The gates have opened and the 2014 edition of Rock on the Range at Crew Stadium has begun. Friday's action begins at noon with Kill Devil Hill and Devour the Day playing on the Jägermeister and Ernie Ball stages, respectively. Among today's acts are Lacuna Coil, Black Label Society, Living Colour, Staind and tonight's headliner: Guns N' Roses. I'm looking most forward to seeing GnR as the headliner on the MONSTER Energy Stage, my all-time favorite band, but I'm also excited to see Down and Killswitch Engage for the first time each.
Check back later for more from Crew Stadium.
The Crew Stadium is starting to fill-out nicely for the afternoon acts. Opener Redlight King is wrapping up its set as heavy hitters Black Stone Cherry, Killswitch Engage, Black Label Society, Seether, Staind and Guns N' Roses are set to follow on the MONSTER Energy Stage.
Though there have been a few sprinkles and the temperature is unusually chilly for mid-May in Central Ohio, it hasn't dampened the spirits around the stadium grounds as Rock on the Range kicks-off its eighth year here in Columbus.
Just 10 days after releasing its latest LP, Magic Mountain, southern rock outfit Black Stone Cherry just finished its set on the MONSTER Energy Stage. Equipped with a mix of heavy riffs and Ronnie Van Zandt-esque vocals from frontman Chris Robertson, the Kentucky band brought the biggest crowd of the day with them so far for a solid mid-afternoon set here at Crew Stadium.
Over on the Jägermeister Stage, Swedish band Truckfighters put on an entertaining set filled with fuzz-heavy guitar grooves and bluesy solos. Having not seen the band before, I was particulary impressed.
Roaming around "The Range," I made my way over to see what was happening at the Ernie Ball Stage. The stage was in-between sets, so it was all soundchecking and tuning. However, the trip wasn't fruitless. Famous for their guitar strings and Music Man guitars and bass guitars, Ernie Ball has a cool demo station set up at their trailer where fans can sit and play guitars through iPad rigs. I have a habit of seeing a guitar and falling helpless at the urge to play it -- I couldn't help myself. While no guitars stations were available, I sat an played bass for a bit to enjoy playing music on a day weekend that was meant for enjoying others play music.
Also, Killswitch Engage just finished their set with their raucous cover of "Holy Diver" in tribute to metal legend Ronnie James Dio who passed away four years ago today on May 16, 2010.
Ironically, the last time I saw Black Label Society, it was opening for Guns N' Roses. Now, a few years later, not much has changed as frontman Zakk Wylde -- who gained notoriety as Ozzy Osbourne's lead guitarist and songwriting partner since the late 1980s -- is as great live as he ever was. Clad in a leather biker vest and wielding his famous red and black "Buzzsaw" Gibson Les Paul, Wylde remains one of the great guitarists in metal with his furious picking through heavy riffs and squealing solos. Like the last time I saw BLS, I wouldn't be surprised if Wylde made a cameo in GnR's set later.
Now it's time to make my way to the Ernie Ball Stage for Living Colour and Down.
Living Colour is probably the most unique band on this year's Rock on the Range lineup -- and debatably the hard rock genre as a whole. Lead guitarist Vernon Reid brings a blend of metal and jazz to the band, while bassist Doug Wimbish adds a funk element to go with Corey Glover's thoughtful, often politically driven lyrics. The band ripped through its signature hit "Cult of Personality" mid-set before a funk/metal cover of MC5's "Kick Out the Jams." Though I was pretty bummed when Mötörhead had to pull out of this year's festival, Living Colour was a solid replacement.
Side note: The MONSTER Energy truck handing out FREE cans of MONSTER is -- at this point in the day -- the best thing at Rock on the Range.
Down is a band I've wanted to see for a while now, and they didn't disappoint. Pepper Keenan's brand of heavy thrash metal on lead guitar and Phil Anselmo's growling vocals rocked the Ernie Ball Stage following Seether's set on the MONSTER Energy Stage. Seether was also entertaining, playing plenty of their hard rock radio hits throughout the set. Staind is up next on the main stage, followed by Guns N' Roses.
Right on time, Guns N' Roses hit the MONSTER Energy Stage at 9:30 p.m. with the title track of the band's latest release, Chinese Democracy before tearing into Appetite for Destruction staples "Welcome to the Jungle," "It's So Easy" and "Mr. Brownstone." Now the band is jamming on the epic ballad "Estranged" (I want to see dolphins). And after all these years, Axl Rose still has those screeching vocals as he slithers across stage.
Now the band goes into "Rocket Queen," and I want to add that The Replacements' Tommy Stinson was the perfect person to take over bass duties in GnR for Duff McKagen in my opinion. There are no two people that emulate the punk attitude of Sid Vicious better, yet have a much better musical ear than the Sex Pistols icon.
... And the "Rocket Queen" guitar solo into the bridge remains one of my favorites in all of music.
Speak of the devil... Axl just handed things over to Stinson and he goes into the Pistols' "Holidays in the Sun." This warms my teenage punk rock heart.
Over an hour later, GnR is still going strong as drummer Frank Ferrer beats his way into "You Could Be Mine." I wanted dolphins before, now I want Arnold. It's a shame that this song wasn't included on Appetite for Destruction as it was intended. It fit the attitude of that album much better than the Use Your Illusion records.
"Sweet Child O' Mine" just wrapped and now GnR is into the second half of the Use Your Illusions epics, "November Rain." Axl teases "Layla" on the keys before the monumental finish. Nice touch.
Also, side note: Apparently, Zakk Wylde is roaming the crowd. Growing up with his poster on my wall, that's pretty rad.
GnR is now onto "Civil War," my personal favorite from the Use Your Illusion releases. When they first started touring again in the early 2000s, GnR never played it for some reason. I'm glad it's back in the set.
That's a wrap! Finishing the set with "Nightrain," Guns N' Roses came out to an encore of GnR Lies' "Patience" and "Used to Love Her" before a penutlimate cover of The Who's "The Seeker." Like clockwork, the band capped off day one of Rock on the Range 2014 with its signature: "Paradise City."