I have attended many concerts in my life, and a majority of them were festivals. However, Louder Than Life was probably one of the best festivals that I have been to. With big names like Slipknot, Staind, Ice Cube, Guns N’ Roses, Rob Zombie and Disturbed, the lineup was nothing short of amazing for a hard rock festival in Louisville, Kentucky. If you were not fully enthralled with the music, however, they had multiple art installations, craft spirits and vendors of all sorts. There was something at Louder Than Life for everyone.
The lineup for day one was stacked with modern hard rock and metal bands, with the headlining bands, Slipknot and Staind, closing out the night in a triumphant return to the music world after sporadic appearances since 2012.
The first band, New Years Day, was one of the few female-fronted bands at the festival. There aren’t many bands in hard rock and metal that are fronted by women that have major success, and to see their raw and aggressive energy radiate is just amazing. The two songs that I thoroughly enjoyed were “Come For Me” and “Shut Up.”
The next band was nothing short of a step back in time. One of the heaviest, brutal and all-around most metal vocalists in the genre was about to hit the stage. Phillip H. Anselmo & The Illegals, fronted by Phil Anselmo who was previously the lead singer of the historic metal band Pantera, amassed a massive crowd to hear what they were rumored to play. Their entire set was Pantera hits, and it was intimidating hearing the heavy riffs and vocals in real life compared to a CD or MP3 recording.
The next set, Motionless In White, was a group I saw previously when they were on the now-defunct Warped Tour back in 2018. During the festival, they had a sea of people waiting in anticipation. Motionless In White was one of the loudest bands of the day. They started off their set with the song that also shares the name of their new album “Disguise.” Their set consisted of seven songs, six of which were off of their two most recent albums.
After Motionless In White, the boys from Columbus, Beartooth, were set to take the stage. There is just something about seeing their logo on top of a darker orange backdrop that makes me feel like I can take on the world. Starting with “We Will Rock You” by Queen, I knew I would be in for the time of my life.
They started their set with “Bad Listener,” one of their numerous hits off their newest album, “Disease.” I felt a wave of excitement and energy fall over me, and before I knew it, I found myself in the middle of a mosh pit.
There are no real words I can use to describe what I felt in the middle of the crowd, running around and feeling like a human pinball while listening to one of my favorite bands in the world. It was invigorating. Beartooth has a way of commanding a crowd and playing good hard rock music that makes you want to move and groove.
After the experience in the mosh pit, I Prevail, from Detroit, took the stage and were playing like they were the headliner. The crowd loved it.
Following them was a band called Chevelle. They played all of their hits like “The Red,” “Send The Pain Below” and “Hats Off To The Bull.” I thoroughly enjoyed their set and would recommend anybody who wants to get into hard rock to give them a listen.
The band who took the stage after the guys in Chevelle were a band that means so much to me. A Day To Remember, the following group, is from a small town named Ocala in central Florida. This was the set that make me scream along at the top of my lungs and let the music flow through me. They played a collaboration song with Marshmello called “Rescue Me” and a new track off of their album “You’re Welcome” (release Nov. 15) called “Degenerates,” which had the entire crowd singing the chorus. They also played hits like “Have Faith In Me,” “All I Want” and “I’m Made Of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?” as well as a rarity called “Sticks & Bricks.”
As soon as they walked off stage, there was a tension in the air. Staind, a band who riddled the airwaves in the early 2000s with rock hits was about to take the stage: their first show in five years. And it went off without a hitch.
One moment from their show that stuck with me was when Aaron Lewis, the lead singer, said that they were going to play a new song but ended up playing “Outside,” which is one of their most popular songs.
After their set, the nine-piece band from Des Moines, Iowa, was about to tear up the stage. I had never seen Slipknot live, and it was a life changing experience. It was incredible to see how well all of the members fed off of each other’s energy and absolutely tore through their set without missing a single beat. I decided to leave early during their set to get rested up for the next day of rock and metal.
I arrived at the festival about an hour after the gates opened, and there was already a sea of people. Today was the day for Guns N’ Roses.
The first few bands, Amigo the Devil, Dirty Honey and Parlor Mob, were a good start to the day. I was more at the festival this day to take everything in and just to enjoy my day more than to see specific bands all day.
The first band that I was excited to see was Dropkick Murphys. They started with the anthem “The Boys Are Back,” and that got the blood flowing of everyone in the crowd. They wrapped up their set with a cover of The Crickets’ song “I Fought The Law” and their own absolute hit that will stand long after they go: “I’m Shipping Up To Boston.”
Following them up was the female-fronted Halestorm. Lzzy Hale had one of the best vocal performances I have ever heard in my life. Not only was she singing, she was wailing away on the guitar. She is one of the most popular frontwomen in rock and metal, and I believe she is the best just based on her vocal chops, lightning fast hands and how well she can do both at the same time. They played their anthemic hits “Love Bites (So Do I),” “Amen” and “I Miss The Misery.”
