Inaugural Epicenter Festival – It came, It went, It RAINED
Words by : AJ Conde
A new rock gathering, Epicenter Festival, in North Carolina was born. The line-up was sick, the lines were long, and the weather was over the top unpredictable. Several of the large acts Tool, Judas Priest, and The Cult among others, had to, unfortunately, cancel due to severe weather. Logistics were put into questions but they will learn from this year and implement better strategies next year. What we worried about at the end of the day was how many mosh pits could you skank in, how many horns could we throw, and were we going to lose our voice on day 1, 2, or 3. It was a killer time, and we CANNOT wait for next year. Here is blow-by-blow on what went down.
Day one came with an unsureness of what to expect, mixed with that Christmas Eve excitement. Epicenter makes its epic debut at its new home in Rockingham, N.C. Expectations are high for a weekend jam packed with great music, friends and family, and future memories to be made. The question at hand: Can Epicenter fill those requirements or will it fall short of our expectations?
Now hosting five stages, two which were conjoined. Many familiar vendors were on site, such as the FYE Tent, The Music Experience Tent, The Zippo Tent, and The Fuck Cancer tent. A new and notable addition was Metallica Enter The Night Pilsner Tent. There definitely wasnʼt a shortage of alcohol and food vendors as well. Donʼt worry! The infamous and tasty Island Noodles were still available!
First to take the stage was Ded, a band poised for mainstream metal stardom. They’re still relatively unknown to most but given the way the crowd reacted, this band and the concert goers are on their way to becoming fast friends. Ded were the gasoline needed to ignite the fire of the mosh pit. As the band encored their hit song “Anti Everything”, the crowd erupted.
Next to take over the main stage was Beartooth, a former Carolina Rebellion alumni. Hot on the wheels of their latest release, Disease, Beartooth came prepared to ravage and keep that fire going. Ranging from pit ready riffs to sing along choruses, fans walked away sweaty, out of breath, and wide smiled.
With still much more epicness to come, metal messiahs Meshuggah stormed the stage. Even XM Liquid Metal host Jose Mangin was in attendance for this insanely heavy set. Dust clouds, crowd surfers, and giant chunks of metal riffs slapping concert goers in the face.
Luckily a mosh pit breather with Evanansce calmed the chaos. Amy Lee’s stellar vocals soared from the stage as concert goers relaxed as the sun started to fall. Amy Lee’s magical stage presence and voice would give any country mega star a run for their money. Nita Strauss of Alice Cooper’s band made a very welcome guest appearance. “Call Me When You’re Sober” and “Bring Me Back to Life” made for great crowd sing alongs.
On to horror movie master Rob Zombie and his fantastic Spookshow. A show thatʼs festival ready with an abundance of lights and breath taking visuals. Along with John 5 (lead guitar) and Piggy Dee (bass), thereʼs definitely no lack of talent. Jam packed with crowd pleasers from his discography, fans were also treated to a sneak peak trailer of his new 3 from hell movie, as well a covers from Alice Cooper and The Ramones.
Ending out the chaos of the night were Nu Metal legends KoRn. KoRn’s history with past Carolina Rebellions is very rich but also Rockingham was the home of where Brian Head Welch made his returning performance with KoRn. A very nice and touching tribute took place in honor of Allison Hodge. Allison was very brave and strong little girl whose life was claimed by cancer just last year. You may have known Allison from an emotional performance by Five Finger Death Punch at Carolina Rebellion in 2016. As the last note of “Freak On A Leash” rang out, Day 1 was a huge success for this concert goer.
Photographer: Luke Jamroz – full gallery here.
There was a little weariness from concert goers, and social media became bombarded with complaints of traffic congestion going to and from the festival site. That wasnʼt enough to stop this concert goer though. Inside the concert site, fans were sprawled out trying to recover from the night before. Many were ready to headbang, crowd surf, and get in a pit.
First on the agenda is Japanese band Hyde. A band that was hand picked by In This Moment as an opener on their upcoming tour, they draw influence from 80s American hard rock bands but also with a touch of modern hard rock and metal. They were followed by Badflower on the Monster Energy Stage with their well crafted songs, great hooks, and a good hint of heavy.
We were also treated to Motionless in White – where they literally lit up the stage!
