Reviewing Rockfest 2017 Entirely By Lineup and Nothing Else

I don’t LIKE being an angry-ass curmudgeon.  If I could change even the most trivial annoyance into something awesome, I’d do it.  I’m not one of those guys who complains because I like the sound of my own voice, or because it’ll get me more readers if I’m a negative fucking Nancy.

That being said, Kansas gives me a lot to complain about.  Whether it be something huge like the fact the governor is an idiot who has inflicted Reaganomics onto us all and left the state with a potential billion dollar debt to pay off by the end of the decade, or something trivial like the only rock station that played anything past 1991 suddenly establishing a cutoff date around 2005 or so and refusing to play anything from this fucking year, it seems like this state lives to infuriate me.

And speaking of local radio, it’s that time of the year here in KC.  That wonderful time where we spend the next three to four months hyping up a day-long concert.  A concert that…  Honestly, I’m surprised we’re having.

98.9 The Rock has not been itself lately.  The Annual Freaker’s Ball and Twisted Christmas events (the latter devolving into a cheap excuse to invite Steel Panther over to KC on a yearly basis, but I’m not complaining) didn’t happen this year.  Up until this month, every single concert they’ve been advertising has been some 70s throwback like The Led Zeppolin Experience, or The Pink Floyd experience, or The Red Hot Chili Peppers coming to town.  Shit, the only reason you ever hear about a modern band like Ghost coming to town is because they’re opening for Iron Maiden or something.  All of this only serves to perpetuate the timewarp this state is stuck in.  Forcefeed the audience the belief that rock died in the 1990s, and Kurt Cobane killed himself so he couldn’t be tried for murdering it.  Isn’t that right, KQRC?  You assholes who have officially programmed me to cringe in disgust and annoyance every fucking time AC/DC comes on the air anymore.

Okay, I’m calming down.  Seriously, it’s hilarious to think that about this time two years ago, I was complaining about Five Finger Death Punch getting played into the ground.  You know what I’d give for that playlist to make a comeback?

The point I was getting at is that considering this dramatic shift in format, and cancelation of what I’ve considered 98.9 traditions, I’m legitimately surprised we’re even HAVING Rockfest in the first place.  True, it’s at the KC Speedway instead of Liberty Memorial this year…  Which only furthers my belief not enough people came to last year’s Rockfest, and the station might be hemourhaging money, but that’s honestly just theory at this point.

Still, I had a feeling this year’s Rockfest was going to suck.  Considering the most recent band they’ve been promoting is either The Red Hot Chili Peppers, or Iron Maiden, I had a feeling there either wasn’t going to be a Rockfest, or Rockfest was going to become another nostalgia circuit show like Rocklahoma or something.  They released the lineup earlier in the month, and…  Honestly, my thoughts are mixed.

And so, for your enjoyment and my desire to purge the chattering voices in my head, here’s my thoughts of Rockfest based entirely on the lineup.  Because honestly, relocating to a smaller venue is easy to forgive if the bands can hold my attention.

Opening up this year’s Rockfest on the second stage is a band by the name of One Less Reason.  I’ve never heard of them, and I doubt most people have.  This has little to do with the previously mentioned cutoff date hampering the exposure of new music in KC, and more to do with the fact the opening act on the second stage is almost always a newbie that no one’s ever heard of.  Barring that, they’re an indie band that nobody who doesn’t go to that one bar has ever heard.  So yeah.

I listened to One Less Reason on Spotify, and honestly, they’re…  Okay.  They’re not horrible, but they didn’t necessarily light my world on fire either.  If anything, they sound a little overdramatic.  Seriously, check out the music video for “Break Me”.  I appreciate they decided to give us more than just a video of the band playing, but holy hell.  I seriously thought the first thirty seconds or so was a YouTube ad I couldn’t skip.

Up next is Sidewise.  They’ve been here before, and I liked them well enough.  So far, I’m thinking of showing up late enough to maybe skip One Less Reason, and catch these guys.

