Sonic Temple Festival finally returning in 2023

Finally. It will have been over four years since the last Sonic Temple Festival (formerly Rock on the Range), when it will make its long anticipated return during Memorial Day weekend to the Historic Crew Stadium. After a great festival in 2019, that saw an amazing performance by the Foo Fighters close out the event, Sonic Temple had been unable to go on during the following three years. 2020’s lineup had much promise. Initially, they were to have two headlining performances by the biggest band on the planet; Metallica. Unfortunately, 2020 happened and live music as we knew it ceased to exist for far too long. 2021 didn’t start out much better and the festival was cancelled for a second straight year due to there not being enough time to prepare for a festival of this magnitude so shortly after the pandemic was beginning to turn for the better. Why the festival didn’t return in 2022 is still up for debate, but it didn’t; and that left many to wonder if the original of these modern day Danny Wimmer Presents festivals would ever return.

Things began to trend in the right direction when a cryptic video was released this past fall from Historic Crew Stadium’s Main Stage and shortly after that came the official announcement that the festival would return in 2023. However, this will be the first time that the event doesn’t fall during Armed Forces Day weekend and will instead expand to four days and be held during the Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day weekend and rock & roll music in Columbus, OH (thank you QFM 96) have a long history and this event should be one for the ages. Particularly, now that the lineup has been announced, this year’s event will be the place to be over the holiday weekend. Let’s break down the lineup:

Thursday May 25 features one of the most requested headlining acts every year with TOOL. They were at the festival once before, in 2018, which would wind up being the last year that it was called Rock on the Range. The alt-metal band will once again be directly supported by the same band that opened for them last time; Godsmack. The Boston hard rockers have played this event several times, including as the first day headliner in 2010. They’ve always put on a great show, and with this tour supporting what the band is calling it’s last album, I’d expect nothing less this time around either. The rest of Thursday will also be highlighted by Columbus’ own Beartooth with the highest billing they’ve had here, Welsh metalcore giants Bullet For My Valentine, Los Angeles’ Bad Omens, and 80’s crossover thrash/punk pioneers Suicidal Tendencies.

Friday May 26th brings back another festival favorite and one of the most requested acts each year with heavy metal titans and headlining act, Avenged Sevenfold. Avenged has previously played the festival four times including headlining performances in 2011, 2014, and 2018 although this will be their first time performing here since the event switched names. Their direct support will be 90’s rock outfit Queens of the Stone Age. They’ll be making their Crew Stadium debut; and at a festival that has a history of some iconic surprise appearances and special guests, I have to imagine there could be a special guest appearing during their performance. I believe that Friday, overall, will also be the strongest day of the festival. The undercard features some really great live bands including: hard rocking three piece Chevelle, thought provoking Badflower, the current queen of rock music Dorothy and her outstanding live band (read my 2022 review of her here), and modern Southern rock heavyweights Black Stone Cherry.

Saturday May 27th keeps the party going with one of the most iconic bands of all time coming to make their Crew Stadium debut. This band will probably be making their final appearance in Columbus as the Saturday headliner, as they are on their extended final tour. Of course, the band I’m talking about is the one and only, often imitated but never duplicated, “hottest band in the world!”; KISS! The best iterations of this festival have been the ones that have included some of the true icons of rock and heavy metal (ZZ Top, Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, Metallica, Judas Priest, Saxon, Cheap Trick and Megadeth have all graced this festival) and this is just another legendary band for them to be able to add to that list. KISS will absolutely be the show of the weekend! Would there be anybody else that would be a finer direct support for them than Rob Zombie? I don’t think so. Zombie is another band that has graced this event multiple times, including headlining performances in 2012 and 2016. This pairing of shock-rock legends will be a great way to cap off an evening that will include earlier performances by the rising Vegas outfit Falling In Reverse, TOOL’s Maynard Keenan’s third band Puscifer, the always popular Trivium from Orlando, Cincinnati’s Black Veil Brides, classic rock revivalists Rival Sons, and Swedish metal act Avatar.

Sunday May 28th will see the Sonic Temple Festival come to a close with the same band that headlined its inaugural event under the Sonic Temple name. That band is the Foo Fighters. In what will surely be an emotional performance, as the band will now be trying to carry on without their long time drummer Taylor Hawkins, who sadly passed away last year. You know, though, that any time that Dave Grohl takes the stage that you are going to get a great performance. Both Rock on the Range and Sonic Temple have had their moments with emotional performances and this one will be no different. They’ll be supported by the alt metal quintet; Deftones. Other bands that are sure to highlight the day are Sublime with Rome, Taylor Momsen’s The Pretty Reckless, and Cleveland’s own Filter.

