This guest editorial was written by photographer Jose Pimienta
I just finished recovering from the long but thrilling weekend of metal right here in my backyard. An event like Fort Rock does not occur too often this far South, particularly because the most popular music around the Miami/Fort Lauderdale area is definitely not metal.
Therefore, I am sure many fans could agree with me on how awesome it was to have the 6th edition of the Fort Rock Festival take place in Markham Park, Sunrise, FL.
Day 1 – April 28th
The festival kicked off around noon on Saturday as the park started to fill with metalheads of all ages, who were eager to see their favorite bands. This first day was very exciting. The lineup had a lot to offer, with bands such as Trivium, Hatebreed, Halestorm, and Godsmack. Power Trip, especially, was of great importance for me.
After we got through security, we started to check out the festival grounds to get familiar to see where we could find food and beverages later on, and we found the best spot we could for the two stages: The Yellow and the Black.
The opener this year was Bad Wolves, coming from Los Angeles, CA and presented by Jose Mangin of Sirius XM. All the members of this relatively new band come from seasoned bands like God Forbid, Devil Driver and In this Moment. They got the crowd warmed up for sounds like “Better the Devil” and their closing song and tribute to The Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan’s “Zombie” which has got Bad Wolves in the spotlight for the past few months.
Up next came, ’68, a noise punk duo that was one of the biggest surprises for me and my friends, because they got to the stage full of energy and they did a great job. Damn! These guys can play! It’s not too much of a surprise when you see that the guitar and voice is Josh Scogin from The Chariot. If I can say anything else about their performance, it would be “GO SEE THEM LIVE!” You will thank me later.
As the afternoon progressed, the Florida heat was as brutal as the Texas dessert brought by the Texas Hippie Coalition. The mixture of groove metal and southern rock made me feel like I was right there in The Lone Star state. Continuing with the Texas vibe, we got Power Trip next.
I saw these guys for the first time at The Talent Farm, a very tiny venue that used to be in Pembroke Pines, Florida, so it was extremely exciting to see them perform in front of a massive festival. I literally had to stop myself from head banging when taking their photos. I really loved their set. They opened with old and new classics like “Divine Apprehension” and “Executioner's Tax (Swing of the Axe)”. These guys know how to kick the audience into high gear, their thrash/crossover riffs and attitude are very contagious. In my humble opinion, Riley Gale’s vocals are at the level of John Tardy of Obituary and Gerre of Tankard.
At 3:35pm, Trivium took the Yellow Stage and brought energy, who even decided to crowd surf on top of the yellow duck beach float – you know, things that only happen in Florida. Since the band is originally from Orlando, FL, they certainly felt at home as everyone sang along to hits like “The Sin and The Sentence” and “In Waves”.
Following the excellent Trivium set we got Hatebreed. They came onto the Black stage with their signature hardcore attitude making even the calmest fans bounce. Their set included all the powerful songs we are accustomed to get from them, such as: “Destroy Everything”, “This is Now”, “Looking Down the Barrel of Today”, and, of course, “I Will Be Heard”.
Following this wave of energy, Underoath arrived at the stage. I have to admit I had never heard their music, and to be brutally honest, it is not my style but the audience was very enthusiastic during their time on stage and they put a hell of a show. Halestorm took the stage around 6:15pm. This was my first time seeing Lzzy and the guys perform and all I have to say is WOW! That was an awesome concert, in my opinion it was one of the best of the whole festival. Their hard rock sound is really catchy and the guitar playing from Lzzy and Joe Hottinger was off the charts. The set list included “It’s Not You”, “I Am the Fire” and “I Miss the Misery”. If you see this band coming near you, I would recommend you go check them out. You are guaranteed a great time.
As the sun was setting behind the stages, Shinedown got to the stage. These gentlemen brought an impressive show with lasers and fireworks, which added even more dynamism to their music. They exchanged a great deal of good energy with the crowd. Surprisingly, after 7 hours standing up under the sun everyone was ecstatic and ready to continue the party.
