On the first day of the sold out ninth annual Rock on the Range music festival, 20 bands performed and all 20 of them contributed to it being the perfect place to let it all go as a wacko rock ‘n’ roll maniac.
One of the bands performing was Columbus’ own Beartooth, and they loved the home crowd.
Singer Caleb Shomo thanked the audience for their support and then there were long, low and distorted notes from a guitar, followed by a quick buildup and the song exploded. There were suddenly seven people crowd surfing at once, including someone wearing a horse head mask.
“This is a rock festival, this isn’t a sit-around-and-do-nothing festival,” Shomo said.
Breaking Benjamin played on the main stage at about 5 p.m. They and Papa Roach were the only bands at the 2015 festival to have also performed at the first festival in 2007. Singer Benjamin Burnley said that he was thankful the crowd kept it alive for nine years.
Along with songs of their own, Breaking Benjamin played “The Imperial March,” the beginning of Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit” and an instrumental version of the beginning of Pantera’s “Walk.”
The cooling wind circled the smell of cigarillos that a few concertgoers were puffing and the smell of overpriced food that concertgoers were tempted to pay for into the lower deck of the stadium seats.
You had to go down into the parking lot to hear Yelawolf, and if you tripped and fell down all the stairs of the stadium, it would be worth seeing Yelawolf and his backing musicians.
They were four guys on stage in black leather jackets and black cowboy hats playing music that blurred the lines between hip-hop and metal.
I’d never heard a single Yelawolf song before this, but the heavily rhythmic music was a quick hook. His vocals seemed to be a bit drowned out, but that didn’t stop his grand runaway train. Taking into account Yelawolf’s country music influences, it was a harmony of nearly all recently popular Americana music styles.
Some of the performers made sure their style was a bit simpler.
Hatebreed singer Jamey Jasta called out to the crowd, “we’re gonna make Rock on the Range history!”
He then incited the audience to form a circle pit in the audience where people were running around and shoving into one another.
The circle pit had a diameter of about 70 feet. Most circle pits at metal shows are much smaller and a person can get thrown from one side to the other in a flash, but this was different.
It was the running of the bulls, but the bulls and people were one and the same and crashing around in a giant circle.
I took the liberty of joining, and it was like a forceful manifestation of hanging out with your most enabling friends — if you weren’t pushing, you were being pushed hard.
A pit like this is all pushing and shoving but with the presumed intention of no punching and no kicking — a couple weeks after final exams is still a good time to let out anger and energy from a semester of late night caffeine — but nobody wanted to get into a fight with random strangers at a concert.
Jasta did have some fine closing comments to the audience.
“Guys, respect the ladies, none of this — that’s my job later on the bus.”
Of course, the real lady killer at Rock on the Range was the guitarist Slash, and he played together with his backing band Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators.
Some of the songs they played were from the band that brought Slash to fame, Guns N’ Roses, and Myles Kennedy sung well enough to largely fill the shoes of Guns N’ Roses singer Axl Rose.
Don’t kill the messenger.
It was an incredible live act. Slash picked up a double-necked guitar for the song “Anastasia,” and the projected images on either side of the stage showed his fingers as he played the guitar solos.
The virtuosity was mesmerizing to watch, and no easier to figure out when it was 40 feet tall.
When they played the Guns N’ Roses song “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” the entire crowd sung along to every single word and “ooh” or “ah.”
They could have held the crowd’s attention forever and rightfully so.
Sadly, they finished playing.
There was then the opportunity to see the band Falling in Reverse in the parking lot.
The songs themselves were just a bunch of loud noise thrown at the audience, giving nothing to hold onto and everything that would make one want to fall in reverse to the other side of the festival.
Their performance was a good opportunity to get a breath of fresh air at the top corner of the upper deck of the stadium seats. There was a cool breeze, and people hanging around between performances were able to stretch their arms and make a friend of whoever was sitting near them.
In the early evening light, there was as ethereal a feeling as one could get around bass lines that heavy.
As the sun was setting, one could turn 180 degrees from looking at Morrill Tower to looking at Marilyn Manson.
He wore a black trench coat and there was a thick blue stripe painted across his face from one ear across his eyes to the other ear, like one of the Scottish warriors from the film “Braveheart.”
Behind him, were three tall flags made to look like stained glass windows — one on each side with images of him, and one in the middle with the image of two snakes coiled around a sort of cross.
The projector screens showed the contortions of his face as he held the audience in awe, his low voice gliding through the driving riffs played by his talented band.
He switched microphones several times, one of them being a cordless microphone with a foot-long knife sticking down from below the handle.
He had another cordless microphone when he went on a walk through part of the crowd as he sang, and it would have been hard to find someone in the audience who was having more fun than he.
“Because I’m a man of few words, I’m gonna say, if you’re gonna say “f— Jesus,” make it personal,” said Manson before he pointed his middle finger at the crowd and broke into another song.
Slipknot was the final act.
They came on stage, each member of the band in their own unsettling mask and playing with the intention of sending the audience into fits of mayhem.
Circle pits opened up here and there in the standing-room area of the arena, and people were being tossed around to and fro in melee after melee. It was the sweatiest of all of the musical performances on Friday.
Watching Slipknot was like watching your early childhood nightmares make up to you by putting on a show — a show on their own grandiose terms.
The band’s two custom percussionists — on either side of the stage — were each on a platform on a machine that brought them up around 10 feet in the air, lowered them back down, and turned them around like two maniacs drumming at the top of two small cherry pickers.
Keyboardist and sampler Craig Jones wore a tight black mask that covered his entire head, with roughly eight inch long metal spikes poking out at every angle.
Slipknot singer Corey Taylor wore a mask that was made to look like leathery human skin and had a separate portion for his lower jaw and the lower part of his face, held to the upper part by loose stitching.
He sang to music that was comparably face-splitting, constantly referring to the audience as “family.”
It was a raging, happy family.
At one point in the show, he told the audience to get down and wait for his signal for them to jump.
Everyone crouched down and waited.
The band played loudly and quickly, music that would ordinarily keep the crowd in motion.
Then the signal and thousands of people jumped into the air in the same moment.
The crowd became a rolling sea storm as people jumped up and threw themselves around to the music.
When the music finally ended, it was replaced by the noise of crushed beer cans and water bottles scraping against the metal floor that had been put down to protect the stadium’s grass.
The crowd exited, dazed and walking slowly.
In the last remarks of the first night of Rock on the Range, Corey Taylor said “take care of yourselves, take care of each other.”