Tickets for Sonic Temple Art and Music Festival are already on sale and can be purchased here! You can also listen to “Ohio’s Best RockQFM 96 and “YOUR Rock Station99.7 The Blitz for ticket giveaways and promotions as well as news and updates for the festival. Who are you most excited to see perform at Sonic Temple in 2023?

Armored Saint/W.A.S.P. tour marches through Columbus

One of the most anticipated heavy metal tours in years made its way through Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday night. The tour package pairs up two of Los Angeles’ best metal bands to come out of the city during the 1980’s. In fact, both bands are celebrating their 40th years of existence on this trek. The Columbus gig, performed at The King of Clubs, on the city’s north side was the venues fastest sell out to date. The event sold out in just eight days, way back in January. For anyone claiming that the 80’s metal scene no longer has a demand, they’re sorely mistaken.

The evening started out with the usual controversy that has been following this tour from city to city. Headlining act, W.A.S.P. and their larger than life front man Blackie Lawless, were severely late to their “meet and greet” event prior to the show. An hour before doors were supposed to open, they got pushed back a half hour to 7:00. The only problem was they didn’t actually open until almost 7:40 p.m. I’m not sure if Lawless considered the fact that the fans were left to wait outside in sub freezing temperatures for nearly two hours, but surely he should recognize that the weather in Columbus, Ohio is not the same as in Los Angeles, California. While the delay did cause for some restlessness and frustration by those waiting in the long lines outside, all in all the crowd remained pretty upbeat in anticipation for the show.

Opening the event were one of the most underrated bands from that era; Armored Saint. Led out front by John Bush, one of the most respected vocalists in the metal genre, the band raced through their ten song set. As one should when they are celebrating four decades of music, ‘Saint played songs throughout the entirety of their career; including a trio of songs from their 1984 debut (March of the Saint) album to close the show as well as a couple of tracks from their most recent output (2020’s Punching the Sky). According to setlist.fm, last night’s show was the first in Ohio’s capital city for Armored Saint since 1987 on the Hell On Wheels Tour and only the third time they’ve ever played Columbus.

The combination of Bush’s soaring vocals over top of Phil Sandoval’s guitar solos worked the crowd into a frenzy and beckoning for “One more song!” well after the show ended. From my perfect vantage point, directly next to the sound guy, the band were in peak form. While they have been doing this for forty years, the energy on the stage and from the capacity crowd were reflective of the never ending passion between metal heads and the groups they follow. The fact that the venue was filled to capacity prior to the opening act, speaks to the quality of this bill and the loyalty to great metal music. Fans of metal music might not be taken seriously in the media, but you’ll be hard pressed to find fans more dedicated than them in any other genre.

Armored Saint set list 11/30/2022

  1. Reign of Fire (1991)
  2. End of the Attention Span (2020)
  3. Nervous Man (1985)
  4. Last Train Home (1991)
  5. Chemical Euphoria (1987)
  6. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (2020)
  7. Win Hands Down (2015)
  8. Can U Deliver (1984)
  9. March of the Saint (1984)
  10. Mad House (1984)

After a short break, the headlining act for the tour took the stage, and while W.A.S.P. has a little more history playing Columbus than Armored Saint; it was their first visit since 2010 at the famed yet no longer open, Al Rosa Villa. The aforementioned Blackie Lawless and his cast of LA headbangers dominated the stage as well. W.A.S.P. sounded great and certainly lived up to the hype that this tour has been generating from city to city. Unfortunately, their ten song set seemed all too brief, for a headlining act. They stuck to their early era material and biggest hits this time around with a lot of focus on their 1984 self titled debut album and 1992’s The Crimson Idol. Prior to the encore, they made their feelings known on censorship and the ole PMRC that made the lives of metal musicians pretty stressful in the 1980’s. For those of you that might not know, it was Mr. Blackie Lawless and his band W.A.S.P. that led records to be stamped with a Parental Advisory label when the content was deemed to be too mature or vulgar. Thankfully, free speech won back then and the bands actually flourished due to the extra attention that wives in Washington D.C. were giving to these bands at no cost.

As Lawless made sure to point out near the conclusion of the show, the concerts with Armored Saint have been selling out at venues across the country. With that kind of demand, hopefully these tours will become a little more frequent for these two giants of the early Southern California metal movement!

