For the second straight year, Chester, PA was home to Rock Allegiance. The Rock Allegiance festival, which is one of the many Danny Wimmer Presents events, returned to Talen Energy Stadium (formerly PPL Park) on Saturday and Sunday September 17 and 18.
Unlike last year’s festival, Rock Allegiance 2016 was set for 2 full days that included some of the biggest bands today, such as Avenged Sevenfold, Alice In Chains, The Offspring and Slayer. To accompany two full days of music, this year added even more of the festival’s signature Gourmet Man Food and other experiences for fans to check out. Some of this year’s experiences included The Music Experience, The Jack Daniel’s Experience, FYE Experience and Zippo Encore. As always, proud sponsor, Monster, was on site giving away free products and hooking fans up with chances to meet their favorite bands.
Saturday’s festival lineup featured quite a mix of bands. There were heavy metal bands, cover bands, comedy bands, grunge bands and more. Some of Saturday’s stand-out performances were Skindred, Avatar, and Motionless In White. Each one of these bands brings something unique to the table that not an everyday band does. Skindred had the most unique sound of the day. The Welsh rockers mix heavy metal with reggae and create some insane grooves. Lead singer Benji Webbe certainly knew how to lead his band and give the crowd a set to remember past the weekend.
Certainly no one was disappointed with headliners Alice In Chains, Breaking Benjamin and The Offspring. Each one of those bands has earned their keep and each had their own die-hard fans in attendance. Alice In Chains was joined by Billy Duffy of The Cult for their song “Rooster.” One band that failed to bring out the special guests that everyone was hoping for was Taylor Hawkins’, Chevy Metal. Chevy Metal, which is Hawkins’ cover band that rips through classic rock songs with ease, is known for bringing out big names at their shows. Unfortunately, when the band closed out the Liberty Stage, no guests came out to join the band.
Fans of Sepultura got to hear the legendary album, Roots, in its entirety during Max & Igor Cavalera’s Return To Roots set. This was one of the most bad-ass sets of the day. Seeing the two brothers back on stage doing Sepultura songs was absolutely incredible and the crowd went wild. One band that seemed to sneak its way into a huge main-stage slot was Baroness. These guys have been growing and growing non-stop and have been receiving incredible support from some of the biggest musicians on the planet. The love and support of Baroness landed them a late evening slot and definitely gave the band a chance to reach an audience of plenty of Baroness virgins.
It’s impossible to not mention Trivium when it comes to kicking ass. The guys in Trivium seem to live on the road and never show any signs of slowing down. Although their last album Silence In The Snow, wasn’t as “heavy” as some old fans would have liked, this monster of an album has been a commercial hit and the tracks are solid. Gone are the signature screams of singer Matt Heafy, but the record showcases Heafy’s ability to actually sing. Together with long time band members Corey Beaulieu and Paolo Gregoletto and new drummer Paul Wandtke, Trivium continues to give festival crowds around the world a brutal, fast and a seemingly too short set.
Saturday’s top performance didn’t come from any headliner or by any band that played on either stage inside the stadium. The top band of the day took the Liberty Stage at 4:15. That band was letlive. For people who skipped letlive., saying they missed out is a complete understatement. Often times, writers will say a band had “high energy” and all these other generic compliments about a band they thought was pretty good. On Saturday, letlive. could be described to someone who missed them simply as, f*&King insane. Singer Jason Aalon Butler gave Rock Allegiance everything he could, without getting in too much trouble. Butler ended up hanging upside down at the soundboard tent and running throughout the crowd while his team of roadies tried to keep the audience from becoming strangled with this microphone cord. If there’s one thing fans at Rock Allegiance aren’t ever going to forget, it is letlive’s set.
Out of the 2 day festival, Sunday was definitely the day with the stacked lineup. The day started off with what would be one of the best sets of the day from Death Angel. Singer Mark Osegueda is by far one of the best vocalists in heavy metal. This guy can hit any note imaginable. If there was one bad thing to say about Sunday, it would be Death Angel’s set was too damn short. Next time, Death Angel deserves a mid-day main stage slot to show the crowd what they bring to the table.
After Death Angel, bands like Devour The Day, Twelve Foot Ninja, Crobot and Kyng were all back to back one after the other. Although none of these bands have hit it big yet, they’re all in the process of knocking down that door. This year was Devour The Day’s second year in a row playing Rock Allegiance and the crowd was definitely excited to see them again. The singer of Kyng wasn’t too happy with them and Crobot playing at almost the same exact time. He went on to say that whoever booked that should be fired.
From 2:30 onward, many fans may not have even left the two main stages inside Talen Energy Stadium. Unfortunately for bands like Neck Deep, Amity Affliction and Pierce The Veil, the main stages where were the party was at. Although, even though the inside floor was packed in, these bands attracted their own die-hard fans and fans who may have been curious to check out someone new. Pierce The Veil certainly could have played inside due to the crowd and the stage setup they had. The guys in Pierce The Veil are an absolute blast to watch on stage and their spaceship on stage isn’t something every band brings out on the road.
