With the college basketball scandal that broke last week, Louisville needed a reason to smile and let go. Thankfully, for the 2nd week in a row, a Danny Wimmer Festival took over Champions Park.
If only for a couple days, Louder Than Life allowed those who are proud of their city and University to focus on simply having a great time in absolutely beautiful weather. Despite his best efforts, not even Rick Pitino could dampen the spirit of Louisville.
Danny Wimmer has quite the knack for creating festivals that feature artists that make up the soundtracks to our lives. He creates destination festivals that offer a unique experience and allow fans to see many artists, both established and fast rising, all in one place.
Be sure and check out our coverage of the inagural Bourbon And Beyond Festival here.
In it’s 4th year, Louder Than Life has grown considerably. There are more vendors, artists, stages and port-a-potties than ever before. Champions Park is no small swatch of land and Louder Than Life has grown to use every inch of it.
Day one featured one absolutely legendary name that everyone was anxious to see. The one and only, Ozzy Osbourne. Before we discuss the Prince of Darkness, let’s recap a bit of the best performances of the day though.
We began our day mid-set of Starset. With their trademark otherworldly space suits in tow, the band performed a set that was met with great appreciation from the crowd. Especially during “My Demons”, “Carnivore” and “Monster.” These guys are not new to the Festival scene and their poise and polish worked well.
We were then able to catch Fire From The Gods on the Zorn Stage. These guys have a rather unique sound and a lot of that is vocalist AJ Channer. They grew a good sized crowd for such an early spot and rightfully so. AJ brings a bit of hip-hop and even some reggae to his delivery before unleashing the power and melodic sense similar to that of a less polished Lajon Witherspoon of Sevendust. This band has a lot to say and we will certainly be listening from here on out.
We took a few moments to visit a few vendors and survey the lay of the land. I then returned to Zorn Stage to see the always hilarious, immensely talented Steel Panther. While Jeff headed back to the main stage to take in Gojira.
Steel Panther is a band that really knows how to perform and keep you entertained for as long as they’re allowed. Obviously, Steel Panther’s raunchy humor isn’t for everyone, but those that get it are never disappointed and as you can see below, they drew a rather large crowd to the Zorn Stage. My favorites included the completely politically incorrect “Asian Hooker”, “Back Door”, “Community Property” and their cover of the Van Halen classic, “Ain’t Talking ‘Bout Love.” Ain’t no party, like a Steel Panther party.
Gojira is one of those bands who you know are going to be a powerhouse live, but they absolutely blow you away. Even when you halfway expected it. They don’t have this large elaborate stage show. No crazy antics or outfits. Just four very regular looking guys on stage and delivering a brutal musical beatdown.
Gojira performed some of the heaviest music that I’ve ever witnessed and they did so with the precision of a surgeon. Often times the music hit me like a jolt of raw electricity and I loved every minute of it. Their set was one of the highlights of day one for me. Highlights included “Only Pain”, “Silvera”, “Stranded” and “The Heaviest Matter Of The Universe.”
Next up on the mainstage was Halestorm. One of the most popular and successful female-fronted rock bands in today’s musical climate. Lzzy Hale has carved her niche and established herself as a force. She is backed up by her brother Arejay, guitarist Joe Hottinger and bassist Josh Smith. Having seen Halestorm before, I knew a bit of what to expect, but the band still surprised me by the way they handled a crowd of that size. My biggest takeaway from their performance was just how well Josh Smith harmonized with Lzzy. Watching the big screens really allowed me to see that and I was certainly impressed. Some of our favorites were “Love Bites (So Do I), “I Get Off”, “Freak Like Me”, and “I Miss The Misery.”
Jeff’s pick of the day was easily Mastodon. The Atlanta based metal outfit has really elevated themselves as elite musicians who sound like no one else on this or any other planet. Their three vocal approach is distinctively unique and sets them apart from the metal pack. Our favorites were “Ancient Kingdom”, “Black Tongue”, “Ember City” and the massive sounding “Andromeda.”
