I’ve been wanting to attend Carolina Rebellion years before I started doing concert photography. The lineups each year were always amazing and the feedback I’ve read or heard from friends were always good. So to get the opportunity to finally cover the festival for DreadMusicReview, I was excited, thrilled, and nervous all at the same time. The nine hour drive from Orlando, FL to Charlotte went faster than expected and the night before Day 1 I was still busy setting up last minute interviews and prepping my gear. And when I arrived on site that Friday, May 4th, it went beyond my expectations.
Monster Energy Carolina Rebellion is a join production by both AEG Presents and Danny Wimmer Presents with Monster Energy as a major sponsor. With an attendance of over 100,000 in 2018, it has a major fan base and a tremendous amount of media that come to cover the show. It’s one of the reasons this is held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway grounds. They need space and lots of it! When I first arrived that Friday morning, the first thing I fell in love with was that media was provided with their own parking area. It may not sound like a big deal, but some medial are trekking a ton of radio equipment and with some of the parking lots being across the street from the festival grounds, the closer we can be to the site, the better. The security and staff on site were very cordial and polite as they let media into the Media Tent, our home base for the weekend. The only thing I didn’t realize was the Media Tent was on top of a hill, so needless to say, I was getting my exercise every morning. After getting checked in and picking up my credentials, I did a quick round of hello to my fellow media partners. A lot of us see each other multiple times a year and we stay in touch as often as we can. As we get closer to festival shows, the excitement and anticipation picks up not only to attend the festival, but to see each other as well.
The festival hosts four stages (most festivals usually have three) labeled as Monster Carolina, Monster Rebellion, Gold, and Black. The Monster Carolina stage is the tallest and largest of them all and was very close to the Media Tent as was the Black stage, which was literally at the bottom of the hill from the Media Tent. I took a quick run over to the VIP at the Carolina stage to see the layout. Fans who purchased VIP had a major treat. Besides having access to the exclusive bar under a huge tent for shade, the VIP area also had private bathrooms (some in trailers which were much nicer then port-a-potties), games for people to play (horseshoes and cornhole), but the best was the view that sat right behind the Media Tent. At the top of the hill were lounge chairs where you could rest your feet and have this beautiful overview of the crowd and the performers on stage. In between some sets I found myself standing at that location and enjoying the view myself.
Carolina Rebellion had so much more to offer. Tons of food and drink vendors, which even included ice cream (who probably had the biggest line that day), t-shirt vendors, arts and crafts vendors, and a huge ferris wheel that sat in the middle of the campgrounds. But, the thing that impressed me the most outside of the performers were the attendees. Overall, they were polite, friendly, and willing to help out their fellow attendees. It was in the high 80s on Day 1 and people were getting dehydrated fast. Multiple times, I watched attendees offer strangers some water and snacks, or even invited them to come sit in a shaded area with them. I had multiple people just even say a simple “Hello” as I walked through the grounds from stage to stage and group of women were offering Free Hugs with signs in hand. And being it was May 4th, a number of attendees represented their Star Wars love for “May The 4th Be With You Day” and dressed up in Star Wars cosplay.
Of course, everyone was here to listen and watch some phenomenal performers on stage all day and late into the night. With so many performers it’s impossible to get to see and photograph everyone there. So, with my schedule in hand and lots of walking to do (eight miles in Day 1 by the end of the night!) I headed out to the stages ready for anything.
The Wild! – Gold Stage
When I do festival shows I try not to cover the same bands if I had covered them just recently. But, I’ll definitely make an except for a band that impressed me and caught my attention. This was definitely the case with The Wild! who I had just seen the weekend before at Welcome To Rockville. The band from Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada went viral in 2014 with the release of their single “Road House”. They went on the road as a support act for various bands and released their debut album ‘GxDxWxBx’ (which means God Damn Wild Boys). They went on to release their follow up album ‘Wild At Heart’ in 2017. Dylan Villain (vocals, lead guitar), The Kid (rhythm guitar), Boozus (bass), and Reese Lightning (drums) once again came to impress on the Gold stage, which had a solid crowd waiting for the band. I love how they perform on stage as a well-oiled machine doing movement and motions together, smiling, and having fun. I describe them as rock with a mix of blues and they are absolutely amazing. I strongly recommend people checking them out. Their setlist included “Road House”, “Best In The West”, “Ready To Roll”, and “Party ‘Til You’re Dead”.
