Words by Taylor Ostrick | Photos by Jenn Curtis
The second day of the Rock’N Derby Festival provided fans with perhaps the most anticipated lineup of the three days, and more warm weather. Artists that would take the stage Saturday included A Day to Remember, Halestorm, Anthrax, Hollywood Undead, State Champs, Memphis May Fire, Avatar, Beartooth, and Miss May I. The day kicked off with set times beginning as early as 2:00pm. Saturday also marked the beginning of the two-day Demolition Derby on the Schaghticoke Fairgrounds, providing yet another form of entertainment for the thousands of fans descending onto the concert site for the day’s activities.
Miss May I, a metalcore band from Ohio that formed in 2007 led off Day two of the festival on the Derby stage. The band, who signed with Rise Records in 2009 has released five successful studio albums, and spent time opening tours for Parkway Drive, We Came As Romans, Memphis May Fire, and August Burns Red. The group has a distinct style that mixes heavy unclean vocals with occasional clean vocals.
Miss May I opened their set with “I.H.E,” an intense track from their 2015 album Deathless, which had the intensity at the Derby Stage high from their first note. Front man Levi Benton’s growly unclean vocals, were on full display in memorable performances of “Deathless,” and “Turn Back Time,” also from Deathless. Fan favorite “Forgive and Forget,” from Miss May I’s 2009 album Apologies Are for the Weak was one of the heavier tracks in the set, and it along with the hard driving, ear shredding “Hey Mister,” from the band’s 2012 album At Heart, had fans on their feet. Miss May I closed their set on the Derby Stage with “Relentless Chaos,” an intense song from their 2010 album Monument, that did not in the least fail to live up to its name.
Miss May I’s label mates at Rise Records, Memphis May Fire would soon follow them on the Derby Stage. Memphis May Fire, who has released four albums since their formation in 2006, are known for their mixing their metal core sound with Christian metal, and their charismatic front man Matty Mullins, who never fails to put on a show with standout unclean vocals. Memphis May Fire’s albums have consistently reached success on the Billboard 200 and Alternative Albums charts, and they have toured with Sleeping with Sirens, Breathe Carolina, and Warped Tour.
The band opened their set with “Beneath the Skin,” an intense track from their 2014 album Unconditional that satisfyingly mixes aggressive unclean vocals in its verses, with popper clean vocals in its choruses. The reverberating “No Ordinary Love,” from the same album was also included, along with the vengeful “Prove Me Right,” the fast-paced “Alive In the Lights” and the inspiring “Legacy,” from their 2012 album Challenger. The band’s passionate performance of “The Sinner,” a powerful, emotional, and feverous track from their 2011 album The Hollow, was a standout moment in the middle of their set that showed why the band has such a loyal following. Memphis May Fire’s closing performance of the ragingly intense, and surprisingly “Vices” was a clear standout moment in their set, as the song’s natural intensity and ferociousness shook the campgrounds and had those in attendance in a frenzy.
Avatar, the eccentric Swedish death metal band brought an abundance of unconventional and off beat splendor to the Rock’N stage when it was time for their 3:30 set. Avatar, who came together in 2001, pulled in a sizable and enthusiastic crowd that was able to match their energy and eclectic stage personas with fervor and intensity of their own. The band has six successful full-length albums, and are most well known for their propensity to dress up in full costume and face paint while on stage, pulling off a look that blurs the lines between humorous and menacing. This warm Saturday afternoon was no different, as lead vocalist Johannes Ekerstrom burst onto the stage decked out from head to toe in a captain hook like costume, with guitarist Jonas Jarlsby, guitarist Tim Ohrstrom, bassist Henrik Sandelin, and drummer John Alfreddson in matching but slightly toned down outfits.
The band made sure two play the driving “Hail the Apocalypse,” and the eerie “Bloody Angel,’ two hit from their 2014 album Hail the Apocalypse. The former featured extended guitar solo’s and a heart pounding pace that were appreciated by fans in attendance, and both tracks are singles.
Avatar also included “Smells Like a Freak Show,” a theatric track from their 2013 album Black Waltz, that was undoubtedly appropriately themed for the group’s getup, and “The Eagle Has Landed,” a guitar heavy song from their brand new May 2016 album Feathers & Flesh, that blends clean and unclean vocals throughout. The former is a current single for the new record, which is in it’s entirety a concept album that tells a story, specifically a fable, with more than one twist, from beginning to end. The themes on the new album seems to be a fairly accurate representation of the band member’s eccentric and slightly creepy personas on stage, which delighted the crowd from the first note. Fans also enjoyed the band’s erratic nature and unpredictability on stage. Even someone who had seen Avatar live a dozen times would be unable to accurately predict what outrageous things the group would say or do their next time out. By the end of their set, it was clear that Avatar’s theatrics, showmanship and fist pumping music makes them is a “must see live” band for fans of any genre.
