The fifth annual year of the biggest, hardest rock music festival of the Carolinas came and went over the weekend of May 2nd and 3rd. The sold out two day Carolina Rebellion took place at Rock City Campgrounds/Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina and featured headline performances from Slipknot, Godsmack, Korn and Marilyn Manson.
Highlights: Day 1
We arrived on the festival grounds about half an hour before the doors opened at 11:00 A.M. on Saturday morning, surprised to see the line was already so long it was snaking down a hill through the parking lot. Once entering the gates, there was no denying how much Carolina Rebellion had expanded since last year. The two Monster sponsored main Carolina and Rebellion stages were almost a literal quarter mile apart from each other, which was going to mean lots of walking. An additional ReverbNation side stage had been added to accompany the Jagermeister side stage. Fortunately, the weather was a beautiful 75° and without a cloud in sight, the weekend looked off to a perfect start.
Islander hit the ReverbNation stage at noon following short sets from side stage opening bands Lola Black and NeverWake. We were introduced to Islander on last year’s Mayhem Fest, but they have since toured with Pop Evil, Papa Roach and Seether, among gaining support from other renowned names in the music community. The rap-rock/nu-metal band has a unique sound, and vocalist Mikey Carvajal is not afraid to jump in with the crowd!
While We Are Harlot kicked off the Rebellion stage, Nonpoint christened the Carolina stage in place of Live, who was on the original announced Rebellion lineup. Nonpoint kept going with the nu-metal sound and had high crowd engagement with plenty of dread slinging action during “What A Day.” Additionally, a hard rock cover of Jay Z’s “99 Problems” had everyone singing along.
Just prior to Rebellion weekend, a video of Scott Weiland sounding and acting out of sorts during a live performance gained a lot of negative attention. There was plenty of buzz going around, curious to see how his set would go, and fortunately it turned out to be a giant step up from that video. While his motions made him seem entranced, he at least sounded more clear and in sync – then again, the bass was turned up so loud you could barely hear the vocals anyway.
Another band not on the original lineup, Hollywood Undead was filling the slot where Bush had been originally scheduled. This year was the masked rap rock group’s second appearance on Carolina Rebellion, returning to shine after the dreary and wet 2013 festival. Special congratulations to vocalist J-Dog, who unveiled his face, got down on one knee and proposed to girlfriend Vanessa James on stage. They shared a sweet moment as she said, “Yes!”, then promptly returned to the music.
Motionless In White
While Cheap Trick closed out the ReverbNation stage for the day, Motionless In White was Saturday’s headlining act on the Jager stage. Creepily masked bassist Devin “Ghost” Sola hit the stage with chainsaws running, literally, and the other members were equally bold as they donned pure white makeup with grungy black painted necks and arms and headbanged their way through the set.
Perhaps just our opinion, but we think Papa Roach is killing it recently! A 2015 kick off co-headline tour with Seether plus the release of their 8th studio album F.E.A.R. in January seems to have laid the bricks for a successful year. Their set consisted of many new songs, but of course wouldn’t have been complete without the single that shot them to success, “Last Resort”.
After having to cancel their set due to inclement weather at the 2013 Rebellion, this made it Rise Against’s first actual year playing the festival. This was also our first ever opportunity to cover the band. We had heard plenty of good things, so Rise Against had a lot to live up to. And fortunately, they were no disappointment! Between vocalist Tim McIlrath, guitarist Zach Blair and bassist Joe Principe, there is no way to not be looking at the action. We’re pretty sure their feet were in the air just as much as (if not more than) they were on the ground.
Sammy Hagar & The Circle
Formed by the former Van Halen vocalist himself, along with Jason Bonham (son of Led Zeppelin drummer John Bonham), this supergroup was certainly a must see. Their set featured a mix of Montrose, Van Halen and even Led Zeppelin songs, and though the American Red Rocker may be 67 years old, you would never guess it by how spritely he flitted around the stage!
Marilyn Manson has always been considered “shock rock” – and with creepy and dark theatrics, costume changes, obscenities, and lyrical references to sex, violence and drugs – they unquestionably live up to the term. Though Manson’s ninth studio album The Pale Emperor dropped in January, this year, the only song played from it was opening set song “Deep Six.” The remainder of their setlist consisted of older fan favorites and covers including: “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” “Personal Jesus,” and “The Beautiful People.”
Of Mice & Men vocalist Austin Carlile made an early surprise appearance during Korn’s second song, “Ball Tongue”, which he sang vocals alongside with Jonathan Davis for. Austin’s appearance aside, Korn highlighted their set by kicking things back to 1994 and playing their self-titled debut album in it’s entirety. Though they brought all their usual energy and certainly had fans going crazy over older hits “Blind,” “Falling Away from Me,” and “Freak on a Leash,” the overall stage production was stripped down and raw compared to last year’s Mayhem Fest, especially noting the lack of an appearance from Jonathan Davis’ treasured mic stand.
