As if it understood the need to dry off the terrain from the night’s previous rain, the sun shone down with purposeful heat early on the first full day of Rockfest. The theme of those first couple hours was solid lineups everywhere; for showers, for coffee, for breakfast, for cash withdrawals and of course, for entrance onto the festival grounds. After we had gathered our group together and fed and caffeinated ourselves, we headed in to begin our nearly fully planned-out day.
We entered the grounds and heard the sounds of Miracles finishing their set of fun folk-punk songs as we made our way to the Jagermeister tent to catch The Dillinger Escape Plan. At exactly 1 o’clock, out walked Ben Weinman with an interesting announcement: “Our singer is stuck at the border! We are Animals as Leaders!” And off they went, totally singer-less but still as violent as ever. Proving that they are more than capable of holding a crowd’s attention even without vocals, the boys in Dillinger rocketed through searing renditions of tunes like “Milk Lizard” and “Farewell, Mona Lisa” while Weinman provided sporadic screams and helped the crowd sing along with their rare melodic choruses. This was a truly unique Dillinger Escape Plan show, and an awesome way to start the first day.
After I’d had my fill of math metal, I headed over the catch the end of The Ataris’ set, who – believe it or not – are still active and making music. You may remember The Ataris from the early 2000s hit cover “Boys of Summer,” and their own big hit “In This Diary,” both of which may well have faded into the annals of pop punk history. The band seemed to be having a great time though, playing these and other solid tunes to a happy and decently large crowd of fans. The band are currently signed to Paper + Plastick records and are releasing music through their Bandcamp if you’d like to take a trip down memory lane.
While charging my phone which was constantly dying throughout the weekend, I caught bits and pieces of Goldfinger’s set, which ended with their own huge cover of “99 Red Balloons.” (Covers seemed to be a theme on this first day, but more on that later.) Carcass were a real treat. They may be getting a little long in the tooth, but these guys still know how to throw down like any of the best metal titans. Security seemed to be having a hard time keeping the crowd surfers at bay while the band ripped through a set of old and new technical thrashers. They totally avoided their 1996 opinion divider “Swansong,” though lead vocalist and band mastermind Jeff Walker probably managed to spark at least a few arguments when he declared that The Exploited were “The only real punk rock band at this so-called punk rock festival.”
Back at the Lotto Quebec stage, Phil Anselmo was walking back and forth across the stage making jokes and being an awesome dude with any audience member who made eye contact with him. As the rest of Down picked up their instruments, Anselmo pointed at one young lady in particular who was perched on top of someone’s shoulders and simply said, “You. Tits.” For most of the rest of the show, the young lady complied. Such is the level of command that the former Pantera singer has over a crowd. As Down began playing their set of heavy, southern metal tunes to chants of “Phil! Phil! Phil! Phil!”, Anselmo declared, “I’m old, I’m fat, and I’m cute!” before snarling out his trademark growl. They dedicated the song “Stone the Crow” to fallen brother in arms Dimebag Darrell before finishing with a crushing rendition of “Bury Me in Smoke.” Sorry, that’s a lie. Anselmo actually stuck around to yell, “Sing with me everyone! And she’s buying a Stairway to…” and left the rest to the audience’s imagination.
Atreyu’s triumphant return was well received by onlookers further away from the stage, and was nothing short of heralded by hardcore fans who hungrily lapped up their crushing new song and went wild for older hits like “Doomsday” and “Blow.” Ending with yet another cover, their faithful version of Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” had everyone within earshot singing along.
Coheed and Cambria’s set was just plain perfect. They left all their softer songs at home and ripped through bangers like “No World for Tomorrow,” “Here We Are Juggernaut,” and “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: III” before their raging closer, “Welcome Home.” The in-between song samples from their latest dual disc, Aftermath: Ascension and Desenscion made it all the more exciting when they burst out into older numbers, only playing set-opener “Sentry the Defiant” from either of those discs. And Claudio’s double-necked, white guitar is always welcome on any stage, anywhere. I got to meet the boys and ask them a couple of questions backstage, but it mostly boiled down to them not being able to tell me when their next comic or album release would be (drummer Josh Eppard indignantly yelled “You guys wrote a new album without me!?”) and long time member Travis Stever alluding to how much fun it is to smoke weed during an outdoor show on a beach.
I’m not sure what it is about Deftones, but I’m never overly impressed with their live performances. Maybe I just feel like a band with that much clout and influence could be doing more with the budget at their disposal. Still, diehard fans seemed to be having a great time as they played their nu-metal defining album Around the Fur in its entirety, so fun was had and I’ll leave it at that. Australia’s Parkway Drive enjoyed their welcome to Canada, as always with some hilarious attempts at French and a heavy as hell rendition of Rage Against the Machine’s “Bulls on Parade” – another cover! – and the pit-goers definitely needed a break after such numerous and heavy breakdowns.
After skanking out to Sublime With Rome’s opening rendition of “Date Rape,” I decided it was time for a shower. Though the lineup had considerably decreased since the morning, it was obvious that the campsite staff was having a hard time keeping an organized schedule of five showers between over 2000 campers. With malfunctioning lights and often malfunctioning hot water, this is an area the festival organizers may wish to give a little more attention to next year.
Some things with never change. Such is thankfully the case with The Offspring, who’s performance of Americana in its entirety sounded almost identical to their 1998 recording of the damned thing. Set to the back drop of the album’s cover, the band declared, “This is the first time we’re playing all these songs together in one country! Even the bad ones!” Not that there are any bad songs to be found on this classic record, which included a rarely heard and very welcome live rendition of “Pay the Man,” which lead guitarist Noodles described by saying, “Hey, remember when we got stoned and wrote a song?” As Americana is not a long album by any stretch, they filled out the latter part of their set with hits like “You’re Gonna Go Far Kid” and “Self Esteem.”
Ministry closed out the Jagermeister stage’s run of shows. I thought they’d retired already, but I guess Al Jourgensen still needs to make money, so here they were. I wasn’t paying very much attention though, as I was setting myself up for the best possible view of Linkin Park. Linkin Park are a band who have reinvented themselves multiple times during their 15+ year career, so I was excited to see what kind of set they would bring to this heavy rock festival. The answer came of the form of a fairly mixed bag; they opened with heavy hitters like “Papercut” and “One Step Closer” before breaking down into what I can only assume was an attempt to please everybody at the same time. Their medley of “Leave Out All the Rest,” “Iridescent,” and “Shadow of the Day” only served to remind everyone how similar sounding those songs all are, and the further meltdown into what was basically a club ready DJ set was a head scratcher indeed. Still, Mike Shinoda rapping a verse from his Fort Minor hit “Remember the Name” was nothing short of mesmerizing, and they picked things back up during older hits “Numb,” “In the End,” and “Faint,” which allowed for enough momentum to bring them through to set closer “Bleed it Out.”
Written by Syd Ghan
Photography by Isa Hoyos Ishca Fotografía