Avatar – Monster Rebellion Stage
This became my favorite stage for most of the weekend. Low and wide some of my favorite performers played this stage including Avatar. Though they were on early in the day, the crowd for them was massive and the band never disappoints with a performance. The Swedish band from Gothenburg, who formed in 2001, has an amazing fan base across both the United States and Europe. With their costuming, makeup, great vocals and music, it’s no surprise why people are drawn to them. Avatar consists of Johannes Eckerstrom (vocals), Jonas Jarlsby (guitar), Tim Ohrstrom (guitar), Henrik Sandelin (bass), John Alfredsson (drums). The band has released seven studio albums with ‘Avatar Country’ recently released on January 12, 2018. The album story pertaining to the land of Avatar Country and their king it was no surprise to see Jonas being rolled out on stage on a throne, guitar in his lap, and crown on his head. The band put on an incredible performance on stage that day. Their setlist included “Glory To Our King”, “A Statue of the King”, “The Eagle Has Landed”, and “Smells Like a Freakshow”.
Red Sun Rising – Monster Carolina Stage
Ever since they released ‘Polyester Zeal’ I was hooked to Red Sun Rising. So to see them at Carolina Rebellion touring on their sophomore album with Razor & Tie, ‘Thread’, released on March 30, 2018 was exciting. I had the opportunity to meet the band from Akron, OH back at Welcome To Rockville and they are humble, fun, and truly appreciative of their fan base. But, when they take the stage, they are hardcore rockers who put on memorable performances and make it clear they don’t fit into any specific genre of music and want to stand out on their own. With 4 Top Ten singles and 2 of those hitting #1, they are a band who are on the rise and getting stronger. Red Sun Rising is Mike Protich (vocals), Ryan Williams (lead guitar), Dave McGarry (rhythm guitar), Ricky Miller (bass), and Par Gerasia (drums). Their setlist included “Push”, “The Otherside”, “Emotionless”, and “Deathwish”.
Interview With Tremonti – Media Tent
I was fortunate enough to score a last minute interview with the guys in Tremonti. Mark Tremonti (guitar, vocals), Eric Friedman (guitar), and Garrett Whitlock (drums) who released ‘A Dying Machine’, their fourth studio album, on June 8th through Napalm Records, was extremely excited to be playing at Carolina Rebellion. We discussed the new album, their favorite things about the festival experience, and their hometown of Orlando, FL. It was hot and bright outside in front of the media tent, but these guys were true troopers, very down the earth, and made the interview fun and interesting. Catch Eric and Mark talking about their experiences on being recognized while out and about in Orlando, FL.
Sevendust – Monster Rebellion Stage
I’ve been a fan of Sevendust since they released their self-titled debut album back on April 15, 1997. And now 21 years later and 11 studio albums later, the band still has a massive fan base and is getting better with every album they release. This was the weekend before the release of ‘All I See Is War’, their 12th studio album that was released on May 11, 2018 and people were stoked to see the band. Still being early on Day 1 of Carolina Rebellion, when I turned the corner to walk to the stage with one of my photographer friends, we were stunned to see the thousands of people waiting to see Sevendust. Early bands usually don’t draw massive crowds, but the Sevendust fans weren’t missing their performance. Sevendust is Lajon Witherspoon (vocals), Clint Lowery (lead guitar), John Connolly (rhythm guitar), Vince Hornsby (bass), and Morgan Rose (drums). I had the opportunity to interview Lajon and Morgan at Welcome To Rockville. For a band who is so well known, these guys are humble, gracious, and love their fans. And when they hit the stage, their metal music and energy flows across to the fans who just give it right back. Every Sevendust performance is high energy, full of smiles, and the band never ceases to be amazed at the crowd that shows up for them. Their setlist included “Dirty”, “Denial”, “Enemy”, and “Face To Face”.
Pop Evil – Monster Carolina Stage
Next up was the band from North Muskegon, MI Pop Evil. The rock band formed back in 2001. They were quick to get music out and released two EPs in 2004 and 2006. The released their first studio album ‘Lipstick on a Mirror’ in 2008 and it was an instant hit with the fans. From there the band released 3 additional studio albums. During this time they had some lineup changes in the band, but the additions made them even stronger than before. They recently released their 5th studio album, self-titled ‘Pop Evil’, on February 16, 2018. The band is known for their high energy movement, hard-hitting songs, and intensity on stage. They did not disappoint the Carolina Rebellion crowd. Pop Evil is Leigh Kakaty (vocals), Dave Grahs (rhythm guitar), Matt DiRito (bass), Nick Fuelling (lead guitar), and Hayley Cramer (drums). Their set list included “Deal With the Devil”, “Waking Lions”, “Torn To Pieces”, “Take It All”, and “Trenches”.
Stone Sour – Zippo Sessions Stage
If you’ve been to one of AEG Presents or Danny Wimmer Presents festivals, you may have seen a Zippo booth there. Zippo is a United States manufacturer of reusable lighters, well known for their quality and unique designs. They come to the festivals with unique designs that can only be purchased there. If you buy a Zippo lighter there, you are given a ticket to a performance on the Zippo Sessions Stage. You don’t know who the performer will be until they step out on stage. Media was fortunate enough to be invited to cover any of those sessions and we knew who they would be. When I saw Stone Sour was on the list, I knew that was the one I would definitely go see.
