Rock on the Range 2015 , the biggest event of the weekend in Columbus, was another sold out success in tickets, attendance, paid parking and festival priced water/beer/Gatorade sold under the hot sun, stormy clouds and whatever copious amounts of rain mother-nature decided to spew out on Saturday and Sunday. Whether it was a quick sprinkle, downpour or consistent drizzle, the thousands packing out all stages didn’t let wet weather get to them. Those without ponchos, raincoats or not giving a shit did their thing as speakers dripped and stages were repeatedly swept off.
All three days offered something different for every ranger whether it was rock, metal, local bands or international talent. There were at least one (or more) bands everyone came to see and with three stages going, every band had a crowd with people discovering new talent and new fans made. Along with various food/clothing vendors 99.7 The Blitz was broadcasting along with Axs TV interviewing the bands. There were also no shortage of rangers there to spectate or be a spectacle, from superhero’s, comic book characters, animal masked mystery mosher’s and people just dressed or looking overly weird. Not to mention hundreds-thousands of selfies, stadium pan shots and video’s taken in and on top of the crowd.
Friday May 15th started the weekend off with the Monster Energy Main Stage presenting We Are Harlot, Apocalyptica, Live, Breaking Benjamin, Slash featuring Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators, Marilyn Manson and Slipknot. The Ernie Ball stage offered Shaman’s Harvest, Islander, Vamps, Young Guns, Dillinger Escape Plan, Yelawolf and Falling in Reverse while the Jagermeister stage showcased X Factor 1, Highly Suspect, Dorothy, Danger Kids, Beartooth and Hatebreed. Between 6 and 8 every day in the Rolling Rock comedy tent Joe Howard, Brent Terhune, Mark Poolos, That Metal Shows Jim Florentine and Brian Posehn performed sets.
Whether you were a single day, two day or weekend attendee, VIP, floor, stadium or nosebleed, everyone entered, scattered to whichever stage was first priority and left (mostly) by stadium, whether they walked, ran, staggered, were carried, forcefully escorted/removed, passed out or stretchered out. With each day meeting stadium max capacity and hordes of thousands migrating around both side stages, everyone left with some memories, one way or another.
Shamans Harvest opened Ernie Ball this year with a few cuts from their latest Smokin Hearts and Broken Guns record with the campfire tribal humming of “Blood in the Water.” A slinky, bluesy slide guitar jammer started the weekend packed with loud music. They were definitely one of the many sons of Skynyrd, living life by the hair of the trigger. The time is now, the day was young but the first crowd surfers and moshers weren’t far away. It was all an engrained shared attraction to activities that were “Dangerous.” They proved how bad they were taking a page from MJ, bringing the king of pop to Rock on the Range so “Dirty Diana” could work herself backstage. Their set covered the gamut, spreading guitar chords across rock, pop and played their luck on “Country as Fuck.” They broke out the acoustic as the “Dragonfly” flew through the strings. It was the last chance for Columbus to hear the Shaman sing.
Second up on the Jager stage was Cape Cod’s Highly Suspect bringing and blending a uniquely catchy formula of dirty, heavy blues pulling Sting from the 80’s, back to 70’s prog, into a high energy garage sound with dark brooding Danzig overtones and a Kravitz guitar crunch. They said it’s getting harder to sleep; “Bath Salts” were the relief, better for relaxation then inhalation. “23” went Nirvana dark with an early Soundgarden edge talking about those tragic relationships that fizzle out like cold embers faster than they fire up. God knows “Lydia’s” had better days.
LA hit the Jager stage early with the hot and sexy swing of Dorothy. The city of angels was kind, bringing Columbus the Body Count attired attitude and caffeine laden voice of Anne Wilson, the spirit of Janis Joplin and a hint of Annie Lennox in the high peaks of Dorothy. Walking the stage spreading spell-casting vocals with the power of a modern day throw-back, potion-making rock groove, they started playing with that “Rebel Ass.” Carrying a banshee’s cry and spirit of a voodoo high priestess channeling Grace Slick she said nothing good come’s “After Midnight,” playing the devils game, with high pitch, kissing the candles flame. They poured them liquid spirits out strong on “Whisky Fever,” finishing with a loud “Bang, Bang Bang.”
Dayton’s own Dangerkids played to a ramped up insane crowd. The Danger was formed in 2012 by five people from D-Town that love noise and raising crowds to chaotic levels. What the day lacked in rain the crowd made up in moshing and human body conveyers as the body surfing started quickly with one to two, quickly escalating to 3-5 at a time, turning the united assemblage into an open air circular rave. The Jager stage security team earned their money quickly.
The show began with a set-list from their debut release Collapse as loud screaming MC/vocalist Tyler Smyth yelled out kill everything! The crowd collectively slammed to the opening electro-computerized energy of “Countdown.” Linkin Park styled rap and rock with dark industrial tinged haunts from NIN and whispers of POD. The vocal harmonies of Smyth and vocalist Andy Bane bounced off each other with classical elements underlining the hard sounds of “We’re all in Danger.” They both took to the crowd, getting close, personal and jumping in. “Paper Thin’s” tranquil sound and lyrical struggle with inner self turmoil was complimented by mid-song heavy guitar chords and its yelling message. They finished pulling out a box full of reigning memories and pain on “Waking Up.”
