I attended the 95 WILL ROCK FEST in Franksville, Wisconsin on August 22nd, 2015 and I have to be honest I really had no idea what to expect. Although the festival came highly recommended by some friends we hadn't been there before and although they are music festival purveyors themselves there is always the fear of the unknown. I have been burned at a one day music festival before and despite that fact I still seek new events.
The drive to this one day festival isn't a long drive really, just about three hours and its a nice ride so taking the day trip really isn't an issue, and admission to the festival was not that bad so why not take the chance I think right? From our hotel the venue was only 30 minutes and with it being all interstate it made it much easier. As we entered the unincorporated town of Franksville, Wisconsin the town seemed very nice and despite the failure of our GPS to find the exact address, it wasn't to difficult to locate the entrance, I thought. As we drove down the road to the event there were signs and I began to turn into an entrance, for the artists so we continued to follow the signs. The last sign we saw was facing another intersection and the arrow was telling us to continue straight which we did and we ended up driving too far past the actual toad to the entrance.
One more sign would have helped but that isn't a problem by any stretch of the imagination and getting to the parking lot and subsequent space was proverbial cake. What I thought was insane was the fact that the one day festival starting at 10:15AM with TWENTY-SEVEN bands charged a paltry $47.00 for GA seating at the door. Think about that for a second only FORTY-SEVEN BUCKS for TWENTY-SEVEN BANDS, that is one hell of a deal! There is another admission option for those that want a VIP-type of experience, that being "Platinum" tickets which offered a VIP tent, food, cash bar, limited seating and private restrooms and that was still affordable at $110.
The bands played on four stages (a Main stage, the Jager Stage, the WILL ROCK Stage, and the Road Rage Stage) but none of the stages were so far apart that it wasn't possible to take in all of the acts in succession. Each stage was in very close proximity and three of the four stages had very good national acts. The fourth stage, the Road Rage Stage, had smaller bands that were exceptional.
I'm guessing by now you are beginning to wonder who these bands are now aren't you (unless you were in attendance of course)? The list is impressive and included:
- HOLLYWOOD UNDEAD (Main Stage)
- POP EVIL
- SAINT ASONIA
- BUTCHER BABIES
- TEXAS HIPPIE COALIITON
- SAVING ABEL (Jager Stage)
- ROYAL BLISS
- DEVOUR THE DAY
- ART OF DYING
- RED SUN RISING
- ROMATIC REBEL
- PSYCHOSTICK (WILL ROCK Stage)
- 3 YEARS HOLLOW
- FAILURE ANTHEM
- ANOTHER LOST YEAR
The Road Rage Stage included:
- THEY NEVER SAY NO
- IMPERIAL FALL
- THREE LEFT
- CITY OF THE WEAK
- SCREAMING FOR SILENCE
- AMERICAN ZEROES
- THE COMPLICATION
- THE BRIGHTER SIDE
That is a list of a very serious lineup of some incredible bands and believe it or not, it housed a bunch of bands I hadn't seen before, on the THREE big stages even. I espouse the fact frequently that music festivals can turn you onto bands and music you never thought you might like so you should attend any chance you can, in fact that should either be my mantra or my epitaph for that matter. I won't go through all of the bands I have and haven't seen and those that I really, really loved I'll write about more in-depth later. I will tell you that I have some new favorite bands though including RED SUN RISING, TEXAS HIPPIE COALITION, BUTCHER BABIES, DEVOUR THE DAY and ART OF DYING (stay tuned for individual articles about those and maybe a couple of others). Kudos to the promoters for creating this lineup by the way, make it a two or three day festival with lineups like that all of the days and your festival will become one of the best in the COUNTRY and a destination for multi-day festival goer's.
There were a few minor issues that we encountered, completely fixable and definitely not deal breakers but worthy of mention. First of all the fact that you cannot leave the festival to go to your vehicle is a bad idea, it really is. The day was gorgeous (my sunburn is proof) but the forecast made it sound like it might rain later and it would get cooler so many, us included, brought ponchos (yes ponchos) but also jackets and you have to haul that with you the entire time which is cumbersome and a pain in the arse. Another issue is the inconsistency with what a "professional" digital camera is or isn't. I heard several people discussing how they couldn't take in cameras with lenses that can be changed but there were quite a few that got away with it but that is really not a point of contention, probably just a little jealousy from them if you will.
Staff issues are always a problem for me, and inconsistencies or wrong information from those staff members does butter my toast with a dirty knife. What I mean by that is the fact that when we entered the festival we were told by the very first staff member we encountered that if we wanted to drink OR eat ANYTHING in the place, we had to have tickets, cash would not be accepted by those vendors. Yeah, about that, she was wrong. When we tried to by a couple of pretzels we were told tickets weren't accepted, nor were they accepted at the vendor we got our food from later in the night. We literally bought $25 more tickets that we really could use on ourselves because of that but that really wasn't the biggest problem we encountered with staff.
