stated that their influences are like threads in a fabric and they feel they cannot truly be described as one particular genre.
Members include Mike Protich – lead vocals, guitar, Ryan Williams – lead guitar, Dave McGarry – rhythm guitar, backing vocals, Ricky Miller – bass, backing vocals, Pat Gerasia – drums, percussion. The band is tight and tuned in to one another. The crowd sings along as Mike’s vocals cascade across the venue. Amazing harmonies are sprinkled throughout their powerful arrangements and proves that these seasoned musicians are well at home on stage.
The most energetic band of the day award has to go to Southern California’s Fever 333.
Exploding onto stage with the raw energy seen during the days of Rage Against the Machine. The show started as a person in a black hood is lead out onto the stage and placed front and center. The band entires shortly after and the crowd cheers louder.
The three-piece consists of vocalist Jason Butler, guitarist Stephen Harrison and drummer Aric Improta.
From the first note Harrison is launching his body in the air and swinging his guitar around in perfectly timed motions to hit the right notes. Meanwhile in front of the background banner that reads “Strength In Numb333rs”, singer Jason Butler reveals it is indeed him under the black hood as he screams to the crowd powerful social messages while the fans are screaming back. At one point it seems like Jason is going to dive into the crowd. Running up to the edge of the speaker monitors but then retreating to head to the other side of the stage.
Each songs is fast, rhythmic and filled with emotion.
Sure enough, during one song he jumps down off the right side of the stage, microphone in hand and hops the barrier fence into the crowd. I think to myself this must have been planned because the microphone chord is still going about 400feet out. Eventually the chord does get stuck but I think that was a mistake as i see the stage hands trying to quickly unravel the rest of the cord that is left on the stage. The fans appreciated the effort as they all take photos with their phones with big smiles on their faces. Fever 333 is one of those beloved bands that has a devoted fan base that is ever growing. There were two lines set up to meet them after their set and and they stop and chatted with each fan to show their appreciation.
Back to the main stage, Fozzy is about to begin. Front man Chris Jericho of WWE wrestling fame, runs onto stage as the crowd cheers. The band is already playing as Jericho is accented by front stage smoke machines and colors lights. Dressed in multiple scarves and a black studded jacket, Jericho address’ the crowd as he begins his set. Lead guitarist Richard Park Ward aka ‘The Duke’ displayed the seasoned showmanship he has perfected since being one of the founding member of the band Stuck Mojo.
Chris’ melodies ring out across the Veterans United Home Loans Amphitheater as the band performs some of the fan favorites including their song “Judas”.
“What have I become, now that I’ve betrayed
Everyone I’ve ever loved, I pushed them all away
And I have been a slave to the Judas in my mind
Is there something left for me to save
In the wreckage of my life, my life”
The performance is full of smoke cannons and sing alongs as the crowd enjoys the bands show. Check out Fozzy on tour http://www.fozzyrock.com/fozzy/tour/ when they hit your town.
Celebrating their second full-length album, Young Beauties & Fools, The Glorious Sons are starting their set. Opening for The Rolling Stones this coming June in Toronto, this Canadian based band has quite an following already eagerly packed in and waiting for the band.
Members include songwriter Brett Emmons, Jay Emmons (guitar), Chris Koster (guitar), Adam Paquette (drums) and Chris Huot (bass).
Barefoot and in rose flower patterned pants and a blue Harlem Globe Trotters jersey, front man Brett Emmons casually strolls onto stage as he gazes out over the crowd. He twists and turns as he sings to his fans and the band jams on behind him.
He is lingering across the stage monitors seemly trying to get closer to connect with the people who cam to see them.
The songs were a modern yet classic flavor filled with emotional lyrics aimed at the audience. From piano key accents to slashing guitar riffs each song is a well structured example of the bands talent.
Even before one note was played, I know seeing In This Moment is going to be something unique. There are stage props all across the stage that mimic graveyard mausoleums and graveyard fencing. Massive smoke canisters are being tested along with an array or lighting and strong wind machines.
I have heard so much about the band, but I have never had the chance to catch them live.
Hailing from Los Angeles, California, the band was formed by singer Maria Brink and guitarist Chris Howorth in 2005. The current lineup also includes Travis Johnson on bass, Randy Weitzel on rhythm guitar, and Kent Diimmel on drums.
The lights dim and the stage fog drifts across the stage. The band appears in otherworldly styled makeup and take place as they begin to play. Three figures appear centerstage on a platform dressed in black robes with long flowing blonde hair while also wearing white masks with black crosses covering them. There is some sort of tall covered black mass right behind them.