International touring hometown boys Beartooth followed their fellow buckeyes in keeping the fans playfully rabid clawing and crawling their way towards them.
The music was quite Disgusting as their Red Bull Records debut indicated. Taylor Lumley, Kam Bradbury and Oshie Bichar made their guitars sound like the loud anger and desolation grating through the lyrics, providing harsh sounds to the dark, violent words of Caleb Shomo. They made the crowd feel the irresistible voice of temptation on opening screamer “Relapsing” followed by the cold dark blinding hand of addiction and nasty nail-driving guitars on “Ignorance is Bliss.”
The punk length “Dead” clanged out loud like a personal mosh pit in the mind that had to be exorcised in public. The words to “Beaten in Lips” were lit with kerosene as the band bashed out the uncomfortable tale about abuse. The crowd was going ape-shit crazy so they obliged pulling out the “Body Bag.” It’s your life, you only get one, embracing the metal lifestyle is your decision and most of the time, it’s a damn good one.
On the Monster Energy main stage Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & The Conspirators took over with a mix of Slash originals and GNR tunes with the voice of Alter Bridge and the guitar of Guns n Roses. They opened with an ode from Apocalyptic Love to all the vicious damsels of destruction on “You’re a Lie.” The first offering from the mid-late eighties sunset strip to wet our appetites came loaded down the track. They’re still guzzling the “Night Train.” They played one of Slash’s tunes “Back from Cali” then went terminator with the drums on “You Could Be Mine.”
While many have compared Kennedy to Rose or anyone that sings GNR tunes, the ranges though sometimes similar are quite different while Kennedy sounds closer to Todd La Torre than Axl. The crowd exploded as the opening ‘circus’ riff to “Sweet Child of Mine” swept through the stadium. Going back a few years they slithered through the Velvet Revolver days, and ended turning Columbus into “Paradise City.”
During the weekend, two shows were much talked about and compared as memorable for the wrong reasons. Scott Weiland was described by many as being uninspired, confused and simply ‘there.’ Marilyn Manson’s show carried a few theories/observations depending on who you talked to. Some said he was great, while others commented on his odd stage behavior, mumbling through certain songs, strange antics, band abuse and perceived going through the motions as a sign of either in character bizarre performance art or a legit desire to not be there. Some might say he was entertaining himself more than the audience. He did bring an odd entertainment value playfully messing with band members, knocking over mics and drums and going to the stadium floor, walking the middle divider twice ‘meeting’ fans. There was also an old school punk vibe to the end as if saying ‘don’t you feel cheated’ as they played the next/last song, walked off stage and the show ended.
Friday’s co-headliner and one of Ohio’s favorite sons emerged in black and blue eyed nightshade starting with “Deep Six.” With hand held mic he stalked the triple stained glass banner stage. The Pale Emperor showcased his collection of weapon ready stage props with the flash of the blade mic and brass knuckles. He continues to be the self-proclaimed vampiric Born Villain casting “No Reflection.” We all came to see the “Mob Scene,” and his cathartic stage act, taking a minute to tear up and munch on his own set-list, an artist that eats his own work. He got prettied up and red-lined, full circle for the “Dope Show.” “Rock is Dead” according to some but Rock on the Range makes a strong statement against.
As night fell, he broke out the light mic for some “Sweet Dreams” ready to shoot that god-damned Zappa blimp out of the sky. Putting on the clown red smear he humbly announced “Because I’m a man of few words, I say if you’re gonna say, fuck Jesus, make it personal.” He ascended the ‘normal sized’ white podium, reached out and touched faith.
He went full black face for the “Beautiful People.” Going to the stadium floor to meet, greet and fan-gaze, ending with his personal “Irresponsible Hate Anthem.”
The Des Moines nine-piece opened with new members and some new masks. “XIX” started playing tribute to Paul Gray then launched into “Sarcastrophe” “Get the fucking devil horns in the air” Taylor demanded as the stage illuminated blood red for the “Heretic Anthem.” With a stadium packed full of crazy motherfuckers ready to go nuts, it was the ultimate “Psychosocial.” Taylor slowly surveyed the sea of humanity before him. They waited a long, long time to play Rock on the Range. It was time to party with the Knot, step inside the flames and see “The Devil in I.” “There’s pits everywhere and you sound like 70,000 crazy motherfuckers!” Taylor thanked everyone who bought The Gray Chapter and supporting them from the beginning, they’ve been to hell and back and “AOV” was part of it. They went old school on “Wait and Bleed” sandwiching “Killpop” in between a shot-gunned three pack of Subliminal Verses with “Vermillion,” “Before I Forget,” and “Duality.” Taylor said it best “We’re all family and we all bleed this shit.”
They visited 1999 and watched the Columbus legions explode on “Eyeless.” For everyone that’s seen Slipknot before and been a devoted maggot for the last 16 years or a first timer and been with them for the last 55 minutes, they were gonna set a new Rock on the Range record in Ohio and America. Taylor had the whole stadium floor kneel down, wait, unleash hell and jump the fuck up for “Spit it Out.”
They ended the main set belting out “Custer.” Then “742617000027” played through the speakers signaling the encore of “Sic” and ending with the new national fucking anthem ”Surfacing.”
The stadium poured, ran out as the first night of bump to bumper gridlocked traffic awaited.
All images by Mike Ritchie