On May 15-17, 2015
Rock On The Range @ MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio USA
After three days of sunburn and rain, I think it is safe to say that it has been a whirlwind adventure and quite possibly the best weekend of Rock N’ Roll America has ever seen! Not only was the line up as solid as can be across all three stages each day, but the crowd was enthusiastic and raring to go every morning as doors opened at 11am sharp. But enough about the overall, let’s get down to the juicy details!
Under the sweltering midday heat, my friend and I entered the venue to find an air of excitement buzzing all around us. Various vendors were set up all around, selling anything from bowls and pipes to profane t-shirts. Everywhere you turned there was someone drinking alcohol or smoking — all in the true spirit of Rock N’ Roll!
This first day was definitely the biggest of them all crowd-wise. I was only there for Apocalyptica, who recently released their new album, Shadowmaker. However, many other fantastic bands graced the Jaegermeister stage, Ernie Ball stage, and Monster Main stage! On the Jaegermeister stage bands like Beartooth and Hatebreed left their mark and on the Ernie Ball stage we had some goodies like Islander and Falling In Reverse among many more talented bands, of course! Most of the commotion, though, was centered around the Main stage. We Are Harlot opened the stage up and were followed by Apocalyptica, a band hailing all the way from Finland who made cellos look more metal than a Flying V! They ended their set with “some classical shit” which was a badass rendition of “In the Hall of the Mountain King.”
Next up was Live who I unfortunately did not get to see due to the long lines at the concession stands, but after they played, Breaking Benjamin took the stage. They played the classic “I Will Not Bow” where vocalist Benjamin Burnley came down into the crowd and then they closed with “The Diary of Jane.”
Then came Slash ft. Myles Kennedy & the Conspirators who tore up the stage with face-melting guitar solos and everyone’s favorites from Guns N’ Roses, “Paradise City” and “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”
Out of all the bands from Friday, I probably have the most to say about Marilyn Manson. He is a very odd person as everyone knows and that certainly shows during his performances. As strange as his behavior was, it kept me very entertained and very curious to see more. Early on in his set, he sported a microphone with a blade protruding from it with which he used to cut himself. He continued on to wipe his blood on his face and tear his setlist off the stage and eat it! All of this was done in front of stained glass church windows that were set up on either side of the drums. By this time, the stadium was packed from front to back with no room to spare and all ready for the first headliner of the weekend, Slipknot. Slipknot opened with “Sarcastrophe” and closed with “Custer,” a single from their newest album, “.5: The Gray Chapter.” They followed up with a two song encore. A short but solid set.
As everyone departed, my anticipation grew for the next two days.There would only be more great bands and more exploring to do!
As soon as Main stage opened at 1:10, I knew it was going to be a good day. The line up only marked this band as “Special Guest” but as soon as they were introduced, everyone realized how special they actually were! This guest turned out to be none other than the world premiere of Adam Gontier’s (ex-Three Days Grace) new band, Saint Asonia! Not only was their new stuff awesome, but they also played “I Hate Everything About You” — a Three Days Grace gem! Adam, looking better than ever, sported his skeleton arm microphone stand as usual and gave the crowd a great start to their second day at Rock On the Range!
After their set, I travelled to the Ernie Ball stage to find me some Swedes. Promptly at 1:45, Sabaton took the stage and began tearing it up! They played songs off their new album, Heroes, like “Resist and Bite” and “To Hell and Back” and older songs like “Swedish Pagans” (a personal favorite) and “Primo Victoria.” Not only are they master musicians, but they also might have a future in comedy! They love to joke about the vocalist’s (Joakim Brodén) inability to play guitar, what little Sweden apparently has to offer the world (like ABBA and Ikea), and Michael Jackson. They also made a couple jokes about how terrible and rainy the weather was in Ohio. Every song and piece of humor led to the crowd chanting Sabaton’s name, which I’ve found to be a common occurrence at Sabaton shows.
After their set, I lined up for their Meet and Greet. As I was waiting in line, it poured! And, stupid me did not have a poncho or even a sweater (but I did have sunblock)! By the time it was my turn to meet them, I was soaked and shivering, but that didn’t dim my spirits! Meeting them was pretty cool and the guy next to me, a native of Ohio, remarked that since it drizzled during Sabaton’s set and just poured, he tried to turn the dial to fix the weather to no avail, to which I butted in and said “Hey, I’m from New Jersey so this definitely isn’t my fault!” which made the boys laugh! Overall, they’re a great group of guys!
When I made it back into the stadium, my friend and I patiently sat waiting for In This Moment to start. While waiting, we watched the screens on each side of the stage projecting BABYMETAL’s set. I had only briefly heard of them, but watching the three female vocalists sing and dance in unison center stage made me curious to know more. From Japan, the girls are between the ages of 15 and 17 and sing in Japanese. They are most certainly an interesting fusion of metal and Japanese culture.