The fans who were selected for that show and media met at the Zippo tent and then headed over to the stage. As we waited to be let into the Zippo Sessions area, the guys from Sevendust came out from backstage one at a time. The fans applauded when they saw them come through. I had just interviewed Lajon and Morgan the weekend before at Welcome To Rockville. When Lajon came through I said “Hi Lajon” and he smiled but didn’t think he recognized me. When Morgan came through I said “Hi Morgan” he smiled and said hello, took about 5 steps, stopped, and turned around, “I remember you!” We both laughed and he apologized as he had to run off for an autograph signing. I was still pleased he remembered me.
We finally got let inside and everyone took their seats, Jose Magin from SiriusXM came out to provide and introduction for Corey Taylor and Christian Martucci of Stone Sour. The fans at the Zippo Session went ballistic as Corey and Christian came out with their acoustic guitars. It was a very intimate and amazing session to hear their songs stripped down. They played “Rose Red Violent Blue (This Song Is Dumb & So Am I), “Through Glass”, and “Song #3”.
Parkway Drive – Monster Rebellion Stage
I admit when I barely knew who Parkway Drive was when I was at Carolina Rebellion. One of my photographer friends is a huge fan and said that I had to go photograph their set or I’d regret it. He was absolutely right and I’m so glad I did. The band from Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia started back in 2003. They got their name from the street where their rehearsal space and performance venue resided. It only took them a year to release their first EP ‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ in 2004. The EP was so well received they went on tour with Shadows Fall and Hatebreed in Australia. The band flew to the United States following the tour to work on their first full-length album ‘Killing with a Smile’ that was released in 2005. Their hardcore metal resonated with fans around the world that their albums charted in the Top 200 in multiple countries. The band released 5 additional studio albums with all of them reaching the Top 10 in Australia and their last two, ‘Ire’ from 2015 and ‘Reverence’ released their performance day at Carolina Rebellion (May 4, 2018) charted at #1 in Australia. Parkway Drive is Winston McCall (vocals), Jeff Ling (lead guitar), Luke “Pig” Kilpatrick (rhythm guitar), Ben “Gaz” Gordon (drums), and Jia “Pie” O’Connor (bass). Their setlist included “Wishing Wells”, “Karma”, “The Void”, “Prey”, and “Bottom Feeder”.
Bullet For My Valentine – Monster Carolina Stage
The band from Bridgend, Wales had a tremendous crowd waiting for them when they took the stage. The band originally formed in 1998 under the name of Jeff Killed John. After releasing two EPs they decided to change their name to Bullet For My Valentine and take a different direction with their music. They had immediate interest from multiple record labels and signed with Sony. After releasing two EPs under Bullet For My Valentine, the band released their first full-length album ‘The Poison’ in 2005. It was well received making it into the Top 200 on its first week of release and ultimately certified Gold in the United States. The band released 5 additional studio albums with their most recent ‘Gravity’ released on June 29, 2018. Bullet For My Valentine is Matthew Tuck (vocals, guitar), Michael Paget (lead guitar), Jamie Mathias (bass), and Jason Bowld (drums). Their setlist included “Over It”, “Betrayal”, “4 Words (To Choke Upon)”, “Waking The Demon”, and “No Way Out”.
Tremonti – Black Stage
After interviewing them earlier in the day, I wasn’t going to miss their performance. For a smaller stage, there was a big crowd ready to see Tremonti! Mark Tremonti, guitarist for Alter Bridge, starting expressing interest in doing a solo project due to the amount of songwriting he did and that those sings didn’t fit for Alter Bridge. Mark named the band Tremonti, based out of Orlando, FL, and they released their first album ‘All I Was’ in 2012. The album was very well received and peaked at #29 in the Top 200 and at #5 on the U.S. Rock charts. Mark managed to continue working on Tremonti while still working with Alter Bridge. Tremonti released 3 additional albums with the most recent, ‘A Dying Machine’, released on June 8, 2018. All of the albums charted in the Top 200 showing solid sales and a great fanbase. Tremonti is Mark Tremonti (vocals, guitar), Eric Friedman (guitar), and Garrett Whitlock (drums). Currently, Tanner Keagan is their touring bassist. Their setlist included “Radical Change”, “Take You With Me”, “A Dying Machine”, and “Wish You Well”.
