Out Of The Blue
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More than 100,000 fans showed up to MAPFRE stadium during the weekend in attendance of the
10th Annual Rock on the Range (ROTR). Everything definitely felt appropriate for a festival with the name
“Rock on the Range,” and I mean this in a good way. People showed up flying the shirts of their favorite
bands, sweat was pouring, crowd surfing and moshing was ubiquitous, and there was a faint, skunky smell
in the air that appeared to be coming from hand-rolled cigarettes. There was even a guy dressed as Jesus.
Regrettably, I could not be there Friday which means I missed such killer acts as Megadeth and Trivium
(I’m sure they were great), but Saturday and Sunday were a treat.

Saturday was first and foremost a day for hard rock and heavy metal fans. With such Main Stage acts as
Rob Zombie and Hellyeah, there was little doubt that the loudness would be at a ten all day and night.
The day was more than satisfactory and offered a wide variety, even if there was spitting rain for a good
deal of it. Stage Two act, Issues, brought a heavily syncopated funk-metal style that was reminiscent of
early Incubus. Pop Evil switched up hard rock with songs that could only be described as vaguely country.

The only real dark blot of Saturday was Steel Panther. Musically they were fine, but the band was not at all
entertaining. I understand they are supposed to be a humorous representation of 80’s glam metal, but the
jokes either did not hit or were outright offensive. There was a strange transgender bathroom joke about
how the bass player should use the women’s restroom, presumably because he wore a lot of pink.
Also, they pressured women to take their tops off in a non-jokey and borderline-misogynistic way that
clearly made some people in the crowd uncomfortable; they even played the last twenty seconds of a
song twice to make a woman remove her shirt at the very end of the song, which seriously blurs the line
between mimicking David Lee Roth wanting to actually see boobs. One of the members later said that he
made sure all the women were eighteen or older, but then another chimed in to say the age of consent in
Ohio is actually sixteen… and I guess I was supposed to laugh at that. Overall, Steel Panther went for a
caricature of Def Leppard and ended coming off as disrespectful to the diverse crowd, despite the band’s
intentionally crude sarcastic 80’s glam rock/rock star approach.

As great as a headliner as Rob Zombie was the day truly belonged to Ghost, with Lamb of God getting an
honorable mention. Ghost—often stylized with the “t” shown as an inverted cross—has loads of accessible
but artistically valuable metal music, meaning the show was bound to be heavy but fun.
Almost as enjoyable as the music was watching those who likely only came because they heard
Ghost won a Grammy listen in confusion. “Wait,” they’re thinking. “This is supposed to be satanic metal,
but sounds nothing like Gorgoroth or Behemoth.” “These guys don’t play
real metal.” Right, and I suppose
real bands like Metallica and Black Sabbath had no ambitions of being popular either. The world
needs more metal bands like Ghost who show being tuneful does not necessitate a loss in authenticity.
I could go on, but all you need to know is that Ghost is worth listening to if you like metal that isn’t worried
about breakneck speeds or mind-boggling time signatures.

Sunday had less of an emphasis on metal and the non-metal bands chosen were spectacular. One of the
greatest of these bands was Death from Above 1979 (DFA1979). ROTR gave me my first experience
of this bass and drum duo and the set was terrific throughout. Obviously I’m behind the times here,
considering DFA1979 was a mainstage act and their first full length arrived in 2005; frankly, I’m a little
embarrassed. Regardless, I’m glad I know about these guys now. Their music kicks ass in a way that
I have not quite heard before. With only two, sometimes three instruments (there is the rare synthesizer),
DFA1979 are brutal but danceable, unsubtle but sensual, and rock stupidly hard.  Bassist Jesse Keeler’s
instrument sounds like the demonic counterpart to the bass in LCD Soundsystem’s “Daft Punk is Playing
at My House.” DFA1979 filled the stadium with sound as well as any other band of the weekend.
Listening to this band more often will be a pleasure.  

It would be heinous to do an overview of ROTR if I didn’t mention At the Drive-In (ATDI). The importance
of this band cannot be overstated, partly because almost everything on modern rock radio throughout the
early 2000s owed something to these guys. Even if this band has been reunited for a few years, I’m still
giddy that one of modern rock’s greatest forbearers is still performing. Omar and Co. manage to throw
so many styles together such as emo, math rock, and hardcore without feeling like an expo of genres and
this is due to the intense emotion that comes first. ATDI’s diversity becomes something that can be
appreciated later. Hearing the entire audience scream along to the chorus of “One Armed Scissor” was
far and away my favorite moment of the night. Listening to them now feels inadequate compared to what
I heard Sunday, and why they did not perform at the main stage is beyond me.

There are other bands on Sunday that deserve mention: Wild Throne, The Sword, Anti-Flag, the
exceptional Deftones, and of course, Red Hot Chili Peppers (RHCP). I won’t lie, if you own a greatest hits
playlist for RHCP already then their performance will not do anything new for you, but the band seemed
to be genuinely having fun which might be better. Chad Smith had the Michigan University logo on his bass
drum in a clear attempt to rile up some of the attendants. In between songs, Flea, Chad Smith, and Josh
Klinghoffer would jam for up to five minutes while Anthony Kiedis ran around the stage. The performances
of the songs themselves were good, but what was most appealing about RHCP was their devil-may-care
attitude. Playing packed stadiums is nothing new for RHCP and watching them give the audience what
they want while being aware they could literally do anything with no effect to their career was fun. A couple
of times there was an obvious mistake, but the band powered through without anyone, least of all the band
themselves, caring. Sure, it was a slightly arrogant move, but remember we’re talking about a contestant
for most popular living band in the world.

All in all, ROTR was excellent. The experience has everything to do with the bands that are booked and
the organizers clearly knew that. Would I go again? Probably. Would I go again if I knew I would have as
good a time as I did this year? Absolutely.

Rock On The Range is produced by Danny Wimmer Presents, AEG Live, and MAPFRE Stadium.

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Rock On The Range 10th Anniversary successful
May 20, 21, 22 : Mapfre Stadium : Columbus, Ohio
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