Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Rock USA, Day One July 16th, 2014

Music history is chock full of connotations about summer.  From "In the Summertime" by Mungo Jerry, to "Summer of '69" by Bryan Adams music has championed the season.  Its not hard to rationalize why that is either.  Vacations, weekends at the beach and on the lake, cookouts and the simple respite from the winter make the season something special.  For music lovers summer is special too and for those fans the season can be one of magic.  Why?

Music festivals, that's why.  They seeming pop up quicker than the corn and small carnivals of doom, I mean small carnivals of fun and happiness.  When I start looking toward my summer I begin looking at the many festivals that seemingly fill the calendar.  There are country music festivals, jazz festivals and Christian music festivals.  There are some festivals like "Lollapalooza" and "Moondance" that are cemented into the vernacular of music fans but there others that make the summer even more interesting.

On July 16th, 2014 I traveled to Oshkosh, Wisconsin to attend four days of hard rock / metal at a festival you have to see to believe called "Rock USA."  The venue has something for everyone in attendance.  Not only do the attendees get exceptional talent to see and hear but they also get really good food stands, beer stands and traveling shops peddling their wares (all of those just mentioned are in General Admission).  Inside the VIP area are located great meals, air conditioned restrooms, free beer, soda and water as well as the ability to also enjoy those items I mentioned earlier in GA.

I like to wander a bit between shows in an attempt to get a little bit of the flavor of the crowd and this year I had ample opportunities to do so.  During this, the 2014 rendition of Rock USA, I did have VIP seats and the amenities that are included and I met some amazing fans of all different ages and demographics.  I made some new friends in the wonderful world of VIP but as I wandered about GA I was able to see and meet just as great people.  I would argue that despite the fact that GA doesn't have the same amenities as those in VIP they has as every bit as a fantastic experience.

The first day of Rock USA provided its attendees five bands that made the day as intriguing as any of the four days if not any of the days I have seen at any festival.  The bands included "Wayland," "Jackyl," "Theory of a Deadman," "Seether," and "Three Days Grace."  Throughout the lineup was a miss-mosh of bands I knew a great deal about, bands I hadn't heard before and those I knew about but I wasn't really a fan of.  To me that is the point of what makes a music festival fun and worth the price of admission.

The band "Wayland" was great and a surprise to me as I knew nothing of their work but with a little bit of listening they garnered a great response from those  in VIP and GA.  The band did have quite an honor (at least in my book) as they were the opening act not only for that day but the entire festival.  Wayland had the unenviable task of setting the stage and they did it in such a way that it would be hard for other bands to achieve the challenge of being better than Wayland.

Jackyl on stage at Rock USA - 2014
©musicallead.blogspot.com - 2014

On tap for the second act was a band that I will literally drive hours to see, that band being "Jackyl."Jesse and the boys can dominate any show they are in and this day was no different, they really were every bit as great as I expected.  If you are interested in reading more about their performance I have already written about it HERE.

The next three acts were part and parcel of those bands I really didn't know much about and those I wasn't really a fan of.  When "Theory of a Deadman" took the stage I was actively surprised because I knew nothing about them.  The band has this thick sounding bass that at times does have a feel of all of the other modern alternative rock bands but they do seem to have their own sound interspersed.  What was interesting was this very mellow stage presence and the power which comes from them  The band announced that two weeks after their performance at Rock USA they would be releasing a new album called "Savages" and their new single would be called "Drown."  I liked the new single, it had a Stone Temple Pilots like feel to it and it had real presence making it an easy song to remember.

How many of us have been compared to some other member of our family or an acquaintance?  Unfortunately for me I have been doing a little of that comparison with two bands myself.  Much like that tattooed friend that people assume is not a good person when indeed they are, lies the band "Seether."  For whatever unexplained reason every time I hear their name I think of the band "Weezer."  I am not a fan of Weezer (sorry but it is true) and because of the similarity of their name and the band "Seether," I have been ignoring the latter.  With great trepidation I watched the band "Seether" perform on stage that first day, I really expected I wouldn't like the band.  I was wrong.

I was blown away by Seether, I really was.  With a very simple stage show but the violence I would expect from the music of this band I was simply blown away.  Seether had this hard edge, an almost seemingly dirty edge and vocals that made me think of "Alice in Chains."  I loved this band, they were my surprise of the entire festival!

With the setting of the sun the air grew a little crisp but the anticipation of the closing act of the evening "Three Days Grace" seemingly took away that chill.  "Three Days Grace" isn't a band I knew much, if anything about.  The band has an interesting mix of influences in their music, I could hear a little "Rage Against the Machine," "System of a Down," and even a little "Nine Inch Nails" packed into their lyrics and music.  On stage their performance was a little too choreographed reminding me of "Pop Evil" and the Geoff Tate version of "Queensryche."  I did enjoy their performance however and I can see why they are as popular as they are.  This is a band that I will try to pay attention to a little better I assure you.

Rock USA provided its attendees a superfluous blend of known's and unknown's on Day One that allows a flow of music taste to fit a majority of its fans.  I loved the power and stage presence of "Jackyl," and the hidden gem (at least for me) Seether.  "Wayland" didn't disappoint nor did the "Theory of a Deadman" or "Three Days Grace."  It was a cacophony of musical talent and tastes that can really only be fused together in a music festival.  This lineup was merely day one of four but the people at Rock USA did set up its opener in grand fashion.  At no time was this festival home to anything but great music through those four days.

Take some time and find a way to get to Oshkosh, Wisconsin and Rock USA.  Disappointment will not be something you take away from the visit.  The food, the people, the atmosphere really make this excursion one of the best I make every year and at the same time it seemingly gets better and better.  Great start and great job by all of those bands that performed!!!

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