The Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival initiated its yearly takeover of the Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on Sunday with nine earsplitting hours of music anchored by hard rock stalwarts Alice in Chains and Jane’s Addiction.
According to The Batavian, a mere nine arrests were reported during the concert, and only two citations were issued for underage drinking.
This is significant, because it’s yet another argument in defense of hard rock and heavy metal fans that shouldn’t go unappreciated.
As one of the most maligned subcultures around, heavy metal fans can walk a little taller today knowing that they came nowhere close to equaling the culvert of drunken disorder associated with this year’s concerts featuring Toby Keith and the Dave Matthews Band.
I, for one, wasn’t surprised in the slightest by the police report, because, after patrolling every inch of the amphitheatre grounds, all I saw were fervent, well-behaved fans taking care of each other among the swell of mosh pits and $4.50 bottles of Dasani. They were there for the music, not for the opportunity to treat the sacred borders of the concert environment as their own personal pharmaceutical playground.
Because most criticism of metal emanates from those who possess little or no understanding of the music or artists responsible for creating it, metalheads should soak it in just enough to avoid paying too much attention to the mainstream universe, and then move on the next show with a purpose.
Now, about those nine hours of earsplitting hard rock…
The Dead Daisies, a mixture of American and Australian players, jumpstarted the small stage with a swinging strain of uplifting blues rock reminiscent of Free or The Faces, only with meatier distortion that hits you like an 18-wheeler when experienced in a live setting. Singer Jon Stevens is a glorious find and guitarist Richard Fortus, currently of Guns N’ Roses, soloed effortlessly throughout with a tone that felt right at home among the rural expanse of Darien Center.
The response was immediately raucous, and the line accumulating near their merchandise tent upon their departure from the stage must have been quite rewarding.
Next up was Middle Class Rut (MCR), an engaging duo from Sacramento, who weathered through some mechanical difficulties to give the gathered a taste of their piss-and-vinegar garage punk with alarming urgency. Their set was criminally short given how many people came over to hear them, but the high quality of what they did play was enough to make an impression.
Singer/guitarist Zack Lopez commanded the stage with his feral maneuvering and Perry Farrell-esque singing style, while drummer Sean Stockham pummeled his kit and appeared to be a bit disappointed that the fans weren’t losing it with each strike of the snare. Perhaps, the crowd’s relatively mellow , nature played a role in the band packing it in early, but we’ll never know.
Denmark’s New Politics fed off MCR’s energy with a set of blistering alternative noise that was highlighted by singer David Boyd’s affinity for cartwheels, back flips, and break-dancing. He won the crowd over quickly with his athleticism, but the disheveled all-or-nothing vibe the band brought is what stood out most.
Original Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan’s new outfit, Walking Papers, closed out the early part of the festival with a strong set featuring tracks from their debut record. Vocalist Jeff Angell sang and played his heart out on songs such as “Two Tickets and a Room” and “The Butcher,” the latter of which saw Angell take a walk into the crowd and serenade lucky women who found themselves face-to-face with the singer.
The mainstage opened for business around 6:20 p.m. with Circa Survive suffering from a subpar mix that left much of Anthony Green’s lyrics drowning in a sea of blaring guitars. The band’s overall sound was engaging enough, but I don’t think the majority of those in attendance were enamored to the point of euphoria.
Coheed and Cambria, however, had a legion of diehard supporters ready to belt out every word right along with lead singer/guitarist Claudio Sanchez.
The foursome was very tight with intricately arranged guitar parts built around themes rooted in Sanchez’s science fiction fantasies, but they still managed to satisfy those unfamiliar with their concept albums via the muscular riffs featured in set closer “Welcome Home.” They turned in the type of well-oiled performance that picks up new admirers in the process, so I was impressed on all fronts.
Last year’s showing from alternative progenitors Jane’s Addiction at Artpark was one of the sensational concerts of 2012, and, last night, they kicked it hard once again with a set leaning on selections from “Nothing’s Shocking” and “Ritual de lo Habitual.”
Perry Farrell is an ageless wonder whose vigor and sinewy physique allow him to consume alcohol on stage and get up-close-and-personal with the band’s female trapeze artists without appearing too desperate for attention. He’s a brilliant lyricist and one of the classic frontmen of the era, so he was determined to prove that Jane’s is just as relevant as they were back in 1988.
The effortless shredding of Dave Navarro backed up Farrell’s words all night long, as he delivered sonically devastating guitar work on “Mountain Song,” “Been Caught Stealing,” and “Three Days,” to name just a few.
As one of the bands accountable for sounding the death knell on awful ‘80s glam metal, Jane’s Addiction are still capable bringing danger to rock and roll, evidenced by the guttural scream of “Sex is Violent!” by Farrell during a masterful take on “Ted, Just Admit It.”
The only question following Jane’s encore of “Summertime Rolls” was whether or not headliner Alice in Chains (AIC) could live up to the hype, and, believe me, William DuVall is the real deal.
Replacing Layne Staley would be an unenviable task for anyone to attempt, but DuVall handled himself with a veteran’s ease as he tackled AIC staples “Them Bones” and “Man in the Box.” He and founding guitarist Jerry Cantrell create the seamless harmonies so synonymous with the classic sound as if it’s still 1994, so even tracks such as “Down in a Hole” and “Again” came off with chilling precision.
I would have loved to hear more from their stellar new album, “The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here,” because “Hollow” and “Voices” weren’t nearly enough. I understand that package tours come with abbreviated stage times, but the fact that I’d been waiting my entire life to experience AIC in a live setting meant that I was clamoring for more than 12 songs.
Then again, with the trio of “No Excuses,” “Would?” and “Rooster” putting a cap on the evening, how much complaining can I really do?