W.A.S.P. set list 11/30/22

  1. On Your Knees (1984) / The Flame (1984) / The Torture Never Stops (1984) / Inside the Electric Circus (1986) *Medley*
  2. L.O.V.E. Machine (1984)
  3. Wild Child (1985)
  4. The Idol (1992)
  5. The Great Misconceptions of Me (1992)
  6. Chainsaw Charlie (Murders in the New Morgue) (1992)
  7. Blind in Texas (1985)
  8. Animal (**** Like a Beast) (1984) *Encore*
  9. The Real Me (The Who cover) (1989) *Encore*
  10. I Wanna Be Somebody (1984) *Encore*

Brit Floyd welcomes Columbus to the machine

2022 has been a good year for live music so far. Virtually everybody is touring and I’ve been able to catch a great deal of the shows that I’ve wanted to attend. There have been some outstanding shows this year and although they are playing covers; last night’s was the best so far. Brit Floyd, the all-star cast that relentlessly tours, keeps the timeless music of Pink Floyd alive in concert form. As they seemingly do each summer, they visited Kemba Live in Columbus last night, and played another concert for the ages. The authenticity of their sound and image is second to none.

As per usual in their performances, the concert was split into two acts. Heavy rains hit the city prior to the first set beginning, but the crowd packed in anyway and by the time the show started the skies had cleared. The instrumental “Cluster One“, the opening track off of 1994’s The Division Bell opened the evening. The band always does a great job of including as many of the hits as well as the obscure Floyd classics in their set as possible. That’s no small task, and with a catalog like Floyd’s, inevitably someone will always take issue with which songs are performed. I, for one, am baffled that not a single track from Animals was played last night. The set list was stellar and I won’t critique it, but ignoring such a monumental album blew my mind.
With all of that said, the songs were phenomenal. They dug deep into the Pink Floyd catalog and made sure to include all eras of the Pink Floyd sound. Led out front by guitarist/vocalist Damian Darlington and bassist/vocalist Ian Cattell, they’ve surrounded themselves with a cast of musicians that make sure that not even the smallest detail is missed when it comes to recreating this music. Even the outstanding backing vocalist trio, highlighted by Eva Avila’s performance of “Great Gig in the Sky“, make this the closest thing to seeing Pink Floyd live that we are going to get. I’ll be seeing Roger Waters live for the first time in a couple weeks, and I’m not convinced that his performance of his songs will beat their performance of his songs.

Getting to catch live versions of some of the greatest music ever created is always a blast. I was thankfully able to coordinate with one of my longest friends to go with me and take in the show. Pink Floyd’s music never ceases to hit me with a new message, whenever I go through one of my several Floyd binges each year. The tunes never seem to sound dated, although with each passing year it becomes more and more apparent that I can relate to them differently. In particular, the following from this Dark Side of the Moon classic.

“Time”

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it’s sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in a relative way, but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say

Home, home again
I like to be here when I can
When I come home cold and tired
It’s good to warm my bones beside the fire

Far away, across the field
The tolling of the iron bell
Calls the faithful to their knees

To hear the softly spoken magic spell

Brit Floyd Set List Columbus, Ohio 7/27/2022

  1. Cluster One (1994)
  2. Learning To Fly (1987)
  3. High Hopes (1994)
  4. Welcome To The Machine (1975)
  5. A New Machine, Part 1 (1987)
  6. Terminal Frost (1987)
  7. Time (Breathe reprise) (1973)
  8. The Great Gig In The Sky (1973)
  9. Poles Apart (1994)
  10. Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2) (1979)
  11. One Of These Days (1971)
  12. Echoes (1971)
  13. The Final Cut (1983)
  14. Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun (1967)
  15. Money (1973)
  16. Wish You Were Here (1975)
  17. Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts VI-IX) (1975)
  18. Comfortably Numb (1979)
  19. One Slip (1987) *Encore*
  20. Run Like Hell (1979) *Encore*

Tom Keifer, L.A. Guns on solid ground in Akron

Ohio’s Rubber City faithful were treated to another fantastic performance by the Tom Kiefer Band last night as well as an outstanding effort by opener L.A. Guns. Kiefer, who last played the classy Goodyear Theater in fall of 2019, had his band firing on all cylinders to the packed house.

The evening was started off by the hard rockers; Enuff Z’Nuff, but I unfortunately missed their set while travelling up to Akron. Shortly after finding my 11th row seats; it was the well known, Tracii Guns led, L.A. Guns that took the stage. To say that I was pleasantly surprised with their performance would be a major understatement.

