Date: May 30th, 2015
Event: 98.9 The Rock Presents: Rockfest
Venue: Liberty Memorial, Kansas City, MO
All That Remains*
In This Moment
Motionless In White*
We Are Harlot
* = Bands that I shot pictures of
The air was tense with anticipation as we arrived in line for the 23rd-annual Rockfest in Kansas City, MO. Our spot in the line being already about 8 blocks back from the gate, everyone was incredibly excited when we began moving. Shortly after arriving in the line, we heard the unfortunate news that The Pretty Reckless had to cancel due to their drummer being in the hospital and unable to find a fill-in. With a late start, the gates opened at noon instead of the scheduled time of 11 a.m., things were off to a slightly rocky start. Before the line started moving forward, the Strange Music official van passed us, holding in it’s passenger seat, the one and only Tech N9ne who allowed quite a few people to take a pic with him before traffic began moving again. After about 2 hours of waiting, we finally arrive inside the gates and went our separate ways. By that time, Crobot was almost completely finished with their set (what I heard was pretty amazing, btw) and All That Remains were setting up for their set on the Monster Energy stage. This… is where my day truly began:
All That Remains: The crowd went wild as All That Remains took the stage and immediately began their latest single, “This Probably Won’t End Well”. I heard quite a bit of the crowd singing it back at them, the energy was electric and it was a great start to my day. Vocalist Phil Labonte was completely on point in his vocal delivery also, which was impressive to begin with! As the band roared through their set, the crowd began to get even more into it, playing staples like “Six”, “Stand Up” and rounding it all out with crowd favorite, “Two Weeks.” When “Two Weeks” started up, the crowd really got pumped and Labonte got the crowd a lot more involved with singing the chorus. The band sounded incredibly tight-knit and really proved why they belong at an event like Rockfest!
Motionless In White: One band I’ve always wanted to see live is Motionless In White and, today, I’m proud to say I’ve finally done just that. As they exploded into “Break the Cycle”, the crowd in front of the Worth Harley-Davidson stage went absolutely nuts! Known for their image and stage antics, it wasn’t too surprising when bassist, Devin “Ghost” Sola took the stage dressed as our favorite chainsaw mass murderer, Leatherface. I was honestly surprised how easy this band was to shoot pictures of, with the exception of keyboardist Josh Balz who was wearing a hoodie that, when he would headbang, would cover his entire face. The crowd participation factor was off the charts for this band as they roared through “A.M.E.R.I.C.A”, which the crowd gladly screamed back at him. “Reincarnate” seemed to see the most movement from the crowd, though, as it’s one of their newest and many fans in this band were just discovering them. I was absolutely thrilled by the performance this Scranton metalcore outfit put on… truly one of the highlights of the show and I would recommend EVERYONE to go witness the spectacle if you ever get a chance.
Halestorm: The next band to take the Monster Energy stage was Halestorm. One of my favorite bands to watch live, Halestorm did a great job with their set. My only complaint was that vocalist, Lzzy Hale, sounded a bit winded throughout the performance which is completely understandable with how long they’d been on tour at this point. They opened up their set with “Love Bites (So Do I)” and the crowd went nuts! Being that this was my 3rd time seeing the band, I was still very impressed with the performance they put on. Though I have to spotlight the incredible guitar work from Hale and Joe Storm. My favorite thing about this band is that they’re always so pumped to play, regardless of what type of show it is and, in a festival setting, for that to really show is something spectacular. They killed their set, consisting of a mix of old new material. “Apocalyptic”, “I Get Off”, “It’s Not You”, “Scream”, and “Amen” were all there as the crowd remained off of their feet for a good portion of the set. It was a great performance, despite the minor glitch I mentioned earlier.
Before Tech N9ne took the stage, Johnny Dare invited his long-time friends on stage. What long-time friends, you might ask? None other than legendary adult film star Ron Jeremy and, owner of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, Dennis Hof! Mr. Jeremy took the stage to perform the National Anthem via harmonica before they brought out the t-shirt gun and sent a lot of t-shirts flying into the crowd.
Tech N9ne: A rap artist isn’t something that you would expect at a, primarily, Rock festival but that didn’t stop 98.9 The Rock from bringing out KC legend Tech N9ne. Johnny Dare did an incredible job of introducing him, throwing in the fact that he is the #1 Independent Rap Artist in the WORLD, he truly worked his way to this stage and is a reminder of the type of talent that Kansas City breeds. I’ve never seen a more spectacular performance, his stage presence was monumental. He worked all angles of the stage, performance-wise and was all over the place. When his Strange Music labelmate, Krizz Kaliko, hit the stage though.. the crowd went absolutely insane. As strange as it may have seemed to some, Tech N9ne quickly proved throughout his set exactly why he deserved his spot on this stage. I couldn’t be more proud of Johnny Dare, Bob Edwards and the rest of the radio/festival promoters for bringing him to Rockfest…. it was an experience that crowd of 52,000 people will not soon forget. His set consisted of a bunch of his killer tracks like “Am I A Psycho”, “Midwest Choppers/Midwest Choppers 2/Worldwide Choppers”, “Areola” and “Straight Out the Gate”, which featured backtracked vocals from System of a Down frontman, Serj Tankian. This was also the first performance where we began to witness the pyrotechnics planned for several acts (mainly Rob Zombie) throughout the show, which brought about a new level of excitement in the crowd.