The fans were very excited while they waited for Five Finger Death Punch, and as they began to perform, a sense of euphoria filled the air. They played for over one hour full of interactions with their fans and hit like “Jekyll and Hyde”, “Bad Company” (cover), “Coming Down”, and a couple of acoustic songs.
Closing the night, we got Godsmack. It might sound crazy, but after 20 years of career, this was my first time seeing them live and they did not disappoint me. The show began with pyrotechnics and great-sounding drumming by Shannon Larking. Watching them perform “Awake”, “Voodoo” and “I Stand Alone” brought inevitable memories.
As I went to the back of the crowd, I was able to admire the hours of hard work that were put into building the stages and the scenery for the festival. I was certainly looking forward to the next day.
Day 2 – April 29th
We got back to the festival grounds around 2:10pm on Sunday, I was a bit worried that I would miss Avatar’s show, but I realized that there was a schedule change because Killswitch Engage was not in the bill anymore. Red Sun Rising was playing. We are able to catch a bit of their set in the Black stage and then went to the other side to wait for Avatar. As the ushers opened the doors, the king, Jonas Jarlsby, was revealed and the rest of the band took the stage. I had listened to the “Feathers & Flesh” album a couple of years ago and I wasn’t too much into it, but their show instantly got me hooked. Their stage presence and energy were probably the best ones I would see during the whole festival. I wished they had played at night instead; I am sure it would have been 10 times stronger.
Jose Mangin presented the next band. This time it was Sevendust. The anticipation grew and they opened with a new song called “Dirty” followed by “Denial” and “Face to Face”. Lajon Witherspoon, vocalist of the band, talked from the heart and even got emotional as he thanked the fans for supporting the metal scene and keeping them and the other artists relevant in this genre for so many years. Stone Temple Pilots brought a 90’s flashback to a lot of us as the older and younger crowd sang along to classics like “Plush”, “Vasoline”, and “Interstate Love Song”.
Another crowd favorite was up: Store Sour. Corey Taylor rushed on stage sporting a Britney Spears t-shirt that made everyone instantly laugh. The band kicked off their set with “Whiplash Pants”, from their latest studio album “Hydrated”, followed by hits like “Trough Glass” and closing with “Fabuless”. In my opinion, their set packed a punch bringing great choruses, guitar solos, Corey’s signature vocals, and also charisma and a lot of fun. The set was enhanced by pyrotechnics, Corey’s confetti canon, crowd interactions and even one-legged air dancers. It was a lot of fun and a great introduction to the awesome night that awaited us.
Up next, another crowd favorite took the Yellow stage: Breaking Benjamin, coming all the way from Pennsylvania. These guys delivered a great show, and they played a mixture of songs from their almost 20 years of existence with their latest studio record “Ember”, which they are currently promoting on tour. The audience truly enjoyed their performance, but the anticipation was growing as the last rays of light were disappearing on the horizon and we were all waiting for “The Prince of Darkness”, Ozzy Osbourne.
It was about 8:35pm when Jose Mangin introduced him on the Black stage and the giant cross in the background finally lit up. Ozzy greeted us with: “Are you ready to go f***ing crazy? Let the madness begin”, while Zakk Wylde started to play the iconic intro to “Bark to the Moon”. The crowd was euphoric, including myself, for I had seen Black Sabbath before but never Ozzy alone. I even got goosebumps, as it was a dream come true to finally see this legend perform. The set lasted for about an hour, and included all the expected classics such as “Crazy Train”, “No More Tears”, “Mr. Crowley”, and even two Black Sabbath songs: “War Pigs” and the closing number was “Paranoid”. What a great experience! It is certainly a remembrance to keep until the end. As this is Ozzy’s “No More Tours 2”, I emphatically suggest you get up and find where he is playing next!
In conclusion, the festival was a success from my point of view: amazing lineup, great sound, and tangible coordination. Yes, there are things to improve in the food quality and price department, but it’s nothing that cannot be solved. I sincerely look forward to going to Fort Rock 2019.