Event: 98.9 The Rock KQRC Presents: Rockfest 2014
Venue: Liberty Memorial, Kansas City, MO
Line-Up: Syn City Cowboys, Nothing More, Adelitas Way, Eve to Adam, Pop Evil, Heaven’s Basement, Black Label Society, The Pretty Reckless, Steel Panther, SOiL, Staind, Escape the Fate, Five Finger Death Punch, Killswitch Engage and KoRn
In late March of last year, we moved to Kansas after finding out my wife was expecting our first child. The moment we got here, I met my wife’s uncle Bob and he began telling me about this amazing annual festival called “Rockfest”. This event held 15 bands (mostly national acts), 2 stages, plenty of food and drinks and a huge fireworks display after the day rounds out. The most impressive thing, though, was that this festival sells out to 50,000+ every year! Fans who have been to Rockfest have seen bands such as Trivium, Staind, Black Label Society, Five Finger Death Punch, Papa Roach, Three Days Grace and tons more! I knew I had to go, but I missed my first chance last year. Being that we at NT have built quite a name for ourselves in our little bit of time together, I decided to go the other route and see about covering the festival in 2014, rather than just being a spectator: I had no idea what I was in for!
We left Osage City around 6:30am on Saturday morning and arrived at Liberty Memorial around 8:30am, the scene was already crazy, but nowhere near what we would see throughout the day. We got in line and began talking to a couple who had been there the past few years who informed us a little more on what to expect during the festival. They told us how pumped up Papa Roach got the crowd at last year’s event and that they hadn’t seen an energy matched to that level at any of the previous Rockfest events they had been to. At about 10:00am, the line began to really grow, stretching around the block… we were lucky we got there when we did. I went to pick up our tickets and my photo pass, the staff was extremely friendly, and I returned to my spot in line. Shortly after returning, several staff members with cameras came and took pictures of the line, where I had a chance to show off my first official laminated photo pass. Needless to say, it was a very proud moment for me and, indeed, all of New Transcendence.
We got in the gates and began to scale things out so as to know how much time I would have to walk between stages, how long sets would be, how the weather would play out, etc. There were tents set up everywhere advertising food, drinks, official Rockfest shirts, band merchandise and tons more. The most surprising to see, though, was a tent set up close to the Captain Morgan White Rum stage for Victory Records. There were a couple people from the label running around and handing out some new samplers and my wife, my sister-in-law and I all received one and an official Victory Records bag… which would come in handy later. I searched out a security guard to ask my final few questions, waited by the entrance to the photo pit and began talking to some of the photographers that were there. I saw a representative for The Examiner, Christian Mayberry from RockThePits, several different photographers representing Entercom and AEG, as well as a number of photographers from publications I didn’t recognize. We were met by Bronson Marshall who led us into the photo pit right before Syn City Cowboys’ set. That’s where the fun began!
Jason Nivens came out and got the crowd fired up before introducing Kansas City’s own Syn City Cowboys to the stage. Lead singer, Ethan Cole, proceeded to amp the crowd up even more before lighting the fire that would begin the event. They played a short set, consisting of some well known songs, along with one that’s been unreleased as of yet. Overall, I was pretty impressed with their ability to keep the crowd interested, moving and their ability as musicians as well. For having the job of opening for the biggest Rock festival in America, they did one hell of a job. While they didn’t have very much visible energy, you could certainly feel it resonating from the stage.
After their set ended, I walked back to wait for my photo pit privileges before Nothing More came on stage. These guys had so much energy I didn’t know whether it was a good or bad thing at first. Lead singer, Jonny Hawkins and drummer, Paul OBrien both came out and did a drum solo that drove the crowd wild. When the band lit into the first song, “Christ Copyright”, Hawkins beat on his chest like a gorilla and really showed why he (and the band) have so much buzz. The highlight of their set was when the whole band surrounded a mic stand with a guitar attached to it and proceeded to play a solo. If you ever have a chance to see these guys live, definitely do it. The rest of the set consisted of “Mr. MTV”, “This Is The Time (Ballast)” and “Salem (Burn the Witch)” which brought a fiery close to their time on stage. This had already turned out to be quite an interesting and killer day.
