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Sonic Temple 2023: Day Three Recap

Heaviest day of Sonic Temple closes out with KISS last ever performance in Ohio.

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Day Three of Sonic Temple gave festival-goers a million and one reasons to smile throughout Ohio’s temperate Saturday afternoon. Afternoon cloud cover offered a brief respite from the unforgiving sun, and the temperature hovered around a comfortable 75°. Idle chat among friends and strangers agreed that there could be no better weekend for Sonic Temple to have made its long-awaited return.

After two full days of heavy music and its related festivities there was little opportunity for downtime. Even as the festival neared its halfway point there were new attendees arriving, campers who had become inseparable friends, and countless new food and beverage vendors to try. This ceaseless energy was elevated by the official Sonic Temple MC, Jose Mangin, as he repeatedly stoked the crowd to screaming while he introduced bands across all three stages. Mangin, of Sirius XM Octane and Liquid Metal fame, arrived at Sonic Temple with his signature million-dollar smile and familiar radio-ready voice in tow. His infectious enthusiasm, expertise, and pure passion for all musicians in attendance made him a perfect choice for the otherwise demanding role. Many of the bands featured at Sonic Temple are also Octane and Liquid Metal house bands, which made for a particularly poignant connection between the MC and the artists as they finally appeared before the crowd. Mangin will take up the microphone again at Inkcarceration this coming July (an event that is not to be missed).

Sonic Temple 2023: Day Three Recap

As the Saturday crowd filtered through the gates of the Historic Crew Stadium, The Violent and Giovannie & The Hired Guns kicked things off on the main stage. Giovannie & The Hired Guns may have been billed as a rock and roll country band, but their set was heavy and electrifying in equal measure. Of all the instruments to make an appearance at Sonic Temple, the live performance on a massive tuba was one to remember, particularly for a rock-oriented crowd. Front-man Giovannie Yanez demonstrated absolutely excellent vocal control, while the big screens caught every energetic cross-stage movement from The Violent’s ever-restless Mike Protich.

The first band on the Soundwave Stage was Over the Moon. The Staten Island emo and alternative rock group were special guests at Sonic Temple, as Over the Moon was the band who had battled through the ranks in a nationwide contest for the exclusive honor to playing Sonic Temple. The up-and-comers prevailed and seized the coveted spot over thousands of other contestants. These bright and enthusiastic musicians had their name added to the Day Three billing, and shared the Soundwave Stage with the likes of Mothica, Yelawolf, and many others. Day Three required contention with the rabid mass of attendees, but rather than facing thousands of competitors, they were greeted with thousands of people chanting their name.

“We are very glad to be here,” guitarist Lou Adipietro told Metal Injection. Adipietro continued, saying “[it was] an amazing experience playing a festival, especially in the early stages as a band – everyone has been so nice, it's just incredible.” Founder and vocalist Nick Mahoney spoke to the chaos and anticipation of playing a stage as big as Sonic Temple, saying “preparation pays off – we prepared like nutjobs.” As for the most exciting part of the festival, Mahoney says it has “the fan response. We were taking pictures and signing autographs for over an hour [today].” Over the Moon hopes that Sonic Temple is just the beginning: in less than two weeks the band starts its next tour as a supporting act for Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.

Sonic Temple 2023: Day Three Recap

Rival Sons illuminated the Temple Stage with their delectable hard-rock swagger. This is a band that walks the walk and talks the talk when it comes to being rockstars, from Jay Buchanan’s maroon three-piece suit to Scott Holiday’s curled mustache shaded by a broad-brimmed hat, and with every song they breathed life into the air. The set was upbeat, the kind of music that makes it impossible to sit still, and bodies swayed while feet tapped all the way up in the highest reaches of the stands. There is little more blissful than to close one’s eyes, soak in the sun, and let the joy of Rival Sons seep deep into every chamber of the heart. It was a homecoming for existing fans and a warm welcome for new fans alike.

