What began at Crew Stadium in 2007 as a one day festival with 14 bands has evolved into a three-day festival with around 60 bands each year. Since its humble beginnings of Rock on the Range, it has sold out. In 2007, the fest sold out at only 30,000 tickets compared to this year’s 140,000 tickets. ROTR has become the “mecca” of rock fests on the east coast. Rockers AKA “Rangers” migrate by the thousands to Mapfre Stadium in Ohio from across the globe to attend. A spiritual pilgrimage of sorts for die-hard rock fans perhaps? I can only speak for myself, but it is an amazing experience to embrace the many cultures.
When the gates opened on Friday with a close eye on the weather, it began with my tradition of checking out what the fest has to offer besides a killer lineup. I could hear I See Stars on The Zippo Stage as I spotted Island Noodles. Day made as I got in line to have a late breakfast and I knew I’d be back for dinner. There was a variety of foods, as always, to fill the tummy and empty the wallet such as giant turkey legs, funnel cakes, awesome mac and cheese to the classic nacho and cheese.
Greta Van Fleet awed new fans and brought many dedicated fans to the main stage. From there, I moved to The Bud Light Stage to catch Body Count. I needed some Ice-T in my life. He became very passionate as he did the intro for ‘No Lives Matter’ and the crowd followed his lead. It was a very fun and energetic set.
Breaking Benjamin hit the main stage like a hurricane. As I watched from the third level of the stadium, I saw surfers galore and several circle pits. A Perfect Circle took the stage the sun began to set. There were many mixed reviews about Maynard’s performance because he, as expected, remained in the background.
It was finally time for Alice in Chains to close out day one. I made my way deep into the pit because I had waited for AIC all day. I was all of 10-years old last time I saw them. As expected, their performance did not disappoint. I expected the crowd to be wild, but there were few surfers and I did not notice any pits near me and I was near the rail. I was able to enjoy their set up close and personal as the rain sprinkled down and I revisited my childhood. AIC ended their set by paying homage to Cornell and Soundgarden as the stage lighting lit up with “CC” on the right and “SG” on the left. This was a surreal moment because Soundgarden left the stage at this exact moment on that Friday night at ROTR last year. This was a touching show of respect.
Friday had a great beginning and a wonderful ending. As I left, I couldn’t help but wonder if the weather would hold out for two more days of rockin’. I was a bit skeptical due to the evacuations last year.
Saturday began with fans lining up to enter at 11 AM only to be informed to seek shelter due to storms. The doors finally opened at 12:30 PM with a modified scheduled. No biggie. We are in! After a long wait in line, I headed to the main stage for Asking Alexandria to get the day started. The crown was in high gear after the sedentary wait for the doors to open. From there, I made my way to Miss May I to wait for Emmure to hit the stage.
The joke was on me. The weather had different plans and around 4 PM everyone was evacuated. ROTR is the perfect fest venue with lots of indoor restrooms without lines, seats for breaks in the stadium and water fountains galore for water bottle refills. However, they were very poorly prepared to accommodate over 100k people in their parking lot. No vendors for drinks, very few restroom options, alcohol in vehicles and a 3.5-hour evacuation are what nightmares are made of. I had a few laughs until I had to use the restroom. I literally thought my eyeballs were going to float out of my skull while I waited in line to get back in the stadium. I suppose I am a true Ranger now after that ordeal.
Everyone entered with yet another modified schedule. We lost 5 hours of the day, but still managed to fit in every band, but Them Evils who were moved to Sunday. I stayed out of the pit areas because people were lit, restless and raging. I somehow managed to catch most of From Ashes to New, all of Trivium, part of Stone Sour and all of Avenged Sevenfold. I stayed safely to the sides for A7X. Their performance brought out the beast in the crowd. It was killer to see A7X and literally watch the energy ooze from the crowd through pits and surfing. They played until well after midnight so I knew I was going to be tired on Sunday.
Despite the late night and crazy schedule of Saturday, Rangers lined up ready to rock the last day of ROTR away at 11 AM. The day opened with Them Evils at 12 PM on the main stage. I have mad respect for their flexibility to help keep the schedule going smoothly in the midst of chaotic weather conditions. They are definitely Rangers! I do hope they are welcomed back soon.
As predicted, Shaman’s Harvest and Red Sun Rising did not disappoint. I decided it was time to go in deep for I Prevail. Their set looked badass with the skull props and the background. That’s about all of the set I saw though because I was in the path of countless surfers and besides of a circle pit mashed on the rail.
I took a break and headed to Yelawolf. I was back in deep trying to keep at least one foot on the ground for this one on the Bud Light Stage. I am not sure how, but I almost lost a contact! The crowd was energized and brutal for this one with no shortage of surfers and pits.
I headed back to the main stage for Godsmack. I always enjoy their live sets and their sound is true to their albums. I stayed back, but I was surprised by the crowd. It was mostly calm and people were singing along and getting videos of popular hits, but the energy was still high. Lots of crowd engagement was the highlight for me.
The wait for TOOL was finally over. The stadium was packed with 140k fans for the last set of the fest. A hush fell over the crowd as they blackened the stage and they began to play their first song. As this song ended, Maynard announced the set was dedicated to the late Chris Cornell. The visuals were the highlight of their set along with the music as the stage stayed mostly darkened. No lighted view of Maynard was seen; only a silhouette. Once again, there were mixed reviews due to his well-known desire to remain in the background. I found it to be amazing. Did someone expect him to take the front and center? I certainly hope not. I couldn’t help but laugh at some of the comments related to this aspect of the performance. TOOL ended the 3 day weekend on an amazing note; pun intended.
Each day brought new artists, unknown weather conditions, the fellowship from rockers and energy. The homage paid in honor of Chris Cornell was moving for the Rangers who felt the loss last year. We are Rangers and we will rock regardless of what could be viewed as setbacks. Just like that, ROTR was over and it suddenly felt as if the fest had just begun. This feeling will bring many Rangers back next year and their stories will continue to create new Rangers.
WORDS BY APRIL BACH
PHOTOS BY JULIA SARIY PHOTOGRAPHY