Sevendust had a huge crowd over at the Bridge Stage for their set. One of those fans at the Bridge Stage was Anthrax singer, Joey Belladonna, who joined Lajon Witherspoon to sing “Face to Face.” Sevendust was another victim of the dreaded short festival set. Only having time for a handful of songs, Sevendust wasted no time between songs and gave fans as much as they could. The band closed out their set with their Grammy nominated track “Thank You.”
Some other highlights of the day were Hellyeah and Killswitch Engage. Both of these bands are entertaining to watch from start to finish. Hellyeah singer, Chad Gray is one of the most explosive front-men in metal. Hellyeah’s setlist only featured songs off their 2 latest albums Blood for Blood and Unden!able. During the track “Sangre por Sangre,” bassist Kyle Sanders spit fake blood all over Chad’s face. Chad would sport this blood for the rest of the set and it was clear this band meant business. Hellyeah have certainly been working their asses off creating new music and trying to win over the haters of their group.
Killswitch Engage, on the other hand, doesn’t have to do anything fancy on stage to win over fans. The guys in KSE are purely bad-ass and get the crowd going regardless if they’re fans of their band or not. Certainly one of the rowdiest crowds of the day, Killswitch gave them all the reason to be. Guitarist, Adam Dutkiewicz, did what he does best and got the people of Rock Allegiance in the KSE mood. Dutkiewicz and singer Jesse Leach lead the charge and helped give Killswitch Engage one of Sunday’s best performances.
The rest of the evening after KSE was great as anyone would have guessed. Chevelle, Anthrax, Volbeat and Slayer were all fantastic. Each band had a giant fan base in each section of the floor. Slayer fans waited all day along the rail of the Bridge Stage to be in front of Kerry King and Tom Araya. Having half of the big “four” on one stage was an easy choice for thrash metal fans on where to set up camp. Getting that front row spot for both Anthrax and Slayer would put any thrash metal fan in heaven, or in this case, hell.
As expected, Anthrax stuck with their casual festival setlist. This setlist is fine for any casual fan of Anthrax, but the die-hard fans who traveled to see them definitely wanted something a little different. Tracks like, “Got The Time” and “Antisocial” could definitely be replaced by songs off their latest two albums, which were both outstanding. Both Chevelle and Volbeat, on the other hand, picked their setlists well offering a nice balance between new and old material. Slayer was also another band that seemed to surprise the crowd with their setlist choice. Instead of playing mainly tracks of their latest album Repentless, they only chose to play the title track. The rejuvenated Slayer lineup dug into deep cuts as well as playing the fan-favorite classics like “Raining Blood” and “Angel of Death.”
The two top performances on Sunday belonged to two bands that toured together not too long ago. Those two bands are Ghost and headliner Avenged Sevenfold. Ghost, who just kicked off their Popestar Tour days before, opened their set with their new EP single “Square Hammer.” For fans who hadn’t caught on to Ghost already, were probably walking out of the stadium that night with a shirt or CD from the FYE tent. Ghost definitely had one of the biggest fan bases over the entire weekend. Ghost shirts were seen by the minute on both days of the festival. The stage show wasn’t what fans will see at headlining shows due to time restrictions, but fans weren’t complaining. The Ghouls, complete with their new female bassist, ripped through 6 more songs after “Square Hammer.” Together with Papa Emeritus III, the band flawlessly performed songs such as “From the Pinnacle to the Pit,” “Cirice,” “Year Zero”, and more. Unlike headlining shows where the band closes with “Monstrance Clock,” Ghost changed things up and said their goodbyes with “Mummy Dust.”
The chance of Avenged Sevenfold disappointing the fans at Rock Allegiance this year was practically 0%. It’s been a while since Avenged Sevenfold has toured and fans were ready for something that was new and fresh. The band went on stage and opened with “Nightmare.” Fans could quickly point out that Avenged no longer had the extensive stage setup like they did on their Mayhem Festival run a few years back. This time, Avenged kept things simple with an empty stage and a giant LED screen. People who thought that was all they brought were definitely mistaken. It didn’t take long for the onslaught of flames to come from the back of the stage song after song. The new tour not only meant a new stage but also a refreshed setlist. This time around, Avenged played tracks like “Planets,” “Acid Rain,” “To End the Rapture,” and “Second Heartbeat.” The weekend ended with “Unholy Confessions,” instead of the typical encore of “A Little Piece of Heaven.”
At the end of the weekend, it would be hard to say fans were left disappointed. The lineup for both days of the festival was solid and seemed to have something for everyone. It may have been noticed by people at Rock Allegiance that it wasn’t close to a sold-out capacity crowd, but that doesn’t affect the experience negatively. With two other festivals going on over the same weekend, both within reasonable driving distance, Rock Allegiance held its ground and drew a decent size crowd for what it was up against. Hopefully next year, Chester, PA. can once again be the host of Rock Allegiance for the 3rd straight year.
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