We Came as Romans (WCAR), a metal core band from Michigan took the Derby stage for a 4:05pm set. The group formed in 2005, and singed with Equal Vision Records in 2009. The six-piece band, comprised of clean vocalist Kyle Pavone, clean and unclean vocalist Dave Stephens, lead guitarist Joshua Moore, drummer Eric Choi, bassist Andy Glass, and rhythm guitarist Lou Cotton, has produced four full length albums since their inception, and notably toured with Falling in Reverse, August Burns Red, Of Mice and Men, Parkway Drive, The Used, and Warped Tour. We Came as Romans is known for their perpetual motion and energy on stage, and satisfying mixture of clean and unclean vocal styles in their music.
The band kicked off their set with the uplifting “Regenerate, from their 2015 self titled album. The fast-paced song featured an abundance of unclean vocals, and was the perfect track to warm up the crowd. The band has a way with inspirational songs, and the nostalgic fan favorite “To Plant a Seed,” from the band’s 2009 album of the same name, continued that trend.
WCAR filled the middle of their set with performances of “Tracing Back Roots,” “Fade Away,” and “Ghosts,” from their 2013 album Tracing Back Roots. The anthemic “Fade Away” was a highlight in We Came As Roman’s set that had fans audibly singing along. The hook-driven track showcases Pavone’s engaging clean vocals in the chorus and a driving pace throughout. Similarly, the group’s performance of “The World I Used to Know,” also from their self titled album gave fans the chance to belt out a catchy chorus. Throughout their entire set, the group displayed boundless energy and intensity, nonstop motion, and confidence on stage, proving to all in attendance that they have thoroughly earned their reputation for being exceptional live. The band closed their set with “Hope,” a track from their 2013 album Understanding What We’ve Grown to Be. We Came As Roman’s set on Saturday was clearly one of the standout performances of the entire weekend, as even those who were unfamiliar with the band and their music came away impressed with their passion, energy and stage presence.
At 5:15, punk pop band State Champs would take the stage for what would be somewhat of a hometown show for the Albany locals. The band, who formed in 2010, has seen their popularity and success increase dramatically over the past year, largely in part to their commitment on the road, where they scored big time opening slots with All Time Low, 5 Seconds of summer A Day to Remember, and a slot on Warped Tour. State Champs have released two full length albums, The Finer Thing, in 2013, and Around the World and Back, in 2015, both of which have received critical and commercial success, in addition to success on genre album charts. The band has quickly gained a reputation for having a traditional pop-punk sound, rebellious attitude and boundless energy on stage.
State Champs kicked off their set with the up-tempo “Breaking Ground,” a track form Around the World and Back. The burst onto the stage kicking and tossing beach balls into the sizable crowd that had clustered in front of the stage, setting a free spirited tone for their set from the first note. Much of their set was comprised of songs from their sophomore album, including “Secrets,” “Losing Myself,” and “All You Are Is History.” Each features signature sing-a-long hooks, lead vocalist Derek Discanio’s distinguishable pop-punk heavy vocals, and a contagious rebelliousness, that had fans jumping wildly and crowd surfing early and often throughout the band’s time on stage. State Champs’ performance “All You Are Is History,” was an obvious highlight of their set, and the song had fans bellowing the chorus back at the band each time it came around.
The group’s debut album The Finer Things, was also well represented in their set with performances of the catchy “Remedy,” and irresistibly defiant and undeniably relatable “Simple Existence.” State Champs closed their set with “Elevated,” also from their first album, which is perhaps their most well known song. The closing performance of the fast-paced track had fans on their feet one final time before the band left the stage. State Champs’ memorable set undoubtedly reminded many fans, why they love the band, and showed newcomers why the Albany natives have seen a recent upswing of popularity and success.
The eccentric and outrageous Hollywood Undead, a band who formed in 2005 that is impossible to put a genre label on, began their set on the Derby Stage at 6:30. The band is known for mixing hip hop, rock, and metal to create a polarizing and eclectic style that has helped them sell over three million records worldwide, and reach success on the Billboard charts. The band’s appearance more than matches their unique musical sound, as the group wears signature face masks on stage that feature anything from skulls to scales, in addition to occasionally adding sunglasses and bandanas to the mix.