Before I go any further I want to make it quite clear that my favorite genres of music are very hard, thrash metal and punk rock in fact last year I attended Riot Fest in Chicago with about 40,000 more people that were at 95 WILL ROCK FEST and there was a "little" slam dancing that went on there. I used to actively pursue mosh pits, I have done some stage diving and some crowd surfing and in the last five years I have seen about 500 different acts, so I'm used to physicality at shows. The event I attended August 22nd, 2015 the 95 WILL ROCK FEST was billed as an "all ages" show and I saw people from stroller age to people well into their 70's. I saw at least two dozen people in wheelchairs, a young lady with a very recent prosthetic leg, several young people that were disabled and people just wanting to have fun sitting in chairs, enjoying the day. When BUTCHER BABIES took the stage things got a little messy, and staff response was non-existent, undermanned, didn't care or even participated in some cases.
What I meant by that the crowd broke into a mosh frenzy, crowd surfers and general moronic behavior against people that just wanted to enjoy the show happened. Look, in front of me I watched people in chairs getting taken out by falling people, and as a mosh pit formed in front of me and behind me at the same time. There was a woman standing in front of me on a chair, and some pinhead literally tossed a young man on top of her, catching her foot in the chair which collapsed under the commotion. I watched as one young man in his very early teens get crushed under the weight of another person and he was terrified, shaking after that. I watched as a little girl, maybe eight tops get tackled off of her fathers shoulders and her fall directly next to me. I also watched a man think he could be a jerk hitting people in the back near the pit because he thought it would be fun and then I watched a man he hit with the cheap shot smack him square in the face. Oddly enough that ended that coward from slamming further as he walked away shocked that he got punched.
How does any of that have anything to do with staff you ask? Remember that woman I mentioned that was standing on a chair and got slammed by a flying man? I heard that woman say something to security after the set ended and she asked him why they allowed that behavior as it was her understanding it wouldn't be tolerated. The security officer she talked to simply asked what they were supposed to do about it and that it wasn't supposed to be allowed. The woman told security about her incident and he said "So? Tough titty." Those were his words as he walked away by the way. During that discussion another man who was either with this woman and her husband or just sitting by the couple said "Tell the band not to encourage it" to which he was told "Like they would listen."
There are a couple of things about that situation that I feel compelled to address, the first being that there was security near the stage, protecting the stage as they are supposed to, and they were facing the crowd. I would consider the statement I overheard to be rude and not caring about the situation, that staff member however was near the mosh pit behind me when it got going. I watched security toss people back into the pit when they "ventured" into the "innocents" that weren't partaking in the pit but they did rush in to help a couple of people that hit the ground in the pit. I do take issue with the fact that I saw two security guards participate in the pit themselves, as active participants. Yes participants, they were in the middle of the scrum smashing people before they withdrew to the sides.
What can security do about it would be the logical question and the answer is very simple. If the behavior isn't allowed at the festival then at the time they "surf" to the front, security should escort them away and either have the police that was in attendance remove them or security could cycle them out themselves. As for the pits, when they open don't stand there and let them happen, break them up there weren't 40,000 people there, probably 25 people in the pit behind me at its peak, it could have been broken up very easily. It would be asinine for me to assume that a pit might not open with a presence of more security or even if the staffing at the level that was present at the event but it could have been controlled.
With all of that said the promoter could have made it a "non-seating event" for the first 30 - 40 feet in front of the stage, standing only because of a potential "pit." In my opinion if you are inside of that area and you get hit its your own fault, that is the chance you take. If the promoter said that then security standing behind that non-seating distance could be simple traffic cops keeping the pit from expanding and any pits that opened outside that area could be addressed. Obviously the far from ideal option would be to make the entire event 16 and over but that would be show suicide. If it was me I would do these things: 1. Under no circumstances say "Mosh pits are NOT permitted" and then NOT stop them, 2. Try the non-seating idea, 3. Tell people that the show could get rough up front and to get over it. Regardless of all of that NEVER say to someone with a complaint about anything at an event "Tough titty."
Personally I like the energy from mosh pits and crowd surfing partially because its fun to watch people fall to the ground from so high when they let strangers carry them across the crowd. I think that this event should embrace the pit but just don't pussyfoot around its potential because that will hurt the event more than the simple act of embracing it. As for those that don't like either get over it, its metal and the sign of rabid fans (and some asses that want to be jerks too) but don't act like its a huge surprise because it never happens.
What I took from 95 WILL ROCK FEST was incredible talent, affordable prices, an epic event and definitely one I will attend again! Despite the few bits of discontent I assure you that no event is 100 percent perfect and problems persist regardless. Next year you have to get to this event because I am telling you it was everything I expected from a festival of any length or position on the festival chain. This event was incredible, it really was and should be one that you go to year after year. Do yourself a favor get your tickets next year, go with a group of people and enjoy yourself. Don't worry about the others in attendance and embrace its idiosyncrasies, I know I will!
Great job, great lineup! Loved every minute of it, I really did!!!!