For Central New York music fans who have been attending since the 90s, it feels hard to believe that the K-Rockathon celebrated its’ 20th anniversary show at the Chevy Court at the NY State Fairgrounds this past weekend. Over the years, the K-Rockathon has been billed as one of the most anticipated shows of the year and with good reason.Past lineups have included mega acts the Violent Femmes, Goo Goo Dolls, Staind, Black Label Society, Social Distortion, Seether, Papa Roach, Avenged Sevenfold, Stone Temple Pilots, Korn, Public Enemy and more . This year’s roster included K-Rockathon veterans Trapt, Shinedown and Breaking Benjamin.
It was, for the most part, a beautiful day. In what seems to be becoming a K-Rockathon tradition, there was a short-lived, light rain in the morning and a torrential downpour that sent fans scrambling for cover right before headliner Shinedown was set to take the stage.
Here are some highlights from the day:
Early in the day, Bad Seed Rising, led by frontwoman Francheska performed their set with an intense energy that got the early concert goers revved up. Bad Seed Rising is currently the youngest band signed with Road Runner Records. Even though they are a young band, their stage presence and performance looked like that have been at it for 20 years.
Johnny Hawkins and the gang from Nothing More took the stage a bit later in the afternoon. Despite a few technical difficulties, Johnny was jumping and spinning all over the stage like the Tasmanian devil. The band played a notably high energy set and kept the increasingly growing crowd engaged.
Rick DeJesus of Adelitas Way was so in love with the crowd’s energy, that he leaped off the stage and crowd surfed not once, but twice during the band’s set. Halfway through their set, Rick stopped to thank K-Rock for having them on the show. He also said “I want to thank K-Rock for playing real f^@#!ng rock music. Rick also stated to fans, “This is your Woodstock.”
Trapt took the stage and came right out of the gate with their hit song “Headstrong.” Front man, Chris Brown, left the stage and stood on the rail of the barrier to get up close and personal with the Syracuse fans. Crowd surfers started flying everywhere during the song “Love/Hate Relationship.” The band ended the set with “Still Frame.”
In This Moment, fronted by Upstate New York’s own Maria Brink, made their last tour stop at K-Rockathon 20. In This Moment had a distinct theatrical element to their onstage performance that included multiple costume changes, minor set changes and varied themes to go along with each song. The band is not just playing music, they are telling a story. It reminded me of a more modernized version of an Alice Cooper show.
Breaking Benjamin, who has been on a short hiatus, makes a celebratory return to the scene after their new release “Dark Before Dawn” debuted on the Billboard Top 200 at #1; Quite a feat for any rock band these days. The stage lights slowly start to glow and the first notes begin to ring from the stage. Ben Burnley charges out and tears right into their hit “So Cold.” Ben threw out a bunch of guitar pics to fans while the band played the intro. Ben then shouted into the mic “Syracuse are you ready?” A thunderous scream of approval was the response from fans as Ben started playing. During the third line of the first verse, Ben yelled out to the crowd to “sing it” and held the mic over the front row of fans. Fans screamed every word right on cue. Ben Burnley and company didn’t waste any time before ripping right into the next song “Follow.” The band took the stage with such force that for a moment, the crowd didn’t know what had hit them.
Breaking Benjamin has always had an appreciation for their Central New York fans. Between songs Ben shared laughs and interacted with the crowd, repeatedly thanking Syracuse fans for their continued support. One thing that caught this fan by surprise was their cover of the classic Queen tune, “Who Wants To Live Forever.” Even though Ben is no Freddy Mercury, I thought that the band did a great job capturing the spirit of the song and from the crowd’s reaction I think they felt the same. It was an unusual choice of cover tune by them but none the less a good one.
The band tore through their newest radio single “Failure” and the classic “Breathe.” The fans sang along to “Breathe” and at times even over powered Ben’s voice. Ben could have just stood there, played, and not said a word because everyone in the venue knew the song by heart. After Breathe, Ben stepped away from center stage allowing bassist Aaron Bruch to step up. I don’t think the crowd or myself was prepared for the song Aaron started to play; it was another cover song and this time it was “Aenima” by Tool! Mosh pits and bodies erupted everywhere! Truly a rare treat considering I have not heard them cover this in many years. When the song ended, Ben didn’t waste any time rushing right back to center stage and shredding into what I can best describe as one of the best live versions of the band’s very first hit “Polyamorous” that I have heard to date. Ben paused for a moment to state “You got four pits out there and that’s how you know you’re doing things right!”
Like all good things, they unfortunately must come to an end and Ben prepared to depart from the stage leaving this message to the fans: “Syracuse until we meet again, thank you, rock is not dead, thank you for helping us debt at number one on the billboard charts” and he sent the masses into a frenzy with “Diary of Jane.” This is one band I am looking forward to seeing again in Upstate NY very soon. Stay tuned for announcements about their upcoming tour with Godsmack and Sevendust.
Immediately after Breaking Benjamin left the stage, the sky opened up and it started to pour. After an hour rain delay, Shinedown finally came out to close the show. Brent Smith is one of the best live performers in rock. His voice is hypnotizing and he gives off loads of energy and positive vibes. Before Shinedown played their third song, Smith addressed the crowd, “look to the person in front of you, behind you, to your left and to your right. You may, or may not know who they are but I want everyone to shake or slap hands with that person.” Smith does this at every concert. It creates such a memorable feel good ritual and is something I look forward to at their shows.
Halfway through the band’s set, technical difficulties brought the music to a halt. Smith, being a true professional, used the time to thank the fans for their patience. During the delay, Smith noticed a sign in the crowd that said “It’s my birthday and I’m seven years old.” Fans started shouting, “sing Happy Birthday.” Smith replied, “You want me to sing Happy Birthday?” The band filled the down time by singing happy birthday to a very excited seven-year old named Britany.
The equipment was back up and running and Shinedown had the whole crowd jumping during the song “Enemies.” Smith stated that they usually don’t play this song live. Shinedown ended the night with fan favorite, “The Sound of Madness.” Smith closed the show with his trademark line, “It’s never goodbye, it’s just til’ next time.”