Up next, we have Candlebox.  AKA, those dudes who wrote “Far Behind”.  And literally nothing else.  I don’t know if they’re legitimately a two-hit-wonder, or if that’s just 98.9 humoring all three of Candlebox’s fans by occasionally playing this one song, and going right back into spanking my eardrums with “Back in Black” for the infinity-billionth time.  Kind of an odd choice.  Even if they’re a one or two-hit-wonder everywhere else in the world, it’s a good enough hit to hold my interest.  Doing good so far, 98.9

Next up is Crobat.  I…  Have no idea who these guys are.  I think they were at a Rockfest or two before this one, but I couldn’t tell you anything about them.  And I probably even watched them on stage the year they were there and everything.  Oh well, I could use the refresher.  Worst case scenario, the main stage is usually starting up by now, and if I end up hating them, I don’t have to stick around for them.

After them, we have Blackberry Smoke: that super obscure underground band that’s all over the place.  I’ve heard them, and I honestly can’t tell if this is rock or country.  If they’re country, we have ourselves some hardcore Trashville “city faggot in a cowboy hat” caliber country right here.  If it’s rock…  It kind of reminds me of American Bang: a one-hit-wonder (maybe) who’s ultimate claim to fame was that their one hit was the first theme song ever for WWE NXT.  I guarantee you the ONLY reason these guys are coming is because they’re buds with Johnny Dare.  Not that this is a bad thing, but honestly, they’re not my cup of tea.

Up next, we have Tom Keifer: the former frontman for Cinderella.  Oh boy.  I can hardly wait to skip this act entirely.  If you know me, or if you followed my old blog, you know how I feel about hair metal.  For the newbies…  Basically imagine Steel Panther without a punchline, and you literally have the entirety of hair metal.  It’s a joke, and it’s not a funny one either.  And yes, this is coming from someone who cut his teeth on grunge growing up.  I’d rather have a bunch of semi-intelligible homeless dudes from Seattle than a bunch of glittery transvestites who are TOTALLY super straight any day.

And really, what can I say about Cinderella.  Near as I can tell, they’re pretty much the status quo for that generation.  I have a pretty good feeling Tom Keifer’s set is going to be nothing but Cinderella covers.  So if you like Cinderella, then you have motivation.  If you’re like me, though, you’re already seeing what’s on the main stage, or hanging out at the concession stand/merchandise stand.

Rounding out the main stage is a band by the name of Zakk Sabbath.  I have no idea who these people are, but based on the fact they’re the ONLY second stage act that gets a soundbyte in the promos, and said soundbyte is a clip of “Iron Man” from BLACK Sabbath…  Yeah, I smell cover band.  Black Sabbath is more my speed, but again, keep that timewarp perpetuated, 98.9.  *sigh*

Then we get to the main stage.

Opening things up is…  P.O.D.?  Holy shit, those guys are still around?  Here I thought those guys broke up.  Or they disappeared into the ether, and retreated to the sanctimonious realm of Christian rock.  Don’t even get me started: this article by itself is taking for fucking ever to write.

Honestly, the fact P.O.D. was a Christian band always put a bit of a raincloud over my head.  I loved rap-metal, but I was a thirteen or fourteen year old boy who was in open rebellion against all things Jesus.  The one saving grace of P.O.D. in the longrun, though, was that they were never really in your face about it.  Yeah, they looked on the brighter side, which was a nu-metal no no, but at least they weren’t forcefeeding me heavy-handed Christian symbolism.  More than I can say for those jerks in Skillet.

I might actually check that show out.  Yeah, it’s a total nostalgia circuit show, but it’s MY nostalgia.  And yes, that does make me a hypocrite for railing against the nostalgia circuit, then immediately turning around and enjoying a nostalgia circuit esque show.  Big whoop, want to fight about it?  Well it’ll have to wait till I’m done with this.

After P.O.D., we have…  Oh dear god.  We have Buckcherry.

