Fort Rock got off to a rough start on April 30: there were three separate entrances, all labeled “Fort Rock” parking (instead of West Lot/East Lot, etc.), no one seemed to know anything they probably should have known, like that both sunscreen and one bottle of water were allowed in, or that media packets should have included a bracelet, and where media was supposed to park, and finally, with the show barely started, there was an additional 10-15 minute break in action between when Avatar ended (around 1.30 p.m.) and Issues went on. The crowd was told by the emcee that there were some technical issues but that Issues would be on soon.
Unfortunately, when the band came on stage and started with "Love Sex Riot", off 2012 album “Black Diamonds”, there was silence from the unclean vocals that start off the song. It was like watching TV with mute on: unclean vocalist Michael Bohn’s mouth was moving, but no sound was coming out. Clearly the technical issues hadn’t been fixed.
The band, especially Bohn, handled it like consummate professionals though: even though the audience couldn’t hear the verse, Bohn kept going just as hard as if there was sound on his microphone. In fact, the band only referenced the technical issues once or twice after that, with clean vocalist Tyler Carter breaking the lead singer stereotype by offering to share his microphone with Bohn. Although a great gesture, it ended up being unnecessary as by the next song Bohn’s microphone issues were fixed.
The second was when Carter asked the sound booth to “turn up the guitar so [he wasn’t] singing like Helen Keller out [there]”. Unbeknownst to the crowd, though, there were still issues with the band’s click track (track that helps them keep proper time) and the DJ portions of their songs, as they referenced in this tweet. That made it all the more impressive that the band still put on a great, if short set that included new songs “The Realest” and “Blue Wall”. “The Realest” is sure to be a summer jam, from the energy-packed opening to the bass solo from bassist Skyler Accord.
Luckily, the sound issues seemed to get resolved later in the day. The crowd could actually hear Sevendust lead singer Lajon Witherspoon ask if this was anyone’s first Sevendust concert. When a lot of people raised their hands, Witherspoon said that a Sevendust show isn’t a concert, but a family reunion. The crowd was also treated to being able to clearly hear the harmonies the band used in some of their songs. It was also interesting to see how different bands dealt with the oppressive Florida heat. In Sevendust’s case, their guitarist wore a long sleeved hoodie in an attempt to protect himself from the sun.
Hearing lead vocalist Adam Gontier of Saint Asonia belting out “I Hate Everything About You” from the press tent was surprising, but a very welcome one. Sadly, it was one of the last two songs of the set, but they they also did Saint Asonia single “Better Place”, which rocked pretty hard. It was also just good to see Gontier on stage and hear his unique voice again.
Ghost B.C. is a Swedish satanic metal band who approaches music like it’s an unholy mass celebrating all things evil and disgusting. Their identities are hidden behind religious paraphernalia and their names are things like Papa Emeritus I and II and Nameless Ghouls. Needless to say, their set was, by far, the most fascinating of the day.
Their set started off with an eerie Latin chant that sounded like it came out of a haunted house movie, making one of my fellow journalists say to another: “Let’s go, I don’t want to be anywhere near this.” Clearly, their affect works on some. Papa Emeritus I and II and the Nameless Ghouls filed on stage and performed songs full of haunting harmonies and guitar solos. A keytar even got busted out at one point to give that creepy, dusty, abandoned house organ feel.
One particularly funny thing was that Papa Emeritus I, Ghost’s lead singer, wore bejeweled sunglasses with his monkey suit. Apparently Satan’s representatives like sparkles, which was unexpected. There are some metal bands that make their voices overly deep to portray some type of image, and Papa Emeritus I seemed to be doing something similar with his Swedish accent to enhance the band’s image... whenever he spoke, it sounded like “Dracula”’s voice.
Megadeth’s set came alive with the song “Sweating Bullets”, but after that, it was right back to business as usual. Guitar solos are great and all, but the same one for five minutes is not. Even worse if every song after that is like that also. It’s the same problem that plagues live jam bands: it just gets boring after a while, especially if the musicians are content to stand there set in one place and shred with zero crowd interaction.
