My Top 5 Shows From Sonic Temple 2019!!

Here’s the highlights from a fantastic week of rock n’ roll!!

5. Badflower

After a tiring drive to Ohio and a long wait in line on day one, we found our seats just in time to kick off our weekend with Badflower. The group was one of many up and coming artists on the lineup and easily one of the best. Josh Katz is a fantastic frontman, bringing an infectious energy and powerful vocals to every track. The setlist was predictably packed with cuts from their latest LP, OK, I’M SICK, and when they closed with their recent mega-hit, “Heroin,” after announcing that it had just reached number one on the US rock charts, they felt like a headliner in the making. This was an excellent way to kick off the weekend and a strong showing for a promising young band.

4. Ghost

Leading up to Ghost’s performance, I was admittedly uninformed on the group’s discography, but I was quite familiar with their reputation for theatrical performances. After an extended intermission during which an elaborate stage was assembled, the band of nameless, masked instrumentalists appeared to roaring applause followed by front man, Tobias Forge clad in his newest character, Cardinal Copia. Though I didn’t know the songs nearly as well as other acts from the festival, the energy was simply undeniable. Their music is heavily inspired by golden age acts like Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath and by combining that sound with a dramatic flair and fantastically talented musicians, Ghost has crafted a truly unique experience.

3. Halestorm

Kicking off the top-billed lineup for day one was Halestorm, perhaps best known for their near constant touring over their very long career. That experience pays dividends in massive shows like this as they absolutely brought the house down. The set kicked off with a long drum solo from Arejay Hale and continued at a breakneck pace for its entirety. The setlist was nicely mixed between older classics like “I Miss the Misery,” and newer hits like “Uncomfortable,” which sounded much better in their live settings than on the record. Lizzy Hale’s show-stopping vocals were captivating and, combined with excellent performances from the rest of the band, allowed Halestorm to stand comfortably, toe to toe with the other legends on the bill with them.

2. System of a Down

Heading into this festival, no band had me quite as excited as did System of a Down and they certainly did not disappoint. While the show was somewhat held back by noticeable technical issues, I found myself in awe of the talent before me. One simply cannot overstate the vocal abilities of Serj Tankian who brought a manic energy and breathtaking vocal range which stretched from thunderous growls to screeching highs and was razor sharp everywhere in between. Song selection leaned heavily into Toxicity but touched on hits from every record including their debut. The true star of the set was lead guitarist Daron Malakian who brought intensity and style to every track. It was an excellent performance from a legendary band.

******** HONORABLE MENTIONS ********

  • Movements
  • Amigo the Devil
  • Parkway Drive
  • Killswitch Engage
  • The Struts
  • Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
  • Gojira
  • Lamb of God

******** HONORABLE MENTIONS ********

1. Foo Fighters

There is perhaps no band in modern rock music quite as renowned for their live performances as the Foo Fighters, and this was further solidified with their set which closed the festival. After extensive rain delays which closed down the stadium for a few hours, Dave Grohl took the stage shouting “You didn’t think we were gonna play, did you?” Which set off a deafening roar from the crowd. The set lasted for two hours, twice as long as any other band on the lineup, and every bit of it was fantastic. From powerful performances of the group’s endless collection of hits to Grohl taking over on drums so that drummer Taylor Hawkins and Luke Spiller of The Struts could cover Queen’s “Under Pressure,” this show was a blast from start to finish. In many ways, a Foo Fighters show feels like a celebration of rock and roll itself, and so naturally, they were the perfect closers for a star-studded weekend which brought some of the best rock music has to offer.

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My Thoughts on the Lineup for Woodstock II

With a very strong lineup and a creative marketing campaign, Woodstock II stands a chance of being one of the best festivals of the summer, and a fairly fitting tribute to the event that changed it all.

Mid-August, 1969, White Lake, New York. Thousands of hippies were gathered for what had been billed as “Three Days of Peace, Love, and Music.” What they may not have known is that the event would dramatically change the nature of the way music is viewed in our culture, bringing to a head many important evolutions happening in the industry. The modern music landscape is what it is today largely because of the hippie movement and its culmination at Woodstock, and this is felt very much in the prescience of music festivals in modern culture.

The original Woodstock lineup was as star studded as a lineup has ever been. The 32-act list includes icons like Santana, Credence Clearwater Revival, Janice Joplin, The Who, The Band, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, and of course, Jimi Hendrix. It was a veritable who’s who of the early psych and arena rock movements, and though an argument can be made that other festivals at the time had better or more interesting lineups, there is absolutely no denying the cultural impact of Woodstock. With the 50th anniversary fast approaching, Woodstock II is scheduled the same days and same town this summer, and my outlook is fairly positive.

First and foremost, the lineup, though not lacking its fair share of duds, features quite the array of artists. There are, of course, the legacy acts who couldn’t and shouldn’t have been left off, namely people like Santana, Dead & Company, John Fogerty, and Robert Plant. However, the collection of young and established musicians is notable as well.

The first day is headlined by The Killers, an unexpected but strong choice, and Miley Cyrus, who is often overlooked despite a powerhouse voice and a multitude of impressive, live performances, most recently at the memorial for the late Chris Cornell. Earlier in the day, Run the Jewels will likely carry the torch of protest music in addition to bringing quite a bit of energy. Akon and The Head and The Heart will likely be quite fun, though both are somewhat odd choices. The dark horse artist of the day is easily Maggie Rogers who’s debut LP earlier this year was very strong, built on a modernized version of the 70’s aesthetic. Easily the highlight of the day, though, will be the Jack White lead Raconteurs. Put simply, Jack white knows how command a crowd, and the band’s blues rock sound will easily fill the large venue.

Day two is maybe the most impressive. Greta Van Fleet and Gary Clark Jr. were extremely obvious choices, and their styles will likely play extremely well here. Portugal. The Man will likely give a fun performance, as will Dawes, though nothing jaw dropping. The top row, however, is quite fantastic. Chance the Rapper is one of the most creative and exciting artists at work today, The Black Keys’ garage rock sound is tailor made for this kind of event, and Sturgill Simpson’s unique brand of psychedelic country fits this festival well. It will be an interesting battle between the three for the best act of the day.

Day three leaves a bit to be desired, though it’s not without it’s bright points. Jay-Z is nothing short of a legend in his own right and will easily give the best performance of the day. Cage the Elephant and Judah and the Lion will bring a diverse selection of rock to the heavily rap-centric day. Of course, Brandi Carlile and Janelle Monae can’t be overlooked as powerful songstresses in the lineup. Vince Staples and Earl Sweatshirt have both dropped solid projects in recent months. Imagine Dragon’s doesn’t belong within 10 miles of this event, let alone in a headlining slot, but underdogs like Amigo the Devil and Pussy Riot are welcome sites on the list.

Ultimately, the lineup may be the strongest of any festivals I’ve seen in a few years, and the mix of new and old is much appreciated. It should go without saying, though, that the event itself will carry on cursory similarities to its namesake. What seems to be an intentional move by the promoters to bill this more as a celebration of Woodstock’s legacy than a second coming of the historical even itself is a smart one. In that sense, I’m fairly optimistic.

With a very strong lineup and a creative marketing campaign, Woodstock II stands a chance of being one of the best festivals of the summer, and a fairly fitting tribute to the event that changed it all.

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