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Sonic Temple 2023: Day Two Recap

Avenged Sevenfold headlines a varied, and hard rock infused second day


The word of the day is “sunburn.”

There wasn’t so much as a cloud in the sky as the doors opened for Day Two of Sonic Temple 2023. It was supposed to be a few degrees warmer than Day One, and the official festival app sent out a notification two hours before the festival opened – it reminded all concertgoers to wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water as they headed into the festival’s second day. While Sonic Temple may have mild weather compared to the torturous heat of Welcome to Rockville, which had been held the weekend prior in Daytona Beach, there was little reprieve to be found beneath Columbus’ punishing sun. The individuals filtering through the gates arrived in all hues of pink and red, a testament to the prior day’s outdoor festivities.

If there was a day to kick back and take it easy at Sonic Temple, it would have been Friday, May 26. The Day Two lineup boasted numerous rock acts that traversed soundscapes from mellow blues to electrifying hard rock, with talents that spanned from Black Stone Cherry to Chevelle, and many more iconic names from the scene. There was still ample opportunity for metallic fare, of course, including acts such as Born of Osiris and unforgiving metalcore band Knocked Loose. There was no better excuse to crack open a beer – ice cold beer, as the crowd-dwelling vendors frequently reminded – and watch these tremendous rock acts deliver their finest on all three Sonic Temple stages.

The best part of a rock festival is listening to bright melodies, nodding to upbeat rhythms, and seeing the unabashed souls of dedicated musicians giving their all. There is no greater paragon of this principle than Des Rocs, who opened the main stage with the same energy and zeal as a headliner. This is the kind of music that is meant to be played live in an arena, and vocalist/guitarist Daniel Rocco is the kind of person who is meant to do it. Rocco had a voice that called on the bluesy, hard-rock legends of yore, all but out of place with his youthful face. Heavier undertones brought the crowd to instinctually nod their heads and tap their feet in time with the music. To further appeal to the masses, Des Rocs performed multiple covers, including the audience-rousing cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run.” The engagement with the masses in attendance was bar none, and Des Rocs proved themselves naturals in the high demands of a stadium-rock environment. This is definitely an act worth watching as they climb their way higher in festival billings.

Sonic Temple 2023: Day Two Recap

Following in the wake of this tenacious hard rock spirit was the well-beloved Black Stone Cherry, who also took to the Temple Stage. Their delectable, easy-listening music was brought to life on the massive stage, and it bathed the audience in the lightning and thunder of pure rock. Guitarist Ben Wells was absolutely magnetic, his hair flying in every direction as he played, and his feet hardly touched the ground as he jumped and spun in every which way. This is the kind of music that effortlessly fills a crowded stadium, and with a stage presence that is so charismatic and engaging, Black Stone Cherry easily won over the crowd. Hook-laden southern rock with a serious punch, a vocalist who effortless charms with a soft smile, and absolute artistic commitment: this is Black Stone Cherry’s recipe for success. 

Sonic Temple 2023: Day Two Recap

Some of the heavier fare of the day kicked off with Fame on Fire. These heavy rockers have a reputation for their attentiveness and care paid to the audience, and that reputation was proven true when vocalist Bryan Kuznitz stopped the set for someone who had fallen unconscious in the mosh pit, refusing to resume until medical aid was rendered. The kindness was repaid by the opportunity to restart the song, a decision which was met by raucous applause. Heavy music continued in good company alongside subsequent act Born of Osiris, who tore up the asphalt beneath the Octane Stage with impassioned metalcore excellence. Although each musician proved their endurance throughout the high-paced set, drummer Cameron Losch was absolutely relentless. The punishing speed matched the energy of non-stop mosh pits, fiery riffs split the humid air, and thousands of voices screamed along to the band’s live rendition of fan-favorite track “Machine.

Sonic Temple 2023: Day Two Recap

Knocked Loose followed this trend of earth-shattering metallic madness with the heaviest set of the day. The asphalt parking lot eagerly claimed its victims, with scraped knees galore as “Belleville” and “Counting Worms” stirred up raging mosh pits. The Octane Stage has consistently demonstrated the most powerful bass of the entire show, and Knocked Loose caused this sonic wall of sound to reach almost insurmountable heights, the blast beats and static rattling concertgoer’s bones. While they may be known for their venue-splitting aggression, Knocked Loose is much more than just raw intensity. This band has a way of drawing out profound emotions from their audience, and their Sonic Temple set spoke to  hearts full of fear, anxiety, anger, and sadness. The nonstop barrage of music was nothing short of a religious experience for all in attendance.

Sonic Temple 2023: Day Two Recap

Set changes and sprawling festival grounds left ample time to explore the booths of many different vendors between artists. Merchandise included everything from apparel, to jewelry, art, and countless beverages. But between the traditional vendors, Sonic Temple also boasts partnerships with numerous nonprofits, including the internationally-reaching To Write Love On Her Arms (“TWLOHA”).

