Sonic Temple Festival Brings the Heat to Columbus!

This May, Sonic Temple returned to Columbus, Ohio for it's third and biggest outing to date. For the first time, the festival featured four stages and the biggest layout yet.

As with any festival, band preferences are always extremely subjective. So, when I proclaim that this year's lineup was insanely good, constantly left me both fulfilled and wanting more, know that mileage may vary by customer. That said, there were some extremely familiar acts on the bill that I was excited to see again as well as bands that I haven't seen and/or haven't seen in a very long time. This mix provided such a fun environment for a long weekend of great times with my friends.

The first question anyone always asks is: "How do you do a four-day festival?" or "Isn't four days a bit much?" That's a tough one to answer. The truth is, I live for this stuff! I honestly look forward to this trip every single year, both for the daily lineups of hard rock/metal music, but also the fun that I'm having with my friends. I can honestly say that we've really figured out the secret sauce for this. I'm having an easier time managing four days at 44 years sold than I did three days 33 years old when we started coming (to Rock on the Range) back in 2014.

One major change that's happened over the last few years is the increased level of safety and awareness that seems to be present at the festival. The app has push notifications that constantly remind festivalgoers to stay hydrated etc. Also, there's a great process by which young music fans can locate their parents/guardians that was outlined well within the app. These may seem like small enhancements, but it's fairly common knowledge now that not every festival treats these things the same.

The Original Misfits put on an incredible performance to close out the 2nd night of Sonic Temple 2024

The last few years, we've rented an AirBNB for about six of us, showed up Wednesday afternoon and tried to make a point of exploring the city a bit every night, but really enjoying the scene that first day before the festival begins. There are tons of great restaurants and bars in Columbus!

As for the show, we pull in around 10-10:30am every morning in a familiar spot, set up a tent and just relax for a few hours while we meet up with other friends that travel to the festival. Eventually, we'll fire up the grill for burgers, sausages or whatever the days lunch happens to be.

Anthrax's original bassist, Dan Lilker, joined the band for a few dates this spring

Let's get to the festival itself though. There were a ton of changes this year, once again due to the continued development of the stadium itself. This has necessitated the need for the layout to be flexible. Somehow, the folks at DWP have managed to roll with the punches and provide the best version of this festival to date!

What's 'stayed the same is that the main stage is still within the stadium. You'll still need a "Field GA" ticket to access the floor of the stadium and I'd argue it's worth every penny. On the other hand, maybe you take those main stage acts as an opportunity to grab a seat and relax. In that case, you can get away with a "Stadium GA" pass.

What's different is pretty much everything else. The location that was always the home of the "2nd stage" is now the location of what I'll refer to as stages 3 and 4 (smaller than the main stages). Make no mistake, however, very often these stages showcased bands that rivaled the current main stage performer. I hated choosing between Machine Head and Disturbed (so I chose Machine Head and then headed to the main stage for Disturbed on night 1).

Sum 41 commands the stage as they're touring what is billed as their final tour!

The farther stage is now really considered stage #2 and at times really a second headliner stage. The crowds out there were impressive all weekend including mobs of attendees for Sleep Token, Judas Priest, Kerry King, Sum 41, Rise Against and several others. Additionally, they've built something of a midway out there, in what was the parking lot last year. This area now hosts tons of food and drink vendors as well as the lockers.

With all the exciting growth and enhancements to the festival, there were unquestionably a few things missing this year. Back in the early festival days, FYE had a huge presence with a large tent featuring music for sale (CD's and vinyl) where fans could reference a schedule to see which band would be signing their respective albums. This transitioned into a much smaller store run by Revolver over the last few years, but even that was missing now. There was actual nowhere on site to buy music, nor was there anyplace to meet bands (with a one-day exception of the Dixxon flannel booth, that had a few bands sign).

There also used to be a really cool feature that Zippo used to sponsor, where fans could buy a lighter and get a free ticket to a mystery band's acoustic performance. I caught Stone Sour in one of these performances a few years ago.

Change is inevitable, but those were a few of the features of the former festival I'd really like to see brought back!

As for the rest of the music, I'll hit a few of my own personal highlights:

  • Anthrax - As a Western, New York native, I was beyond thrilled to hear that original bassist Dan Lilker would be joining the band for a few dates. I'm a huge Anthrax fan, but I also know that Dan can always be found at a local record store manning the vinyl department. It was awesome to see him take the main stage with the band!
  • Pantera - I've been fortunate to see them three times now, since they began playing again. Of course it's not the same without Vinnie and Dime, but Charlie and Zakk play with respect and Phil and Rex are at the top of their game. I'll never miss a local Pantera show if I can help it! Seeing them perform "Floods" was a dream come true!
  • The Original Misfits - Admittedly, my expectations were tempered for this. I had no idea what to expect. I was completely blown away by their performance and hope to see them again someday! How did it take this long for them to get back together?
  • Machine Head - I've seen these guys several times before, but they always put on a great show. They've been away from the festival circuit for ages, so it was great to see them performing in front of fans who weren't necessarily die-hards.
  • Sum 41 - How is this band hanging it up after this year? Their new release 'Heaven :X: Hell' is fantastic and the pop-punk genre is back on the upswing. I can't imagine this is the end, but if it is, I'll check them out every opportunity I get as well!
  • Judas Priest - It simply cannot be overstated how incredible this band is after 50 years. The new life that guitarist Ritchie Faulkner has brought to this band is so evident, coupled with the powerhouse vocals of Rob Halford, these guys are an absolute must see!
  • Kerry King - If you loved Slayer, you'll love Kerry's new band. He retains drummer Paul Bostaph, but adds Phil Demmel, as well as Death Angel vocalist Mark Osegueda for a familiar yet fresh punch.
  • Limp Bizkit - I haven't seen these guys since the Summer Sanitarium Tour back in 2003 (including a date at Ohio Stadium here in Columbus). Simply put, these guys are every bit as good as they were back in their prime. Fred Durst still commands a crowd like only he can and I'm so glad I caught these guys!

There were plenty of other massive performances throughout the weekend, but these were the ones I was most looking forward to and/or impressed me the most.

As is the case with every prior trip to Columbus, the festival was amazing. We all left tired but fulfilled. There is no better opportunity to see bands you love and discover bands that you're soon to love. With all of the growth Sonic Temple has undergone over the last few years, I'd imagine what we saw this year is likely getting close to the go-forward version of this festival.

No matter what it looks like, I'm already planning on heading out there again next spring!