May 12, 2017 Carolina Rebellion Kicks Off In Style Concord, NC 5-5-17
Since 2012, Carolina Rebellion has been bringing a variety of the talents from the world of Rock and Metal to Concord, North Carolina. While in the past the festival has traditionally stayed in the realm of Rock and Metal, acts from other genres have been included as time has gone by, including Hardcore, Alternative, and even Rap. Additionally, over the years, the festival has also evolved and grown in length from one day to three days. Continuing that steady progressive trend, 2017 marks the second straight year of the festival’s three day expansion and saw the addition of some incredible up and coming acts, as well as established Carolina Rebellion veterans. A weekend sure to please anyone who made the trek out to Rock City Campgrounds and Charlotte Motor Speedway, the fun kicked off on Friday, May 5th, with festival-goers, affectionately known as “Rebels,” arriving in droves to see what the weekend had in store for them.
With a total of 20 bands on schedule to perform, spread over 4 stages – Rebellion, Carolina, Black, and Gold – there was more than enough options for any type of Rock fan. In fact, at the 11:30 AM hour, many started their day with the unique and resonating vocals of Mother Feather over at Gold Stage. Signed to Metal Blade Records, the band is fronted by the enigmatic and alluring Ann Courtney adorned in all red, full face paint and dramatic eyes resembling an Egyptian priestess. Supporting their 2016 self-titled debut album, this New York Rock outfit brought a quirky and intense set that garnered the attention of the early crowd.
Beginning around the same time over at the Black Stage, was the exciting new UK band As Lions. Coming from the ashes of Rise to Remain, As Lions is signed to Eleven Seven Music while being fronted by Austin Dickinson, son of Iron Maiden Frontman Bruce Dickinson, and includes a lineup consisting of Guitarist Conor O’Keefe, Bassist Stefan Whiting, and Drummer Dave Fee. Supporting their debut album, Selfish Age, they recently completed a Fall arena tour with Sixx:AM and Five Finger Death Punch during a time Phil Labonte of All That Remains was at the helm for FFDP. Performing an array of songs from their Selfish Age, the Hard Rock quintet provided soaring vocals and incredible energy that amped up the day crowd.
There then was the thundering depths of Black Map around noon at the Carolina Stage. With Ben Flanagan leading the charge in this dynamic trio, Black Map are a new beast from familiar lands. A part of the eOne Music family, the band recently released its sophomore album, In Droves, on March 10, 2017. With members from The Trophy Fire, Dredg, and Far coming together, this supergroup is an amalgamation of different ideas, techniques, and intensity. Playing a set of their songs that included “Run Rabbit Run” and “Code,” Black Map create something darker, but fascinating.
The first band at the Rebellion Stage, Starset gave it a go around 12:30 PM. The Columbus, Ohio space rockers Starset made a name for themselves with the release of their 2014 debut album, Transmissions, as well as their cosmic and atmospheric effects. Now, they are back, having released their second album, Vessels, in January of 2017. Clad in what appeared to be somewhat heavy robotic/space suits, the Ohio rockers delivered a conceptually intriguing performance on the festival’s main stage with an eclectic set that included their hit “My Demons.”
Of Mice & Men
Peaking back over at the Carolina Stage, the new Of Mice & Men with Aaron Pauley on vocals appeared to a massive crowd around 2:30 PM. The traditionally Metalcore unit stunned many with surprisingly melodic vocals and riffs accompanied by rhythmic beats. Caring on strongly, following the exit of Austin Carlile, the guys even broke out a new song, “Unbreakable,” which garnered a great response from the crowd. Pauley seems to be a natural at the helm of Of Mice & Men and his affable charm won over all which checked out the set.
The literal band of brothers known as Radkey delivered some tasty, grungy, Punk/Stoner Rock infused tunes to the Gold Stage later in the afternoon around the 3 PM hour. The heavy, chest-pounding bass of Vocalist Dee Radke’s voice and bass guitar rippled through the crowd. These guys are on a mission to bring Rock to the masses and deliver us all from the confines of our ambiguity. Or, as oldest brother and Lead Guitarist Isaiah declared to the excited throng, “We’re here to make you give a fuck.” As if that was not enough to make you like this talented trio, they even broke out into their hits from their reissued debut album, Delicious Rock Noise, “Dark Black Makeup” and “Love Spills.”
Following Radkey was the sultry sonic waves of Highly Suspect around 4 PM all the way back at the Rebellion Stage. This power trio brought their melting melodies and fluid sounds to Carolina Rebellion with a ton of energy, playing their hits “Serotonia,” “Lydia,” and “My Name is Human” as they rolled through a compelling set to the attention of a captive audience. The band’s most recent round of touring brought them onto the festival circuit following the success of their latest album, late 2016’s The Boy Who Died Wolf, and the Grammy nomination for their lead single of the album, “My Name Is Human.” All this said, Highly Suspect are a must listen.
