Saturday, September 13, 2014

Rock USA - Day 3, July 18th, 2014

When the music festival that was Woodstock came wafting into the psyche of the drug-addled music culture of the late '60's, 1969 actually, it wasn't without its issues.  While the common perception was that all that happened in the field of Max Yasgur was music, peace, love and dope there were mishaps.  Without question anyone that was either sober at that time, or wasn't actively participating in the event or the events that were taking place during the event knew or could recollect that there were problems.  So?

When the attendees of Rock USA began to stir on Friday July 18th, 2014 I doubt they had a thought about what happened at Woodstock in 1969.  Gone were the smelly, stoned hippies that skinny dipped in the pond at Woodstock as was the ineffective patchouli oil that every "smoker" seems to think masks not only their own personal stink as well as the "medical herb" that they may smoke for their "glaucoma."  Portable toilets that were located on the Woodstock grounds received little attention during the festival and the odors that emanated from them (seriously can you imagine how horrible that would stink even to just walk by that place) couldn't have been more different at Rock USA.  Within the confines of Rock USA were clean and neat, properly maintained portable toilets (and in VIP there were air conditioned restrooms available).

The grounds at Woodstock couldn't hold a candle to those at Rock USA (although it would have helped the smell at Woodstock) as they were maintained in an acceptable manner and refuse, garbage rather, was picked up by staff regularly.  Its fairly impressive when you realize that for a facility of this size was taken care of so well that I doubt it was apparent that the festival was ever there just days later (except for the matted fields of course).

Smelly hippies aside, Day Three at Rock USA had a chance to take the bull by the horns and make this event even better.  It was possible too, just looking at the lineup on paper it was apparent that it could, and quite frankly DID.  The lineup for Day Three included Beyond Threshold, Like a Storm, Black Stone Cherry, Halestorm, 3 Doors Down and Korn. I can with some certainty tell you I had the pleasure to see one of these bands live previously and although I wasn't sure if I liked them the first time, I did following this appearance (more on them soon).

The great thing about music festivals is the variety of bands that you can actually see perform and that can have an impact on your tastes and the band "Beyond Threshold" is one of those bands.  Despite the fact that the band is from a city that I used to live in and that they are from a mere 80 miles away I had never seen this band before.  With an almost hardcore, kick your ass metal screaming forth from the amps and vocals that will tear the remaining parts of your eardrums out, this band can flat our rock!  I loved their performance and I can assure you its a band that you have to add to your musical repertoire.

Earlier this year I was able to make a trip to Wausau, Wisconsin to see my brother-in-law and his band perform as one of the openers for the band "Saving Abel."  That evening one of the other bands performing was a New Zealand band called "Like a Storm" and I really wasn't sure to make of their performance.  What I saw that night was a band that had exceptional talent, but for whatever reason I didn't enjoy them.  My wife and her brother loved them but I remained on the fence.  During their performance at Rock USA I had that little switch turn on that made this band intriguing and their skills were amplified in a fashion that I didn't expect.

I think that part of the reason for the switch was something that they did at both performances and by the way they handled both.  That event being their performance of  the AC/DC classic, TNT.  It takes quite a bit for me to like remakes of certain songs and that is usually dependent on how they handle that song.  If a band takes a classic and they butcher it that shows me that they aren't first of all respectful to the artist and the song but also that they are far too self-absorbed to understand the importance of that song / artist.  I know, I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder but that is one of my pet peeves.  This band is good, damn good and they deserve your attention!

If you would have asked me a few years ago what I thought of "Southern Rock" I would have acknowledged it actually existed and that would have been about it.  Since that time bands like "Blackfoot" and "Lynyrd Skynyrd" have infiltrated my likes.  Before Rock USA I had never heard the band "Black Stone Cherry" and I asked a few people about the band.  Everyone I talked to said that they were part of the "new Southern Rock" so I went into their performance at Rock USA thinking that his was part of a new generation of Southern Rock.  If I have never seen or heard a band before and I know that I am able to see them live I generally go in blind because I think hearing the music of a band live gives you a feeling for what the band is really like.

