Sonic Temple is Grit. It’s Rock. It’s Heavy Metal of the highest order. What’s it like to be a rave princess and go to one of these events? Shocking, enjoyable, and with the successful choices of the inaugural year’s artists bringing their poignant political messages to fans… it is also quite eye-opening.
Day one we arrive in time for the circus with Avatar… think the movie “The Crow” in period costumes with melodic head banging if there is such a thing. Their show is very theatrical. I take a drink of my basic beer and think about Peter Steele as no other band has channeled glimpses Type O Negative for me in years. “We are Avatar, where it smells like a freak show.” Wearing beautifully embellished coat and tails while they leap about the stage seems quite effective for them, and I must give props. I text my good friend Martin to check them out and I can only think he must be impressed I’m seeing a conceptual heavy metal band from Sweden without him.
We suffer through a band not much to our liking and make our way to Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello. My festy besty Jen is a tad heated. The crowd is caucasian “patriotic style.” That is in quotations for a reason. Make your own conjectures.
“I don’t come here alone. Every year I see a confederate flag and well, we are in Ohio, so I know what we are getting into.” I almost want to cry for her past/present experiences she has sat through as a bystander attending Metal events of this magnitude. She’s been to over thirteen Rock on the Ranges, easily. I can almost feel her putting invisible armor on the way inside. Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine shows visuals of all the black men who have been shot by caucasian cops, and quotes on the screen “Be white or get shot.” “One man one vote.” The message is POWERFUL. “Surely some second coming is coming.” People won’t behave if they have nothing to lose.” Serj Tankian of System of a Down joins Tom for vocals for a song as stills of Martin Luther King flash across the screen behind them. I will always have in my heart that humans are primarily good-hearted people, but it was wonderful to see the awareness brought to this festival during his set.
Wake up, why don’t you put on a little makeup” (inaccurately quoted purposely) is tonight… but I’d rather see Ilan Bluestone, so we meet up with our local friend Ben and check out club Dahlia while we are in town. I dance so hard to his phenomenal set that I break my brand new fan as he leaves his scars on me. No regrets.
Day two is much hotter than day one. The sun beats down on us as we head in early to see Fever 333. Many of the bands this weekend have powerful political messages, and Fever 333 is no exception. I am impressed with their pro-female message, even if their musical style is not my personal cup of tea.
Jen tells me that I will love the next band since I lean towards the more theatrical performances. In This Moment sets the scene with an incredible array of costume changes, dancers, lots of hair extensions, and phenomenal singing from lead vocalist Maria Brink. I look forward to seeing a more full length set on a tour in the future and familiarizing myself with their catalog a bit more.
The mood quickly turns, and I see what moshing is like from a birds-eye view at Lamb of God. A girl runs out of the pit towards us, knees and elbows skinned and bleeding and flops down giving her body to the hot sun. I’m concerned for a moment until Jen say’s “She’s just taking a breather.” This is no joke. Lamb of God is the Dubstep of Heavy Metal. I will be very interested to look up their lyrics from the set list. Ten minutes pass and she jumps up and runs back into the crowd like a demon ready for more battle scars.
The set I am most excited for the day is upon us as The Cult take the stage playing a selection of songs from the festival’s moniker, Sonic Temple. He continuously encourages the crowd to have “energy” directly after Lamb of God. The set is exactly what you would expect from them, and I was pleased to see them still getting it done.
Papa Roach comes on directly before Disturbed and gave us a stellar rendition of “Firestarter” for Keith Flint of The Prodigy, who is now in heaven. There isn’t a dry eye around. Many Sonic Temple revelers were most excited for the rarity of Prodigy on this lineup, and the tragic loss of Keith to suicide hit hard. Papa Roach played less like a “replacement” and more like the headliner of the evening. You can tell this is one of Jacoby’s favorite festivals to play.
Having seen one of their very first shows along with Marilyn Manson in 2001, I was stoked to have the chance to see Disturbed once more. Allow the keyboard warriors online to say what they will, but I personally was impressed by David Draiman’s incredible set of pipes even after his surgery. No one can scream forever. His voice is operatic and in my humble opinion, one of the best in the game. A true artist as he belts out powerful messages, and has a just as powerful chat with the audience about mental health. We have lost so many amazing artists to depression, suicide, and addiction and the message is spot on for the vibe of the day.
Day three begins and I’m feeling better after catching up on the sleep I missed from day one. I’m concerned for the high winds and storm system in the area, but we put our Ranger boots on in preparation for The Struts. The Struts lead vocalist Luke Spiller channels Mick Jagger and not just because the band is English. They have maximum star quality, and encouraged the most crowd participation of the weekend, even with the thin crowd at 3 P.M. the final day. “We spent the finale fireworks budget on my outfit. Was it worth it?” Luke exclaims while peacocking across the stage. The answer is a resounding yes. “Ladies and gentleman, remember the name, The Struts.” After a performance like that, how could those in attendance forget? Mark my words, they will be headlining stadium tours in record time. I’m already attempting to clear my schedule for their Indianapolis tour date. Best set of Sonic Temple, hands down.
Shortly afterward the storm begins and we are forced to evacuate for a few hours while they allow the winds and rain to die down. Contrary to popular belief, no one, not even a festival organizer can control the weather. It’s May in Ohio. Chevelle and Bring me the Horizon are canceled and many Rangers Are disappointed.
Three hours pass, and we are at Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. All weather delays and cancellations are forgiven as Joan Jett gives the performance you would expect from a veteran in the Rock n Roll scene. I text my mother, knowing this would be incredibly epic for her to witness, albeit her comfortability in crowds is slim to none. Color me impressed, but Joan slays the stage with the energy that has made and kept her famous all through her illustrious career.
It is now the moment of truth as the most anticipated band of the weekend takes the stage. I haven’t seen Foo Fighters in years, but let me tell you, watching them play never gets old. The Foo Fighters are like a fine wine, they only get better with age. Their performance is masterful, and I am filled with glee as they bring the lead singer of The Strutz on and compare the crowd to Live Aid as Dave Grohl hits the drum-set to show us he’s still got it during their cover of “Under Pressure” from Queen. It is by far my favorite performance I have seen them play. They even brought Pauly Shore onstage to honor his father who passed a few nights before. Sounds like the third time for me is the charm. Their catalog is impressive, and they play almost every notable crowd favorite. I can now die happy. It is well worth the hour long wait to exit the stadium to rage with them till the end.
So would the rave princess return you ask? Who knows what the future holds, but with so many impressive festivals ran by Danny Wimmer this season, including Bourbon and Beyond and Louder than Life... there is a good chance we all have more chances to rock out this festival season. Maybe next time I’ll even be brave enough to crowd surf. I’ll leave the moshing to the professionals.
*Featured photo via Steve Thrasher*