Next was Mr. Rob Zombie. What can one say about a Zombie show that hasn’t been said before? Nothing most likely, but here goes my take. Rob Zombie was genuinely having a fantastic time onstage, as evidenced by his constant smile and willingness to visit the barricades, not once, but twice.
The second time came during John 5’s epic solo and it saw Rob visit everyone that were pressed up against the barricades. That, in turn, gives you the reason that I feel Rob Zombie was the best performance on the day. So many favorite songs were played, but a few of our picks were “Dead Radio”, “Superbeast”, “More Human Than The Human”, Thunderkiss ’65”, “Dragula” and two very different covers. First was the Ramones classic, “Blitzkreig Bop” and then came the hat tip to the man that created the platform that Zombie stands on when they performed Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out.” So. Much. Damn. Fun.
Next up were the band I was most interested in seeing. Five Finger Death Punch has had their ups and downs and I was nervous about vocalist Ivan Moody’s state of mind. He’s been fighting some personal demons and as someone with a lot of experience in and around music, I wanted to see Ivan at the top of his game. Not selfishly, but as in I want him to be in a good place as a human being. We have lost too many great musicians to depression and addiction. I am incredibly happy to say that Ivan looked and sounded the best that I ever witnessed him and that gave me my biggest smile of the day.
Ivan even took a moment to recognize bassist Chris Kael, who was born and raised in Lexington. Although Ivan mis-stated that Chris was from Louisville. Chris, as he said himself onstage, admittedly talks a lot of shit about the University of Louisville, since he is a huge University of Kentucky fan. Wearing a (RIPITINO) shirt, Chris gave his well wishes for the University and the city before handling the vocals on “Got Your Six.” It was a cool moment for the “hometown” kid. Other highlights included “Lift Me Up”, “Never Enough”, their version of “Bad Company” and of course their breakthrough hit, “The Bleeding.”
Closing out day one of Louder Than Life was the Legend himself, Ozzy Osbourne. At 68 years young, Ozzy has decades of music to pull from and his show spanned them all. An added bonus, Ozzy has reunited with guitarist Zakk Wylde. A guitar legend in his own right, seeing Zakk perform with “The Boss”, is a bucket list item.
Busting out of the gate, Ozzy sounded fantastic as he performed “Bark At The Moon”. Unfortunately during “Mr. Crowley”, Ozzy’s voice turned against him. I’m not sure if it was all of the dust that had been kicked up during the day was the culprit or not, but Ozzy was struggling and it breaks my heart to say that, but as a journalist, it’s my job to do so. Ozzy kept going back to the drum riser for cough drops and drinks. Thankfully though, his voice did get a bit better as the show went on, but man I felt bad for him.
By the time “Shot In The Dark” rolled around, Ozzy was sounding much better and Zakk Wylde was absolutely on fire. Ozzy pushed through and showed everyone why and how to always be a professional.
Mixing in four Black Sabbath songs, Ozzy performed so many iconic songs like “War Pigs”, “Iron Man”, “Crazy Train”, “Mama, I’m Coming Home” and “Paranoid.” This may very well be the only time that I will get to see Ozzy perform and I am truly thankful. The man has given us so many memories and it was an honor to share the night with him.
Day two began with the future of Rock and Roll. Seriously. Greta Van Fleet are the closest thing to Led Zeppelin since, well, Led Zeppelin. Twin Brothers Josh and Jake Kiszka formed Greta Van Fleet with their younger sibling Sam and rounded out the lineup with family friend Danny Wagner.
Now comparing a band to another is pretty lazy journalism, most of the time, but in this instance, I feel it’s warranted. These young men, all 21 years old and under by the way, have honed their craft together since 2012 and now it’s their spotlight. Armed with a number one song (“Highway Tune”) on the Billboard Mainstream and Active Rock charts, the Greta Van Fleet rocket ship has already taken off.
See them now, see them often. Because this band will be filling arenas in the very near future. Our favorite songs on the day, were all of them. Seriously. But, for your research purposes, be sure and take a listen to “Flower Power”, “Black Smoke Rising” and of course the aforementioned “Highway Tune.”