If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a trillion times: WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU PEOPLE SEE IN BUCKCHERRY!?  Buckcherry is, hands down, the worst band I have ever heard in my entire life.  Seriously, even at their absolute worst, Slipknot was still a trip to the fucking circus.  Even The Dillenger Escape Plan has some sort of pattern to its cacophony.  Hell, even AC/DC, burnt out on them as I am, at least sounds like music.  Buckcherry is fucking terrible.  “Crazy Bitch” is the equivalent of ear rape, and it’s embarrassing you people enjoy this shit song that any god damn thirteen-year-old could write in their sleep.  Josh Todd couldn’t carry a tune if you gave him a god damn forklift.  This band should’ve died in 2002 when everybody refused to buy “Time Bomb”.  But for some reason, they came back.  And we LET them come back.  And they’re never going to go away, no matter how much they suck , because you idiots decided after FIVE YEARS of absence, they needed to come back.

Ugh, fuck those guys.  Buckcherry suckvery.

Okay, I’m done.  What else do we have?

Well, after that exercise in misanthropy, we have…  Collective Soul?  Where are they getting these guys?  Here we have another band that 98.9 has perpetuated into one-hit-wonderdom.  Except I’m positive Collective Soul have written a lot more than just “Shine”.  Not that “Shine is a bad song or anything (far from it), but I’d certainly like to hear more.  Of course, such a request would cut into all that Pink Floyd time, so I’m not surprised I won’t be getting it, but still…

Up next is RATT.  Ugh.  Again, I’d point out the one-hit-wonder thing, but to be honest, that one hit isn’t even all that great.  Considering what era it came from, it could be a lot worse though.  “Round and Round” isn’t my favorite song, but it could be worse.  It could be something like “Talk Dirty”, or “Love Injection”, or literally anything by W.A.S.P.  Ugh, my god those guys suck!

I was kind of surprised to hear RATT is even still around.  I’m pretty sure that, at absolute best, RATT is a classic case of a band with none of its original members involved in it in any way, shape, or form anymore.  Like Cannibal Corpse, or GWAR, or Anthrax for a while.  The list goes on.

I’m also kind of surprised RATT are relegated to one-hit-wonder status.  Considering where I live, and the mindset being perpetuated, you’d think they’d play every single they ever came out with, regardless of whether it was a success or a flop.

After that, we got Halestorm.

Well at least they came from this decade.  Not to mention they’re LOADS better than Buckcherry.  Although saying that out loud is kind of like saying bologna tastes better than drywall.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: my one ultimate criticism of Halestorm is that they have no distinct sound.  They’re not quite as bad as Nickelback, or Papa Roach anymore, or any other play-what’s-popular band, but there’s no consistency from song to song.  One minute, Lzzy Hale is a badass who takes shit from no one (“Dirty Work”, “It’s Not You”, “You Call me Bitch Like it’s a Bad Thing”), and the next thing you know, she’s a fucking doormat (“I Miss the Misery”, “Mz. Hyde”, I almost want to say “The Familiar Taste of Poison”…).  Otep is consistent.  The Agonist was consistent until they replaced their vocalist.  Tristania was consistent.  Halestorm just isn’t consistent.

Also, as I’ve said before, “I Miss the Misery” hits too close to home for me.  Not getting into that story again.  At least, not here.

After them, we have Volbeat.  And Finally, we have a band I actually want to see.  A lot of the bands I’ve said I was interested in seeing up to this point, it was more of a “eh, why not?  Could be fun.” sort of deal.  Volbeat, on the other hand, kick ass, and I’ve wanted to see them for fucking ever.  Also, they and Halestorm are literally the ONLY bands from this decade, which I find fucking depressing.

Especially since right after Volbeat, we get Sammy Hagar side project 352.  Seriously, has ANY band Hagar’s put together lasted more than one album?  And don’t say Van Halen, because that wasn’t HIS band.  Aside from his Van Halen years, the only thing I know Hagar for is a solo career, and in more recent years, the band Chickenfoot.  Chickenfoot: they are so totally decent!