A Day To Remember brought a welcome bright spot after a long, sweaty, breezeless day. The self-described “heaviest pop punk band ever” brought out a newfound energy in the tired crowd. After Megadeth, a lot of people left to either get an early start on traffic or sleep, but A Day to Remember put on a lively show that was basically a hometown show for the band from Ocala.
Most would wonder what the “heaviest pop punk band ever” would be doing at a metal show, but they managed to fit right in with songs such as new one “Paranoia”, a pulse pounding combination of punk and hardcore, and did older songs such as “2nd Sucks”, “I’m Made Of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?”, “A Plot To Bomb The Panhandle”, and “All Signs Point to Lauderdale”. “All Signs” can make some think of this little gem called “The Pop Punk Drinking Game” that you would literally die of alcohol poisoning if you followed all the rules of the game while listening to that song. A Day To Remember ended their enjoyable and energetic set with their signature confetti, streamers, and throwing of rolls of toilet paper into the crowd.
There's just something about Five Finger Death Punch's lead singer's voice that bugs and makes it hard to take their music seriously on recording. That plus their most recent single tends toward hardcore cliches makes them hard to like. Their live set, though, is worth listening to and Moody’s voice sounded a lot less annoying than it does on their recordings.
The band's merchandise is quite odd though. The most popular of their t-shirts, especially among the older crowd, was a black t-shirt that said “One, two, fuck you” with some of the letters in “fuck you” being replaced with a drawing of brass knuckles. Things like that always reek of trying too hard to be tough, which metal and certain hardcore genres like beatdown are definitely guilty of.
The day thankfully ended a few hours later and there was only hope that the next day of the two-day festival would be better than the cluster that was the opening.
Fortunately, that hope wasn’t misplaced. Day two of Fort Rock, May 1st, was a completely different vibe. It was like attending a different festival. Even the venue staff and police seemed to be enjoying being there, unlike the previous day. One of the security guards at the stage barricade had this huge smile on his face while giving audience members relief from the nearly unbearable mid-afternoon heat by spraying them with this hose he’d probably gotten from somewhere behind the stage.
The first set up was Red Sun Rising, a #thread band from Ohio, who thankfully had no issues with their sound. In fact, the sound was the exact opposite of the previous day: even from a distance the sound was clear and it only highlighted how amazing lead singer Mike Protich’s voice was. Protich’s also has out-of-this-world stage presence, which was evident the moment hee stepped on stage. Every time “Emotionless” comes on Orlando’s local rock station, 101.1 WJRR, there's this deep sound that underscores the percussion in the intro that raises a question of what it is.
That question was answered live as what looked like an acoustic guitar tuned to get a very low tone that emanated a deep, bluesy riff got busted out. In addition to singing, Protich also used the hand shaker that punctuates “Emotionless’” intro. They ended their set with one of the best songs off their debut, 2014’s “Polyester Zeal”, “Imitation”, which begins with a bass riff and a first line based off a Ralph Waldo Emerson essay. Protich also held the last note of the song for an impressively long time. Red Sun Rising is one to watch – their live show will blow you away.
Trivium is a fascinating metal band from Orlando, Fla. Orlando's rock station, 101.1 WJRR, plays “Until The World Goes Cold” quite a bit, but that song is only part of the intricate package that is Trivium. Not only is their band name based on an education system that teaches logic, general grammar, and classical rhetoric, they also change their sound up every record.
They’ve done the same on most recent record “Silence In The Snow”, where they focus on telling a consistent story steeped in Japanese culture, as singer Matt Heafy is Japanese. He has tattoos of ancient Japanese tapestries covering his body and the band has a mascot called Ibaraki, a Japanese demon. Said mascot is featured in the video for “Until The World Goes Cold” and second single, “Silence in the Snow”.
Heafy is all focus and stage presence when he’s singing and a ball of energy and smiles when talking to the crowd and encouraging them to form circle pits and bang their heads. Trivium’s drummer, Paul Wandtke brought everything together with his pulsing kick drum and truly made up the backbone of the band’s set.