After Nothing More’s set ended, I walked over to the Monster Energy main stage to get ready to shoot Adelitas Way. Having seen these guys before, I expected nothing less than an awesome performance from beginning to end, but how it began really blew me away. I was standing in the photo pit after Chamie McCurry came and signaled us that they were ready, a radio personality (I believe it was Jason Nivens) came out on stage and introduced the next act, but it wasn’t Adelitas Way just yet. As I stood there in awe, 4 soldiers marched out holding the United States flag and Nivens announced “Please give a warm welcome to Mr. Zakk Wylde, playing the National Anthem”. It hadn’t even been 3 hours into the show and I was standing in front of the legend himself! I made sure to get plenty of pics of that before he headed off stage, first saluting the crowd.
Adelitas Way came out and the crowd had obviously recharged their batteries because they went pretty crazy. They opened with “The Collapse” right before it started raining, but that didn’t stop the show or the crowd! As I stepped away after their first song, seeing as the rain had halted my chance to take pictures, it started to rain harder. This was nothing, though, as it seemed to give an even greater energy to the band and the fans alike. There was plenty of crowd surfing and, when lead vocalist Rick DeJesus proclaimed that he would like to see some breasts, there were more than his fair share of willing women in the crowd. The band’s set consisted of “The Collapse”, “Criticize”, their brand new single “Dog On A Leash” and crowd favorites “Sick” and “Invincible”. Needless to say, they put on an even better show this time around than the first time I saw them. If you’ve never seen AW in concert, don’t miss them next time they come to your area! They also have a new album being released on July 29th called Stuck, so pick it up.
I had to run pretty quickly to the CMWR stage once more to catch the beginning of Eve to Adam’s set. While they definitely did a good job musically, the vocalist’s voice cut out quite a bit making for an almost unpleasant listening experience. They opened with “Bender” which got the crowd moving and every band member had plenty of energy but I just couldn’t enjoy the vocals too much. There could have been a number of reasons for this and so I’m not ruling it out as a BAD performance, but it wasn’t the best of the day. The band’s set consisted of “Bender”, “Fortune Teller”, “Immortal”, “Locked & Loaded” and “Straitjacket Supermodel”, which brought a pretty incredible close to their set, despite the aforementioned issues.
Next comes Pop Evil, I will be the first to admit that they weren’t very impressive to me the last time I seen them but I remained optimistic. They came out on stage and immediately blew me away when they opened with “Flawed” from their newest album Onyx, leading me to believe that they may have just been tired or off of their game when I saw them in 2012. The Pop Evil I saw here was completely energized, amazing and on-point throughout their performance. The rain pelted the crowd hard, prompting the crowd, myself, wife and sister-in-law included, to go even crazier! As the rain stung our eyes and faces, drenched us completely and turned the entire venue into a mud pit, it was clear that this was going to be quite an interesting day. The highlight of the band’s set was when they played “100 in a 55”, which I had wanted to hear last time I saw them but wasn’t in their setlist. Another highlight was when they played “Torn to Pieces” which had the entire crowd singing along and shedding tears, it was a very emotional experience and I’m proud to have shared it with them. Later in the set, vocalist Leigh Kakaty stepped out onto the crowd for what we THOUGHT was going to be a crowd surf, but he had the crowd hold him up as he walked on their hands. It was a pretty incredible sight! Their set consisted of “Flawed”, “Boss’s Daughter”, “100 in a 55”, “Goodbye My Friend”, “Sick Sense”, “Torn to Pieces”, “Deal With the Devil”, “Last Man Standing” and “Trenches”. I misjudged these guys the first time I saw them. They redeemed themselves and showed that they are a band worth checking out!
