It had been four long years since I last saw a concert at Historic Crew Stadium, home of the Sonic Temple Music Festival. The 2020 event was cancelled due to the entire world shutting down. 2021 was cancelled as well due to lingering fear peddling and no word on ever was publicly made that I’m aware of as to why the event didn’t happen in 2022. As someone who is one of the originals from 2007 when this event was formerly known as Rock On The Range, the pilgrimage to Columbus for this festival kind of became ingrained into my psyche. For this year’s festival, I only visited on Friday and Saturday. While pulling off of 17th Avenue onto the festival grounds, I was met with a rush of familiarity and memories with friends and strangers. Unfortunately, I arrived too late in the day to park in my usual spot under the shade of the infamous Pee Tree. If you’ve ever pre-gamed for this festival with me and my friends, you should remember the Pee Tree. Good times.
Unfortunately, I was unable to get down on Friday in time for Black Stone Cherry. one of my long time favorites whom I first discovered on those very grounds. While walking in, Badflower had just started their performance, but I was headed straight to the Octane Stage for Dorothy. I watched the rest of Badflower’s set from the video screens as Dorothy’s stage was being put together. She remains rock & roll’s best kept secret. She’s got a powerful voice. She’s got a great, hard rocking band behind her. She’s authentically authentic. Due to being a festival performance, the 7 song set was all too brief, especially after getting to see her perform a headlining set on her own tour last year. With that said, the band made the most of their 40 minute slot. Quite literally, their frontwoman stopped the show to shout a prayer over a fan that was having some sort of medical emergency. The show did not continue until security and medical personnel confirmed that the individual was okay. While there were a few dozen apparent nonbelievers that were looking for a reason to be offended and left, I found it refreshing to hear this woman bring everything to a halt and immediately reach out for divine intervention for a complete stranger in need. How sad it is that in today’s age, someone could be offended by somebody praying over somebody in distress. Dorothy Martin is admittedly no saint. She has been open for years about vulnerable moments in her life, her own demons and the things that have led her to her renewed faith. At a festival that had tents devoted to tarot card readings, tents devoted to coven members, and countless performers and fans wearing and saying things that blaspheme virtually every religion on earth, it is absolutely mind blowing that there were a vocal minority of people complaining about someone praying and making sure the devil wasn’t welcome to harm her fans. I know, not very “metal” of me to have this take, but oh well, I’m not ashamed. Anyway, the rest of her performance continued without incident and as always was one of the highlights.
From there it was to the main stage for the rest of the evening for me. As always, Illinois’ alt metal titans, Chevelle were their typical solid selves. Having also seen them multiple times, this three-piece isn’t there to be flashy. They show up and let their music speak for them. In their fifty minute set they fit in as many songs as the evening’s headliner, but we’ll get to that in a minute. Sandwiched between Chevelle and the Friday headliner was Seattle’s Queens Of The Stone Age. They aren’t my typical go-to type of band, but their set was fine and lead vocalist Josh Homme remarked that it was their first gig in five years. I’d have flipped them and Chevelle, but no real complaints there. QOTSA also managed to play an 11 song set, matching the output of the final band of the night.
Friday night’s headliner marked the return of a festival favorite; Avenged Sevenfold. The three new tracks were fine, and expected on an album tour. It was that there was only eight other tracks during their performance that puzzles me. I love A7X and have been a fan of theirs since the early 2000’s. Yet every time that they have headlined this festival, I don’t think they’ve ever played what is a proper headlining set. In 2018 they played a whopping ten songs and didn’t encore. In 2014 they played thirteen. In 2011 they played ten and in 2009 as the direct support to the headlining Motley Crue they only played seven songs. I don’t get it. Again, Friday night in 2023, they only played eleven songs and forget an encore song or two; because they stopped playing twenty minutes before their advertised set time was supposed to end. Again, I love this band, but if there is a physical reason that they can’t play a proper headlining set then drop them to the direct support and let them play for an hour since that seems to be about what they want to do.
The band sounded better than I anticipated. The new songs are growing on me. I don’t understand the shock that people have expressed in their new sound. This has kind of been the trajectory that they’ve been heading for awhile now. I’m all for being creative and trying to grow. I do hope, however, that they are all in a good place and are taking care of themselves both in body, mind and spirit. I can’t put my finger on it, but something just seems like members of this band may need some help. They’ve been through a lot. I hope for the best and I hope to see them again, but ending a major festival performance 20 minutes earlier than what was advertised and what people paid a lot of money for makes it seem like maybe things aren’t just quite right in A7X world.