Black Stone Cherry - Rock USA
© - 2014
Be honest, I would guess you have attended a concert before and the music you hear live doesn't sound like what you heard recorded leading to disappointment because all of the tweaks of production aren't there.  When I went into the "Black Stone Cherry" set I was prepared to hear one of those Southern Rock bands full of twangs, steel guitars and six day long melodic entrances or exits from a song, well I was wrong.  I shouldn't have listened to those people that labeled them, this band is a rock band and a damn good one too!  I LOVED their performance!  They remind me of a band like "Jackyl" in many respects but labeling them as "Southern Rock" is unfounded and pointless really.  Yes the band is from Kentucky but so what, they can flat out jam!  Great set!  I will be seeing these gentlemen again live!

Halestorm - Rock USA
I went into Rock USA wondering about a few bands and excited about seeing others.  On Day Three one of those bands that met that criteria was the band "Halestorm."  I've been listening to the band for quite some time now so I knew what they sounded like but I was still very anxious about the performance.  Lizzy is a phenomenal singer and guitar player, she is an incredible talent.  Few can even compare to her vocals in ANY genre and at the same time a relative few can play guitar as well as she can, thus I assumed that those qualities would translate to the stage as well.  I was right!  Here is a woman that has the skills that bands that have been around twenty years can only wish to have.  Everyone in Halestorm is an exceptional talent and should be recognized as such.  This band is even better live!

The energy that Lizzy has infectious and she has a demeanor on stage that is really hard to duplicate.  What I found fascinating was the fact that she is obviously a huge talent but she has a down-to-earth attitude toward her fans and that cannot be discounted.  I will be writing about the band later, stay tuned!

One of the interesting things that happens at music festivals, rock music festivals that is, are the additions of bands that makes the festival goers scratch their heads like head lice in a third grade classroom.  For me the addition of the band "3 Doors Down" to the schedule at Rock USA was one of those bands.  Please don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the band isn't deserving, they have been performing since 1996 but they were sandwiched between "Halestorm" and "Korn" so that makes one heck of a head scratcher.  With the lice-free head scratching aside the band has had some nice success off of a few of their songs.

For my money the songs of note would be "Kryptonite," "Here Without You" and "When I'm Gone," three really good songs with one of the three having a personal meaning ("Here Without You").  Although the band seemed to have been put in a tenuous position with their location on the schedule for the day, they were very good, I really enjoyed them.  I was far from the only one too for that matter.  Although the night before featured "Megadeth" and "Rob Zombie" those bands played to much smaller crowds.  I made note of the fact that there was far too many open seats for the aforementioned bands but for "3 Doors Down," there were far fewer empty seats.  The promoter really had a grasp of what the fans wanted because quite a few people were singing along and having a great time.  Great set by the band!

Musically my tastes are all over the place, often times my iPod will have a band like "Halestorm" play and then next song might be a "Johnny Cash" song or 'The Cure" for example so following "3 Doors Down" with "Korn" makes sense in my little slice of reality.  When "Korn" took the stage the evening was beautiful, the fans were giddy almost (seriously) so I expected to be immediately blown away by the band.  With enough lights to bring jets in for a landing "Korn" came on stage with a fire that only they and their fans could handle.  I was impressed by the reaction of their fans and the band reciprocated their reaction to the fans.  Its fun seeing bands like this, they bring a different dynamic to the proceedings and they were very, very good.

Within the dynamic of a music festival it is impossible to stack a schedule to make every single attendee happy with the choices.  While we all think we could do a better job at a lineup than the promoter its safe to say that those choices would be the favorite of a minority of the people in attendance while at the same time the likelihood of success is slim.  Day Three of Rock USA was a really good day.  The weather was perfect and the fans in attendance were given a very nice lineup that had appeal to nearly everyone in attendance I would think.

If there was a lesson to be learned in Day Three was that surprises exist in the world of music festivals.  Like Woodstock in 1969 the cast of characters made for some really interesting combinations of musical tastes and genres.  While Woodstock had bands like "Mountain," "Grateful Dead" and "Creedence Clearwater Revival" perform in succession with relative success it is doubtful that everyone, even those that had been self-medicating, loved the lineup.  Day Three of Rock USA gave us a killer, mislabeled, "Southern Rock" band (Black Stone Cherry), a powerhouse of a singer in Lizzy Hale (Halestorm) and the cornerstone of today's contemporary funk/metal fusion world (Korn).

Unlike Woodstock those in attendance at Rock USA weren't the patchouli oil dripping, stink covering stoners rather they were well versed fans of various genres of music.  While it is with some certainty both events had great music and great times to be had by all, I would guess more people will remember Rock USA than did Woodstock.  It was a great Day Three!

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