Following that awesome display was Heaven’s Basement, who were appearing for their 2nd Rockfest in a row! I had heard tons of good things about this band and was pretty impressed by their set, overall. The crowd fell silent as A Perfect Circle’s “Counting Bodies Like Sheep To the Rhythm of War Drums” played as the band made their way on stage. They opened up with “Welcome Home” and got the crowd moving considerably. The energy was definitely there throughout but it seemed a bit reserved for this performance, which was kind of disappointing. Overall, they performed a good set and I’d love to see them again. Their set consisted of “Welcome Home”, “Can’t Let Go”, “Fire Fire”, “Nothing Left to Lose” and “Executioner’s Day”.
Before I begin the next artist, I have to say that what happened next was a dream come true. I had grown up listening to Black Label Society and Ozzy Osbourne so Zakk Wylde was a household name where I was from. The fact that I was about to be standing directly in front of the legend as he worked his magic was almost surreal to me. The shock set in, a fit of excitement filled my body and I prepared for what I was about to behold.
Zakk, John, Jeff and Dario stepped out on stage, got into position and the photographers began scrambling around me to get good shots. I knew that this was one of the most sought after acts of the night, so I took my time and made sure to get plenty of good pictures during BLS’ set. The band exploded into “My Dying Time” and I felt like the entire crowd was in the studio with him. It’s not very often that a band sounds just as great live as they do in studio, due to all the effects. However, there was almost NO difference between live and studio for this performance. I’ve heard tons of stories about how Zakk leaves out syllables or mispronounces them, whatever the case may be, but I had to assume it was just people talking crap. The BLS that I was witnessing was otherworldly, they definitely stole the show when Zakk erupted into his first guitar solo. It didn’t stop there, the band roared through 8 songs including: “Godspeed Hellbound”, “The Rose Petalled Garden”, “Suicide Messiah” and “Stillborn” which closed out the most incredible part of the day… so far.
The Pretty Reckless came on the jumbo-tron as the crowd from the Monster Energy stage began to thin out, I stayed to watch them. I was immediately impressed as they flawlessly went through “Follow Me Down”. Taylor was just incredible live as she had been when I watched the band perform at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards a couple months ago! I was pretty let down that they didn’t play “Going to Hell”, as it perfectly compliments “Heaven Knows”, but that was just about the only other disappointment I’d had throughout the rest of the night. Sadly, I was unable to get any pictures of their set, but I was thoroughly impressed. They closed with their newest single, “Fucked Up World” which got the crowd pretty hyped up. Their set consisted of: “Follow Me Down”, “Since You’re Gone”, “Sweet Things (w/Peter and the Wolf intro)”, “Heaven Knows” and “Fucked Up World”. Do not miss them if you get the chance to see them!
The next act was Steel Panther. Many people will dismiss this band because of how vulgar and 80s they are, but my wife and I embraced it. Not knowing what to expect, seeing them live was even more amazing than I thought! After the first song, “Eyes of a Panther”, vocalist Michael Starr persuaded a woman in the crowd to show her goods, immediately after proclaiming that he had… done things with her and named off a couple diseases she may or may not have had. If you’ve heard this band before, you will know that they are known for things like this and that it makes for an interesting and fun show. When they played “Gloryhole” and Starr hit his high note, the crowd went nuts. The crowd-surfing was well underway during their set, but nowhere near as much as it would be later in the day. When they played “Community Property”, the crowd was waving their arms from left to right, signalling the ballad-like nature of the song. Of course, you had Lexxi Foxx styling his hair between songs, Michael and guitarist Satchel having dialogues back and forth and Stix Zidinia beating the skins like a madman throughout the entire set. Needless to say, if you want a good tribute to the 80s.. go see Steel Panther!
To be honest, I didn’t catch much of SOiL’s set, but what I did sounded pretty great. I heard “The Hate Song”, “37 Stitches (Drowning Pool cover)” and their opening track which was “Breaking Me Down”. All of these sounded pretty good, but the sound was a bit distorted from where I was sitting. I can’t say they played a bad set, though.
