DANNY WIMMER PRESENTS has done it again. This month, the three day art + music fest entitled Sonic Temple Festival invaded MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, OH. This brand new fest took the place of Danny Wimmer's beloved Rock On The Range which ran for twelve straight years and saw the light of day for the last time in 2018.
Wimmer described the ROTR successor, the brand new Sonic Temple Art + Music Festival, as followed: ""I am so proud of what we accomplished with Rock On The Range, and with the debut of our new festival, Sonic Temple Art + Music Festival, we're excited to bring our devoted rock fans and the city of Columbus a one-of-a-kind, world-class event that expands on the festival experience. The idea behind Sonic Temple is walking into something bigger than yourself, where YOU belong, or where you were always meant to be. The crowd is unparalleled, and the energy is electrifying, like going to a place of worship. We want this festival to be a temple of rock n' roll. We want this to be the ultimate rock experience for the true fans who love the genre as much as we do."
I had the opportunity to attend the fest which took place May 17th, 18th, and 19th. (Big thank you to Selena Fragassi and Kristen Ashton-Magnuson for all of their media help and overall work on this incredible weekend!) The festival, fit with three stages (the Echo Stage, Wave Stage, and Monster Main Stage), hosted some of rock's biggest acts such as System of a Down, Ghost, Halestorm, Disturbed, Papa Roach, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, the Foo Fighters, and many, many more.
Friday night was the beginning of all of the festivities. After picking up my media wristbands and getting my bearings, my first stop before getting my spot for Black Label Society was, you guessed it, FOOD! I was honestly incredibly impressed with the food selection ranging all the way from noodles at Island Noodles, to wings and barbecue at The Iron Grill and everything in-between. It was honestly overwhelming (in a good-way) and I am happy to note that they also had numerous options for those who suffer with food allergies; like my own personal battle with gluten. Along with the 'bomb' food and endless music, the fest also included a multitude of vendors selling amazing artwork, clothing, and more which made the experience all the more fun. After wandering through some of the vendor tents and finally settling on some gourmet grilled cheese (raspberry & brie—lord help me; SO GOOD!), we got to the Echo Stage to catch my first set of the day, Black Label Society. Close to twenty bands played on the first day of the fest, starting from the inaugural set around 1:00pm all the way to System of a Down's closing set that finished at almost midnight.
Some highlights of the day (according to myself and fellow fans that I got to run into throughout the day) included Tom Morello, known for his time in Rage Against The Machine and Audioslave. A fan favorite moment of the day was when SOAD's Serj Tankian joined Morello on the Wave Stage during his performance of 'Like A Stone'—a touching tribute to the late Chris Cornell. Another touching moment was during Halestorm's performance when the one and only Lzzy Hale brought a young girl onstage and gifted her with a guitar. Being a female in this industry, it was so heartwarming to witness an artist like Lzzy embracing and giving a member of the next wave of female musicians the beginning tools she'll need to carry the torch.
My own personal favorite on Friday was the theatrical and wonderfully melodic yet hard rock band, Ghost, who were direct support for System of a Down. This group is undoubtedly one of my favorite 'new' bands of recent years and believe it or not this was my first time seeing their performance in the flesh. Coming down on about a year since the release of their latest record Prequelle, the band's stature has grown by storm and has enticed audiences across the globe. The band brought forth their alluring and entertaining stage show fit with every Unnamed Ghoul and the Cardinal himself. Although their set wasn't extremely long, they had a nice mix between some older tracks from their catalog like 'Ritual' as well as newer tunes such as 'Rats.' Closing out the set was their biggest hits thus far—'Dance Macabre' and 'Square Hammer.'
Saturday's line-up brought a wide array of artists all the way from the theatrical In This Moment to Lamb of God, and the headliners Disturbed. What I was most looking forward to on Saturday was a performance from The Cult who are currently touring in celebration of the 30th anniversary of arguably their biggest record, Sonic Temple. Being a huge fan, I was so happy when I saw they were hitting this fest. Overall, the band put on a fun and energetic. set. Vocalist Ian Astbury's voice has held up incredibly well over his 30+ year career, as well as Billy Duffy's impeccable playing. As a rather personal complaint I was slightly disappointed that they left 'Sweet Soul Sister' out of the set. But I'm getting over it (ha ha ha).
Another Saturday stand-out was Killswitch Engage who's set included a myriad of crowd-surfers, even including attendees decked out in T-Rex and Squirrel costumes... yes, I said a Squirrel costume. One of the most touching moments of the set was right before the band was about to break into 'Holy Diver'—the tune they perform in tribute to one of the greatest rock and roll vocalists that there ever was, the late and great Ronnie James Dio. In the bright sunshine it began to drizzle for a moment out of the blue. Confused as to whether I was being sprayed with flying beer from crowd-surfers who have lost control of their drinks or if I was being sprinkled with actual rain drops, I looked up only to find a large rainbow spreading across the sky... Ronnie was here watching over us in Columbus, OH. It was a moment that quite frankly brought tears to my eyes and was the cherry on top of a stellar performance from KsE.
After grabbing some food, I headed into the stadium to check out the night's headlining acts. Papa Roach, filling in for Prodigy due to the sad and tragic passing of Keith Flint, were direct support for Disturbed. The band did a touching tribute in honor of Flint with the tune 'Firestarter.'
