(PCM) Rock On The Range is well-known as the premiere rock festival in the U.S. and as always the 2015 line-up delivered as promised. Despite gloomy skies and some scattered rain showers, this year’s festival was simply superb.
Timeless is the one word that comes to mind when thinking about the wide array of talent that was featured on the sold-out Rock On The Range 2015. Over the course of the three-day weekend, there was a certain timeless quality to the music and stage presence of each band that graced the festival’s three stages. The multi-generational appeal of the band’s on this year’s line-up was top notch and the sold-out crowd appeared ecstatic to see so many of their favorites all in one place.
This year we saw headlining sets from Slipknot, Judas Priest, Linkin Park, Marilyn Manson, Godsmack, and Rise Against throughout the course of the weekend’s festivities.
Friday got off to a great start with sets on the Ernie Ball and Jagermeister Stages with both Shaman’s Harvest and Islander, however things were kicked into high gear when We Are Harlot took to the festivals main stage. After We Are Harlot we ran over to the outside stage to catch the always energetic VAMPS, before rushing once again to the main stage to see Apocalyptica’s killer performance. They are always a favorite, especially in the live setting, as their rocking set featuring cellos is always a sight to behold.
We were also thrilled to be in attendance to catch Live’s debut Rock On The Range performance. Having seen the band a few years back on the Summerland Tour, I was incredibly curious as to what they would bring to the big stage at Rock On The Range and trust me, they did not disappoint. The band churned out hit after hit and had the audience belting out each and every word. Next on the main stage was Breaking Benjamin and it just so happens that back in 2007, the very first year of Rock On The Range, Breaking Benjamin was the very first band to ever play the main stage, so with this being the nine year anniversary of the festival, it was wonderful to see them up there rocking once again. Just like at Carolina Rebellion, they by far had one of the most insane crowds of the day.
Bringing a little bit of hip-hop flair to Friday’s bill was Yelawolf, who put on absolutely solid performance and did a fantastic job at gearing us up for what was yet to come to close out Rock On The Range day one. Marilyn Manson took to the main stage and does what Manson does best … tearing up the stage with a blistering set filled with fan favorites, as well as, some new tracks off his latest album release “The Pale Emperor”. Never one to shy away from shock value, Manson proceeded to chew up and eat his set list, cut himself and bleed on-stage, as well as, try to pull up and smash the amps or speakers on stage … all while gloriously mugging for crowd. It was intense in the best way possible.
Carrying on that intensity were Friday evenings final performers, Slipknot, who took things to a whole new level with their mesmerizing performance. The band is still as fierce as they were they first broke on the scene and no matter the trials and tribulations they may have suffered over the years, they are in no way showing any signs of slowing down.
After a much needed night’s rest it was time for day two of Rock On The Range 2015. While we were hoping for bright and sunny skies, our day unfortunately began with scattered rain storms looming over Mapfre Stadium. However, a little rain couldn’t stop us from checking out this year’s “secret band”, which turned out to be none other than Saint Asonia, the new band formed by former Three Days Grace lead vocalist Adam Gontier and Staind’s Mike Mushok. They performed an fantastic set that featured some tunes from each of their old band, as well, as some new material off their debut album, which we were able to preview at the special VIP party on Friday night. They were the perfect band to set the place and lift some of the gloom that hung over the crowd that afternoon.
A little rain couldn’t keep us from checking out Sabaton next and somehow the rain gave this band an opportunity to rock even hard and the inclement weather conditions almost seemed like a perfect fit for this band’s thundering side stage set. After Sabaton, we hit the main stage once again to check out the blistering performance from Of Mice & Men. Vocalist Austin Carlile is absolutely hypnotic to watch on-stage and much of the younger generation of fans in the audience were clinging onto his each and every move on stage.
Unfortunately, it really began pouring once Scott Weiland and The Wildabouts came on stage and sadly the main stadium area emptied out rather abruptly. We were able to catch a few songs before heading for shelter, but definitely wished we could have stayed to see a bit more. Again braving the rain, we just had to go see what all the hoopla surrounding Babymetal was all about! As much as I want to say they were ridiculous, I could not help but find myself completely engrossed and entertained by their performance. It is always a treat to see something different at these type of festivals and Babymetal with their pounding metal backbeat and adorable J-pop dance moves definitely fit that description to a tee. They are easy to fall in love with, that’s for sure and if the huge, rainy mosh pit was any indication, the Rock On The Range crowd loved this group as well.
