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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Badflower’s Debut is Flawed but Exciting

OK, I’m Sick is imperfect, but a promising start for an exciting new rock band.

Badflower is an alt-rock four piece from Los Angeles, California. They signed with Hundred Handed Records in 2014 and released their debut single, “Soap,” the following year. They began touring as an opening act for The Veronicas in Europe and gained quite a buzz within the industry. This eventually lead to their being approached by Republic Records who began a complicated discussion of buying their contract out from Hundred Hands. Frustrated with this process, Badflower took to their garage to record and self-produce their debut EP, Temper. The project was extremely successful with singles charting in the top 40, larger crowds attending their shows, and a few spots in rock festivals across the country. After building an impressive following, especially in the difficult landscape of current alt-rock music, Badflower has finally released their debut LP, OK I’M SICK.

From the very start of the record, it’s clear that the instrumentation is a driving force behind Badflower’s sound. Guitarist Joey Morrow drops quite a few impressive riffs across the album from the opener, “x ANA x,” to “Die,” on the latter half of the LP, he benefits quite a bit from a thick, fuzzy effects that allows the guitar work to cut to the front of each song. On top of this, his riffs and solos are not only impressively performed, but extremely listenable and well written.

This is also true for Alex Aspiritu on bass. While much of the bass work on the album serves to add depth to the already powerful instrumental pallet, it also has a few moments in the spotlight. On by far the best cut of the record, “Heroine,” or on a track like “Wide Eyes,” the bass not only plays its own interesting melody, but when the full instrumental falls back, its often the bass guitar that carries the track. I’ve said before that the sign of a great rock band is their bass player, and Aspritu does excellent work on this album.

There’s also some great songwriting on this album. This is especially true in the melody department, as tracks like “The Jester,” and “Ghost,” feature earworm choruses without sacrificing the overall edge of the album. In a modern music landscape that isn’t exactly friendly to rock music, the ability to write a strong chorus and hook is extremely important and luckily, it’s a skill that Badflower seems to posses.

Perhaps a bit less noticeable, however, is the lyrical quality of many of these tracks. “Daddy,” for example, deals in difficult subject matter with an admirably unflinching hand, translating much of the discomfort caused by the story into relentlessly honest writing. “Girlfriend,” on the other hand, is an old school, blues cut with comical lyrics that mirror the punk energy that comes with the instrumentals.

All this being said, Okay, I’m Sick ultimately lives and dies by Josh Katz’ vocal work, which is, for the most part, excellent. There are clear influences from the likes of Gerard Way and Jack White, but he makes the sound his own with emotive delivery and a manic energy lifted straight from the pop-punk days of the early 2000’s. On a track like “Murder Games,” he’s able to stand out above a raucous band. The closer, “Cry,” on the other hand, sees Josh carrying a much longer track as one of the most dynamic and interesting elements.

The shortcomings on the record can be narrowed down to one specific area and that is production. There is a depressing multitude of songs, namely “We’re in Love,” “Promise Me,” or “24,” that are all but ruined by the mixing and production. The majority of the problem is characterized by an insistence on sanding down every hard edge across the entire album. It sucks the life out nearly every cut and robs several tracks of any energy.

Despite this, OK, I’m Sick is a largely enjoyable experience. It hits many of the best points of alt-rock and emo-rock but injects enough melody and energy to make the record accessible to fans outside the genre.

OK, I’m Sick is imperfect, but a promising start for an exciting new rock band.

6/10

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