Last year Monster Energy Rock Allegiance was an all-day affair featuring a star-studded lineup of bands that drew a sold-out crowd to Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, PA. Since the event was such a success the Powers That Be (Danny Wimmer Presents and Live Nation) expanded the event to a full two days of rock and metal that truly featured something for everyone’s musical palate.
You had rock royalty playing alongside young upstarts, and conquering heroes returning to the stage after a prolonged absence.This was the first time in a looooong time I’ve been excited for a festival like this, and none of the bands I saw disappointed. So let’s get into the sights and sounds of Rock Allegiance Day One, shall we?
My first order of business was to catch AVATAR live. I’ve been told many times that their show is great, with lots of energy, and fun visuals, too. The 3 p.m. start time gave me concern regarding their stage show since it was still light out, but I needn’t have worried. Vocalist Johannes Eckerström knows exactly how to work a crowd, and the band behind him doesn’t just stand there either.
“Hail the Apocalypse” is my all-time favorite from them, so to finally experience it live was incredible! Other highlights included “The Eagle Has landed” from newest album Feathers & Flesh, “Let It Burn”, and “Smells Like a Freakshow.” If I felt this pumped after only a 30-minute set, I can only imagine what a full headlining show from these guys is like.
Next up for me was TRIVIUM, who did a pop-in while on an off day from their current headlining run with HUNTRESS and SABATON. I love this band, but it seems like I never get to see them, as this was only my second gig in five years. Something always gets in the way. And this time, like last time, they did not disappoint for a second.
Opening with “Strife” from Vengeance Falls, and going right into “A Gunshot To the Head of Trepidation” from 2004’s Ascendancy they were off and running. Guitarist/vocalist Matt Heafy can still growl like a motherfucker, despite what some naysayers think.
It’s also funny that with all the armchair rocket scientists crying about the change in the band’s sound on new album Silence In the Snow, the song “Until the World Goes Cold” had the crowd singing the loudest, soooo…tell me again how it’s hurting them? Didn’t think so.
“Down From the Sky” from Shogun ripped the balls off the place before Heafy told everyone in attendance to kneel down and get low, easier said than done for my 43-year old ass, but I managed. Then, at the start of “In Waves” he had us all jump up. You could feel the ground in our immediate area shaking! And just like that, they were gone…
My friends Chelsey, Bobby and I took a break for a bit before the band I was most excited to see that day…THE CULT. A longtime fan am I, and this was my fourth time taking in the musical majesty of the group. With a career-spanning set that came in just under an hour, I was singing top of my lungs to just about every song. They opened with Electric’s “Wildflower” then went right into “Rain” (a favorite of mine for years) from Love.
I’m surprised I didn’t lose my voice during this one. “Lil’ Devil’ was next, then “Rise” from 2001’s Beyond Good and Evil. This is another of my go-to classics from the group so I was truly in heaven at this point. Four songs, four show-stoppers.
But we weren’t done by a long shot. Vintage tune “The Phonenix” followed by “Deeply Ordered Chaos” from new album Hidden City. A double shot from Sonic Temple was next with “Sweet Soul Sister” and “Fire Woman” back to back. Singer Ian Astbury moved around and got everyone going, while guitarist Billy Duffy, a GOD among men, unleashed the fury with every note.
Now it was time for the mother lode of all CULT songs…”She Sells Sanctuary.” I can’t even put into words how this one makes me feel every time I hear it and/or sing it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of song and simply timeless. Just when I thought I couldn’t take anymore CULT-y goodness, along comes “Love Removal Machine” to close out a fantastic set.
Some of the younger concertgoers around me didn’t really get it, or they looked annoyed that I was singing so loudly, but who cares? It’s a rock concert, and that’s what you do, not stare at your phone. Feel the moment and let it all out, I say. THE CULT took me on a journey this night, and I am forever grateful. It was gonna be tough for anyone else to even come close to what was the best performance of the day…or so I thought.
Now, before we go any further, understand that my thoughts on THE OFFSPRING have always been on the, “Ehhh, they’re alright.” side. I’ve liked a few singles over the years and even own Smash and Americana, but never considered myself a big fan. Welp…that was all about to change at Talen Energy Stadium.
Whether or not their next studio album is good or not is irrelevant, because live they are something special, and I will be there ticket in hand for any and all shows that hit the Philly area from now on.
They opened with “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid”, which was infectiously catchy. This segued right into “All I Want” from Ixnay On the Hombre and then the megahit that thrust them squarely into the spotlight, “Come Out and Play”. Three songs in and I was having a fucking ball! Their set was simply FUN from start to finish. Bobby next to me was like a little kid he was so happy. I know what that’s like whenever I see one of my favorites, and I was happy for him. Plus, as I said, the band was so great it was hard not to love it.
Latest single “Coming For You” was next followed by “Hit That”, one of those tunes I used to turn up when it came on my radio a decade ago. Live it was outstanding. Dexter Holland’s voice was in top shape, and Noodles’ guitar on this and every other song was on fire. A double shot of Americana tunes was on tap with “Have You Ever” and “Staring At the Sun”, which brought a sure-fire punk edge to the proceedings.
But everything up to this point was merely foreplay because “Want You Bad” was on deck. THIS is my favorite song by THE OFFSPRING, from the very first time I heard it, and to say I had a musical organasm is putting it mildly. This was hands-down their best tune of the night!
Ixnay made its second appearance with “Gone Away” and yep, Holland can still sing that high nearly 20 years later. Two Smash songs were next with “Bad Habit” and “Gotta Get Away”. This show reminded me just how many hits this band has, like “Why Don’t You Get a Job?”, “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)” and “The Kids Aren’t Alright”, all of which were played. Closer “Self Esteem” brought the house down in a BIG way. It was one great rock song after another for an hour with these guys, and their set was really something special.
Overall, my first time at Rock Allegiance was a fantastic experience and I can’t wait till next year to do it all over again. The four bands I saw, each and every one, kicked the crowd in the ass. But aside from that, the vibe in the place was super-cool and friendly, the staff on hand was aces, and everyone around us was having a blast. If you go to only ONE festival next year, I strongly suggest you make it this one. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t take the time to thank Kristine from Ashton-Magnuson Media for allowing A&GS to be a part of this wonderful event. And stay tuned for our photo gallery from Day Two!
LIVE WORDS: THE MAESTRO
LIVE IMAGES: TERA FORD