Five Finger Death Punch, Lamb of God, Clutch and Pop Evil Kick Off Inaugural Night at Rock ‘N Derby

Last weekend, upstate New York hosted the first-ever Rock ‘N Derby, which kicked off May 20 at the Schaghticoke Fairgrounds. The Capital Region has been buzzing for months with anticipation for the Rock on the Range style three-day festival. Along with thousands of local diehard rock enthusiasts, fans from across the northeast and Canada made the hike on a beautiful early spring evening.

Day one of the inaugural affair saw the likes of Lamb of God, Clutch, Parkway Drive, Wolfmother, Pop Evil, Scott Stapp, Corrosion of Conformity, Red Sun Rising, Wild Throne and the first band to ever headline a Rock ‘N Derby festival, Fiver Finger Death Punch. Friday night also saw Tool cover band Schism play on the Upstate Concert Hall Arena Stage, during the after party for fans who wanted to rock on into the late night hours.

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From Grand Rapids, MI, Pop Evil, had the honor to be the first group to not only play the Derby main stage, but the first band ever to perform at Rock ‘N Derby period. To everyone’s amazement, Pop Evil is now sporting a blond female drummer behind the kit. It’s been news that current drummer, Josh “ChaChi” Marunde, was departing the band for new opportunities that would keep him closer to home. At show time, no one was sure who she was, or if she will end up being a permanent replacement for Marunde, all I can say is that the girl is a total badass behind the kit. However, it has now been reported that the band has welcomed Hayley Cramer as their new drummer.

Pop Evil came out and set the mood for the day. Fans went wild once the band started the first song in the set “Deal With The Devil.” Before playing the band’s current single “Take It All,” frontman Leigh Kakaty shouted out to local rock radio station Q103 for playing the new single. Kakaty went on to say to the crowd, “For everybody who just wanted a little, but now you want the whole damn thing. This song is called ‘Take It All’.”

Kakaty then picked up a guitar and asked if there was any old-school Pop Evil fans out there tonight. After cheers from the crowd, Kakaty said, “Well here’s one off our first record for you guys then.” He started off the song “100 in a 55.” After completing the first verse, Kakaty asked the crowd, “If you still believe in rock-and-roll bands, make some noise,” which made the crowd roar with cheers.

Kakaty gave a small heartfelt speech before moving into the next song, “Trenches.” He said, “I just wanna say, what an honor it is to be amongst real people who come to rock shows early. All these little kids I see, I wanna thank you parents for not raising them on any of that Justin Bieber bullshit. I didn’t know it was so fucking complicated. We are a rock band, we play rock music for brothers and sisters like you.” He went on to say that the band is currently on tour with two of the greatest icons, Rob Zombie and Disturbed. He then relayed a message on behalf of them, telling fans Zombie and Disturbed said to “fucking rock and roll tonight.” Kakaty’s speech went on to thank another band who was playing that night: ” There is one more band on this bill that I have to give a special shout out to, cause back in the day, they were one of the first bands to take a chance on us. You guys know them as Ivan and Zoltan and everybody at Five Finger Death Punch.”

Fans sang along with the frontman during the last song in the set, “Footsteps.” Kakaty was so impressed it prompted him to sincerely say to the crowd, “Are you fucking kidding me? Wow, there’s no greater feeling on this planet than when your fans, excuse me, your friends, sing your songs back to you, God bless you. God bless you, New York, we love you.” Pop Evil showed a lot of fire and Kakaty was pretty good on vocals. Set Time 5:50–6:30 p.m.

Neil, Jean-Paul, Dan and Tim, better known as Clutch also rocked the Derby Main Stage. Going into this show, I knew about the band, but never really followed them until recently. I was really impressed by how good this band performed. These guys are talented live musicians that anybody could go and see and enjoy themselves.

Early in their set, singer Neil Fallon lightly slipped walking onstage. This made Fallon say, “I will tell you right now, at some point in the next 45 minutes, I will fall on my ass on this stage. It’s gonna be legendary. Did you spray this thing with WD-40 before we got up here? Set Time 6:50–7:45 p.m.

Red Sun Rising performed over on the Rock ‘N Stage. Before the band played “My Muse,” frontman Mike Protich, who was not sure how to pronounce Schaghticoke, asked the crowd, “So what should I call you cause I can’t pronounce the city I’m in right now….. Albany?” (This became an eventual theme for all of the bands on the bill throughout the weekend.) As Protich looked to the crowd for answers he said, “I love all these New Yorkers. People here just shouting shit. We’re red Sun Rising from Akron, Ohio. It’s a pleasure to be here with you today.” Set Time 6:55–7:35 p.m.

Lamb of God performed while the sun went down on the Derby Stage, and brought fans into the night. Frontman Randy Blythe was super pumped up during Lamb of God’s set, as he was constantly jumping around and moving. I swear, Monster Energy drink has to run through his veins.

Blythe was next in line to ask the crowd how to pronounce the village Schaghticoke. Blythe said, “What the fuck is up upstate New York? Look at all you motherfuckers out there. Let me get a big Ric Flair Wooooooo.” The crowd “wooooooooed” back at Blythe, which made him say, “Fuck Yeah. Holy Shit. For those of you who do not know, and for those of you who drank too fucking much before you got here and don’t know where the fuck you are….We are Lamb of God. We come from Richmond motherfucking Virginia. I know we are in upstate New York, but I’m not going to attempt to pronounce the name of this fucking town. I fucked it up like 50 times.” Blythe then went on and tried to say the name of the town, even calling it Shaggy 2 Dope ( from Insane Clown Posse), which made the crowd laugh. He then asked the audience to pronounce the name the town on the count of three. The crowd shouted “Schaghticoke” in unison.