Hollywood Undead got things going with “Usual Suspects,” a rhythmic hip hop heavy track from their 2015 album Day of the Dead. Also included from the same album, “Day of the Dead,” relied more on metal elements especially in it’s sing-along chorus, while “War Child” and “Party By Myself,” were an eclectic mixture of dance, electronic, hip hop and pop, with infections beats that had fans on on their feet dancing.
The group’s 2013 album Notes From the Underground was very well represented in their set with exciting performances of the off beat and seemingly Eminem inspired “Dead Bite,” the incredibly busy “Another Way Out,” and the diabolical “Kill Everyone,” each of which was well received by the audience. Hollywood Undead’s set also heavily featured their 2011 album American Tragedy, with songs like “Comin’ In Hot,” “Bullet,” “Tendencies,” “Been to Hell,” and “Hear Me Now.” “Been to Hell,” stood out as one of the more metal leaning songs in the group’s set, while “Comin’ In Hot,” brought back synth heavy vocals and a hip hop/pop structured chorus, and fans reacted positively to he whimsical sounding and falsely cheery “Bullet.” A performance of the aggressive and combative “Undead,” switched things up a bit, featuring some unclean vocals, and the outrageous head-nodding “Everywhere I Go,” brought humor and shock value to the stage. Hollywood Undead had one of the most entertaining and distinct sets of the day, and many fans enjoyed a change of pace provided by the group’s incorporation of hip hop into their music
At 7:45, the Grammy winning band Halestorm, who came together in 1997, would begin their direct support set on the Derby Stage in front of an impressive crowd. The band is signed to Atlantic records, and has been sorted into many genres, including hard rock, heavy metal, alternative metal and post-grunge. No matter what genre they are categorized in, theatric front woman Lzzy Hale, who’s powerful vocals and hypnotizing stage presence never fails to steal the show, and captivate crowds of all sizes. Halestorm is lauded for their tireless, near constant touring efforts. The band is on the far road more often than the average group, and have toured with Seether, Three Days Grace, Theory of a Deadman, Papa Roach, Trapt, Avenged Sevenfold, Shinedown, and Bullet For My Valentine, so it is no doubt how polished, cohesive and confident the veteran group is while on stage performing.
Halestorm opened their set with a performance of “Apocalyptic,” an edgy track from their 2015 album Into the Wild Life. Fans were pleased to discover that Into the Wild Life, the group’s most current album, was heavily represented throughout Halestorm’s entire set., with emphatic renditions of “I Am the Fire,” a song with a soaring anthemic chorus, the catchy classic rock tinged “I Like It Heavy,” the unapologetic “Amen,” the hard rocking “Mayhem,” whose title matched it’s production and vocal style, and “Mayhem,” a steady mid-tempo track. This was no surprise, as the album reached #5 on the Billboard 200 Albums Chart, the band’s highest charting album to date.
Halestorm also featured numerous songs their 2012 album Strange Case Of… during their set with the inclusion of the possessive “Love Bites (So Do I),” the delightfully creepy “Mz. Hyde,” and the flag waving “Freak Like Me.” The latter is a fan favorite that had the crowd engaged from beginning to end. The band also took things back in time with mid-set performances of “It’s Not You,” and “I Get Off,” from their self-titled 2009 album. The unabashed “I Get Off,” is another boundary pushing fan favorite with a hook driven chorus that fans in attendance enjoyed immensely. Halestorm did a complete 180 from their usually aggressive and fast paced style with an impressive cover of Willie Dixon’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You,” which provided a satisfying juxtaposition with the rest of their set. Unsurprisingly, the band closed their set with the in-your-face “I Miss the Misery,” a masochistic anthem that puts Hale’s intense vocals on display. The song is arguably the band’s most popular, and fans in attendance sung along to every word.
Standout metalcore newcomers Beartooth took to the Upstate Concert Hall Arena Stage at 8:45pm. The group has only been together for about four years, but they have made a notable impression on the metal world in a short period of time with their aggressive sound, tenacious live performances, stints on Warped Tour in 2014 and 2015, opening slot on tour with Pierce the Veil and Sleeping With Sirens, and stellar debut album Disgusting, which they released in 2014. The band combines heavy unclean vocals and an aggressive driving style with catchy anthemic choruses and irresistible hooks. Their music is perfectly suited for a live setting and each member of Beartooth brings a high level of energy, passion and intensity each and every time they step on stage to perform. Beartooth had the Upstate Concert Hall Arena packed to the brim, by the time they took the stage.