For whatever reason, I’d never really checked out the band prior to last night. I’ve seen almost every band from the 80’s metal scene multiple times but had never had the opportunity to see L.A. Guns before; and if I’m being honest, I wasn’t familiar with them either. Guns is a well-known and well-respected guitar player in the metal community, but outside of being aware of him, my knowledge of the band was minimal. They have now forced my hand and my L.A. Guns phase will start in earnest after the performance that they gave as the support act.

I’d have never expected that they’d be so heavy. They were borderline too loud but got the place pumped up, as most of the spectators were standing during their set. Highlights included a Guns guitar solo with what appeared to be a violin bow, “Over the Edge”; “Never Enough”; and of course, their 1989 power ballad “The Ballad of Jayne”.

If an opening acts job is to get the crowd riled up for the headliner, L.A. Guns did that and then some. In between acts, the place was popping with plenty of buzz and the merch tables were packed. As usual, Chip Z’Nuff was at his band’s merch table taking photos and signing memorabilia for the Enuff Z’Nuff faithful in the crowd.

After a brief hiatus, the Tom Kiefer Band took the stage and ran through the Cinderella classics as well as a pair of songs each from their 2013 debut “The Way Life Goes” and 2019’s sophomore effort “Rise”. The newer tunes sounded good, as always, but it was the Cinderella anthems that kept the crowd on their feet, toe-tapping and fist pumping throughout the 14-song set.

Few performers are more obviously leaving everything they have on the stage than Keifer, which was apparent throughout the show, as his scream during “Nobody’s Fool” literally brought him to the floor. I believe that Keifer has found the sound that the Cinderella band was meant to have. During their hey-day Cinderella was often lumped with rest of the “hair” bands; criminally, I might add. They were always a great hard rock band and when you see his band perform now, there is no mistaking that this music was always more rooted in the blues than it was big hair.

Tom Keifer band performing in Akron, Ohio. Photo credit Amber Hobbs.

All the things that you’d expect from a band of that nature are present. There are piano pieces and steel guitar. The women that provide the backing vocals compliment the thumping rhythm section and a pair of guitars; combining to make a much fuller sound than you get on the Cinderella records. I’d absolutely love for the current Tom Keifer Band to do a live release because they do true justice to the Cinderella catalog as well as their own music.

An underrated element to their live sound, is that the band appears to be having the time of their lives up on stage. Nobody wants to pay hard earned money to see a band phoning it in just to collect a paycheck. Both bands that I was able to see last night, were doing it for the right reasons and the crowd can feel that energy; and feeds off it. With Led Zeppelin nonexistent, and things quiet on the AC/DC front; I’m willing to say that the Keifer Band is the group that is best flying the flag for bluesy hard rock these days.

You’re in luck, too, Ohio; if you couldn’t make the Akron gig, they’ll be back July 16th in the Columbus suburb of Pickerington headlining the Picktown Palooza Festival with Faster Pussycat and L.A. Guns supporting. The concerts are included with a paid admission of only $5 and can be purchased here.

Tom Keifer Band Setlist 6/29/2022 Akron, Ohio

  1. Touching the Divine
  2. Night Songs (Cinderella cover)
  3. Coming Home (Cinderella cover)
  4. It’s Not Enough
  5. Somebody Save Me (Cinderella cover)
  6. Rise
  7. Nobody’s Fool (Cinderella cover)
  8. Solid Ground
  9. Fallin’ Apart at the Seams (Cinderella cover)
  10. The Last Mile (Cinderella cover)
  11. Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone) (Cinderella cover)
  12. Shake Me (Cinderella cover)
  13. Shelter Me (Cinderella cover)
  14. Gypsy Road (Cinderella cover) *Encore*

The Iron Maidens headline trio of tributes in Columbus

Live music is coming back, and it’s a beautiful thing. While last night’s show featured a trio of high quality tribute acts, even the big tours are starting to get the wheels rolling towards big shows as well. The concert last night was at a new, to me, venue that exceeded my expectations. What they’ve got going for them first and foremost was excellent hospitality. I’ve had VIP at both The Newport and ExpressLive (or whatever it’s called these days) and never been treated as exceptionally as we were last night at The King of Clubs. While this new venue is in a tough part of town like The Al Rosa Villa was, they’re offering something that the rest of the city hasn’t for quite some time. Just being frank, compare the largely utter garbage that The Newport and Express Live are booking compared to The King of Clubs and you’ll see why I have hope for this place. The joint is being ran by a heavy metal vocalist and the talent they are booking are filling the demand for hard rock and metal fans in the 614. The former Al Rosa was not only in a tough area and it was cramped; and while we all have fond memories there, this new venue appears set to offer the same music but with more space and much superior hospitality. They’re pushing this narrative at The King of Clubs, where they are going to be Ohio’s finest entertainment venue and everyone is treated like royalty. Well, to my surprise, they delivered on all of the above. I want to see this venue do well and the surrounding area come up with it.