Metal Injection had the pleasure to speak with Chad Moses, TWLOHAs Director of Outreach. TWLOHA has partnered with DWP for almost a decade, attending countless events in that time, and Moses discussed his love for attending festivals like Sonic Temple. “It’s like a family reunion,” Moses said. Festivals are “a beautiful point of connection,” and regular attendance allows Moses to “see stories progress” as festivalgoers take positive strides in their mental health across months and years.

TWLOHA serves as a “bridge, not a destination” for mental health journeys, and it does so by presenting messages of hope and connecting individuals to resources they need. At Sonic Temple, TWLOHA is raising funds for treatment and recovery through clothing sales. Moses commented on the hopeful messages on TWLOHA apparel: “[at festivals] there are so many shirts that express a lack of hope,” Moses said. By offering apparel with statements contrary to the typical rock and metal fare, TWLOHA intends to send a message that “whatever burdens you doesn’t define you – hope is a part of the equation.”

Rays of hope could also be found in Chevelle’s rousing set. While they may hold a persistent reputation as a mellow radio-rock act, their live performance was wholly invigorating. Pete Loeffler’s screams echoed out from the Historic Crew Stadium with the fury of any heavy metal act. The guitar melodies flew from Loeffler’s fingers with expert precision, and the high-quality sound ensured that every note was captured in exquisite definition. Classic tracks such as “The Red” and “Face to the Floor” invoked a chorus of voices to rise alongside Loeffler’s own. Despite long-lasting fame and a live show that could tear down the sky, Chevelle managed to make their performance feel deeply personal and intimate in the way only experts at their craft can.

Sonic Temple 2023: Day Two Recap

Another class act from Day Two was Dorothy. Titular vocalist Dorothy Martin is the main draw here, and her role is to take up the stage as a top-tier performer. She is a magnetic center of attention, and all eyes were glued to the stage as she leaned down towards the masses at the barricade. No matter where Dorothy walked, fervent cheers followed, and her smile was just as bright as the sun overhead. This forty-five minutes of bliss felt like a breath of fresh air amidst a heavily loaded Day Two lineup.

Sonic Temple 2023: Day Two Recap

I Prevail invigorated the air of early dusk as they took over the Octane Stage. With their recent hit album “True Power” still riding high on success, there was no opportunity for this burgeoning metal act to disappoint. The audience was dotted with bright blue tie-dye shirts adorned with the band's name, horns were raised to the sky, and I Prevail put on a display of nothing less than true power. The two smash hits “Body Bag” and “Self-Destruct” were played back-to-back, and vocalist Eric Vanlerberghe had the crowd like putty in his hands. Although I Prevail has two vocalists, both Vanlerberghe and Brian Burkheiser, neither enjoyed a single moment of downtime. Rather than wait idly for their next line, Vanlerberghe and Burkheiser darted back and forth across the stage as the other sang, and from atop the amps they called for the audience to rock out even harder. It felt impossible for the energy in the venue to grow any stronger, but the audience lost control as the band covered the opening of System of a Down’s “Chop Suey.”

Sonic Temple 2023: Day Two Recap

As impressive as all earlier acts may have been, the real showstoppers were the Day Two headliners, Avenged Sevenfold. After almost five years off from live performances, Avenged Sevenfold made their second significant reappearance at Welcome to Rockville just six days prior to Sonic Temple. And while other bands may have struggled to get back in the swing of things after such a long hiatus, Avenged Sevenfold were immediately back at the top of their game. Age has done nothing but wonders for M. Shadows, Synyster Gates, and Zacky Vengeance. Sheer skill in musicianship shone beneath bright lights while the band pulled work from all corners of their discography. Their personable demeanors were further illuminated when the band brought a fan’s graduation cap on stage and signed it, leaving lasting memories for not just the person who had skipped their high school graduation to attend Sonic Temple, but for all in attendance.

It wouldn’t be an Avenged Sevenfold show without any songs from their magnum opus, “Nightmare.” Although the record is more than ten years old, no shortage of love came from the audience for each of these timeless tracks, particularly “Buried Alive” and the album’s title track, “Nightmare.” There was pure magic to be had as a packed stadium floor and overflowing stands sang together in perfect sync, their words reaching high into a star-studded sky as planes came in for landing low overhead, and the heavens seemed well within reach. Not just within reach – Avenged Sevenfold granted ninety minutes of heaven on earth. Whether they were playing new songs of old, Avenged Sevenfold had all of Historic Crew Stadium in the palm of their hand, and left tens of thousands dizzy with elation.

Sonic Temple 2023: Day Two Recap

From pleasant southern rock to punishing metalcore brutality, Day Two of Sonic Temple had something for everyone to enjoy. With two days left in the four-day festival weekend, and with countless sunburnt shoulders and cheeks that ached from smiling, there was the certain promise of even more excellence to come.

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

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