October 7, 2016 The Rock Carnival Returns To New Jersey 9-30-16
In only its second year, The Rock Carnival is carving quite the name for itself in the hearts of concertgoers. Turning many heads with last year’s inaugural classic carnival and Rock-n-Roll show, festival organizers went to work on how to up the ante when returning in 2016. Flash forward to early May of this year, reports began to surface the carnival was set to return for three days of Rock and Metal on the weekend of September 30th through October 2nd. First, acts such as Twisted Sister and Ace Frehley were announced, then shortly after came Alice Cooper, so one could say The Rock Carnival clearly accomplished their mission in outdoing themselves. Previously held at Oak Ridge Park in Clark, New Jersey, this year’s location was Lakewood’s FirstEnergy Park, home of the Lakewood Blueclaws, a more spacious location to hold the massive acts and even larger projected crowds.
That in mind, as people finished their nine to fives on Friday, September 30th, The Rock Carnival’s opening night planned to greet people with a multitude of activities. Unfortunately, Mother Nature chose to rear her ugly head. Raining on everyone’s parade, while the food trucks returned with a wide array of cuisines ranging from Caribbean and Asian fare, a majority of what made the festival would sadly go missing opening night. With the side stages and carnival cancelled, attention turned to the main stages for performances from Blue Öyster Cult and Alice Cooper. Sadly, Zakk Sabbath was forced to cancel their set as well and rumors were swirling that Clutch would be doing the same. Making the best of it all, the concession area contained some of the food trucks and vendors where fans could get their hands on plenty of food as well as hand-drawn artwork from Phil Kutno’s studio, proving nothing could put a damper on spectators moods.
With Zakk Sabbath out of the lineup, Blue Öyster Cult was set to open on the WRAT 95.9 FM stage. Pioneers of the Heavy Metal scene, the Long Island based group has been treating fans to amazing sets since 1967. With original members Buck Dharma (lead guitar, vocals) and Eric Bloom (vocals, stun guitar) joined by Kasim Sulton (bass), Richie Castellano (keyboard, guitar, vocals), and Jules Radino (drums), the near fifty-year reign of Blue Öyster Cult continues to be a phenomenon in the Rock community.
Consistently touring at a heavy pace, with no end in sight,Blue Öyster Cult’s performance at The Rock Carnival was equal parts music perfection and interesting stories narrated by Bloom. Something he has become known for, he introduced the tracks in such a way that fans become extra hyped before each one began. As they traditionally do, the band joined on the stage to the opening of HBO’s Game of Thrones, creating grandiose aura as the men appeared to a loud ovation. Opening with “The Red and the Black,” Blue Öyster Cult went to work, treating fans to favorites including “Burning for You” and the monstrous “Godzilla.”
Moving forward with ease, the band showed off their talents with each member enjoying a solo in front of the growing crowd. Then, concluding it all, no Blue Öyster Cult performance would be complete without fan-favorite “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper,” and for it, Bloom wailed away on one of the cymbals without slowing down Radino for a second. A perfect way to get the festival on the way, Blue Öyster Cult proved why they are still one of the best live bands out there. With tour dates already lined up all the way through January, the band continues their tradition of bringing their music all across the USA and beyond.
With some aforementioned rumors floating around that Maryland’s Clutch would not be playing anymore, it shocked many to see the band’s banner raised over at the WRAT stage shortly after Blue Oyster Cult’s set. So delighted, fans could be heard cheering from the other side of the baseball field to see Clutch was in fact going to carry on with their scheduled performance. Ever since Neil Fallon (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Tim Sult (guitar), Dan Maines (bass), and Jean-Paul Gaster (drums) met in high school, they have been making a name for themselves with great Hard Rock music and a heavy touring schedule. Now twenty-five years in, Clutch has released eleven studio albums with their most recent being 2015’s Psychic Warfare. Heavily influenced by Sci-Fi Writer Philip Dick as per Fallon, it has become Clutch’s highest-charting album ever. Impressive for a band with such a cult-like following, Clutch continue to show the ability to take the band in new directions as they continue to grow, never growing complacent.