The opening act were Sweet Leaf, a Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne tribute. They were a fun way to kick off the night and until you hear these songs live, it’s easy to forget just how heavy Sabbath really was. In today’s world of growling vocals and muddied distortion, what was once considered heavy could be forgotten. Not the case with Sabbath though. Those old, doomy riffs still hit today. Their lead singer and Ozzy lookalike took time to take a photo with my daughter who was with us celebrating her 14th birthday to see the evenings headliners. Much appreciated.

Sweet Leaf set list

  1. I Don’t Know (Ozzy cover)
  2. Sweet Leaf (Black Sabbath cover)
  3. Bark at the Moon (Ozzy cover)
  4. I’m a Believer (Ozzy cover)
  5. Crazy Train (Ozzy cover)
  6. Suicide Solution (Ozzy cover)
  7. Paranoid (Black Sabbath cover)
  8. N.I.B. (Black Sabbath cover)
  9. War Pigs (Black Sabbath cover)

From there we’d be treated to the Steel City Crue, who came from Pittsburgh to bring the Motley Crue goods to Columbus. When people think about or listen to Motley Crue music, I think the general consensus is fun. At least for me, I just think of good times, anyway. These guys went the extra yard and the entire four piece looked and sounded like their counterpart from the real Crue. That’s what the people want. When they go to a show like this, they want it all. It was my first time seeing either of these opening acts and they both exceeded my expectations. Steel City Crue didn’t only focus on the radio hits either, and made sure to play some of the old, heavier Crue as well; which was very well received. They also made sure that everyone knew that they were from Pittsburgh so they also didn’t like Penn State and of course did the obligatory “O-H” “I-O” back and forth with the crowd.

Steel City Crue set list

  1. Shout at the Devil
  2. Doctor Feelgood
  3. Take Me to the Top
  4. Wild Side
  5. Red Hot
  6. Home Sweet Home
  7. Looks That Kill
  8. Ten Seconds to Love
  9. Kickstart My Heart
  10. Smokin’ in the Boys Room (Brownsville Station cover)
  11. Live Wire

The headlining Iron Maidens were making their King of Clubs debut as well. The two previous times that I’ve been able to catch them were at The Al Rosa Villa. While they are credited with being the ‘World’s only all female tribute to Iron Maiden’; their gender really is irrelevant to their musical abilities. As a Maiden die hard, it’s cool to see chicks that even like Iron Maiden and the fact that they are excellent musicians is the icing on the cake. Just don’t get hung up on the “female” part as a gimmick. It is not. These ladies flat out rock. Nikki Stringfield and Courtney Cox trade guitar solos throughout the show and pack the Maiden punch. Kirsten Rosenberg hits Bruce Dickinson’s high vocal notes and even takes them up another couple levels on her screams. The backbone to both Maiden and their counterparts in this tribute band operate at another level. Wanda Ortiz’ right hand is a blur on the bass as she holds down the Maiden gallop and Steve Harris’ rhythms and Linda McDonald seemingly had all four of her limbs in constant motion for the entirety of the set on the drums. Fantastic as always. And in a time when most of the big tours haven’t returned yet, and the uncertainty of the industry, these high quality tribute acts bring much needed live music to concert craving fans.

The Iron Maidens performing Run to the Hills

Small venues are cool. In the mezzanine was a VIP lounge where the girls were prior to the show. It appeared that they briefly may have had a Spinal Tap moment in not being able to find their way to the stage, which I genuinely hope was the case as I love that movie. My daughter was able to get a fist bump from Courtney after the show and seeing her smile and enjoying these songs with me, the same way that I’ve enjoyed hearing these songs live with my dad, made me a happy man.

The Iron Maidens set list

(Doctor, Doctor)

  1. Aces High
  2. 2 Minutes to Midnight
  3. Infinite Dreams
  4. Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra)
  5. The Trooper
  6. Stranger in a Strange Land
  7. Wasted Years
  8. Wasting Love
  9. Rime of the Ancient Mariner
  10. Sun and Steel
  11. Killers
  12. The Number of the Beast

*Encore*

13. Hallowed Be Thy Name

14. Run to the Hills

(Always Look on the Bright Side of Life)