The Gig: Rockstar Uproar Festival
Where: Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
When: 25 August 2010
In One Word: Family
Forget The EX. If you were a parent wanting to plan a nice family evening out on a wet Wednesday night in Toronto, the real fun was happening on the other side of Lake Shore Boulevard, just south of the site of the Canadian National Exhibition. Who needs the same old lame merry-go-rounds, waltzers and big wheels? Rather than waste money on carnival games, overpriced cotton candy and getting fleeced by carnies who deny you your prize even when you clearly did hit the bullseye target multiple times, a near capacity crowd instead sought out their hump-day evening entertainment at Molson Amhitheatre, where some of the biggest bands in American metal turned up to put on a concert. Sure, over-priced refreshments could still be had – or at least until 10.30pm, when the beer vendors closed abruptly – but the entertainment factor was high, with Disturbed, A7X and co. putting on a high-octane show, with the music complimented by some rather elaborate stage set-ups and more pyrotechnics than you’d see on WWE.
Doors for Uproar were at 7pm, although I was already lucky enough to be backstage at the Amphitheatre at this time, having done an interview with the headliners Disturbed – look out for that soon. Walking around behind the scenes at Uproar had really got my pre-show buzz going, and I didn’t need to consume any of the festival sponsor’s energy drinks to get excited about the evening’s musical fare.
Halestorm opened the main stage. This four-piece hard rock group come from a small Pennsylvanian town called Red Lion, with the band’s name coming from the brother and sister duo Arejay and Elizabeth ‘Lzzy’ Hale who are the drummer and lead vocalist respectively. It’s Lzzy Hale who stole the audience’s attention by delivering a full throttle performance, with the loud pipes to go with all the wild rock star girl thing that she has going on stage.
I’m on the fence about this band. Halestorm did kick it with the proverbial, but right now the set list is just too middling to get excited about. Superstar rock goddess Brody Dalle or Joan Jett, Lzzy Hale is not. At least not yet, anyway. She may have the voice and looks, but as she howls the lyric “I’ve heard it all before” it really does smack of self-deprecating irony, because the bulk of Halestorm’s music barely registers at anything other than decent, and you’ve definitely heard it all before. This young band still gave a performance at Uproar which was one of the better ones – I found them more entertaining than Stone Sour, who came on after.
Hellyeah took me by surprise, creating a wicked little party over on the second stage. Their music is dumb, redneck metal but I think that’s what they’re aiming for, or that’s the end result anyway. The band’s name sums up their attitude to playing and making music ideally: it’s loud, fast and straight outta Texas. Led by an energetic Chad Gray (Mudvanyne) and the thundering drumming of Vinnie Paul (Pantera), Hellyeah played a loud and brisk set which was met by hearty applause, raised devil’s horns and plenty of “hell yeahs!” by the few hundred fans who made it over to the Jagermeister stage for their set. Gray caught air on several occasions during the set, as he jumped from the drum-kit and monitor platforms.
I spent the rest of my evening over at the mainstage where I watched the two headliners – unfortunately this meant I missed local boys Hail The Villain, who were actually the band I was most keen to see. It’s a shame they couldn’t have been squeezed onto the main stage for the Toronto leg of Uproar.
Avenged Sevenfold delivered a performance that really summed up the family vibe of the evening’s fare. With a set featuring material from the band’s latest record Nightmare, as well as choice tracks from the previous four albums, A7X entertained a crowd which had mostly turned out to see them. For all the fancy stage set-up, with the pyrotechnic flames and explosions, the most memorable moment by far came when the band spoke in memory of their late drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan: with a giant flag of The Rev unfurled across the entire back of the Molson stage, a sea of mobile phones and lighters were raised around Molson Amphitheatre for a moving tribute which led into “Welcome To The Family”.
Headliners Disturbed came on shortly after 11pm and went on to play just beyond the midnight curfew. The last time I saw Disturbed they played at Mayhem Festival in Toronto with Slipknot in a big wide open field which led to a sell-out crowd creating some of the hugest and most violent circle pits I’d ever seen. Given tonight’s venue, it wasn’t a surprise that tonight’s performance lacked the intensity of that previous outing, but Disturbed managed to continue the US metal love-in vibe that A7X had created. The moshing in the floor area was pretty light, but there was an eye-catching moment when a guy in a wheelchair was hoisted up in the air for a few minutes to do a bit of crowd surfing.
I watched the start of Disturbed set’s from the close proximity of behind the barrier in the photo-pit/security area, and it was clear to see the high level of interaction that the band have with their fans, which is something Dan Donegan and Mike Wrengen had spoken to me about a few hours earlier during our interview. Donegan in particular was always looking for faces in the crowd, and willing to pose for fans near the barrier who were taking pictures, while he would also find faces in the crowd and throw glances and devil’s horns at them. Frontman David Draiman was as active and engaging as ever, encouraing the crowd to participate and be a part of the show; highlights were the resounding cries of “FUCK!” during the chorus of “Stupify”, while Draiman and the video-screen backdrop showing ‘The Guy’ encouraged the standing crowd inside the amphitheatre to do the obligatory during “Ten Thousand Fists”.
Of the new material, my pick of the set was “Another Way To Die”: A song which perhaps makes Disturbed’s most obvious social commentary to date, even if it is a bit self-contradictory to be singing a song about mass consumption and global warming at a music festival…where you are surrounded by advertising and merchandising, and very much encouraged to spend and indulge. Let’s just hope the message got across enough so that fans leaving Molson Amphitheatre with a complimentary can of Rockstar were mindful to deposit their empty in a recycling bin.
© Brian Banks, Editor, Music Vice
Uproar pictures including Disturbed, A7X and Hellyeah – I had a lot of fun shooting this one, hope you enjoy the pics! – Brian.