Nothing More, much like Greta Van Fleet is currently doing, exploded onto the national scene in a big way back in 2014. They did so with a song titled “This Is The Time (Ballast)” and followed that up with the track “Jenny”. They pride themselves on their performance and bring a unique atmosphere. They do so by creating their own DIY instruments like “The Bassinator” and “The Scorpion Tail”. Their music doesn’t need the tricks and toys, but the fans certainly seem appreciative of the band going the extra mile. My favorites included “This Is The Time (Ballast)”, “Jenny”, “Christ Copyright” and “Go To War”.
We then made our way back to the Zorn Stage to catch Lacuna Coil. Having seen and interviewed Cristina Scabbia in the past (You can read that here), I wasn’t about to miss their set. Even if it meant missing out on The Pretty Reckless. I’m so glad we made that decision too. Cristina and Andrea Ferro were absolutely on fire. Watching the performance of their classic, “Our Truth”, was one of my favorite performances on day two. “Blood, Tears, Dust” and “The House Of Shame” were also fantastic.
In This Moment is a band that you don’t have to enjoy musically to appreciate in a live setting. Thankfully for me, I enjoy the music, as well as the visuals. And while the light show lacks a bit in the bright sunlight, everything else was absolutely spot-on. Having seen In This Moment live multiple times, I have to commend Maria Brink on her performance. In my humble opinion, she has never sounded better. Especially on the tracks “Blood”, “Oh Lord” and of course, “Whore”.
We began to make our way back to the main stages for Stone Sour. Along the way, I spotted a familiar face playing some songs at the Music Experience tent. Mr. Clayton Crowder is from the music hotbed of the Bowling Green area of Kentucky and pretty proud to call him a friend. You can check out a new demo below.
We settled in for Stone Sour and I got to thinking to myself. Anytime Corey Taylor is playing, you should always make it a point to be there. Why? Because he is one of a handful of voices that define a generation. Think about it. Jim Morrison, Robert Plant, Tom Petty, Ozzy Osbourne, Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley. You can name the era that each of those voices come from. Corey Taylor belongs in that conversation.
As for their performance, it was stunningly perfect. At times, songs sounded better on the stage than the recorded studio versions. For example, studio tracks have a lot of compression on them, especially the guitars and vocals. Live, you experience it in all their raw goodness. Two songs, in particular, blew my mind live, “Absolute Zero” and “30-30/150”. The guitar tones were absolutely nasty. It was Stone Sour unleashed. Other favorites included “Song #3”, “Fabuless” and the massive hit “Through Glass”.
I have never heard anyone say a bad thing about any performance from Incubus. This review will be no different. Incredible from beginning to end. So many hits. Our favorites included “Anna Molly”, “Pardon Me”, “Drive”, “Nice To Know You” and “Megalomaniac”.
I really wanted to type that Prophets of Rage were amazing. That whole tell the truth thing, integrity, blah, blah, blah prevents me from doing so. The nostalgia was nice as a fan of Rage Against The Machine, but the Chuck D/B Real vocal combo just doesn’t work well. Mostly because of Chuck D. I absolutely love him when he is in his lane, but metal isn’t forte. His cadence just doesn’t fit and he does way too much “repeating” as an accent. B Real can hold his own, as he has recorded quite a bit of metal in the past, but Zach de la Rocha completed RATM and unfortunately, he ain’t walking through that door anytime soon. There were moments that were quite good, and this is all my opinion, but I just wasn’t feeling the vibe and that’s what music is all about.
Overall, Louder Than Life was a fun event to cover. The crowd was pretty rowdy, but given the bands and alcohol involved, you gotta expect that going into the event.
This article has been a tough one for me. My mind continually wanders to the victims in Las Vegas. We were in a crowd that was easily three times that large. It could have just as easily been us and that stark reality has shaken me. I can not even begin to know what that must have been like, but I do hope and pray that it never happens again.
If you’re able, please help the victims in any way you can. Donate blood. Send a donation. Say a prayer. Do anything you can to help, but whatever you do in the future, don’t let this coward win. Go to the shows. Love your neighbor. Enjoy the music and show that piece of shit that we will not be broken.
Be sure and join us next year. You can stay tuned for all the latest updates over at the Louder Than Life website here.