A very interesting band on the line up this year was The Damned Things, a band made up from members of Every Time I Die, Fall Out Boy, and Scott Ian from Anthrax. With 7 years in between albums, most may have never heard of them or at least never seen them live. They took command of the stage with an attitude of winning the crowd over. They succeeded in their attempt and have many gradually start too headbang along.
The Damned Things were followed up by the almighty Black Label Society.The front row was hot and sweaty as they eagerly awaited the Viking like guitar god Zakk Wylde. Three songs into the set, just as the riff for “Bleed For Me” kicks in, the music came to a halt with Zakk Wylde promising a return just as soon as he figures out what exactly was going on. Soon the screens flash with warnings of a severe thunderstorm was heading right our way.
Fans were promptly asked to return to their cars and seek shelter. Luckily the announcement was given in just enough time for most to seek shelter, with most scurrying to secure their tents and belongings.
I donʼt think anyone could have predicted Epicenter was about to get hit with a hurricane-like storm with a massive wind and rain. Shortly after the announcement was made, to the dismay of festival promoters and concert goers, the gates would remain closed till 12 the next day. Tool, The Cult, Judas Priest, and Bush would sadly not be performing that night.
Photographer: Nathan Leslie – full gallery can be seen here!
Some major unanswered questions lay ahead for Day 3 of Epicenter. Many were distraught from Fridayʼs parking fiasco and Saturdayʼs treacherous storm. There was severe structural damage to several stages as well as debris scattered from the storm; Epicenter staffers and campers definitely had their hands full. Would Day 3 even be worth it?
The musical line up on Sunday was too great not to at least attempt going. After all, the late Freddie Mercury once sang “the show must go on” and go on it did. Massive credit to event staff for getting the site cleaned up and ready just in time for HO99O9. Think early 36Mafia meets Body Count meets Tyler the Creator. It seems like Nu Metal is completely coming back in a big way in the form of such acts as Hyro The Hero, Ded, Fever 333, and above mentioned, all of which played on one of the stages this past weekend. Peculiar and abrasive at times, it was definitely a sight to see.
Probably the most conflicting sets of the weekend were Architects and Fever 333. Both brought a lot of anticipation of concert goers but both went on at the same time. Insane mosh pits erupted during Architects while across the field on the Monster Energy Stage you had the guitarist of Fever 333 climbing the scaffolding to play to fans 30 feet off the ground. Festival vets Killswitch Engage played a ferrous set filled with fan favorites such as “My Curse”, “End Of Heartache”, and “Strength Of The Mind”.
Being in the front row, thereʼs no denying a crowd surfing record was broken that day, while echoes of 90s alternative band Live echoed in the distance we made or way over to see Prog metal masters Mastodon.
They plummeted through their 40 minute set and never seemed to disappoint. Needing a cool down of refreshments and air, the Ferris Wheel seemed like the best place to go; what better place to have a view for Bring Me The Horizon? A varied set of newer songs off their most recent album amo mixed with past bangers from Sempiternal and Thatʼs the Spirit.
311 played the across the way as many readied themselves for what was to come. This time it wasnʼt a severe storm but quite possibly my generation’s version of the Rolling Stones. As the Foo Fighters took the stage to 2003 hit single “All My Life”, it set the tone for what was to be an amazing two and a half hour show jammed with hits, covers, and jam sessions. Many crowd favorites followed such as “Learn To Fly”, “Times Like These”, and “My Hero”. During the Foos set, the crowd felt like one. All the stress of the weekend seemed to no longer matter.
Some other bands of the day were:
While She Sleeps
Whether it was the great people at the Epicenter Fan Zone, the Music Media in attendance, Icon Pit Crew, Carolina Headbangers, event staff/security, stage techs and performers/bands, whatever the title might be, arenʼt we all just one big family brought together by our love for music? Isnʼt that true reason we come to these festivals? As the lights came on many had the impression that Dave Grohl and his bandmates had just delivered one of the best concerts of the weekend and maybe one of the best we had ever witnessed. Dave f**kin’ Grohl may have just saved Epicenter.
With all the obstacles many endured and had to overcome this past weekend, there was an overwhelming sense of relief. We all made it through. We had conquered the unknown and we were still standing.
Photographer Ash Cullen for Day 3 – Ash Cullen See gallery 1 of full day | See gallery 2 of full day