Then came one of the most shocking parts of the whole festival. The one and only Ice Cube of N.W.A. did a solo act and was absolutely amazing. For a rapper to be at a rock and metal festival, I originally was skeptical; however, he had one of the best shows out of all of the artists spanning all of the days at Louder Than Life. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand, and I am so glad I was able to see one of rap’s royalty when I never would have ventured outside of rock or metal for a live show. He performed “Check Yo’ Self,” “Straight Outta Compton” and “It Was A Good Day.”
Trying to follow up an icon like that would take some major artistry, but Godsmack delivered just that. Halfway through their set, Sully Erna, lead singer, and Shannon Larkin, drummer, had a dual drum kit drum off.
They performed a multitude of famous drum intros like Slayer’s “Raining Blood” and Rush’s “Tom Sawyer.” Godsmack also played their hits “When Legends Risse,” “Awake,” “Something Different” and “I Stand Alone.” After they all left the stage, the wait for one of the world’s biggest bands began.
In typical Guns N’ Roses fashion, they started their set about 40 minutes late, but their performance made me and everyone else forget about it. Their set had a whopping 28 songs compared to the other artists’ seven to 13 songs. Axl Rose hit every single note perfectly, and seeing one of the best and well-known guitarists in the world had me in awe. He ripped through “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “November Rain,” “Wish You Were Here” (a Pink Floyd song) and just so many others made me want to drive home, pick up my guitar and learn everything that he played and more. They finished their monstrous set with one of the most energetic songs in their repertoire, “Paradise City.” Day 2 of Louder Than Life felt like I had a good day in paradise.
On the hottest day of the festival, I was treated to another day of rock and metal, but with two iconic artists known for their shocking music and live shows.
The day started off with a band from Arizona called DED. Their music is aggressive yet easy to vibe with.
The next band that I was interested in was Demon Hunter. I first found out about them from Sirius XM’s radio show Octane with their song “On My Side.” One thing that stuck out to me after doing some research about them was that they are a Christian metal band, which don’t normally play at massive festivals. Their backdrop was their logo in stained glass with an alpha and omega symbol in two other separate panes. Their mix was a little off, which diminished the quality of their performance a bit, but after their show, they definitely gained a fan in me.
Meanwhile, one of the most well known bands from the mid 2000s was about to storm the stage. That band was Three Days Grace. With their now not-so-new lead singer Matt Walst, they played everything old and new and they did an incredible job with crowd participation. They performed the hits “Pain,” “Break,” “I Hate Everything About You” and “Riot,” which turned the crowd into a frenzy with dust, shoes and other things flying up in the air.
The band following them is by far one of the most theatrical bands that I have ever seen. In This Moment is the last female-fronted band that played at the festival, and they were a few minutes late, yet had the crowd in the palm of their hand.
Following them, Maria Brink and Co. started with an emotional cover of Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like An Eagle” and played their own staples “Big Bad Wolf,” “River of Fire” and “Blood.” Up next was one of the first bands that exposed me to the beauty and complexity of the genre. Breaking Benjamin ripped through their amazing 10 song set, excluding an intimate moment between a special fan and Benjamin Burnley, the lead singer, that had him serenade the fan by singing a part of their favorite song while standing right in front of them in the crowd. They played all of their chart smashing favorites including “Blow Me Away,” “Never Again,” “Failure” and the song that will forever be my favorite “The Diary of Jane.”
After they walked off stage, one of the kings of Shock Rock, Marilyn Manson, came next.. For having a long set time, he walked off stage 20 minutes early after playing only eight songs. There were a lot of things during his performance that made me feel uncomfortable based off of my personal beliefs, as well, some things that were presented on stage were just disturbing. He spent a multitude of the song “The Beautiful People” in the crowd. I was expecting more out of everything I have heard about a typical Manson show, and to me, he fell flat and I will just stick to listening to his music instead of seeing him live. Another king of Shock Rock decided to start their set a bit early to fill in the available time Manson left, and Rob Zombie hit the ground running and never looked back. Rob Zombie and former Marilyn Manson guitarist John 5 took the stage and had a good trippy rock n’ roll time. Some of his imagery, as well, didn’t sit too well with me, nor do I think I would go out of my way to see them again, but I am glad to say that I have had the opportunity to see them. They played Rob Zombie and White Zombie hits such as “Living Dead Girl,” “Thunder Kiss ‘65,” “More Human Than Human” and “Dragula” while breaking out the famous Beatles song “Helter Skelter.”
Closing out the three straight days of rock and metal was the band out of Chicago Disturbed. They had a very minimalist stage with a giant video monitor behind them and a drum kit in the center of the stage. They talked extensively about mental health and how everybody’s life is valuable, and I couldn’t agree more. They played a heart tugging rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” and their roaring live staples of “Stupify,” “Ten Thousand Fists,” “Inside The Fire,” and “The Light.” They closed out with “Down With The Sickness,” which has a tribal drum intro and a beastly scream that echoed throughout the venue and still sticks with me to this day. Disturbed had everyone from the moment they walked on stage until the time they walked off to the tune of The Muppets “Mah Na Mah Na.”
They truly put on an amazing show and were the perfect wrap up to nothing less than a spectacular festival.
Photos courtesy of Daniel Peters