Papa Roach: The energy in the venue was absolutely electrifying as Papa Roach took the stage, opening with “Face Everything And Rise.” Clearly a crowd favorite, when it came to crowd participation, it was there in spades throughout this set. They have a way of firing up a crowd and really getting them moving, apparent from the get-go. It was a crazy experience trying to follow vocalist Jacoby Shaddix around the stage because he’s fast, he’s energetic and he’s really in his element at a festival like this. I was really hoping to hear In This Moment vocalist, Maria Brink, hit the stage with them for “Gravity” but either Tobin Esperance or Jerry Horton (sadly, couldn’t see which one from where I ended up after the photo pit) took her vocal part instead. The crowd really got moving when they closed out with their very first single, “Last Resort” and followed it up with “…To Be Loved.” My favorite portion of the set was watching the band fluidly move around each other, so they captured a one-of-a-kind energy on that stage. One that was clearly remembered from their last performance at the festival!
Volbeat: As the acoustic introduction to “Doc Holliday” resonated through the crowd before Danish phenoms Volbeat took the stage, the air was once again tense with anticipation. When the full band took the stage and vocalist Michael Poulsen introduced themselves, the sold-out crowd exploded! Beginning with “Hallelujah Goat”, as they always have, the band ripped through one of the best sets I’ve ever seen. The energy on that stage was nearly unmatched, seeing Poulsen switching places between each of the 3 microphones placed on the stage. I don’t know what it was but it seemed the energy really took off when they began “Lola Montez”, one of the singles from their newest album Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies. Unbeknownst to the crowd, the band slipped a good portion of a new song into their set before their explosive, arena-ready boxing anthem “A Warrior’s Call”. Everyone was off of their feet through the majority of their set and there were thousands, upon thousands of fans singing along! It was an incredible performance and one that I would gladly attend every chance I get!
As is Rockfest tradition, after Rob Zombie’s stage set-up was completed, Johnny Dare came out to introduce him. Before that introduction, though, he had Jesse James Dupree (of Jackyl/Jesse James Outlaw Bourbon fame) come out and introduce himself. Jesse thanked everyone for supporting him and Rockfest by buying his whiskey, which was provided at the festival and told the crowd to “never stop fucking making this happen”, of which I’m sure the crowd took wholeheartedly. Johnny introduced the 98.9 crew, they took a bow and then they left the stage as the crowd fell silent as they awaited the arrival of the one-and-only Rob Zombie!
Rob Zombie: Rob Zombie, John 5, Piggy D and Ginger Fish quickly took the stage and got groovy with their cover of the Grand Funk Railroad classic, “We’re An American Band.” I was quite upset with how little the crowd moved during this set, it’s Rob Zombie and he’s headlining a festival of 52,000 people… where was the excitement? I learned my answer pretty quickly when the band started “Superbeast” as the crowd surfers grew in number, causing the security guards to work overtime and us, the photographers, having to watch our backs a lot closer. As Rob went across the 3 stage platforms in spectacular fashion, movin’ and groovin’ his way like a pro… he led the band into “Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine” which was really fun to watch! He then let the crowd know that his hit single, “Living Dead Girl” would be up next and the crowd really began to move. While Zombie’s vocal performance wasn’t quite what I expected, I have to take into account his age… he’s still doing a HELL of a job with all that he does and still a great vocalist, though. Sadly, halfway through “House of 1000 Corpses”, we had to make our way back to our car to avoid the rush of people trying to get out once the festival ended. As we sat in the back of the truck we had come in, we could hear the rest of the set, including “Thunder Kiss ’65.” At the end of Thunder Kiss, he got the crowd chanting “ZOMBIE! ZOMBIE! ZOMBIE!” and I could feel the energy, almost a mile away in our vehicle.
The night ended with a spectacular fireworks show, signaling the close of this incredible festival… one that will go down in history.
“Zombie Girl“: At Rockfest, it’s not uncommon for strangers to become friends. This festival crowd of 50,000+ always feels much more like a family than a concert and it’s quite evident from year to year. Passing us in the line, we saw a woman in spectacular special effects zombie makeup, which we complimented her on. Little did we know, we’d get to know her a little bit more once we got inside the gates. As I scrambled to find my way back to my wife and friends, she was sitting there conversing with my little crowd of people I’d come there with. As we all sat there and talked, laughed and cut up… it was really an awesome experience, knowing that a friendship could blossom out of something seemingly strange. Her and her husband, Daniel, were incredibly friendly, there to have a good time and helped us out more than anyone else at the festival. We’re proud to have been able to leave the show calling them friends!
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