Rock on the Range promised to bring Columbus, Ohio the biggest and best lineup to date for this years festival, and they certainly delivered. This year’s festival marked the first featuring a full 3-day lineup, and Rangers were eagerly waiting outside the stadium early on Friday morning to get their weekend started. Cold weather and rain tried to put a damper on the sold out crowd, but the bands and tens of thousands of fans energized one another and made sure the weekend was unforgettable.
Featuring former members of Egypt Central, Devour The Day were given the task of warming up the Ernie Ball Stage early on Friday afternoon. Mixed in with the new material was an unexpected surprise, Egypt Central’s hit “White Rabbit”. The Monster Main Stage was christened by Redlight King. The instantly recognizable opening notes of “Comeback” got the crowd going immediately. The band steered clear of their more relaxed rap-rock tracks, keeping it heavy for the festival crowd.
Intro music could be heard at the Ernie Ball stage the moment the main stage wrapped up, allowing a few seconds to rush over in time for Thousand Foot Krutch. Playing mostly newer material, the band was sure to bring it back for the old fans on “Move”, which had the entire field doing just that. Black Stone Cherry had just the right balance of entertaining lyrics, southern charm, and high energy rock to convert just about any ranger into a fan, taking the main stage to deliver a set that was nearly impossible to not sing along to.
While We Came As Romans played the Ernie Ball Stage, Japanese four piece ONE OK ROCK took the Jägermeister stage for their first US festival performance, a not so modest transition into their upcoming Warped Tour appearances. Killswitch Engage seem to never disappoint, and that certainly held true for the band’s main stage set. The fun and eccentric playing style of guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz was contrasted by the growl of vocalist Jesse Leach, who held his own on the final track, a cover of Dio’s “Holy Diver”.
Black Label Society were next up on the main stage to ensure that the lucky few not exhausted following Killswitch Engage were completely worn out by the end of their 50 minute set. While the band may cater to the middle aged biker crowd, it’s safe to say that everyone that caught the set appreciated the undeniable talent of Zakk Wylde as he effortlessly shredded through guitar solos that lasted as long as some band’s songs.
(Interview with Seether from Upstate Rock Station Q103’s Wes Styles)
The anxiously awaited return of Seether to the festival scene was well received next at the Monster Stage. Following the addition of a touring guitarist, the former trio sounded better than ever. Not even the slightest split second of silence occurred throughout the entire set, with improvised transitions from song. On top of the old favourites the band included their brand new single “Words As Weapons”, which many devoted fans had already memorized word for word.
Also having laid low for the last few years, Staind took the stage next to show Columbus that they are far from finished. Despite the fact that each of the members have been working on various side projects in recent years, the band proved to be as in sync as ever. Flames lit up Crew Stadium on rock ballads like “Outside”, with Seether’s Shaun Morgan accompanied Aaron Lewis on vocals. Time for rest on the lighter tracks allowed fans some much needed time to catch their breaths and rest up for heavier tracks like “Mudshovel”, during which bodies flew in every imaginable direction amongst the crowd.
Guns N’ Roses may have been a surprising choice to close out day one of Rock on the Range, but the rest of the day’s killer lineup left little room for complaints. Whether it was out of mere curiosity or genuine excitement, the majority of the sold out audience stayed for the final show of the night. After starting out slow with a newer track, the famous guitar intro of “Welcome to the Jungle” caused every single face in the stadium to light up. Backed by a theatrical stage set up and scorching pyro, Axl Rose wowed with powerful vocals that haven’t wavered since day one. After teasing everyone with a taste of the GNR classics, he number of newer songs included in the band’s set list left many disappointed and rushing for the exit to beat lines of traffic on the way out. While the set list wasn’t spectacular, Guns N’ Roses put on a solid performance worthy of closing out an incredible day of rock.