As the rain tapered off we made our way over to catch In This Moment, which should really just be called Maria Brink backed by In This Moment, as she is truly the main focus of the band’s entire set. Don’t get me wrong, the rest of the band members especially guitarist Chris Hemsworth are incredible musicians, but Maria is truly the show. I don’t think I have seen another artist since Lady Gaga go through as may costume changes in such a short set time, but they made it work and in the end the theatricality behind In This Moment makes them a must see performance.
Closing out the Ernie Ball stage on day two was the legendary Ministry fronted by the legend himself Al Jourgensen. Taking to the stage in epic fashion wearing a modified gas mask of sorts, Jorgensen immediately held the crowd in the palm of his hand. Obviously a bit unhappy with the amount of set time given to the band, he commented on stage “These motherf**ckers only gave us 40 minutes to play our best s**t”” before hilariously adding “I figure we’ve got at least 42 minutes of quality s**t”. We agree, Al, we agree!
Day two ended with amazing sets from both Godsmack and Judas Priest. I don’t think I will ever tire of watching the epic drum battle ensue between Godsmack front man Sully Erna and drummer Shannon Larkin. It is as hypnotizing today as the very first time I saw it several years back. To again speak of the timelessness of the weekend, Judas Priest were a perfect choice to perform. It was sad to see so many people exiting the arena once these legendary “metal gods” took to the stage. Vocalist Rob Halford walked onto the stage using a cane, but that definitely did little to diminish the spirit and energy that poured forth from the band’s set. They were definitely one of the true highlights of our weekend of timeless rock n’ roll.
The intense heat and humidity did nothing to dampen the spirit as we moved into the third and final day of Rock On The Range 2015. Due to an incredibly bad traffic back-up on the way into the festival, we got there just in time to catch the last few moments of Hollywood Undead’s main stage set. Once we were finally able to get into the swing of things, The Pretty Reckless gave us a sultry, yet blistering performance. It was wonderful to finally see The Pretty Reckless shine during their Rock On The Range main stage debut. Last year, the band garnered an enormous crowd on the side stage, so it was only fitting that they be bumped up to the big stage, especially after the amazing success of the band’s latest album release.
After The Pretty Reckless, we bounced over to the side stage to catch Rival Sons, who absolutely blew me away with their showmanship and musicality, followed by a set from Halestorm on the main stage. Halestorm is another one of those band that I truly never tire of seeing in the live environment. Vocalist Lzzy Hale absolutely captivates the audience and her brother Arjay Hale is without a doubt one of the most energetic drummers I have ever seen.
While some die hard rock and metal fans were complaining about a little hip-hop flavor being thrown on the bill this year, I for one, was thrilled when it was announced that Tech N9ne would be appearing at this years festival. Tech N9ne is a true artist and was without a doubt one of the performances that I had been waiting on all weekend long. Take all your preconceived notions about genre stereotypes and toss them straight out the window because Tech N9ne is able to flawlessly blend together elements of both rap and rock to create a style that is very much all his own. He is incredibly unique and that is something that is very lacking in today’s music scene. Tech’s Rock On The Range performance was fantastic and we absolutely can’t wait to see what he has up his sleeve next! Not going to lie, though, I was really hoping that both Slipknot and Tech N9ne would have been performing the same day, as hearing new track “Wither” feat. Corey Taylor would have been epic to see performed together live.
Gathering ourselves together after Tech N9ne, it was time to head back over to the main stage to see Rise Against. I was absolutely thrilled to be able to catch Rise Against, not only once, but twice this summer, as they performed at this year’s Carolina Rebellion festival, as well as, Rock On The Range. It is always wonderful to witness a band that truly has something to say and Rise Against does a fantastic job of making sure that everyone within earshot is listening. Superb performance from these guys yet again!
To close out our wonderful weekend of rock n’ roll, Linkin Park took to the stage to close out Rock On The Range 2015 with a bang. The placement in the line-up for this year’s headliners was perfect, because in years past we have seen the stadium slowly begin to empty out once the third day headliners take to the stage, however this was definitely not the case with Linkin Park. They were the perfect choice to close out the weekend, as they are another one of those timeless bands which every generation in attendance can relate.
Whose ready for next year? I know we are, as we can’t wait to see what Rock On The Range 2016 with bring!
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Photography credit: Ken Schuler Photography