9 bands, 8 hours, 2 stages, around 15,000 fans = 1 hot show.
It also equals an event worth a blog entry, my three cents on what I saw & heard. If you were there, YMMV. If you weren’t there, here’s some idea of what you missed. As much as I want to jump right to the good (or even great) stuff, it probably makes more sense to go in chronological order.
Starting at 3:15, bands worked the smaller stage set up in an interior parking lot, with a mixed bag of performances.
— A local band who apparently won some sort of online popularity contest to get a slot on the bill. They reminded me that there are often reasons that unknown bands are unknown. They certainly seemed sincere enough, heck, I’ll go so far as to say I think they’re probably a pretty good bunch of guys based on their They’re also pretty run of the mill, although that might be unfairly underestimating the caliber of “the mill”.
- Hail the Villain
— One of the bands I was most looking forward to on the undercard, based on the quality of their best known song to date Take Back the Fear. They’ve been flip-flopping the second slot on the bill with New Medicine & the Atlanta stop was one where HtV went on first. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that thanks to lack of clear introductions, so for the first part of their set we hung back in the little bit of shade we could find and marveled at how bad “New Medicine” was. Goofy looking singer, mediocre alt rock songs & music, so bad that we decided it was a good time to head over to the main concourse to hit the ATM. About halfway there, we hear the opening riff to Take Back the Fear … and I realized that they had flipped them. Scoot back over, enjoy the song … and realized that it was pretty much the only thing they had worth spending time on. Different stage personality, different delivery, different everything from the dreck that went before. It was as though someone at their record label told them “Look guys, you gotta give us SOMETHING worth a damn if we’re gonna sell this thing”. Easily the biggest disappointment of the day for me, but a great reminder that one good single doesn’t tell you everything about an album or a band.
- New Medicine
— Having checked their music out online well in advance, I had no expectations of enjoying them at all. I was right. 20 minutes of my life I’ll never get back. 21st century post-punk that helps make it clear why punk largely died. The soundtracks played during set change were more entertaining.
— Finally, something to get the bad taste out of my mouth. There are some sure things in life: Death, Taxes, and Airbourne doing what they do. What these Australian rockers do bears a strong resemblance to what AC/DC has been doing for decades, and that’s both a good thing and something they’re quite comfortable with. Singer Joel O’Keeffe is a wild man who really needed more room to work than the side stage allowed. Airbourne also needed more time than this short set provided, forcing them to leave out their biggest song in the past year No Way But the Hard Way. Still, with hits like Runnin’ Wild and Too Much, Too Young, Too Fast, and the pure joy they bring to their performance, you can’t watch them and not enjoy yourself.
— Of all the bands on the bill, I might have been the least uncertain about what to expect from these veterans.
Pantera icon Vinnie Paul joined by his Damageplan bassist, the singer & a guitarist from Mudvayne, a second guitarist from Nothingface. Plenty of experience, but what to expect? The straight-ahead assault of Pantera, the math-metal complexity of Mudvayne, the southern rock influences evident on their first two top-ten albums? What we got was some of all of those & more, more aggressively metal than I would have guessed, plenty enough to inspire the first mosh pit of the day. Chad Gray was spot on in both vocals and attitude, it’s a genuine pleasure to see Vinnie smiling on stage in spite of all he’s been through, and the sum of the parts equals something that is really its own entity. Screw the definitions, the labels, or anything else. Just see ’em if you have the chance and have a Hell of a Time.
Just enough time to rush over to the main stage area, not wanting to miss a second of the group I was most eagerly anticipating.
— One album, three singles, plenty of YouTube performances, and I had a good idea of what to expect from these Pennsylvania based newcomers. The incredible voice of “Lzzy” Hale gives this band its trademark but the total package is a winner. Catchy yet rocking songs like It’s Not You and I’m In Love With Somebody (But It’s Not You) paired with an emotional ballad like Familiar Taste of Poison, this is an honest-to-God ROCK band with the world in front of them. The comparison to Joan Jett is inevitable given her looks but the comparison is certainly a fair one given the impressive voice. I’m convinced that Halestorm is a band that’s just one song away from taking the leap into major headlining act status. Whether that song, one that combines airplay with sales & critical success to push them solidly into the mainstream, even happens might be as much a matter of luck and timing as anything but whether it comes or not, this is a full-fledged major league band already.
- Stone Sour
— Side project of Slipknot vocalist Corey Taylor, Stone Sour broke into the mainstream back in 2006 with their #1 Rock track Through Glass and is hoping for similar success with the impending release of Audio Secrecy. Given the relatively large amount of airplay they’ve gotten in the past few years, there really shouldn’t be any surprises about what you’ll get from them but I have to admit I’m sort of at a loss on how to review their performance. I don’t have anything particularly bad to say about their set, but there’s nothing that I feel particularly compelled to rave about either. It was just … well, it was what it was. That is to say, it’s about what you would expect if you’re familiar with their body of work. Unfortunately for Stone Sour perhaps, they seemed to get lost a bit among the rest of the Uproar lineup. The tour features a lot of acts that are at different stages of their career whether rising or possibly falling, while SS is sort of at a place of being right where they are, at least until the new album has time to move them in one direction or the other.