And finally, we get to the main event of the evening.  The band that everything, for better and for worse, has ultimately been leading up to.  And…  It’s Godsmack.  Again.

Okay, I’ll be honest with you guys.  I love Godsmack.  Yeah, they write the same two or three songs over and over again, which suddenly makes me sound like a hypocrite for loving Godsmack despite it, and giving AC/DC shit for it, but fuck you, Godsmack isn’t getting played into the fucking pavement.  I’m also aware Sully Erna is kind of a dick, but I’m at a point in my life where either all my childhood heroes turn out to be dicks, or I know better than to deify someone because they wrote a catchy tune I like to listen to while I punch things after a bad day.  All that being said…  Yeah, that solo album of his sucked.

There’s only one real reason I’m not all that excited for another Godsmack show, and that’s because I’m at a point where I’ve seen them to death.  They definitely have some new songs since…  What was it, 2010 when they last headlined?  And they’re probably coming out with a new album pretty soon.  I’ll never know for sure if the radio is all I have to go by, because FUCKING TIMEWARP!  But even if there is new stuff coming out, I’m really not motivated to see Godsmack AGAIN.

In fact, pretty much the ONLY reason I would waste money on a ticket or two is for Volbeat.  And literally nothing else.

And yes, I’m aware I hated “Seal the Deal and Let’s Boogie””  I still hold to my opinion that that album is a sign of coasting.  Still, literally everything BEFORE that album was awesome, and even if it means sitting through songs from that album, it’d be worth it to see a band I’ve been dying to see live.

Sadly, one out of fifteen isn’t enough to motivate me to go.  If I had to judge by the lineup, I have a feeling this year’s rockfest is going to be kind of a downer.  I’m probably better off saving that fifty bucks for rent anyway, the rate I’m going.

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A7 Is BACK!

In 2005, I discovered Avenged Sevenfold.  I was at home for the weekend, saying hi to my folks, hanging with my dog (may he rest in peace), and probably playing something I rented from Blockbuster.  Because those still existed in 2005.  Netflix was around, but it wasn’t even close to being the titan it is now.  Also during this time, MTV2 was a lot more watchable, and near as I can tell, tried to be the white people alternative to MTV1 being all gangsta and shit.  Music videos were still few and far in between, but they were usually rock videos.  Which unfortunately meant there were a lot of faggotty emo videos, because emo was all the rage then.

On Saturday nights, MTV2 aired The Headbanger’s Ball: a throwback to an older show on MTV1.  And on that show, I discovered “Bat Country” by Avenged Sevenfold.  My world…  Was…  Obliterated.  Words couldn’t begin to describe what I experienced that night.

One thing led to another, and I found myself buying “City of Evil”.  Naturally, the moment I decide I like something is the exact same time the indie crowd cry like little fucking babies about how a band sold out because more than three people know they exist, but whatever.  Frankly, after listening to their older stuff from 2000, I really think “City of Evil” was a tremendous step in the right direction.

The years went by, and with the releases of their self-titled album, and “Nightmare”, I remained loyal.  Admittedly, bands like Blind Guardian, Sabaton, Manticora, and others came to my attention, and demanded my more immediate attention, but I still held A7 in high regard.

Right up until “Hail to the King”.  Sometime after “Nightmare” hit the shelves, A7’s drummer, The Rev, passed away.  It was a tragedy, and I feared that it would effect the band significantly.  And if “Hail to the King” was anything to go by, I’d say that it definitely did just that.

While not a bad album, “Hail to the King” was…  Boring.  “Shepherd of Fire” was good, but the rest of it just didn’t seem to have the same kind of inthusiasm behind it that previous albums had.  Part of it was the band in general trying for a more old school sound, and significantly less of a metalcore sound.  Because I guess metalcore was going out of style, and djent was becoming the new thing or something.  All I really know is the album just disappointed on virtually all fronts for me.

Also, “This Means War” sounds suspiciously like “Sad But True” by Metallica.  It’s barely even subtle!

