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Sonic Temple 2019 – Three Days of Sonic Splendor with FOO FIGHTERS, LAMB OF GOD, GHOST and others

After a solid 12-year run, the beloved Columbus Ohio Rock on the Range festival was replaced with a brand new experience, Sonic Temple Art & Music Festival. Held inside the ample MAPFRE Arena and surrounding space, three stages, dozens of foods and merch vendors and art installations welcomed about 40 thousand people a day.

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While it seemed clear that the festival organizers had wanted to branch out into more musical diversity than the hard rock and metal of yesteryear, heavier music was in abundance at the main stadium stage and the Echo Stage, while the alt and pop rock acts were largely contained to the Wave Stage.

Swedish metal freakshow outfit Avatar were the first heavy band of the festival to demolish the main stage

There was a lot of anticipation for the festival, and long before the gates would open on Friday, thousands of people gathered around the arena and in the parking areas. Music blared from cars, people roared and howled and drank and smoked and lounged in the parking lot waiting for the festivities to kick off.  Anticipation for good reason too, the festival would prove to be three days of moshing, visual and sonic splendor and a hell of a lot of fun.

This shop sold… sunscreen or earplugs or something. Anyways I can’t remember but the staff were very nice.

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Friday boasted a particularly incredible line-up, where the day was spattered with amazing heavy performances from the likes of Avatar, Wage War, Zeal & Ardor, Beartooth, Black Label Society, SHVPES, Halestorm and Meshuggah.

Son of Bruce, Griffin Dickinson and SHVPES belted out a great performance on Friday

Probably the most intense performance of the day came from Parkway Drive who plodded their way onto the stage and pounded the crap out of the audience with an 8-song set starting with a jaw-dropping, hair raising performance of “Wishing Wells”.

Winston McCall and Parkway Drive delivered a crushing set at the main stage

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On the non-metal front, punk-protest-performance-pop artists Pussy Riot delivered an incredible performance at the Wave Stage.

Metal? No. Great performance? Yes. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Pussy Riot at the Wave Stage.

Much of the day saw the arena area only partially populated as people milled about between all the different stages and bars, but as the evening set in and the smaller stages closed, people crammed into the arena for a ghoulishly good Cardinal Copia fronted Ghost performance.

Cardinal Copia of Ghost, surveys thousands of disciples in the crowd

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Closers on the day System of a Down put on a stellar performance during a rare 2019 stop, rifling through every single one of their best songs except for “Spiders”. Despite some early sound issues that had them “reboot the system” early on, the performance was tight and had the crowd howling.

Serj Tankian and System of a Down closed the first day of Sonic Temple, with an incredible set

Saturday provided beautiful weather, as many hungover fans got some beers into their belly to get themselves back on track.  While many people were excited for headliners Disturbed and Papa Roach, personally I enjoyed stellar mid-day performances by the likes of Architects, Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage and The Black Dahlia Murder.

Some performances had sign language interpreters. This girl said that Killswitch Engage was very difficult to sign. Master level must be Cryptopsy.

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In what was certainly one of the most talked about shows of the day, US rockers Fever 333 brought a particularly hyper performance to the main stage that saw front man Jason Aalon Butler performing aerials, running waaay off into the crowd, losing his pants, wearing a garbage can and many other antics.

It's a fine day for aerials! Fever 333 were bouncing off the walls during their main stage performance.

French metal outfit Gojira put on an incredible performance, certainly my favorite of the day, as they tore through a 7-song set. Joined on stage by Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe to perform “Backbone”, that is about the time the on-stage pyro began to kick into high gear. While the flames were impressive, and perhaps influenced by strong winds which played a hand through most of the weekend, the set did see a scary moment where guitarist Christian Andreu was took some flames to the face, but in true metal fashion he finished what was an incredible set.

We’re glad Christian Andreu is ok, and happy that no other Gojira members got burned during their fiery performance. Here bassist Jean-Michel Labadie dances in the flames.

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Perhaps the only disappointing performance the entire weekend were The Cult. Playing at a smaller stage, the band dished out a rather sloppy and subdued performance and missed the opportunity to play many of their best songs. The band decided to take a shot at the other festival acts by telling the crowd they were the only band at the festival who could carry a melody. The band later took a shot at us photographers as well, asked to shoot from back at the sound board, we had to walk back to the front of the stage to get out,  lead singer Ian Astbury glared down at us while we walked past, so I gave him a little wave which set him off a bit I guess. “The easiest job in show business ladies and gentlemen, the paparazzi!” Astbury told the crowd as we walked out. Maybe they should practice more and hit the treadmill a bit instead of being so concerned with the other bands and the media. Sad to see such an iconic band plummet so far.

Luckily, Fetters the Clown was on hand to help keep people awake during a drab performance by The Cult

Day three of the festival showcased some really great bands once again, however it certainly was the least “metal” of the days, partially due to bad weather. High winds unfortunately saw the Wave Stage shut down for the entire day and all of those bands being cancelled. Afterwards as the winds picked up ever more, the entire festival was evacuated for a couple of hours, which created several other cancellations including Bring me the Horizon and Chevelle.

Good thing metal heads are good listeners

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Still the day saw many terrific performances including stand-outs by Swedish rockers The Hives, ska-punk outfit The Interrupters, and I have to say, one of the most impressive performances of the weekend, sure to be one of the next big things in all of rock, a tight and terribly catchy performance by English rockers, The Struts.

Great aerials, and music, from Swedish rockers The Hives

And then of course there were the Foo Fighters, certainly the biggest draw on the entire weekend. Most all of the angst and anger, outside the stadium and on social media during the evacuation, was coming from fans, many of whom travelled long distances for the festival, who were worried that the Foo Fighters would be cancelled. Howls of excitement erupted throughout the grounds as the gates reopened to let people back in to rush into the arena to catch a stellar, hits laden performance by Dave Grohl and his outfit, really was a great way to cap off the inaugural edition of Sonic Temple Festival.

Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters deliver a terrific performance in front of a packed arena

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Were you at Sonic Temple? What were some of your favorite moments? Would you be able to finish your set after taking a fireball to the face? Let us know in the comments section. \m/

Foo Fighters

System of a Down

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Lamb of God

Killswitch Engage

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Black Label Society

Parkway Drive

The Black Dahlia Murder

In This Moment
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The Cult

The Hives

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Wage War

Fever 333
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While She Sleeps


Zeal & Ardor

Pussy Riot
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The Struts

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According to vocalist Jesse Leach, anyway.

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"We are all safe, nobody was hurt, nothing of great value was destroyed."