Sonic Temple 2023: Day Three Recap

For those audience members who were pining for something heavier, both Atilla and From Ashes to New were available to scratch that itch. Attila satisfied the need for unforgiving breakdowns while From Ashes to New wowed with their fiery dual-vocalist approach. From Ashes to New has often been likened to Linkin Park, and as they dominated the Octane Stage, there was that same spark in the air as the one that always accompanied one of nu metal’s most heralded acts. The crowd grew ever larger as a blend of harsh and clean vocals from Danny Case and rap vocals from founding member Matt Brandyberry filled the early evening air. Screaming, moshing, cheering, and clapping mixed with the electrifying setlist for a pure expression of emotion in music. It was a set as nostalgic as it was fresh.

From Ashes to New drummer Mat Madiro also had a short stint with one of Day Three’s other heavy names: Trivium. And as always, Trivium’s enigmatic frontman Matt Heafy was a show stopping act in and of himself. There are few musicians so talented as to wield guitar and vocal duties with such apparent ease, and even fewer still that remain as mobile and engaged as Heafy does. Rarely chained to the microphone, and even more rarely looking down at his instrument, Heafy gazed out at the crowd and smiled as he sang. Trivium’s latest two albums, “What the Dead Men Say” and “In The Court of the Dragon,” both focus more on clean vocals than some of Trivium’s mid-career work. To hear Heafy’s ever-talented vocal evolution on such an impressive sound setup was a treat to be indulged in. Over the course of forty-five minutes, Trivium left little doubt as to why they have dominated the scene for the better part of two decades, and assured that they were far from done with crafting their legacy.

Sonic Temple 2023: Day Three Recap

As the festival wore on into its third day, there was more evidence than ever that DWP and Historic Crew Stadium were well-prepared for a festival of this size and intensity, another testament to the ongoing excellence of one of the world’s premiere heavy music promoters. An abundance of security staff expertly caught waves of crowdsurfers during Falling in Reverse, carefully watched the pit throughout Varials set, and kept the crowd cool during the warmest afternoon yet. The medical personnel attended to the weary masses and all number of ailments with red medical bags labeled with “ouch pouch” patches. There were also staff dedicated solely to helping lost individuals find their way, often found carrying helpful “Ask Me – I Know Things" signs and flags. For families and first-time festivalgoers, there was little more that could have been done to make Sonic Temple a pleasant experience.

Sonic Temple 2023: Day Three Recap

What would a festival be without the wacky, the weird, and the wonderful? While this could easily apply to the inflatable dinosaurs in the mosh pits, crowdsurfers in unitards, or kilt-clad men offering free hugs, the acts that most embodied this principle on Saturday were Rob Zombie and Puscifer. The now-iconic song “Dragula” made its appearance at the end of Rob Zombie’s main-stage set, but only after he spent the better part of a minute cajoling an audience member to “share his inflatable penis with the crowd,” and another five minutes discussing UFOs and abduction experiences. At nearly sixty years old, Rob Zombie continues to find new and inventive ways to impress the crowd with entertainment that extends well beyond physical feats, and with banter that often draws chuckles and cheers from the gathered crowd.

Day Three also featured Maynard Keenan’s second appearance at Sonic Temple, this time with Puscifer on the Octane Stage. As fans of Keenan’s different projects know, he becomes an entirely different person when shifting between his creative endeavors, and the transition from Tool to Puscifer was no exception. The theatrics and stage persona were at a similar level of intensity, but Puscifer is the experimental outlet that allowed Keenan to tell a winding story beneath the weight of a suit and slicked-back hair. Entrancing visuals, a narrative performance, and attentiveness to every small gesture made the journey across the “Existential Reckoning” track-list all the more thrilling. As with everything Keenan touches, the attention to detail was immaculate.