The next set up was from Welsh metal band Bullet For My Valentine. They seem to top their last live performance every time and this time was no different. Bullet led off their mid-afternoon set with a punch as they launched into “No Way Out”, off newest album, 2015’s “Venom”.
Shortly after, they launched into “Waking The Demon”, a punishing, fast song that’s always fun to see live. With barely a pause, they launched into “Scream Aim Fire”, a song with a pounding drum intro sure to get the your pulse racing. In what seemed like a trend, one of the members was wearing long sleeves in the at least 90 degree heat. It’s definitely one way to prevent a sunburn from getting worse.
The metal onslaught ended with fan favorite “Tears Don’t Fall”. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the band, though, is that they’re a bunch of pranksters when it comes to their support bands and even with each other a little bit. You’d never guess this from how serious they are on stage and in their music’s subject matter.
3 Doors Down played next. They’re one of those bands people have grown up listening to but just never had the chance to see them live.
In this case, the band is even more dynamic live than they are in their recordings. Lead singer Brad Arnold has an impressive range and they put on an engaging live show. They performed hits such as "Kryptonite" and "Let Me Go" and ended their set with “Here Without You”, dedicating it to those who have served in the Armed Forces.
In between sets, an animated YouTube cooking show called “Cooking Hostile with Phil Anselmo” was broadcast across the screens that stood on either side of the stages in JetBlue Park. “Cooking Hostile” is an enjoyable comedic approach to a cooking show where you’re taught actual recipes, just set to mostly Pantera songs (as Anselmo is the former lead singer of Pantera).
Next up was Bring Me The Horizon, a band that has had more sound changes than Hayley Williams has had hair colors. The only way to properly describe their set, though, is to say wow. If the band’s only goal was to blow away the crowd, I’d say they accomplished it.
They put on a full headlining show complete with lights and video, with electronics courtesy of programmer Jordan Fish… but at a festival. To say this is unusual is an understatement. It gave a complete picture of who Bring Me the Horizon is in 2016 and that is a band who is not only destined for even bigger things but also seemed to have found a sound that fits them. The sound was clear and crisp and highlighted every element on all the songs they performed.
Lead singer Oli Sykes also seemed to be in a mood. He kept telling the crowd that their pits were “pussy”, that they needed to be bigger, and that he thought “this was America”. The crowd obliged, but it was still pretty funny since he's usually not so spunky. The standout song of the set was “Drown”, not only musically, but also because it inspired the most fan interaction and because it was pretty much the only time Sykes smiled the whole set.
Before the song started, he’d jokingly told the crowd, that if they came up to give him a hi-five, they’d all get backstage passes and that they wouldn’t get thrown out if they did because he’d “cleared it with security beforehand”. He perched on this block in front of the stage and, as promised, hi-fived everyone who crowd-surfed up to the front.
Shinedown, the penultimate band of the night, put on a technically sound set that was highlighted by a “Simple Man” cover in honor of Prince. During the chorus, lead singer Brent Smith turned the microphone on the audience and something magical happened: literally the entire crowd sang the words back at the top of their lungs. Usually you get half or most of the crowd singing, but with Shinedown asking to turn the stage lights down to afford more natural light, it illustrated the kind of special moments that can only be created at concerts. Smith also showed that he really has some pipes on him as he held that last note of “Simple Man” for at least two or three beats to thunderous applause.
You wouldn't expect the words "light-hearted" and "disturbed" to end up in the same sentence but that's exactly what happened during Disturbed's Fort Rock set. Sure there was the pyro and a rock-type wall and lead singer David Draiman dressed in what looked like a Christian Brothers robe, but that was about it for effects. There was just the right amount of eerie. The star of the show was Draiman’s voice… he has a gift, and you can tell he enjoys sharing it with others. He knows how to put on a captivating performance, and it’s like he’s a leader of some odd religion or something.
There have been some parodies that have popped up recently essentially saying that all Disturbed’s songs sound the same and it was hard to argue with that at points in the set. Disturbed has endorsed said video, much to my amusement. Some were even singing the parody version instead of the words to certain songs.
One strange but very well done part of their set was a medley of covers they did. There were metal version of songs such as U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”, covers of The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly”, Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name”, and even a cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”.