Words & Photos by Amber James
Terror started off day one with immense energy, just like hardcore stalwarts Lionheart did last year. Their set started off with the first two bangers off their iconic full length, Keepers of the Faith, ‘Your Enemies Are Mine’ and ‘Stick Tight’ back to back. Front man, Scott Vogel, got the crowd going in the early afternoon, which equates to early morning for most festival goers. Jumping down off the stage and climbing onto the barricade during ‘Stick Tight’, despite the slight rain and mud building up from the previous night’s storm, fans were still fighting to grab the mic from Vogel. During ‘Overcome’, Vogel even threw the mic out into the crowd for some spontaneous gang vocals and fans hanging on the barricade were happy to oblige. As the set continued, security found their jobs getting harder with the sheer amount of crowd surfers that kept coming over the barricade.
Making the switch to some catchy pop punk on the stage next door, Masked Intruder took to the stage (watched over by their sunglasses clad parole officer). Clad in their multi colored ski masks, the band stole the energy and hearts of the fans watching them. Playing primarily songs from their last two full lengths, they started off with a track off their most recent one, M.I., ‘The Most Beautiful Girl’. Just as Terror started off the day with intense energy, Masked Intruder kept it going. Between Green constantly pogoing and bouncing around on stage and Cop keeping tabs on them and launching himself into the crowd, the energy never stopped.
The Word Alive is no stranger to performing before crowds like this having honed their festival chops by spending multiple summers on the Vans Warped Tour rolling across the United States. Starting off their set, they threw it all the wayyyyy back to their debut full length, Deceiver, with their time tested, fan favorite, ‘2012’. Front man, Telle Smith, commands the stage like the festival veteran he is. One of my personal favorites, ‘Sellout’, off their most recent release, Dark Matter, was next up and it’s a marked difference from the sheer heavy vibe of ‘2012’; trading heavy guitar and bass plus synth for punkier, yelled vocals with the drums having prevalence.
The Word Alive
Emo fans take heart, one of our favorites of our youth has returned and it’s like they never left. Breaking into their set with classics off of War All The Time and A City by the Light Divided, it was like we were transported for the first time that weekend back to the early hey day of 2000’s. But, in fact, we were in present day and it was better than ever. Geoff Rickley released just as much emotion through his vocals as he ever did. Meanwhile, their set was framed by two long banners reading ‘Refugees welcome here’ and ‘Protect immigrant communities’, a message even more important in today’s current political climate.
I mean, what really needs to be said about Wu Tang Clan? The name alone says it all, both name and logo recognizable nearly everywhere. Earlier, other photographers as well as myself had wondered exactly how much of the group would show up and we were pleasantly surprised to see the entire crew show up. RZA started the set off with a fizz and a bang as he shook up a bottle of champagne, spraying it off into the crowd. Their set consisted of some of the most essential tracks from their catalogue such as ‘Bring the Ruckus’ and ‘Wu Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta F’ With’.
Wu Tang Clan
One of the standout sets of the weekend, AFI could’ve given lessons on how to give an outstanding set from their expertise to create an engaging live show. Fan favorite and one of their most crucial tracks, ‘Girl’s Not Grey’, off their seminal album, Sing the Sorrow. Very few vocalists sound just as good live as they do on the album and Davey Havok is one of those. Their set consisted of tracks spanning a time period of roughly seventeen years, filled with songs from their most recent, self titled, full length such as ‘Snow Cats’ and ‘So Beneath You’ to all the way back to when they started to transition from their street punk days on the album, The Art of Drowning, with tracks like ‘The Lost Souls’ and ‘The Days of the Phoenix’. All of it blended together seamlessly for what is a very memorable set.
Parkway Drive, by far, put on one of the most dynamic shows of the weekend. Between the stage presence of front man, Winston McCall, and the stage light magic of Colton Sellers, it seemed more like an arena show than a festival in the small mountain town of Montebello.With the fog from fog machines rolling in and the lights spinning and illuminating the stage, the band started off with ‘Wild Eyes’, from their 2012 full length, Atlas. McCall, with his powerful vocal prowess, followed it up with ‘Carrion’, it still sounding just as menacing as it does on their 2009 release, Horizons. The rest of their set was a collection of a wide range of their discography, treating fans to a breathtakingly lit audio and visual history of the band’s music.
Lucero was my number one most anticipated act of the weekend, hands down. Having yet to have seen them live, I was excited to have the opportunity to see them live much less also get to shoot them. A perfect break from the intensity of the weekend, Lucero’s folk rock provided the perfect soundtrack to the start of the night as the sun had just finished setting. Playing to a smaller crowd than most, the excitement definitely wasn’t smaller. Those piled along the barricade wore various different items of Lucero merch that were all well worn in some aspect or another. Ben Nichols and company started off the night with ‘Can’t You Hear Them Howl’ from their release in 2015, All A Man Should Do. The rest of their set consisted of some of my absolute favorites, such as ‘Texas and Tennessee’, ‘The Last Song’ and, my favorite off of Tennessee, ‘Nights Like These’. The only downside of their set was that they only played for a half hour instead of their usual three hours.
Finally, it was time for the finale of the first night, German industrial rock gods, Rammstein. With curtains cloaking the stage in a checkerboard light pattern, veiled in secrecy, the large LCD screens began counting down to 0. As the countdown reached 0, the curtains fell away to reveal an industrial themed stage, beautifully lit, as drummer, Christoph Schneider, started the intro off as both guitarists were lowered to the stage via platform. Stepping to the stage, they joined in playing with Schneider as vocalist Till Lindemann emerged onstage, clad in some sort of post-apocalyptic white jumpsuit and matching top hat. Known for their pyrotechnics, he tossed away the hat as it sparked and lit into flames. Rammstein surprised and pleased the thousands of fans gathered by playing what is reportedly a new song, Ramm 4, part of a follow up to their previous 2009 release, to start off the night. Following up with ‘Reise, Reise’ off their album of the same name, they continued the night from tracks off their various releases and treating fans to a pyrotechnic display like no other. Reportedly, the pyrotechnics are so intense that the heat can be felt from the first few rows of their concerts. The night was finished off with their most famous track, ‘Du Hast’, as well as a Depeche Mode cover, ‘Stripped’. But that wasn’t the end for the night, fans ‘one more song’ed the band back for a triple encore, consisting of some fan favorites, ‘Sonne’, ‘Amerika’ and, ‘Sonne’.