Following that was Staind, I situated myself to begin taking pictures during their set and was immediately blown away when Lewis stepped out and began singing “Eyes Wide Open”. I have to say that the highlight of the set was when he called out a group of guys who were trying to cop a feel on a young girl who was crowd-surfing during “Something To Remind You”. Undoubtedly, you’ve heard about this somewhere already but it was nothing compared to being there and feeling the rage that resonated from him as he did so. I was extremely proud of him for standing up for her, as was most of the crowd as the cheers erupted when he finished. Admittedly, they did play a great set but I feel they were better when I saw them with Godsmack in 2012. I’m not going to complain one bit, because they did the best that they could. Their set consisted of: “Eyes Wide Open”, “Falling”, “Right Here”, “Outside”, “Mudshovel”, “It’s Been Awhile” and “For You”.
I didn’t catch much of Escape the Fate’s set because I was sitting down with my wife and sister-in-law making sure that they were okay, but they didn’t sound bad from where we were. I did manage to catch a few jumbo-tron photos of them but I wouldn’t call their performance awe-inspiring or anything. I heard the crowd go absolutely nuts when “This War Is Ours (The Guillotine II)” came on, though. I also heard “One for the Money”, “Ungrateful” and “Issues” all of which were pretty decent.
Five Finger Death Punch were getting ready to take the stage for the last performance during daylight. During this time, there were a few more photographers in the pit than I had previously encountered. Because of this, we were scrambling around a bit more to make sure no one got in anyone else’s way. Jeremy Spencer took his seat behind his drums, Zoltan Bathory and Jason Hook took their positions, followed by Chris Kael and finally Ivan Moody. Ivan got the crowd extremely exhilarated before the band exploded into “Under and Over It”. The highlight of their set was when they played “Remember Everything” and you could see a sea of lighters and cell phones from anywhere in the crowd! They played a killer set, I’d dare to say even better than when I saw them on Trespass America Festival! There was never a dull moment and they kept the crowd interested, interactive and there was tons of crowd-surfing by this point. They closed out the set with “The Bleeding” (as has been tradition) and the crowd went wild.
I caught 4 songs from Killswitch Engage, as my legs were extremely sore from all the walking we had been doing all day. As always, Adam D was the energy behind the band. Whether it be going into nonsensical rants, doing random weird things as he played or finding some way to get the crowd involved, he was on top of his game. Vocalist Jesse Leach seemed to be struggling a bit, as his voice went out a couple times while he was screaming, indicating how hard it can be on him. We caught “A New Awakening”, “My Curse”, “The End of Heartache” and “My Last Serenade”. They had played a better set on Trespass America Festival but I wasn’t disappointed by what I saw/heard.
The arena had grown dark and it was time to bring out the headliners but, before they came out, the DJs/Hosts from 98.9 The Rock came out to thank the crowd for another incredible Rockfest. I learned during this time that it was the 23rd annual Rockfest I was attending. This was insane to me… 23 years of doing this and the rate at which it has grown baffled me. It goes to show you that Rock fans really unite when it comes to bringing things like this together! Sadly, I was unable to get any pictures during their set, but KoRn performed flawlessly! They opened up with “Falling Away From Me” and I was able to feel the energy from the stage! The crowd must have felt it too because, despite the late night performance, the crowd had been electrified and went completely insane! Jonathan Davis was a madman behind his mic, exhibiting the amount of energy fans have come to expect from him. The band moved fluidly and cohesively and it was truly a spectacle. We had to leave 5 songs into the set, but I have heard from several who were there that it was the highlight of the night. I will certainly say that I will never doubt a KoRn performance again after what I was able to behold. The songs we stayed for were “Falling Away From Me”, “Twist”, “Narcissistic Cannibal”, “Love and Meth” and “Got the Life”.
I will recommend Rockfest to any and every fan of rock or metal that I can. The festival is truly a one-of-a-kind event and it’s something you have to see to believe. The staff are friendly, the fans are respectable (for the most part), the bands really bring their A-Game and it leaves you incredibly drained and begging for next year when you leave. I will be taking part in the countdown until next year’s event and hope that I get the chance to cover this event once more! I’d like to thank Michelle Love, Chamie McCurry and Bronson Marshall at AEG Live for allowing us to the chance to cover this event. I’d also like to thank Entercom, 98.9 The Rock, the bands, the fans and anyone else who had a hand in making my first Rockfest the best concert experience in my life! See you next year!