So when A7 announced their new album, “The Stage”, was coming out…  Well, needless to say, I went in with my expectations set pretty low.  All I can say is this: after listening to it for the better part of a week, I can say with one-hundred percent certainty that “Hail to the King” was a dud.

Let’s face it, every good band has had a dud in their career.  Metallica had “St. Anger”, Korn had “The Path of Totality”, Gwar had “We Kill Everything”, Cradle of Filth had “Thornography”…  The list goes on.  Even a good band like Avenged Sevenfold is capable of farting out a subpar album every now and then.  As long as they don’t CONTINUE the trend, all is forgiven.

Thankfully, “The Stage” is a glorious comeback.  The music is way more intense than it was in 2013.  The drummer is a lot more psychotic with his beats, too.  The music doesn’t sound like it’s ripping anybody else off, as far as I can tell.  Thus far, there hasn’t been a single skipworthy track on the entire album!  Suffice to say, “The Stage” is excellent through and through.

It may take longer for A7 to put albums out anymore, but if they’re all as excellent as “The Stage” from this point onward, I won’t be complaining any time soon.  I’ll just be looking forward to 2019 that much more.

Does Nu Metal Really Deserve the Bum Rep it Has?

For those out of the loop, “Nu Metal” was a subgenre of rock and metal that was popular from around 1995-2003 or so.  It’s also earned names like “rap-rock”, “rapcore”, and “funk metal” from fans, and names like “angry white kid metal” and “divorce rock” from haters and dudes trying to be funny.

I know that not everything ages like fine wine.  Some things we look back on, and wonder what on Earth did we ever see in them.  In the case of the 1990s, it could be a lot of things: Beany Babies, Giggapets (also known as tamagachi), The Spice Girls, Jerry Springer, etc.  There was a lot of stuff back then I look back on, and can’t help but laugh at.  And while I’m not about to champion nu metal’s superiority to whatever crappy 8-byt dubstep autotuned robot voice nonsense or ukulele playing pansies are popular now, but I really feel like nu metal gets a bum rep nowadays.

A lot of it unfortunately comes from the spokesmen.  Thrash metal had acts like Metallica and Megadeth: people who not only pioneered the genre, but continue to withstand the test of time today (even if you hated St. Anger).  Progressive rock had iconic bands like Rush, and Queensryche: bands that, while not necessarily popular with EVERYBODY, are popular within their genre.  Power metal has legends like Iron Maiden, Blind Guardian, and Stratovarius: individuals that showed the world the benefits of being a virtuoso at your instrument, and well educated in the realms of fantasy.  Nu metal…  Had Limp Bizkit.

I’ll be the first to admit that thirteen years has done wonders for my opinion of Limp Bizkit’s music, but at the same time, I don’t pretend to forget the past, or abandon common sense.  Even at their best, Limp Bizkit was never shakespear.  No nu metal band was Shakespear, and you should probably go back to power metal if you want that sort of thing.  A lot of the Bizkit could easily be forgiven, though, if Fred Durst himself weren’t such a pain in the ass.  I refer you to the legendary feud he had with the vocalist of Creed, and Woodstock99 for starters.

To this very day, I feel like if nu metal had a different spokesgroup, the genre would have a bit of a better reputation.  Also, if bands like Linkin Park and Papa Roach, the bridge between nu metal and emo, hadn’t come into existence towards the end.

As a brief aside, though, Papa Roach isn’t the worst band I’ve ever heard.  Even when they were straight up rap-rock, they weren’t bad.  The one problem Papa Roach will probably never live down is “Last Resort”: a song that, while having the best of intentions, really didn’t age all that well in hindsight.  I still feel like they ought to have led with a different song.  I’d have gone with “Between Angels and Insects”, which probably laid out the groundwork for my political views in the long run, but I’d have also gone with “Dead Cell”, or the title track to “Infest”.  If it weren’t a B-side, I’d even go with “Legacy”.  They had so many good songs, and they went with “Last Resort”?  Ugh.

Okay, let’s get back on track.

