June 21, 2014 Fredericksburg Virginia
I had heard through the grapevine about this concert that was gearing up and coming out close to where I live and the more heard about the lineups the more I told myself I wanted to check it out. On a warm, rain threatening Saturday, June 21st, Operation Rock Fest was being touted as a 21 Gun Salute to our Military men and women who defend our Freedom and proceeds from the tickets were also going to Luke’s Wings (http://www.lukeswings.org/).
I didn’t make it to the opening of the first few bands, but I had heard from a few of the other folks and photographers in the pit that I missed out on one of the most spine chilling, tear jerking, raise the hair on even a bald headed man rendition of the National Anthem when Mitchel Arnold of Wayland (http://www.waylandtheband.com) took the stage earlier in the day to start things off.
I’m pretty disappointed in myself for showing up late and missing the likes of Ignite the Fire, Stairwell, Twenty12 Tribe, Silvertung, Seven Ten Oil and Blameshift but from some of the photographers I spoke to they all put on a heck of a set.
The rest of this review isn’t going to be one of my normal reviews as I didn’t capture each song that any of the bands sang but this is more going to be about what I thought of each band that I was able to capture while attending this one of a kind show, and what I mean by one of a kind it truly was, there were 2 stages adorned with Operation Rockfest Red White and Blue Banners side by side, American Flags lining the tops of the stages waving in the winds, there was no overlapping set times meaning when one band was about to end their set the other would be on the other stage setting up getting ready to rock.
Another Lost Year
Shallow Side was first on my list of bands that I wanted to cover as I checked out their music and their bio beforehand and felt like these are guys I have to see and hear, their set was short but not lacking in energy or enthusiasm as band mates Eric Boatright (Vocals), Cody Hampton (Bass/Guitar), Seth Tremble (Guitar/Keyboard), Heath Fields (Drums) and Justin Smith (Guitar) all impressed me with the way they portrayed themselves on the stage as well as how they interacted with the crowd . Next up was Another Lost Year, Blacklite District and Madrone continuing to be straight up in your face, head banging, hair flipp’n, f’bomb dropping Rock and Rollers.
Wayland hit the stage and this band definitely did not disappoint me either, lead vocalist Mitch Arnold has the stage presence and vocals that remind me so much of Brent Smith with Shinedown its uncanny, all the while the second star of this band has to be Phillip Vilenski with the way he just shreds you to pieces with his energy and prowess on the guitar, jumping from the speakers on to the stage like a mad man possessed but all in a great way, the other members of this band Dean Pizzazz, Tyler Coburn gave it everything they had and this definitely was one of my other favorites of the evening, by the time their set was done Mitch took a bottle of Jack Daniels and toasted the crowd and thanked everyone that came out but most of all he thanked all the men and women who served past and present that gave them the rights to stand up on that stage and do what they love to do.
Almost Kings were up next, bringing more energy than the energizer bunny on a fresh set of batteries, Guitarist Ryan Yunker and bassist Danny Helms raced back and forth across the stage constantly launching themselves into the air from the stage itself or even at one point in the show they both simultaneously jumped off the tops of the speakers down to the stage all the while keeping in perfect harmony on their sticks. At one point in the show they even stood back to back showing off their massive and impressive talents. One of the other best parts for me was when Vocalist “Boze” introduced performed an outstanding cover of the Eminem classic hit “Lose Yourself.”, to which most of the crowd that had started to finally fill into the event was jumping up and down tossing beach balls back and forth and finally seeming to enjoy themselves more and singing along to every word with him.
Like a Storm
Next up was another of my favorites of the evening Like A Storm. If you read our review of this band in May’s edition you will understand why I am beginning to really appreciate what this band has done and continues to do without the help of any National Label, they tore the stage up as I expected them to with such favorites as “End of the Beginning”, “Never Surrender” and the ever so awesome cover of “Gangstas Paradise”, at one point in their set Chris Brooks jumped off stage and over the barricade, then proceeded to sing an entire cover of AC/DC’s “T.N.T.” amidst a swarm of fans that sang along with every single word. During their final song “I Love the Way you Hate Me”, Chris was so very gracious and gave his prized didgeridoo to Tony Wilson of the Lafayette Agency who was one of the masterminds behind this festival and he personally thanked him and the fans who came out to jam with them.
I stepped away from the stages for a bit to rejuvenate myself and decided to go check out the venue and grab some souvenirs, where in one of the Merch areas I ran into the guys from Saving Abel and Like A Storm who were gracious enough to autograph some of the shots I had captured of them back in May, (thanks guys that was awesome) along with interacting with other members of the crowd, shaking hands, taking photos and signing autographs.