Sonic Temple 2023: Day Three Recap

For the most engaged crowd of the day, the trophy must fall to the long-lasting king of alternative metal, Ronnie Radke of Falling in Reverse. The set-list was a brilliant mix of Falling In Reverse classics and new material. New material even included the breakneck demands of “Watch the World Burn,” Radke’s latest rap-forward, speed-induced endeavor. There were also throwback tracks that caused the audience to scream along, including the infectious “Raised by Wolves” and the number-one hit “The Drug in Me is You.” A special shoutout is owed to Leah G. and James B., who got engaged just behind the stage-left mosh pit during the first “The Drug in Me is You” chorus. While James and Leah were occupied with gazing into one another’s eyes, Radke moved on to conclude the setlist with “Popular Monster,” pacing the stage much like a werewolf as he did so. There was little doubt this heavily-tattooed rockstar brought his A-Game to Sonic Temple and its main stage.

As night fell, Sonic Temple attendees began to line up at the food trucks and other vendors, and traffic increased around the nonprofit partners simultaneously. While the Day Two recap highlighted longtime DWP nonprofit partner To Write Love on Her Arms, that was far from the only charitable cause present at the festival. Take Me Home, a rock and metal themed animal rescue charity, was also fundraising for its nationwide nonprofit work. The fundraising efforts at Sonic Temple included both signed band merchandise and apparel sales. A main attraction included signed guitars from bands including Nine Inch Nails, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Kiss. The donations from the event will further Take Me Home’s low- to no-cost spay/neuter clinics, rural veterinary access, and treatment of abused and neglected animals. Aside from showing up at DWP events, Take Me Home has a webstore with much of the same merchandise available for online purchase.

Sonic Temple 2023: Day Three Recap

Theatrics were the name of the game for Day Three, and Sweden’s Avatar arrived with a show that danced the line between a metal show and a manic circus. Although the theatrical performance and intense full-stage setup mirrored the festival’s headliners, there was no doubt that Avatar were some of the few oddballs in the Sonic Temple lineup. Oddballs though they may have been, they were received with open arms, and the sweat-soaked rag-tag misfits gathered in front of the evening’s Octane Stage were eager to shout along with the classic Avatar hit “Smells Like A Freakshow.” Other songs from the set include fan-favorites from their recently released album, including the ballad-driven “The Dirt I’m Buried In” and the mosh-inducing “Chimp Mosh Pit.” Johannes Eckerström smiledhis way through the evening as he used an expert hand to pull the crowd through emotional highs and lows. From exquisite costuming, to perfectly choreographed performances, to tantalizing banter, Avatar is truly the full-package metal festival performance. 

Of course, Avatar weren’t the only group to sport face paint on Day Three, and neither were the fans with black stars dotting their eyes. The headliners for Day Three are nothing short of international icons, artists who have stood the test of time and will forever go down in history as one of rock’s most accomplished bands. They are also taking to the stage for the last time this year in a final farewell tour.

Kiss were lowered from the heights of the Temple Stage at ten o’clock in the evening. They descended from the heavens on studded platforms amidst a sea of canons, fireworks, and fireballs. Studded in stardom and their usual costuming, these metallic mainstays dominated the stage with personas that have long stood the test of time, and with instruments that glittered beneath otherwise blinding lights. If one didn’t know that most men on stage were in their seventies, there would have been no chance to guess at the age of these seasoned performers. Kiss dominated every second they were on stage, from the opening hymn of “Detroit Rock City,” all the way through the encore’s closing hit “Rock and Roll All Nite.” Every moment of the show was expertly orchestrated, from the bright white fireworks to the warm yellow flames, from every line of the iconic face-paint to the bedazzled guitars. This was a show that proved an art could be distilled to a carefully calculated science. And for all of its almost unnatural precision, its joy was unparalleled, and there was a tangible sense of significance as these iconic rockers began their worldwide farewell.

Sonic Temple 2023: Day Three Recap

Sonic Temple did indeed rock and roll all nite into well after the lights went down. But the party would have to extend into the next day of every day, as Day Four – Sunday – still awaited the insatiable masses. So with the promise of excellence to come, and with the taste of Kiss still on their tongues, tens of thousands of attendees filtered out of Historic Crew Stadium and into the star-filled night.

Special thanks to Samantha Buckman for her writing contributions to this article.

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