At the onset, the Rockstar Uproar festival at Mount Airy Casino Resort on August 23 had a dismal outlook. Two bands that were scheduled to perform, Tattered and These Raven Skies, had cancelled due to issues with Canadian customs. By about 1:45, news had started to spread that the tour headliner, Godsmack, had also cancelled its show for the evening, citing that the main stage could not support the band’s gear and pyros. The main stage was subsequently shut down for the event. All performances were rescheduled for the smaller festival stage, which caused the calamity of all of the seating and bands’ equipment needing to be reshuffled as fans impatiently waited in intermittent rain for the gates to open. Sets for the remaining bands also had to be shortened due to the lack of lighting on the Festival stage.
Unfortunately, most people were still stuck out in line outside the gates at 1:35 when the regional Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands winner, Moxie & Re•bel, kicked off the festival. Playing to a skeleton crowd that seemed to be outnumbered by the security guards lining the stage, it was apparent that the band was still putting heart and soul into its performance, setting the tone for the remaining lineup. They were followed up by Canadian band Sons of Revelry, last year’s overall Grand Prize winner in the Battle of the Bands. SOR played a tight, high-energy set that highlighted the song “Time”, which had helped them to clinch the 2013 competition. Up next was 3 Years Hollow, who was explosive onstage featuring their breakout single “Remember”, which had topped the Octane charts when it was released.
The majority of fans were finally able to start funneling into the show as Escape the Fate was driving through their seven song set, including four songs from its latest album Ungrateful, and a sampling from each of the other three albums that were released since Craig Mabbitt joined the band as lead singer. To get the crowd fired up, guitarist TJ Bell edged the crowd to remember that they were at a rock concert and not a “Justin [f-ing] Bieber” show. The mosh pit that ensued was soon shut down by security.
Pop Evil initially delivered only a 4 song set closing out with the gut wrenching “Torn to Pieces”, which deals with the loss of loved ones–in particular, frontman Leigh Kakaty’s father. After being edged on for an encore, Kakaty took the stage again and thanked the audience for hanging in there despite the circumstances and reminded them that it is all about being safe. The band then launched into two more fist pumping songs from the Onyx album – “Deal with the Devil” and “Trenche”s.
Buckcherry fired up the crowd with their 1999 hit “Lit Up”, and I’m quite sure that I lost 10 pounds just watching Josh Todd dance around the stage. The drive didn’t let up all afternoon as the audience was absorbed by songs from all but one of Buckcherry’s six full length albums, with a mini cover of AC/DCs “Big Balls” thrown in the mix. The band also introduced two songs from their just-released EP F[*]ck, which served as a vent for the crowd irritated by the day’s events. Fans hoping to see “Crazy Bitch”, Buckcherry’s biggest chart-topper to date, were not disappointed. The only letdown was the very apparent shortening of the set, which Josh Todd addressed by saying that they were only given a half hour when the schedule was modified. The originally scheduled set length had been nearly an hour.
Christian rockers Skillet had no problem with stepping in as headliner for the evening on their scaled down stage setup. Tate Olsen and Jonathan Chu helped to build the anticipation with their cello and violin respectively as Skillet started to take the stage. Charging into “Whispers in the Dark”, it wasn’t long before the crowd was fully engaged. Lead singer and bassist John L. Cooper encouraged the audience to raise their hands and let go of whatever was troubling them whether it be the weather, depression, abuse, violence or addiction with the help of “Sick of It.” Heavier rains started settling in again during “Hero” and didn’t let up for most of their set, but the band was unfettered as equipment needed to be moved to accommodate the weather. Nothing was stopping Korey Cooper who brought radiance to the stage with her boundless energy on rhythm guitar and keyboards, accented by her platinum blonde and fuchsia hair. Jen Ledger stepped away from her drums to join John Cooper to offer her distinctive vocals for the opening of “Awake and Alive”. Lead guitarist Seth Morrison’s supercharged riffs demonstrated that although he is the newest member of the band (the new album Rise is his first with Skillet), he is tightly integrated in both sound and mission. “This is the Last Night” was dedicated to all of those in the audience who struggle with self-harm, depression, and thoughts of suicide to remind them that there is still hope. Winding down for the evening, John L. Cooper gave a shoutout to Jesus Christ and stirred the audience to do the same before kicking into “Rebirthing”.
Uproar certainly did not go as planned. However, I couldn’t help but to be impressed by the bands who found a way to show their fans that they were all in for the festival and delivered the best hardcore entertainment they could despite all of the mishaps. In a way, it felt like the crowd and the bands were in it together sharing in pure rock energy reminiscent of vintage acts of the 60s and 70s—absent of laser light shows, flashy pyros and high end stage setups. There was undoubtedly a cloud looming overhead from Godsmack’s cancellation and the shortened sets, but when each of the bands performed, there was a distinct synergy that helped to put all of that aside for a while. And sometimes, that is what music is all about.