The second annual Rock Allegiance Festival and was one of the most fun times I can remember at a music festival. From the location on the water outside of Philly to the stadium, to the third stage area, food options, beer gardens, VIP amenities, signings and special performances and of course the bands; this was a dream to a music lover with many types of rock, metal, and punk bands represented. It was also my birthday , so it was especially rad!
Saturday was a lot of craziness, just getting down to Killadelphia from NYC. Chester is right outside the city and we passed over a majestic bridge on our way to the stadium. Once we got situated and we got the lay of the land for the third stage area outside and the perfect side by side main stages in the stadium.
Early day one bands such as The Word Alive, Skindred, and Sick Puppies got fans pumped for a good time, and really represented the depth and variety of the fest. The first really explosive act was Max & Iggor Cavalera’s Return To Roots set. Most of these fans have never heard most of these songs live and not nearly enough saw the Cavalera Brothers play together back in the day in Sepultura. People just weren’t prepared for this much classic metal on a temperate and sunshiny day!
Avatar was once again super impressive live! They are really something special and I hope people are paying close attention. Other afternoon sets of note were Letlive and Buckcherry on the third stage, and the epic performance by Trivium as well. At this point we had some band interviews to take care of (Max & Iggor, Avatar) and needed food and drink too. There were some terrific food truck options (Tacos!) and some decent beer too at the fest too. We caught some of Jim Breuer And The Loud And Rowdy’s set which was pretty rocking, but only so-so on the laughs.
Day one closed out with highlight type sets on the main stage from Baroness, Motionless In White, The Cult, and The Offspring. You kind of forget collectively how many hit songs those two bands have, really calling me back to my youth. They played excellent and what you want at this level.
After Chevy Metal wowed the side stage with their amazing covers as a rare 3-piece, Breaking Benjamin plied the crowd with their hard rock hits. Aside from their sing a long’s they did a cool medley of Tool, Nirvana, Metallica, and Pantera songs. Alice In Chains brought down the house and me to tears with their amazing set. Basically like the Led Zeppelin of their time, AIC has no weak songs or down moments. Billy Duffy of The Cult joined for the closer ‘Rooster’.
Up early for Day 2 of the fest with a lot more running around to do, I needed to pace myself to make it through all the awesomeness that was the fest. Especially for the last three bands tonight: Avenged Sevenfold, Slayer and Volbeat, I knew it would have to be a marathon and not a sprint.
It was kind of amazing walking into the festival and hearing Death Angel playing in a big sports stadium. I’m sure this is a feeling my European friends have had before, but not me. Lot’s of big time rock bands on tap early in the day with AEGES, Devour the Day, Twelve Foot Ninja, Crobot, Kyng and Sevendust. Sevendust especially owned and just killed it live, as always. They were joined by Anthrax’s Joey Belladonna for a great rendition of ‘Face To Face’.
Despite a little more humidity in the air had some breaks for more band interviews. I had a three-way chat with the bros in robot about their new album, hung out with Will Carroll of Death Angel and we talked rock and thrash history for quite a while. The interview that stood out was Austin Carlile of Of Mice And Men. Austin was as kind, humble and gracious as could be. Totally different from the beast we would see on stage a just a few minutes later.
Carlile and his band haven’t become one of the biggest names in modern metal over night. They did it through hard work and talent, but also really connecting with their fans. When they sing, the crowd joins in lock-step, every time. It was pretty awe-inspiring to see from a more old-school guy like myself. I see the future and these guys will be headlining festivals like this, along with Pierce The Veil and The Amity Affliction who were insanely good on the side stage.
Catching my breath a bit I roamed the vendor area and saw a ton of cool stuff. I am always on the look out for new patches and cool horror themed stuff. I found lots of it, just in time for Halloween.
After spirited sets from Killswitch Engage and Anthrax, Ghost took the stage after a long intro. With their new bassist in tow and leading off with a brand new song ‘Square Hammer’ from their new EP Popestar (Loma Vista) they owned the moment. They nearly owned the entire day with their flawless performance.
To break up the day of screaming and scowling metalheads, we at Ghost Cult like to mix smiles with our aggression. Not only our crew at the show, but many people covering the show were in stitches over how many people thought Ghost Cult photographer Omar Cordy was Benji Webbe of Skindred. At least 10 people the entire weekend approached Omar for an autograph or a picture. Lead singers lives matter, too folks so pay attention!
Chevelle started the long march to the end of the weekend. I was feeling beat from running all over so I grabbed a seat in the stands and appreciated the meticulous show the Chicagoan’s put on. Volbeat came next and put on a great set. My favorite moment was when frontman Michael Poulsen led the now near full stadium in an impromptu version of Johnny Cash’s ‘Ring Of Fire’. We got a hint of things to come with their US headline tour.
Slayer and Avenged Sevenfold were a story of opposites as they closed the weekend out with a bang. Slayer is Slayer; they are the AC/DC of thrash metal. They have barely changed much in 35 years as a band. Their set list has a few new tracks in it from Repentless (Nuclear Blast) but you come to see a Slayer show to shred to the classics like ‘War Ensemble’, ‘South Of Heaven’, ‘Seasons In The Abyss’, ‘Hell Awaits’, ‘Reign In Blood’, and ‘Angel Of Death’. From the opening curtain drop, to the final Jeff Hanneman tribute banner “Still Reigning”. Indeed they still are.
Avenged Sevenfold lives in the now. As much as they too have now classic songs, they change-up their stage show, run around a lot more and have flair for entertaining few others can match. They fans made their presence felt buying the most merch, rocking the most gear and generally singing the loudest of any fans all weekend. Even singer M. Shadows, who looked oddly like Edward Norton in American History X with his skinhead and jacket, seemed connected to the crowd more than I’d ever seen him before. The band is preparing a new album, but sounded like they had something to prove, rather than an old guard band that has been around 15 plus years.
Rock Allegiance was in a word, amazeballs! I can’t wait to do it again next year.
WORDS BY KEITH CHACHKES