Highlights: Day 2
After an approximate calculation of 14 miles of walking on day one, getting motivated on Sunday morning was a mild challenge. Strangely enough, parking on day two also turned out to be more of a challenge, having to sit in traffic for a while, despite being over an hour early for the noon door time. Once we were in and took advantage of the free Monster energy drinks offered in the Monster Tent, all lights were green and we were off to the stages!
Exodus, Starset, Testament and Hatebreed had flown through their opening sets on the ReverbNation and Jager stages by 1:30 P.M. and it was time for Young Guns to get the main stages rolling. The London, England native alternative rockers were another 2013 Rebellion returnee. They brought a hoard of new material with them in anticipation of their second studio album Ones and Zeros release date coming up on June 8th.
The dual female fronted metal band knows how to drive a crowd wild, even early in the day. Fiery redhead Heidi Shepherd and blue dip-dyed Carla Harvey expressively and energetically bounce across (and off) the stage, happy to interact up close and personal with the fans.
In This Moment
By the time we made it back over to the Carolina stage, a large platform, risers and C02 machines had been arranged across the stage. In This Moment easily had the most theatrical set of the weekend (even topping Manson!), with numerous elaborate wardrobe changes throughout their set. The band has been met with some criticism over their 2014 album release Black Widow, but they’ve taken it in stride and still deliver an outstanding performance.
In Flames and Queensryche closed out the Jagermeister and ReverbNation stages respectively for the weekend. In 2012, Queensryche departed with their original vocalist Geoff Tate and shortly after enlisted Todd La Torre as the official replacement. Though we never caught Queensryche prior to the split with Geoff, we can safely say that Todd fuses well with the other members and holds his own as an engaging frontman.
Halestorm was one of the bands on the lineup for the first ever Carolina Rebellion in 2011. They have managed to return for four out of five years of the annual festival and only seem to get better each time. Their eleven song set featured a blend of songs from their April album release Into the Wild Life and older favorites: “Freak Like Me,” “I Get Off” and “I Miss the Misery.”
Following a reformation after a four year hiatus, there was no denying that Breaking Benjamin was one of the biggest excitements of the weekend. Though they didn’t have the most energetic stage presence, they still managed to pull what was arguably the biggest and most riled up collective crowd of the weekend. Clearly the band’s impact had not tarnished over the years, as fans sang along for “Until the End” and “The Diary of Jane,” among countless other favorite singles. Breaking Benjamin also gave us a taste of Dark Before Dawn, their upcoming album to be released on June 23rd.
We’re not sure words are needed for Slayer. The thrash metal group has 34 years under their belt and have established themselves as an iconic band, still selling out shows wherever they go. Like Breaking Benjamin, they weren’t the most interactive, but no invitation was necessary for crowdsurfing and mosh pits to happen… especially not during “Raining Blood.”
Returning to Rebellion for the first time since the festival’s debut year was Godsmack. The hard rockers headlined last year’s Rockstar Uproar and are still out on tour and laying it all out on stage in support of their 2014 album release 1000hp. Though the band lacked their pyro loaded stage set up that we saw on the headlining tour, the light show still dazzled and Sully Erna’s vocals were top notch. Per usual, Sully and drummer Shannon Larkin had their infamous “Batalla de los Tambores” (battle of the drums), impressing the crowd with a showcase of superior talents.
Unlike Kid Rock’s appearance last year, Slipknot was infinitely less controversial and less argued as a suitable headliner. Vocalist Corey Taylor had performed with Stone Sour in Charlotte a couple years ago, but that aside, this was Slipknot’s first performance in Charlotte since 2009. They delivered a solid 14 songs of face melting metal featuring their self-made masks, three drummers on risers that rose and spun in the air, plus a bedazzling display of pyro.
It has been amazing to see how much this festival has grown in five short years. The inaugural 2011 Rebellion was a lonesome one day with a total of under 20 bands, mainly on two main stages placed side by side. While 2013 saw the expansion of the festival into two days, the second day was largely hindered by an intense downpour. Despite receiving heavy criticism for advertising the event as “rain or shine” but not following through with it, promoters managed to make amends and drew an even bigger and more successful crowd to the 2014 iteration of Rebellion – featuring just shy of a 30 band lineup. This year, we saw a massive expansion of the festival grounds, plus the addition of an entirely new stage, which allowed for a whopping total of 39 performances over two days and one of the best lineups yet. We can only imagine what 2016 will bring… but rumors are already starting and fingers already crossing for the hint at a third day addition!