Bassist Travis Johnson looks quite menacing in his metal textured mask that covers his lower face and a floor length black tunic. His piercing blight blue eye contacts seek though the arena as he stares down the crowd.
Each of the center figures is playing a large drum veiled in black. Suddenly the black mass mid stage begins to move behind the three figures mid stage. Appearing slightly above them it is none other than Maria Brink.
Maria is adorned in an elaborate golden crown as she reveals herself to the crowd and her voice echoes out against the driving gothic metal being played by her band. The amount of theatrics put into this performance is something grand that only a few bands can pull off.
The red stage lighting bounce across the fog as the dark figures move behind Maria and portray some sort of followers performing a ritual. The crowd and I are eating it up and mesmerized about what is going to happen next. The booming sound fills the amphitheater as Brink scans the crowd releasing her unique mixture of delicate lyrics and powerful screaming choruses.
Her black robe in removed and reveals an all white dress as she begins to travels across the stage. Long hip length slits in the robe reveal her legs as she slowly turns and flirts with the crowd as she moves from side to side. The three figures accent her moves and eventually are also all in white robes.
The costumes change as the songs progress. They are now all in similar golden head masks that cover their eyes, golden skin tight mermaid scale pattern dresses with long gold fingernail like accessories. The three figures are dancing behind Maria and mimicking her movements. Since they are all dress the same now at some moments when looking front directly front of her it looks like she has more that two arms.
My eyes dart around the stage trying not to miss anything, all the while loving the deep rock vibes of each song. In This Moment is a band that is not to be missed. Check them out on tour this summer.
The beloved Southern California based band Payable on Death aka P.O.D. is about to take the stage and perform as the last band of the day on the second stage.
Payable on Death is an American Christian nu metal band formed in 1992 and based in San Diego, California. Members include Sonny Sandoval on vocals, Wuv Bernardo on drums, Marcos Curiel on lead guitar, and Traa Daniels on bass. They have sold over 12 million records worldwide.
The entire fan area and large hill leading to the main amphitheater is full of fans. The crowd is stoked to see this well known band. I remember rocking to their “Youth of a Nation” track all the time back in the day. This mixture of rap and metal and all around positive messaging is what has built the group such a loyal following over the years. The crowd is packed in tightly to get the P.O.D experience they paid for. Marcos hits his riffs as Sonny engages with the crown in the bands unique Cali style.
Now for the last two acts of the night.
Not much needs to be said about Bush. With the last two artist only performing on the main stage, the amphitheater is packed. The band takes stage. Gavin Rossdale on vocals/guitar ,Chris Traynor on guitar, Corey Britz on bass, Robin Goodridge on drums
The familiar guitar riff for the bands song “Machinehead” starts and the crowd behind me is buzzing with excitement. Gavin Rossdale begins to sing…
This crowd is yelling the lyrics at the top of their lungs as the sound system can barely keep up.
As the chorus for Glycerine come the crowds voices echo throughout the entire area. Formed in London, England in 1992, Bush’s hits span many years starting in 1992 and it is amazing that they aren’t even the headlining act tonight. Gavin trades his guitar off in exchange for just a microphone on some songs and lets his body take control as he gives it his all on stage.
The chemicals between us
The walls that lie between us
Lying in this bed
The chemicals displaced
There is no lonelier place
Than lying in this bed
The Chemicals Between Us
This Is War
Bullet Holes (Live Debut)
The Sound of Winter
It is the end of the night and the Lunatic Luau is coming to an end. The headliner Shinedown is about to come out. The band is from Jacksonville, Florida and was formed by singer Brent Smith in 2001, the band also includes Barry Kerch on drums, Zach Myers on guitar, Eric Bass on bass.
I had heard how personable a front man Brent Smith was, but when he literally paused the show after the first song to shake everyone of the photographers hands in the photo pit I was blown away.
He made everyone in the crowd a part of the show while addressing them in between songs.
There is a large screen in back displaying different video imagery while the songs where being played. From fire cannon heat blasting pyrotechnic bursts and and multi colored laser beams scanning the stage the shows production kept my eye filled with excitement.
Bassist Eric Bass is a mad man on Stage. He darts from one side to the other, using whatever microphone is avoidable at the time. It is like a well choreographed dance. All the while not running into each other.
The Shinedown show as a whole was spectacular, seasoned veterans at their finest. Check them out on tour this summer on tour.
Photojournalist: Ken Penn