Next up: In This Moment! As usual, they came on strong with a theatrical set full of some of their best songs like “Whore,” “Sex Metal Barbie,” and “Blood” which caused Maria Brink to have a costume change after almost every song. Her Blood Girls danced right along with her and the boys jammed out clad in zombie-esque makeup and attire. I’m also going to take this time to mention something Maria brought to attention during their set: there were a lot of people in wheelchairs crowd surfing. I REPEAT: PEOPLE IN WHEELCHAIRS WERE CROWD SURFING. ALL. WEEKEND. How badass?! I have to hand it to the security crew there — each time they did everything in their power to make sure every crowd surfer made it safely to the front.
After In This Moment came Papa Roach. Knowing that they just did a song with Maria Brink, I got really excited that they might sing it together! Sadly, they played “Gravity” but Maria did not join them. Nevertheless, they played a high-energy set and Jacoby Shaddix (lead vocalist) crowd surfed to the dismay of all the security crew, but to the joy of the crowd!
Godsmack graced the stage next and didn’t disappoint! At one point, they brought on a second drum set and jammed out to an epic instrumental that tied in some of Rock’s most classic hits. Godsmack closed with “I Stand Alone” and got the crowd all primed and excited for the headliner: Judas Priest!
Crowned the “Godfathers of Rock N’ Roll” and formed back in 1969, everyone was tingling with anticipation for 9:40 to come. Rob Halford (lead vocalist) came out in a long, chained black jacket while sporting a cane. Ready to rock, he gave the crowd those classic rock screams everyone loves and quickly ditched his cane. Unfortunately, I have to say that the crowd emptied after their first few songs. And, following suit, I left before their set ended, too. Word on the street is that they played two encores, though, which would be pretty cool for any Judas Priest fan!
Day two ended and I only felt one thing about Day Three: utter excitement! Most of the bands I came to see would be performing on Sunday.
It was a bit unsettling how the day started: we got stuck in traffic for 2 hours due to multiple accidents. Starset, a band native to Columbus, Ohio, was playing at 1:45 and it was pretty apparent that we might miss their set. It was a race against the clock as we tried to find shortcuts across Columbus that would get us in faster! Finally, after a grueling drive and a run across the parking lot, we were in! We made it with minutes to spare! As my friend and I took our places to watch Starset take over the Ernie Ball stage, we hear an announcement: Lightening is within 10 miles so their set will be delayed. This caused the people in charge of the festival to find any means necessary to keep the crowd entertained, which meant blasting songs like “Turn Down For What,” “Livin’ On A Prayer,” and “Sweet Caroline.”
Finally, at 2:10, the all clear was given and Starset took the stage for a set that made up for all the waiting! They opened with “First Light” and continued into “Rise and Fall” and closed with “My Demons,” a hit that everyone sang along to!
While waiting in line to meet Starset, I was able to listen to Otherwise taking on the Ernie Ball stage. They came through with insane power, playing mainly songs off their new album Peace At All Costs and closing with “Soldiers,” their popular song that commends anyone in the military and anyone strong enough to fight for what is right!
Back to meeting Starset, though… I didn’t get rained on this time, which was a plus. I had met these guys back in October on their tour with Lacuna Coil and they proved to be just as sweet this time around!
The fourth band to hit the Main stage was Halestorm! I gotta say, they played a killer set, finding the perfect mix of old and new songs to keep the crowd mesmerized. I’ve never seen a more talented group of musicians. They opened with “Love Bites (So Do I)” and closed with “I Miss the Misery,” adding a funky instrumental section in the middle. In between came the awesomeness from their new album Into the Wild Life that was “Scream,” “I Am the Fire,” “Amen,” and “Apocalyptic” among others. Those songs mingled well with the oldies like “I Get Off” and “It’s Not You.”
After their set, I went to get in line for their Meet and Greet at the FYE tent. The line was already growing rapidly so I quickly secured my spot and waited. By the time they arrived, they easily had over 200 people in line! However, even though I was just another face in the line, they gave me bright smiles, asked my name, and shook my hand, all while signing my poster and CD. I even got a high-five from Arejay Hale, their drummer. I’ll say this: They are still humble despite their Grammy win!
After meeting Halestorm and grabbing an overpriced bite to eat (I’m officially sick of hot dogs!), I caught the last bit of Rise Against’s set and then had to endure more waiting for the band that would close the festival: Linkin Park!
Now, let me explain something: I have been a Linkin Park fan since I was in middle school which is about 10 years ago; however, I hadn’t been keeping up with their newest stuff. I had mixed feelings: would they play everything from The Hunting Party? Or would they humor the old crowd a bit? Well, they humored us old fans a lot! They opened with “Papercut” and I immediately knew this was going to be a great show as nostalgia set in. While they played songs from their new album like “Wastelands,” “Rebellion,” and “A Line In the Sand,” they also went back to their roots with songs like “What I’ve Done,” “Numb,” and “In the End.” They also put the spotlight on Mr. Joe Hahn for a techno-like keyboard solo. In all my joy I was right there rapping along with Mike Shinoda for their closing song “Bleed It Out.”
After three insane days of Rock N’ Roll, my 8 hour drive home was a long one. I was still coming off of the high; I couldn’t believe how epic my weekend had been. It was a completely sold out festival, at least 40,000 people each night. Each band gave it their all plus a little extra and each member of the crowd gave them the respect they rightfully deserved! Rock On the Range claims that Ohio is “Where Rock Lives” and this weekend proved them right!