While I was away Fredericksburg’s very own Elisium took to stage 2 and by the time I got back they were wrapping up their set but I understand that they absolutely killed the stage and I am totally bummed that I missed their set but I hope to be able to capture and share with the AAM readers what this band has to offer.
Super bob was up next for me and this was the first time I had ever seen these guys but they definitely define the FUN in a band. These guys were some of the liveliest guys I have ever witnessed at a show, they had such an energetic presence on the stage, the lead singer kind of reminded me of a flashier version of Stephen Tyler with what looked to be a gold plated microphone and microphone stand and the rest of the band is just going nuts all over the stage with their flying dread locks, jumping up and down, drum sticks tossing up in the air so high it seemed they could almost reach the roof of the stage itself and host of other killer and fun things happening on the stage.
The Veer Union was up next and put on a decent set, although I didn’t particularly care for their music all that much, the way they interacted with the crowd and their stage presence did somewhat impress me a little bit. Following their set, Bobaflex and Gemini Syndrome took to their respective stages while I was away and wasn’t able to capture anything from their respective sets, I did see that most of the crowd of more than 500 had started to really converge closer to the front stages as it looked like rain was coming in from the back side of the fairgrounds.
Next up was Saving Abel, to start things off , Scotty Austin came out on the stage and said “I’m only going to say this one time, and one time only,” “Get Your Ass’s up and give thanks to all of our men and women of this great nation who give us the right to stand on this stage and do what we love to do and that is Kick Ass” to which everyone in attendance shouted THANK YOU and a major USA Chant started throughout the whole crowd. Their set consisted of “New Tattoo”, “Mystify”, “Stupid Girl”, “Love like Suicide”, “18 Days” and ended with the ever so popular “Addicted”. I know I may sound like a broken record but these guys are genuine in what they do and they love the fans that pay their good hard earned money to come out and see their show and they give have always been a very strong supporter of our Military men and women. Scotty even visited the crowd by coming off stage during “18 Days” and shaking hands with some of the military personnel that were there allowing them to take “Selfies” with him and shaking hands with everyone else that could get close enough to him.
Then there were two, as the night sky drew near Nonpoint took to the second stage with such hard hits like “That Day”, “What A Day”, and “I Said It.” They closed with “Bullet With A Name”. I had heard that Nonpoint put on one hell of a show and although the lighting for their set could have been a whole lot better I definitely agree that they did for sure put on a hell of a set and unfortunately for me I was not able to capture any of their set due to a camera and lens malfunction.
After fixing my mechanical issues, last but not least was Pop Evil, as lead singer Leigh Kakaty stepped through the green smoke all dressed in black he was greeted with screams from everyone in attendance that blew the rafters off the place. I have wanted to cover Pop Evil for some time now as I had heard they are definitely ones who remind you of what a Rock and Roll band is about and I am so glad I was able to capture their set. From beginning to the end of their 90 minute set they were on point giving everything they had to everyone that was there, they definitely did not disappoint and as the show was coming to an end, the rain started to come down even more to a point of you could barely see, yet the show continued, Leigh stepped off the stage and was given an American flag by one of the soldiers in attendance that earlier in the day had been signed by members of all 21 bands that were at the show, he gave the soldier a High Five said THANK YOU and took back to the stage with the Flag waived high above his head as the show closed out with “Trenches”.
This being the very first year for Operation Rockfest I definitely have to give it to the guys and gals that put everything they had to pull this off, it was well organized with plenty of vendors on hand and unlike the larger festivals I have had the pleasure of attending in the past you didn’t have to worry about the possibility of missing your favorite band because of the side by side stages. Fans were able to actually meet and greet the bands and each one took the time to sign shirts, cd’s, take pictures, and really say Thanks to the fans (how many times do you get that at a concert anymore?) The only thing I think that could have possibly made this a larger event is if it would have been advertised on a larger scale to garner a larger attendance, although I have heard that the supporters behind the event and the organizers have declared it a huge success, they are already hoping for another Operation Rock Fest next year and if there happens to be one I will sure to be there again.
A big thanks to Tony Wilson and Robert McAlpine of The Lafayette Agency for allowing All Access Magazine the opportunity to attend this festival but most of all I want to say a huge Thanks to all 21 bands that showed up and poured your heart and souls out on that stage and before any of you ever stepped off your respective stages you took a moment to say Thank You to our Military and from the bottom of my veteran heart you have no idea what those words meant to not only me but to any serviceman or woman that heard you.
Review and Photos by:
Stephen Gibson Photography