Changing things up a bit, and proudly standing out, Viking Metal band Amon Amarth brought the ship with them to Rebellion on the Black Stage just after 5 PM. Veterans of the Swedish Melodic Death Metal scene, Amon Amarth have been exciting North American audiences for some time now, proving that their sound and style can entice more than just underground Metal lovers. These powerful and commanding performers drove hundreds of onlookers to them with their thundering percussion and bass as they played tracks including “The Pursuit of Vikings” and “Deceiver of the Gods.” The precision stringwork and technical mastery paired with their remarkable showmanship made them a must-watch on Day 1 as they closed out “Guardians of Asgaard.” For those who missed them, they are currently conquering The States on their Jomsviking United States Tour 2017 with Goatwhore now through May 20th.
Meanwhile, back at the Carolina Stage, legendary British Rock band The Cult showed Rebels, and performers alike, what it means to bring evolved Goth Rock to Hard Rock and still universally entice fans across genres and ages. Needing little introduction, The Cult have been at the game for decades now, and during their visit to Carolina Rebellion, they were alive with their music and the soul of their history onstage. Dancing and bouncing to the sounds of their own playing and exaltation from the masses, they offered a nice set of tunes including standout classics “Fire Woman,” “She Sells Sanctuary” and “Love Removal Machine.” To prepare everyone for the show they were in store for, Vocalist Ian Astbury even issued a warning to fans, “Hold on to your tits and bits!” How true it was.
Shifting to a more Progressive Metal odyssey, next on the agenda was the extraordinary Opeth, who drew a sizable crowd to the Black Stage around 7:30 PM. The Swedish Heavy Metal maestros, like their countrymates Amon Amarth, have successfully infiltrated the North American market over the years. Going from an underground favorite to Progressive Rock stars, the band continues to draw in new fans regularly. For their set at Carolina Rebellion, they sizzled with fiery guitars and rolling drums that stirred the Rebels in attendance as they played “Sorceress” and “Ghost of Perdition.” Maintaining and showcasing their diverse sound with progressive influences, Opeth ripped and swayed the captive onlookers, closing out the set with favorite “Deliverance.” Known for their lengthy compositions, they played songs from their latest album, Sorceress, which was released in September of 2016, including the title track and “Era,” but for more, fans are urged to check them out on their Northern Invasion Tour happening now with Gojira and Devin Townsend Project.
A Perfect Circle
Finally, it was time to round out the night with headliners A Perfect Circle and Soundgarden. A Perfect Circle was up first, headed by the enigmatic and mysterious Maynard James Keenan at just after 8:30 PM over at the Rebellion Stage. Keenan seemed to be in good spirits stating, “It’s a great day, I got to see The Cult!” True to form and as speculated, Keenan spent much of the set off-center and near the backline of the stage shrouded in stage fog.
Despite not getting a full and clear view of the vocalist, that did not stop fans from taking in the dancing lights and impressive talents of the supergroup. Running through a setlist that consisted of fan favorites and mainstream hits including “Halo,” “Weak and Powerless,” “Magdalena,” and “The Outsider,” A Perfect Circle brought nostalgia and hope for excited fans yearning to see more of the Rock supergroup in the near future. In fact, their dreams are within reach, as A Perfect Circle plan for their first album in over a decade sometime in 2018.
Closing out all the excitement of Day 1 at Carolina Rebellion was Soundgarden just prior to 10 PM over at the Carolina Stage. Offering an epic playlist of all their classic hits from across their catalog, as well as some lesser known tracks, some of the many performed included “Spoonman,” “Outshined,” “My Wave,” “The Day I Tried To Live,” “Fell On Black Days,” “Blow Up The Outside World,” and of course, “Black Hole Sun.”
Frontman Chris Cornell seemed ageless as he stood on the Rebellion Main Stage, hair shaggy and just the right balance of coiffed and unkempt. His signature raspy vocals seemed to stretch and strain against the intensity with which he was performing. In a brief speech to the evening crowd, Cornell said the band was “erasing history” and making up for the year they could not play due to inclement weather. He was referring to 2012’s Carolina Rebellion during which it rained the entire second day of the then-two-day festival, causing several artists to have to cancel their performances for safety reasons and some due to equipment damage from the rain. For ’90s Grunge kids at heart, Soundgarden’s set was more than a trip down memory lane or a piece of nostalgia, but more like coming to visit an old friend.
When it was all said and done, Day 1 of Carolina Rebellion 2017 was everything anyone could have hoped for – good weather, even better music, and a ton of lasting memories. To think there was still two more days of Rock and Metal ahead, buckle up and enjoy the ride Rebels!
Photos by: Andrew Fiero Photography