Ensuring the audience who braved the weather would receive an ear-full of some Rock-n-Roll, Fallon joked about the situation during the performance, and sincerely proclaiming, “I’m glad we did this!” Staying true to their name, they delivered a wild 120 mph set that had heads banging through songs such as “The House That Peterbilt,” newer song “Your Love Is Incarceration,” and older track “Pure Rock Fury.” Marking their second time at The Rock Carnival, Fallon and company kept the groove going on songs such as “The Mob Goes Wild.”
Trucking through and offering their raw, no-frills-added sound, other favorites included “Profits of Doom” and another Psychic Warfare cut, “Sucker for the Witch,” before the twelve song set concluded with “Firebirds!” Clutch’s faithful should know the set was actually slated to include 2014’s favorite “Electric Worry,” but due to time constraints, it was unfortunately cut. Still a fulfilling performance, Clutch left everyone smiling after being completely rattled. Their 2016 Psychic Warfare World Tour continues until the end of the year, so be sure to catch Clutch on one of the many dates.
One act remained for the opening night of the 2016 Food Truck and Rock Carnival, and that was Rock legend Alice Cooper. An artist that really needs no introduction, with over a stunning fifty years in music, Cooper has seen it all. With his trademark face paint and top hat, “The Godfather of Shock Rock” perfectly combines Glam Rock with an intense stage show. With electric chairs, guillotines, and other props, Alice Cooper brings a theatrical experience to fans. After forming the band in the late 1960s, it was their third album, Love It to Death, that first brought Alice Cooper to the masses in 1971. One year later, the iconic “School’s Out” was released and set Cooper on a path to super-stardom. Of course, Cooper is far from a one-man show, and has been backed by many fine musicians through the years. Currently, the band consists of Ryan Roxie (guitar), Chuck Garric (bass), Tommy Henriksen (guitar), Glen Sobel (drums), and Nita Strauss (guitar), a formidable lineup that was ready to rock this stadium to the core.
After the traditional Vincent Price intro package played, Cooper and company took to the intricately set stage. Opening with “The Black Widow” before blasting into the anthem “No More, Mr. Nice Guy,” they quickly had the audience forgetting the rain that was falling. Continuing along with “Under My Wheels,” “Billion Dollar Babies,” and “Long Way To Go,” among others, Cooper unleashed an incredible stage presence. In addition, with a sole spotlight on her, Strauss would be the first to dazzle with a blistering guitar solo, leaving fans awestruck.
Moving right along, after “Poison,” Garric and Sobel had their time to shine with “Halo of Flies” while Cooper was forced into an unknown contraption. A few sparks and fireworks later, a monster joined them on stage as they segued into “Feed My Frankenstein.” With the behemoth dwarfing the four strings-players, the crowd devoured the amusing spectacle. The drama continues with Cooper dominating a mannequin and wrestling a nurse, who got the better of him with a straight-jacket. All the while, the music continued with cuts like “Cold Ethyl,” “Guity,” and “Killer” before Cooper was forced into a guillotine and beheaded. The executioner proudly lifted the legend’s head to the surprise of the audience, while the band moved into “I Love the Dead” before Cooper rose from the dead for “I’m Eighteen.”
A performance as theatrical as Cooper’s is deserving of a grand finale. That said, many younger fans might have recently found themselves back in the classroom, so there is no doubt they reveled in the closing song “School’s Out.” A long few months from school actually being out, one can dream, and with that, the show wound down as giant balloons filled with confetti bounced around the crowd. Sword in hand, Cooper conducted the crowd through the song, popping the occasional balloon that made its way back to the stage. After a short recess, and with an upcoming election in the air, the band returned for one more. Dressed in red, white, and blue lights, Cooper’s encore would fittingly be “Elected.” While Cooper’s live show can be something right out of some’s nightmares, it is a dream come true to adoring fans, and this show was no exception.
Weather and cancellations aside, the first night of the 2016 Rock Carnival was in the books. While fans did not get a chance to sample Kyng’s or Zakk Sabbath’s music, the three bands which did make appearances were well-worth the trip out. Fully satisfied, family and friends departed the venue anticipating what Day 2 and 3 would have in store.