For the second time in as many years Amps and Green Screens attended Monster Energy Rock Allegiance. Now, for those of you who know me, you also know I normally can’t stand these festival kind of shows. Too many drunken, unwashed, neck-tattoo sporting miscreants who overuse the word, “Bro!” among other things. Plus, more often than not the lineup just doesn’t do it for me. However, that all changed with last year’s edition of this fest. There were no less than 16 bands I was legitimately excited to see over two days. That NEVER happens!
This year, we were down to only one day, plus there was a venue change, moving from Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, PA to BB&T Pavilion in Camden, NJ. I won’t lie, this was cause for concern among my fellow concertgoers and me because we just couldn’t see how it was gonna work.
So I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly things ran when I got to BB&T. The only issue I had was that bands on the first and second stages went on five minutes after each other. That is simply not enough time to get from one stage to the other. Because I stayed till the end of GRETA VAN FLEET’S set I missed the first song of HALESTORM’S. You get the idea. But that was a minor glitch for an otherwise fantastic bill of rock and roll on a gorgeous day.
Speaking of GRETA VAN FLEET, holy shit do they crush it live! I know this has probably been written a thousand times but Josh Kiszka has an absolutely amazing voice, especially when he sang “Black Smoke Rising”, “Safari Song”, “Flower Power”, and smash hit “Highway Tune.” The lawn area was pretty packed for their set, and with good reason.
I could hear the uninitiated all around me going, “Who are these guys? They’re awesome!” So, between songs I gave them the rundown and then sent them off to the merch area. This is a rock band for the ages and I expect them to only get bigger and better from here. If you haven’t heard them you are truly missing out.
I hauled ass to the main stage area to meet up with concert buddy Bobby and got there just in time for HALESTORM performing “Apocalyptic.” The band had canceled the previous night’s show due to illness, but you couldn’t tell from what I was seeing and hearing. The energy was palpable and singer/guitarist Lzzy Hale sounded fantastic on killer tunes like “Mz. Hyde”, “I Get Off”, and “Freak Like Me.” Arejay Hale treated us to a wild and crazy drum solo before the band came back in for “Mayhem” and closer “I Miss the Misery.”
Featuring an extended jam ending this one was the icing on the cake and the crowd lapped it up. Another stellar performance from one of the hardest working bands on the planet.
Finally the time had come. GOJIRA time. Due to MARILYN MANSON’S unfortunate stage mishap a week prior, MASTODON was moved to the main stage, which meant GOJIRA would headline the second one. Over the course of 45 minutes this band put on a fucking CLINIC on how to pummel your audience and still leave them wanting more. Opening with “Only Pain” from newest album Magma it was clear these boys didn’t come to fuck around. With the Philly skyline directly behind them, and an unmatched quality of lights and sound, they were clearly the winners of the day. “The Heaviest Matter of the Universe” off of 2005’s From Mars to Sirius was next and you could see and hear the crowd going nuts from note one.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Mario Duplantier is goddamn inhuman on the drums. It’s like a mule kick to the chest when he plays and I love it! A double shot of new tunes followed with “Silvera” and “Stranded,” two of my favorites in the band’s catalog.
Singer/guitarist Joe Duplantier was in top vocal form, lead guitarist Christian Andreu was coaxing otherworldly sounds from his axe, and bassist Jean-Michel Labadie was laying down the thickest of bottom ends, and looked to be having a blast while doing so.
There’s a reason why this album was on so many people’s year-end lists of 2016, mine included. I damn near screamed myself raw on the choruses of “Stranded”, too.
It was back to the old stuff for “Flying Whales” before they hit us over the head with another new one and arguably my favorite on the disc with “The Cell.” Mario’s drumming is simply on another level, but here it’s interstellar. The lights were going crazy, I was going crazy, and this song damn near leveled the place. The set closed with a pair from The Way of All Flesh in “Toxic Garbage Island” and “Vacuity” both of which incited vicious circle pits and drew massive applause and screams.
I’d like to point out that during the show Joe did something really cool: he took a moment to nicely remind everyone that we are all here, together, in this moment, as one. And that it’s okay to take photos, videos, etc. to put on Instagram but do it later.
Take your picture, then put the phone away and be here, now, in the moment. And what a moment it was. GOJIRA live is truly something to behold, and no one should miss it by looking through a phone screen for the sake of “LIKES”. It is more than a concert, it is an experience that is unrivaled. This third time seeing them was no doubt the best, and I am counting the minutes till they hit Philly again.
The main stage concluded with fan favorites FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH and ROB ZOMBIE, both of whom are perennial headliners at these kinds of events, and both of whom delivered hit-laden and crowd-pleasing sets. By this point the attendance number was over 20,000 strong, making this yet another successful year for Rock Allegiance.
Danny Wimmer Presents and Live Nation certainly have a great festival on their hands and I anxiously await next year’s lineup announcements. Plus, as an added bonus I finally got to meet A&GS contributing photographer Tera Ford live and in person! I also want to give a huge thank you to Kristine and Selena from Ashton-Magnuson Media and FR PR respectively for accommodating us. Let’s do it again next year!! But we’re not done with this year yet, folks. Stay tuned for my interviews with members of GRETA VAN FLEET and JOYOUS WOLF from the show.
LIVE IMAGES: ASHTON-MAGNUSON MEDIA/THE MAESTRO/REBEKKAH RAVEN (AREJAY HALE PHOTO)
LIVE WORDS: THE MAESTRO