The nu metal genre has many common criticisms.

The first of which, of course, is its simplicity.  A lot of nu metal songs take the old saying of “all you need to know in order to rock is three chords”, and pushes it to the limit.  Hell, some of the founders of the genre made due with only ONE chord!  Are you really going to be mad because someone took your old saying to heart?  It didn’t seem to be a problem when AC/DC was putting it to the test.  But I guess AC/DC came from the 70s, so that means they’re untouchable.  Or at least that’s the attitude around here.

And of course, there’s the popular criticism: all nu metal vocalists are whiners.  I’m not going to defend every single nu metal vocalist in the world, because let’s face it, it’s not one-hundred percent unfounded.  At best, though, I’d say that applies to the mainstream acts more than to the bands I liked.  Linkin Park were whiners.  Limp Bizkit could be pretty whiney when they wanted to be.  Hell, even Korn, the Metallica of nu metal, were pretty god damn whiney on those first couple albums.  But that doesn’t speak for the entire genre.

Whiney vocals aren’t exclusive to nu metal.  If anything, they’re exclusive to emo, except they’re not really exclusive.  I’ve seen my share of whiners in alternative as well.  Some would even say hair metal acts like Poison had their share of whiner moments.  “Every Rose Has its Thorn” is probably the whiniest song to come out of that era.  Bottom line: whiners will always be around.  You just got to sift through the bullshit in order to find good stuff.

People tend to let bands like Limp Bizkit do all the talking for the genre.  They need to dig deeper.  The sooner you quit giving up at the door, and assuming those guys do all the talking, the sooner you can discover something good.  Otep, 3rd Strike, Reveille, Genuflect, Skindred, Trust Company…  The list goes on.  Though I suppose it’s all a matter of opinion in the end.

I probably sympathize more with nu metal than most because I was living the life back then.  I didn’t exactly have a girlfriend who drove me insane with rage with all her bullshit (not until 2004, anyway), but things like dysfunctional families, and directionless rage with no other outlet than just screaming unintelligibly and breaking stuff just cuz is the kind of stuff I’ve gone through.  When you’re living the life, suddenly, that whiney bullshit doesn’t seem so whiney anymore.

Also, if you’re a beginner at guitar, nu metal is a fucking godsend.  Simplicity may not appeal to you as a listener, but when you’re just learning how to make chords, it feels like you’ve accomplished an amazing feat when you’re able to play anything.  As much as I don’t like Linkin Park anymore, I celebrated when I learned how to play “What I’ve Done” on guitar.  Too bad I can’t remember how it goes anymore, but that’s beside the point.  Once you master something simple like a Korn song, you can move on to something a little more advanced.  Like…  Oh, I don’t know, how about Jackyl?

Really, though, nu metal was a reflection of the time.  Us 90s kids were fucking sick of hair metal.  Unlike the hair metal generation itself, we had figured out that dudes with bleach-blonde perms who wore leather and makeup was really, really, super duper gay.  Also, six-minute tracks that consisted of two-minutes of song and four minutes of guitar solo…  Nuh-uh, not doing it for us.  We wanted it simple, we wanted it brutal, and we wanted it vicious.  It began as grunge, but eventually found itself incorporating elements of hiphop and rap as it went on.  And before we knew it, we had a genre we could be proud of.  Up until we hit twenty-five, looked back through our old CDs, and wondered aloud what the hell we ever saw in bands like Dope?

This is all stuff I’ve tackled in my old blog, back when I was writing music reviews and going through my old albums that I’d collected over the years.  I’ve said it there, and I’m saying it here: I really think nu metal gets a bum reputation.

It also doesn’t help that metalheads, as much as they probably don’t want to admit it, are some of the most elitist people you’ll probably ever meet.  Seriously, dude, metalheads fucking hate everything.  Including other metalheads.  I ought to know, too.  I used to hang out with metalheads back in high school.  I even considered myself a metalhead at one point, and to a much lesser extent than back then, I’d say I’m one right now.

But that’s a rant for a whole other day.