- Avenged Sevenfold
— Roaring into Atlanta on the momentum of a #1 album, I thought this set has the potential to be great. If anything, I underestimated what was possible. From the Alice Cooper inspired theatrical opening to a crowd pleasing moment of spontaneously bringing a 10 year old on stage, rarely in nearly 30 years of concert attendance have I seen any band this dialed in. Atlanta isn’t exactly a town known for being attentive or even appreciative of live acts but on this night, A7x pretty much owned the audience. It’s that aspect that made the strongest impression on me, seeing a crowd pretty much hanging on every note & every word from start to finish. I expected it from Nightmare, a song I thought was almost too strong to be the show opener, or from something very singable like Afterlife. I didn’t expect it for a slower paced song like Buried Alive and I certainly didn’t expect it without the presence of their most popular single to date, Bat Country. This wasn’t a performance that had an ebb & flow, this was an outing that started on 11 and pretty much stayed there throughout, regardless of what the band did with tempo or organization of the setlist. By the time the too-short set ended with Almost Easy, I was left pondering whether I had just seen a relatively early moment in what could be a legendary career that we’ll look back upon 30 years later the same way we look back at someone like Iron Maiden. Yes, I realize the company I just mentioned Avenged Sevenfold in. Yes, I know it’s too early for that just yet. But it seems well within the realm of possibility to me after watching this performance, and that’s something I’m not sure I’ve ever come away from a show wondering before.
— Heck of a thing for a band that has sold over 11 million albums, to find themselves following someone like Avenged Sevenfold, a tremendous challenge. While the stage changeover takes place you find yourself hoping they’ll be up to the task, you even almost manage to convince yourself that they’ll find a way, it’s what headliners do after all. Alas, the challenge was more than Disturbed was up to, at least on this night. The setlist was pretty much what you’d expect, leaning heavily on their earlier successes, hitting most of the obligatory tracks that everyone recognized while mixing in a few cuts from the recently released Asylum. While the guitar work of Dan Donegan provided most of the highlights, it was somewhat telling how much the crowd wanted Disturbed to soar that it reacted wildly at times to even the shortest & simplest of riffs. Vocalist David Draiman seemed to struggle at times with the distorted vocal sections while handling more straightforward portions just fine, particularly on the higher range material. Overall, I came away feeling as though I’d watched a performance akin to a Greatest Hits package, you aren’t disappointed about hearing your favorites or familiar tunes but at the same time it’s not like seeing someone that you know is at their pinnacle or on the verge of going to a newer, higher level. The issue is that I could give roughly the same description of seeing Poison several times in the past decade, which almost certainly isn’t the reaction Disturbed would hope to inspire. I’m inclined to give the band a pass based on being put in a nearly impossible situation, but it was painfully clear that they were headliners on the tour based on history, not on current performance or relevance.
- Random thoughts about other stuff
— The years have not been kind to frequently renamed Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood. It’s actually in better shape than it’s 21 years might have left it but after a recent visit to the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park, Lakewood is reduced to clearly a second-tier venue at this point. Hard to imagine a less inviting area for a venue too, especially one that isn’t really made for heavy traffic.
— It’s a good thing that Uproar drew a remarkably well-behaved crowd, because security was either almost non-existent or invisible. You’re welcome to your own take on marijuana, but hopefully we can generally agree that having a large number of thoroughly stoned & entirely unsupervised pre-teens isn’t a great idea. Probably the most wide-open drug use I’ve seen at a concert since Pink Floyd many years ago, the difference being that the vast majority of it this time was by kids that aren’t yet old enough to drive.
— Considering the fairly large number of authorized vendors attached to the Uproar Festival, the merchandising was pretty low-key. Buy an album, get it signed was a bit heavy for Best Buy but otherwise even the title sponsor (Rockstar) wasn’t really in your face marketing. Picked up a great shirt for my son, from the Hatewear line by Hatebreed vocalist Jamey Jasta, although the official tour shirts were pretty bland & disappointingly didn’t include the band lineup (unlike the bootleg shirts so prolific outside the venue).
— $10 beer, $9.50 hamburgers, $7.50 nachos, $6 Cokes. Concession prices were, as usual, utterly absurd.
By my count, it was two crappy acts I knew would be crappy, one that was a major disapointment, another that was considerably better live than I anticipated, several that met all expectations, a couple that were a bit underwhelming but still fine, and one that exceeded my wildest imagination. On the whole, I’d call that a successful day and something I’m hoping would be matched by a similar tour next year.