The band began their set with the aggressive “The Lines,” from Disgusting, and kept the frenetic pace going with numerous songs from their debut that were tailor made for a live setting. “Relapsing,” “Dead,” “I Have a Problem,” “Body Bag,” had the crowd on their feet, franticly jumping up and down, while the thought provoking “Beaten In Lips had fans bellowing out the lyrics of the chorus.
Beartooth also included several new songs from their highly anticipated album called Aggressive, coming out on June, 3rd of this year. Performances of title track, “Loser,” and “Always Dead,” showed fans that the band had retained their signature intensity, while also developing a cleaner and more polished edge to their sound. The new tracks paired front man
Caleb Shomo’s signature in your face unclean vocal style with soaring hook-driven choruses, each of which seemed to be exceedingly well received by fans in attendance.
Beartooth closed their set with their set with “In Between,” an anthemic track from their debut record that had the crowd in a frenzy, carrying the chorus on their own towards the end of the performance.
When 9:30pm came around, fans everywhere dropped what they were doing, whether it was eating, resting, or watching another band, to rush madly in a semi-mob formation to the far end of the campgrounds where the main Derby Stage was located, and headliners A Day to Remember (ADTR) would shortly begin their set. The excitement and anticipation in the air was palpable as thousands of fans crowded eagerly around the stage, packing themselves in as close as possible. A Day to Remember, who came together in 2003, has earned the right to be called one of the of the most beloved pillars in the metal genre, so the animated reaction by the crowd was no surprise. Over the years, the groups has earned the devotion of hoards of loyal fans, headlined hundreds of sold out shows, and sold millions of albums with their irresistible blend of radio metal, pop punk and metalcore. A Day to Remember stands out with their versatility, which gives them the ability the appeal to a wide range of potential fans and listeners, while their polished stage presence, songs tailor-made for a live setting, detailed production and spirited energy. Their blend of clean and unclean vocals, and constant shifting between heavy and lighter sounds keeps fans on their toes, and ensures that their time on stage never becomes repetitive.
A Day to Remember began their set with “The Downfall of Us All,” from their 2011 album Homesick, complete with confetti cannons sending colorful shreds of paper spraying into the air over the swarming crowd. Heavy guitar riffs, and and a fast pace of the track made the song an appealing opener. The first half of the band’s set featured many of their earlier hits, including “My Life for Hire,” “I’m Made of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?,” and “Mr. Highway’s Thinking About the End,” from Homesick, “Monument” from their 2007 album For Those Who Have Heart, and “2nd Sucks,” from their 2011 album What Separates Me From You. A Day to Remember’s performance of “I’m Made of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?” was a clear highlight in the band’s set, with the massive breakdown section in the bridge of the song providing the perfect moment for a massive pit to form in the center of the crowd. “My Life for Hire’s” anthemic nature, and pre-chorus drop ins always make it an entertaining song live, and the heavy “2nd Sucks,” with it’s aggressive unclean vocals atmospheric production provided another another opportunity for fans crushed together in front of the stage to get crazy.
Midway through their set, A Day to Remember performed their new single “Paranoia.” The song features a departure from the sound that fans are used to hearing from the band, in favor of a new more aggressive style, punctuated with soaring hook heavy choruses, and intense unclean vocals in the bridge breakdown. It was easily another highlight of the set, and the positive response from the fans, crowd surfers and those keeping the pits going made it clear to the band that their new sound was appreciated.
Several songs from A Day to Remember’s 2013 album Common Courtesy, including the catchy single “Right Back At It Again,” and the fast-paced “Sometimes You’re the Hammer, Sometimes You’re the Nail,” made it into the band’s set, along with along with the romantic mid-tempo “Have Faith In Me” from Homesick, and the relatable “It’s Complicated,” from What Separates Me From You. The band played the pop-punk heavy and very rebellious smash hit “All Signs Point to Lauderdale,” before briefly leaving the stage, while fans chanted fervently more music. A Day to Remember returned to the stage for an encore with a surprising cover of half of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama.” The band briefly slowed it down a bit with the heartfelt “If it Means a Lot to You,” from Homesick, and the heavy “Fast Forward to 2012,” from For Those Who Have Heart. A Day to Remember closed their set with perhaps their biggest hit, “The Plot to Bomb the Panhandle,” from For Those Who Have Heart, a satisfying mash up of metal and pop punk that didn’t fail to whip fans into a frenzy one last time. Towards the end of the song, cannons on stage erupted, covering fans in endless lines of colorful streamers as the group played their last notes.