Disturbed closed out Saturday night putting on a rather energetic set. Vocalist David Draiman made it a point to touch on mental health and the unhealthy stigma that has been created in our society. It was moving as he spoke about artists along the likes of Chris Cornell, Keith Flint, and every other musician and human being who has been affected by mental illness and addiction. In our modern day, it is so important to spread the message that we are not alone with these struggles and that we are more united in these diseases than we might think we are. Draiman vocalizing this message to a stadium of close to 35,000 people was definitely a pinnacle of the night. The band ran through some of their biggest songs such as 'Are You Ready', 'Stupify', 'Down With The Sickness', and their well known cover of the popular Simon & Garfunkel tune—'The Sound of Silence.'
Before we knew it, we were onto Sunday. This was a day I was greatly anticipating as it held performances by The Struts, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and of course the Foo Fighters. Prior to the day's festivities, the festival had sent out an alert that the day would involve high winds and to just be prepared. The beginning of the day ran smoothly. Although the wind was definitely evident, it didn't seem to be an issue until Gojira guitarist Christian Andreu was burned when the windy conditions blew their intense stage pyro in his direction. Andreu bravely finished the set, but it was then that the festival began to question the safety of the weather conditions and how it could possibly affect the safety of not only the audience, but the artists. Making my way into the stadium, I arrived just in time to catch The Glorious Sons and of course, The Struts who would be the last band to perform on the Monster Main Stage until after the surprise evacuation which will be described in a couple of moments.
Being rather early in the day, The Glorious Sons gathered a decent crowd. The audience gearing up for another almost twelve hour day gained enough energy singing along to 'S.O.S.", a song that's been gaining traction on radio stations across the country. Next up were The Struts who are currently coming off the release of their sophomore record YOUNG&DANGEROUS that was released this past October. With an entire summer/fall tour lined up around the states, the band made a stop at MAPFRE Stadium to wow Sunday afternoon's attendees. The group broke out the biggest hits from the new record including 'Body Talks', 'Primadonna Like Me', and their newest live addition, 'I Do It So Well.' They also broke out The Struts classics such as, 'Kiss This', 'Put Your Money On Me', and 'Could Have Been Me.'
Shortly after The Struts exited the stage, the wind got worse and you guessed it... here came the rain. From an 'attendee' standpoint, the rain wasn't all that bad. Enjoyable? No. Bearable? Yes. The Distillers', set to go on at 4:35pm, never got to hit the main stage at 2019's Sonic Temple Festival. After delayed start times and even a clearing of the main field, all guests were instructed to leave the venue immediately due to severe winds and weather reports. With nearly half a day of performances left and no further announcements about any possible continuation of the fest, audience members were definitely not happy with this decision. But despite the aggravation of the crowd, the rock and roll passion was found in the parking lots. Guests that brought large speakers were blasting metal as loud as they could, even gaining crowds big enough where people could crowd-surf. If you can learn one thing, learn this: if you can't bring the music to the metalheads, the metalheads will bring it to you!
After close to two hours of light drizzle, the venue finally made the decision to carry on with the rest of the night as best they could. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts took the Echo Stage by storm (pun very much intended) a mere half an hour after doors re-opened at 8:30pm. Joan was definitely one of the highlights of the entire weekend for me. With an audience hungry for more music and for the festival to continue, she drew a large crowd that was nothing short of incredible. All the hits were played from 'Bad Reputation' to 'I Love Rock and Roll' and everything in-between. The greatest moment of the set was seeing grown men, I repeat—GROWN MEN, moshing to 'Crimson and Clover.' That one moment made the entire weekend worth it.
Due to the time that passed during the evacuation, all sets were cancelled with the exception of Joan and the Foo Fighters. The Foo Fighters, set to promptly go on at about 9:00pm were right on time and were (as to be expected) nothing short of extraordinary. One of the best parts about this band is that they are so past the stage of stress and having to secure a fanbase. As musicians and as a team they are free to just have fun on stage and believe it or not, from an audience standpoint it's incredibly relieving. Since there's been no new record since the curation of their most recent setlist that they used on their tour last summer, the night consisted of pretty much every Foo Fighters' song that you'd want to hear. Including 'The Pretender', 'Monkey Wrench', 'Learn To Fly', 'Rope', 'Walk', 'My Hero' (in dedication to Pauly Shore's father who passed away the night prior), and so many more. They even did a cover of of 'Under Pressure' featuring Taylor Hawkins and the ever so lovely Luke Spiller from The Struts on vocals. Being an incredibly big David Bowie fan, it was amazing to see this song come to life. Closing out the set with 'Everlong', the Foo Fighter's set was the perfect ending to a close to perfect weekend.
Overall, the very first Sonic Temple Festival was a success. Aside from Sunday's weather delay, the weekend was filled with beautiful weather, beautiful people, and of course beautiful music. Big thanks to everyone at DANNY WIMMER PRESENTS for another amazing festival weekend! I'm looking forward to the line-up that next year's Sonic Temple Festival will bring!
If you had a chance to attend the festival, leave a comment below letting me know what your highlights of the weekend were as well as any fun photos you took. I'd love to hear/see them!
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