Given the instability of the weather conditions and following the events of the last 24 hours, Welcome To Rockville Day Three greets us with cautious nervousness. However, while Shinedown would deliver true magic, playing and singing their hearts out, this was a day that the elements would tarnish.
Words: Dany Jones
First up are Saint Asonia. Ever since Adam Gontier parted ways with Three Days Grace, his new baby Saint Asonia has been a must-watch. Their rocktastic opener Better Place goes down a treat, followed by an equally strong up-tempo yet more melodic Blind.
The band never lose momentum; they sound tight, and they are energetic and fully engaged. It is, therefore, to everyone’s horror that suddenly their set gets cut mid-song on Bite the Bullet because of another severe weather warning.
Incomprehensible why we are being told to seek shelter while the sun is still up and all you can feel is a light breeze. However unsuspecting, the scene at our backs paints a very different picture. A menacing bunk of deep dark clouds at the horizon advances inexorably, and it is only a few minutes later that we get beaten by strong winds, the blue turns into black and here comes the torrential rain.
Grateful for the prompt action of the organisers in alerting us, one does have to feel sorry for the artists. It is an absolute pity to know that we will not be able to watch Dirty Honey, Sick Of It All or Alexisonfire while we keep collecting cancellations.
Ironic that the locals seem to shrug this off as ‘just a bit of rain that will pass in no time,’ while we remain positively dumbfounded. It does take, in fact, more than a handful of minutes before ‘this too shall pass’.
Eventually, we manage to stick our necks back out in the open just in time for the next act, and we get treated with the rare occasion these days that is a full song set, courtesy of the Texan phenomenon that is Nothing More.
They indeed must have made a pact with the devil or, on this occasion, with the gods of thunder. Turn It Up Like (Stand in the Fire), from the new album, gets unleashed in all of its sheer ferocity. The statuesque Morrison look-alike Jonny Hawkins is a master of performance, and he sure delivers on all fronts, while the instrumental section is nothing short of impeccable.
People chant, dance and savagely mosh at the familiar tunes of Do You Really Want It?, Go to War and Let Them Burn. The songs from the new album are equally well-received, and it is an absolute pleasure to watch them unravel.
Simply put, Nothing More are utterly mind-blowing, and they are surely destined for bigger, wonderful things.
Missing Jerry Cantrell simply isn’t an option, so we run through the crowds who are leisurely savouring the sunshine while they can to get to the opposite side of the pitch.
The band are already on stage, and they sound incredible. Huge regret surmounts for not being there from the very start, but the severe weather hijacked the schedules, which had to be condensed, causing more inevitable overlaps.
Man In A Box goes down a storm, and, with pun intended, it then gets cut short when Jerry gets signalled by the crew that yet another menacing cloud is approaching. By now, we know the drill; seek shelter and wait it out.
The running order goes out of the window, and more casualties enlist, including the likes of Bush. The fans are starting to tire. General widespread dismay ensues, literally blowing up all outlets when people take to express their disappointment over social media, and some are already mentioning claiming refunds. It is an absolute shame that an otherwise sensational weekend has to be tarnished by the elements.
When the skies finally clear, it very much feels like it is on Shinedown to save the day. With the best of hopes and even a prayer from Jose’ Mangin, who is literally asking the weather gods to have mercy on us all and to let us rock, Shinedown emerge with the most impressive stage show made of high-tech lighting, pyros and video footage filmed on giant screens.
The Sleazy Devil opens the set and is then followed by the explosive Planet Zero. With Get Up, Brent Smith invites you to the familiar ritual of greeting the person next to you with a handshake, while Enemies sees a wave of people jumping around as textbook.
The fans are wholly captivated by this Floridian foursome who are literally singing and playing their hearts out, and, for a mere moment, magic truly does happen.
But soon enough, merciless comes the unforsaken word of this weekend: ‘code red’. The alert travels through the loudspeakers, and, once again, all bets are off.
At least Shinedown manages to finish their song. Brent Smith is now truly apologetic, saying that this isn’t their fault, that they love their fans and wish they could carry on, but this is simply a matter of safety.
Meanwhile, at the Zebra Stage, after several false attempts by the crew at getting the show ready and informing of perhaps the possibility of a shorter set, Guns N’ Roses fail to make an appearance.
The people are fed up, and they keep chanting ‘rain or shine’, refusing to move, but they are ushered out and told that there would be no more performances for the day. The event is cancelled one more time, and we must go home. By this point, we are positively shell-shocked, and it is hard to maintain a sense of humour.
Indeed, the prediction wasn’t wrong. The game of lightning intertwining mid-air and detonating the sky is truly unprecedented and worthy of a Metallica cover. A surreal experience indeed for a non-native. One is not sure whether to be afraid or in awe.
Immediately after, extreme weather engulfs our vehicles, while a bottleneck jam of cars trying to get out forms on the Speedway.
We spot the not-so-lucky people on foot who are literally drenched from head to toe and look like they are resigned to their own very wet fate.
At this stage, we are just grateful to be safe and dry.