- Avenged Sevenfold Set List Columbus, OH
- 1. Game Over
- 2. Afterlife
- 3. Hail To The King
- 4. We Love You
- 5. Buried Alive
- 6. So Far Away
- 7. Nobody
- 8. Nightmare
- 9. Bat Country
- 10. Unholy Confessions
- 11. A Little Piece Of Heaven
I trekked back down on Saturday for my most anticipated concert of 2023: KISS. I”ve been a KISS fan since I was about fifteen years old since Santa Claus, apparently growing tired of my rap phase, gifted me the iconic Destroyer album for Christmas. From the first time I heard “Detroit Rock City” and “God Of Thunder” among others on the record, I’ve been hooked. I first saw KISS in 2003 with my Dad on a co-headlining tour with Aerosmith. I saw them a second time with my brother in 2009 in Cleveland where they had the curious choice of having Buckcherry as their opening act. Anyway, every time that KISS had came to town since then, they’ve eluded me for whatever reason. To say that I had been waiting for that concert for a long time would be an understatement. To pass on the goodwill that my Dad, er, Santa Claus passed on to me; I took my 13 year old nephew with me for his first large scale concert experience.
We arrived in time to catch From Ashes To New on the Octane Stage. Hailing from neighboring Pennsylvania, these hard rockers were really good. They brought great energy and packed 9 songs into their forty minute set. See my confusion with Avenged Sevenfold? They were given 90 minutes to headline the event, played for 70 minutes instead, and only played 11 songs. Anyway, for being the first band my nephew ever got to see at a festival, they left a lasting impression on him and I was impressed as well.
Following them were Sweden’s Avatar. Their performances are always entertaining. For those of you that might not be familiar; imagine Alice Cooper’s theatrics meets King Diamond piercing vocals meets Swedish heavy metal. It makes sense to me. I’m here for it and the crowd reaction was great, particularly for “Smells Like A Freakshow”. I must wonder, though, if those same complainers about Dorothy shared any complaints about the subject matter from Avatar’s performance. I’m doubtful. Anyway, this is a band that I recommend people to check out if you are a metalhead that might be looking for something new.
For the rest of the evening it was time to venture from the Octane Stage into the stadium for the big acts. For the first time in awhile at this event, Rob Zombie was not in a headlining role. He understood the assignment though. Zombie is a huge KISS fan and was all on board with being the act that got the privilege of opening for them. I’d have made some changes to his set list, but as always he worked the crowd into a frenzy with his unique brand of grooving “dance” songs that tackle Gothic era horror and comics. I’ve never not enjoyed myself during a Rob Zombie performance and yesterday was not an exception.
- Rob Zombie Set List Columbus, OH
- 1. The Triumph Of King Freak (A Crypt Of Preservation And Superstition)
- 2. Superbeast
- 3. Meet The Creeper
- 4. Shake Your Ass – Smoke Your Grass
- 5. Living Dead Girl
- 6. More Human Than Human
- 7. Dead City Radio And The New Gods Of Supertown
- 8. Scum Of The Earth
- 9. Never Gonna Stop ( The Red, Red Kroovy)
- 10. Well, Everybody’s *Friendly* In A U.F.O.
- 11. House Of 1000 Corpses
- 12. Thunder Kiss ’65
- 13. Dragula
An hour after Zombie’s set finished, it was time for KISS. They did not disappoint. This band takes a lot of flak from people and some of it deservedly so; but their live performances are rivaled by very few acts and it makes me happy to see that they are ending this thing in a fashion where they are still able to put on a great show. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are well into their 70’s and it would be easy to phone it in on this last run of shows that will see their touring days come to an end; but they aren’t. Columbus, OH was treated to the “hottest band in the world” one final time and packed as much into a 90 minute set that I think they could. Getting to share it with my young nephew made it even cooler. With every explosion, rising platform, spitting fire, and blood capsule trick; I would look over and see a thirteen year old boy with a look of awe on his face that I was hoping for. Outside of Metallica at Rock On The Range 2017, KISS firmly planted themselves as the best performance in the event’s history in my not so humble opinion. It was awesome, for one last time, to lose our minds in *Columbus* Rock City with KISS.
- KISS Set List Columbus, OH
- 1. Detroit Rock City
- 2. Shout It Out Loud
- 3. War Machine
- 4. Heaven’s On Fire
- 5. I Love It Loud
- 6. Cold Gin
- 7. *Tommy Thayer guitar solo*
- 8. Lick It Up
- 9. Calling Dr. Love
- 10. Psycho Circus
- 11. *Eric Singer drum solo*
- 12. 100,000 Years
- 13. God Of Thunder
- 14. Love Gun
- 15. I Was Made For Lovin’ You
- 16. Black Diamond
- 17. Beth (Encore)
- 18. Rock & Roll All Nite (Encore)