Rock on the Range returned to MAPFRE stadium in Columbus, Ohio again this May, for its 12th consecutive year. As has become custom for my group of friends and I, we left Buffalo early Thursday morning and headed off to Columbus for our annual weekend trek to the Range. After three consecutive days of delays last year (which had a surprisingly minimal impact on performances), we were all keeping an extra close eye on the weekend forecast. Spoiler Alert: We got some more this year; but once again, the festival raged on!
Picking the “best” day of a three-day festival would be an impossible task, but there is definitely something special about the first day. We headed into the festival grounds just as gates opened in plenty of time to get the lay of the land this year and find out any of the subtle changes from year to year.
When a festival spans three stages, with music usually going on simultaneously from one stage to the next, it can be a bit challenging to pick which artists to cover. Every year, I’m making game-time decisions to try and experience the broadest range of music possible. This year, coverage kicked off with The Fever 333. They brought a super-charged performance that was incredibly authentic, but also unmistakably reminiscent of Rage Against the Machine. There’s a huge buzz for this band right now, check them out the first chance you get! Senses Fail followed, who are out in support of their latest album “If There is Light, It Will Find You.”
My coverage at the Monster Main Stage began with 10 Years, who were quick to work engage the early crowd and get the stadium rocking! They’re currently touring in support of 2017’s “(how to live) AS GHOSTS.” Following 10 Years’ set, I quickly ran over to the Bud Light Stage to catch Power Trip. This was the surprise highlight of the day. With no advanced knowledge of this band, it was pure chance that I ended up at this stage. Power Trip provided an incredibly energetic thrash metal set, reminiscent of the 1980’s early sounds of Megadeth or Slayer.
Greta Van Fleet had some of the biggest hype heading into the weekend. This band has seemingly come out of nowhere, built up a massive fanbase and are now playing on the main stage at the biggest rock festivals of the summer. To cut to the chase, they didn’t disappoint. The moment vocalist Josh Kiszka opened his mouth, the hype was real.
This was the first opportunity I’ve had to check out Atreyu, who have been on the scene since the late 90’s. Their performance didn’t disappointed one bit, providing the crowd with an intense dose of metal-core, including a trip from bassist Porter McKnight into the crowd, performing at the center of a circle pit. Following Atreyu’s set, I quickly rushed back to the main stage to check out Machine Gun Kelly. MGK, an Ohio-native, last performed on a side-stage a few years ago. He made a point of addressing his home-town crowd as he took the stage for an exciting performance of his unique rap-metal hybrid style of music.
Back to the Budweiser Stage, I was finally able to catch up with Ice-T and Body Count. This set was everything I’d hoped it would be. They kicked off their set with a face-melting cover of Slayer’s “Raining Blood,” and the intensity only built from there. While Body Count has been at it since 1990, they’re performance is still as fresh as ever.
Breaking Benjamin have just returned with their latest release, “Ember.” They took the Main Stage for the 2nd time since reforming back in late 2014. Somehow, they’re following is greater now than at the height of their original run in the 2000’s. Their stage performance proves why that is. Ben Burnley is back with something to prove. He took the stage with a ferocity that brought their performance to a whole new level. Following Breaking Benjamin’s set, I ran over to the final performance of the night on the Zippo Encore Stage with Underoath. After reuniting in 2015, Underoath have just released their first album, “Erase Me.” Whether it was the absence or a new-found purpose, Underoath put on another fantastic set.
As is the case every night, the side-stages have closed in time for the headliners to perform on the Monster Energy Mainstage. Friday’s acts included A Perfect Circle and Alice in Chains. Up first was A Perfect Circle, who just released their latest album “Eat the Elephant.” Maynard James Keenan took the stage in a blue suit and remained fairly stationary as they worked through a selection of songs including “3 Libras,” “The Outsider” and “The Doomed.”
Alice in Chains closed out the evening with a set full of hits, including their newest single “The One You Know,” from what we can only assume is a forthcoming album release. Every time I see Alice in Chains, I’m reminded all over again at how incredible the band is. While the void Layne Staley’s death in 2002 leaves is unmistakable, modern vocalist William DuVall does an outstanding job. Alice in Chains is currently out on tour. If you haven’t caught this lineup, definitely go check them out!