About midway through the band’s set, Blythe acknowledged what would become another theme over the weekend.  There was a five-year-old girl celebrating her birthday during the three-day festival down in the front row. After asking the crowd if they were having a good time, Blythe said to the crowd, “Somebody down there has a fifth birthday.” He pointed at the girl and said,  “Don’t get squished sweetheart.”

The frontman then turned his attention to the next song in the set list. He dedicated the next song to the little girl in the crowd and all the armed forces in the United States. He stated, “This song goes out to some people who don’t get the recognition I feel they deserve most of the time. These people do a hard, fucked-up job. They do it from a long ways from home. Most of the time they don’t even get a fucking thank you for this. I speak of the men and women in the United States armed services. This next song is for them.” The band then played “Now You’ve Got Something To Die For.” The crowd was insane for Lamb of God. Set Time 8:15–9:15 p.m.

Parkway Drive was one of, if not the best, performers of the night. Parkway Drive headlined the Rock ‘N Stage Friday. Singer Winston McCall was going so insane onstage, I thought he was going to give himself a heart attack. He was jumping, bouncing and waving his arms so much, it was like he was teaching an aerobics class, while putting on a kick-ass rock show.

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Winston asked fans if they picked up the band’s new album, Ire. He then told the crowd that they are going to play a song off that album. Winston then said to the crowd, “You guys are doing great. One thing, one thing only. Just keep that vibe up here [raises hand above head]. Don’t let that energy drop. Keep it coming, keep it coming. If you haven’t crowd surfed yet today, you’re obliged to on the rest of this set. This one’s called ‘Vice Grip;’ step it up another notch.”

Before the next song in the set, Winston screamed to the crowd, “That’s it. Keep it up here [motioning his hand above his head], keep your energy up here. Bring it in, sing with me. This one’s called ‘Idols and Anchors.'”

Impressed with the fans’ reactions toward the band, Winston had to ask the crowd something before he continued: “Has anyone seen us before?” After minimal cheers, he replied, “A couple. Hi again.” He then asked for the first-timers to many cheers. Winston then welcomed everyone and said that he was just checking out the stats of the crowd, then thanked everyone for their time. Winston said, time is a precious thing, and that he appreciated fans spending some of it on them tonight.

The frontman asked the crowd if they still had enough energy left in them, because he knows they must be fucked after Lamb of God’s set. He then asked if they had a little bit of energy left, because they were going to play another heavy track. Winston then said, “If you can hear my voice, get your hands up. Here’s the deal. If you have the energy to get your hand in the air, when this one drops, I need to see you get your feet up as well. That includes you guys in the stands.” The band then played “Bottom Feeder.” Parkway Drive will head back to the their native country of Australia for a tour after their RotR performance on Saturday. Set Time 9–9:45 p.m.

Five Finger Death Punch was ready to close out the inaugural first night on the Derby Stage. FFDP got fans pumped with the first song in the setlist, “Lift Me Up.” After the second song in the set, “Hard to See,” Ivan Moody said, “Holy shit,” and called the crowd “motherfucking crazy.” Moody then asked the crowd to do him an honest favor and protect all the kids that were there enjoying the show. On that note, Moody then said to the crowd, “Front to back, side to side. When I jump up, you jump up. Now you know what to do.” FFDP then played “Burn it Down.”

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After bassist Chris Kael took over the vocal duties for the song “Got Your Six,” next on the setlist was the band’s cover of “Bad Company.” Moody asked the crowd, how many men and women have served, or are still serving for the United States military, and asked them to put their hands up. He then said to the fans with their hands down, “You guys see those fucking hands… you shake them, you thank them and you buy them a beer for our fucking freedoms. Thank you so much.” This of course prompted a big U.S.A chant from fans. Moody then brought the song in by saying, “I don’t know if you guys heard, but there were a couple of, um, I’ll call them corporations, that were talking shit about us online. What they didn’t understand is that we’ve got Bad Company [points to the crowd].”

FFDP did their usual routine and brought up various kids onstage to join them for the song “Burn MF.” Moody pointed to the kids and told the crowd to make some noise for the next generation of heavy metal. Moody went on to say, “You guys wanna show them how the big kids do this? Then give me the biggest circle you’ve got right now. If you don’t wanna get hurt, now is the perfect time to get the fuck out of the way.”

Guitarist Jason Hook and Moody did an acoustic medley of “Wrong Side of Heaven” and “Battle Born.” Moody then stated to the crowd that there are strict curfew rules here and that the band could only play one more song. Five Finger Death Punch then closed out the night with “The Bleeding.”

I felt a small letdown here, and expected way more from these guys. If this was your first time ever seeing the band, you may have a slightly different opinion of the band’s set. It seemed the boys were a little off the mark onstage, and frontman Moody sang out of key and didn’t have his usual intensity. The thing that was most noticeable was the band’s set list. Fan-favorite track “Burn it Down” seems to always b one the band’s setlists, but it was missing along with the two current singles off their current studio album. Overall, everything seemed repetitive and overly rehearsed. Set Time 9:45–11 p.m.