Stone Temple Pilots – Monster Rebellion Stage
Stone Temple Pilots, commonly referred to as STP, was a surprise band for Welcome To Rockville. I wasn’t able to catch their set there so I was more than thrilled to catch them at Carolina Rebellion. Stone Temple Pilots formed back in 1989 under the name of Mighty Joe Young and then changed it to Stone Temple Pilots when they were signed to Atlantic Records. Their first album, ‘Core’, was released in 1992. The album was a huge success ultimately being certified Platinum 8 times. Singles from the album included “Sex Type Thing”, “Plush”, “Creep”, and “Wicked Garden”. They followed up wth ‘Purple’ in 1994 which had the singles of “Vasoline”, “Interstate Love Song”, and “Big Empty”. “Big Empty” was featured on The Crow movie soundtrack. ‘Purple’ became a #1 charted album and was certified Platinum 6 times. The band continued their success throughout their career releasing 4 additional albums. In 2013 the band parted ways with vocalist Scott Weiland and brought in Chester Bennington from Linkin Park. The band released their first EP titled ‘High Rise’ with Chester Bennington on vocals. Chester left Stone Temple Pilots in 2015 to return to focus on work with Linkin Park while in that same year Scott Weiland passed away unexpectedly. In 2017 Chester Bennington passed away and in November of the same year Jeff Gutt, who placed second on the third season of X-Factor was announced as the new vocalist for Stone Temple Pilots. On March 16, 2018 the band released their second self-titled album with Jeff on vocals. Stone Temple Pilots has remained intact as a band since their inception outside of their vocalist. The band consists of Jeff Gutt (vocals), Dean DeLeo (guitar), Robert DeLeo (guitar), and Eric Kretz (drums).
The crowd for the band that afternoon was packed in as tight as the barriers could hold the fans back. Thousands of people were there ready to see this iconic rock band take the stage. They put on the performance of a lifetime and Jeff even jumped into the photo pit with us and walked up the aisle continuing his performance. The crowd love it. Their setlist included “Wicked Garden”, “Vasoline”, “Big Empty”, “Plush”, “Meadow”, “Interstate Love Song”, and “Sex Type Thing”.
Stone Sour – Monster Carolina Stage
This band always draws a huge crowd and that day was no different. The Monster Carolina viewing areas were packed as Stone Sour took the stage. The band formed in 1992 in Des Moines, IA. The band recorded a number of demo tapes but nothing came of them at the time. In 1997 they went on hiatus when Corey Taylor (vocals) joined Slipknot. They came back together in 2000 and released their self-titled album in 2002. It peaked at #46 on the Top 200 and the album was certified Gold. They followed that up with ‘Come What(ever) May in 2006. The album peaked at #4 on the Top 200 and was certified Platinum. Since then, the band has seen nothing but continued success. Stone Sour released 4 additional studio albums with the most recent, ‘Hydrograd’, released on June 30, 2017. Stone Sour is of Corey Taylor (vocals), Josh Rand (rhythm guitar), Roy Moyorga (drums), Johny Chow (bass), and Christian Martucci (lead guitar). Their setlist included “Absolute Zero”, “Cold Reader”, “Rose Red Violent Blue (This Song Is Dumb & So Am I)”, “Song #3”, “Through Glass”, and “Fabuless”.
Underoath – Black Stage
The rock band from Tampa, FL was set on the smaller stage with a crowd that flowed out of the back of the standing area. The band released ‘Erase Me’ on April 8, 2018. The album received great reviews, especially since it was 8 years since the band had released a new album. Formed back in 1997 the band released 7 prior albums before disbanding in 2013 and reforming again in 2015 for a reunion show. The band became known as being a Christian rock band where 3 of their albums charted to #1 on the U.S. Christian rock charts. Though they’re not the same Christian rock band they used to be, that didn’t stop the massive crowd from loving their performance any less. I was extremely impressed with their intensity, their music, and how much fun you could see they had on stage. Their setlist included “On My Teeth”, “Rapture”, “A Moment Suspended In Time”, and “Writing on the Walls”.
Shinedown – Monster Rebellion Stage
The last band I covered that evening was the rock band Shinedown. The band from Jacksonville, FL formed in 2001 and had commercial success with their debut album ‘Leave a Whisper’ released in 2003. Shinedown released 4 additional studio albums with all of those being certified Gold and/or Platinum. The band has sold over 10 million albums total, with over 1 billion streams combined, 11 singles certified as Gold and/or Platinum, and 12 singles reaching #1 on the charts. And on that day, May 4, 2018, Shinedown released their 6th studio album, ‘Attention Attention’. Shinedown is Brent Smith (vocals), Zach Myers (guitar), Eric Bass (bass), and Barry Kerch (drums). The highlight for the photographers was when Brent Smith called us all over to shake hands with us while he asked the crowd to shake hands with their fellow attendees in the crowd. Thousands of people crowded the Monster Rebellion stage to see Shinedown that night, who put on (as usual) an amazing show. Though it was so crowded the photographers leaving the photo pit had difficulties getting past the crowd to get back to the media tent.
Day 1 of Carolina Rebellion was an energetic, exciting, and memorable experience. I couldn’t wait to see what Days 2 and 3 were going to bring.