Louder Than Life started on Saturday, September 30th inside Champions Park in Louisville, KY. It was the first time I had the opportunity to cover this festival and I was ecstatic. The lineup for this year’s festival was solid with a nice variety of artists and food and drink vendors. And from the fans I’ve been speaking with who’ve attended prior years, they said it was one of the best festivals around.
Arriving on site early I waited with other media members and watched the fans line up in anticipation of the shows. As soon as the doors opened people were already cheering as they made their way through the security checkpoint. The first thing is the festival grounds are huge! The amount of space was definitely bigger than Chicago Open Air, and they would need it, as the place would be packed with fans from end to end as the day went on. Also, there are three stages at this festival. One is immediately to the left of the entrance called the Zorn stage. The other two main stages, Monster Energy and Loudmouth, were on the opposite side of the field. VIP seating were bleachers to the left of the Monster Energy stage and the VIP lounges were right behind the stands. Luckily, the weather was in the mid 70s with a slight breeze and clear skies. I couldn’t have had asked for better weather. Fans have told me the weather for this festival rained just about every year so I guess I lucked out.
I made my way towards the main stages as Camp Media was right nearby. The media area was much bigger than what we had at Chicago Open Air so I was able to easily share a table with my friends from Anti Hero Magazine and Music Injection Australia. The media tent also had a nice photo booth with the Danny Wimmer Presents logo as the backdrop. Snacks, candy, and Monster Energy drinks were also provided for the media. After settling in and getting my cameras ready, it was off to the stages to photograph the bands.
The hardest part of Louder Than Life is deciding who you want to see while at the show. Bands from the Zorn stage and main stages sometimes overlapped in times so you had to plan ahead. I had to make the same decisions on what bands I was going to cover this weekend. It wasn’t an easy decision with so many good bands to see. Below are the bands I covered that Saturday:
Palisades – Loudmouth Stage
The band from Iselin, NJ was very excited to be part of Louder Than Life and came out on stage with energy and excitement urging the crowd to give it back to them. The band recently released their third studio album (self titled) and happily played a few tracks that day. Louis Miceli Jr. (vocals), Xavier Adames (lead guitar), Matthew Marshall (rhythm guitar), Brandon Elgar (bass), and Aaron Rosa (drums) immediately impressed me. Louis’ vocals were clear and powerful, bass and guitar work was fast paced and blended well together, and the band moved around on stage quite often. Aaron was smiling as he banged away on the drums and you could see how much he enjoyed being there. Their setlist included “Through Hell”, “Better Chemicals”, “Fall”, and “Let Down”. They were a good start to my band coverage.
He Is Legend – Zorn Stage
I took my first and only hike that day over to the Zorn stage after Palisades. I had heard a lot about the North Carolina band He Is Legend and wasn’t missing an opportunity to see them live. The band started back in 2003 and releasing their 1st album ‘I Am Hollywood’ in 2004. Though they’ve had some lineup changes over the years and even a hiatus, the band released 4 additional studio albums, including one in 2017 titled ‘few’. The band consisting of Schuylar Croom (vocals), Denis Desloge (rhythm guitar), Adam Tanbouz (lead guitar), and Matty Williams (bass) had the sun shining in their faces for their set, but it certainly didn’t stop them from rocking the stage. And they did not disappoint. Schuylar’s vocals go from a grunge style low to screaming highs within a blink. Matty pumps out quick bass beats while Adam and Denis merge their rifts for some killer guitar sounds. And all this while headbang and move around on stage. Schuylar likes to dance and groove in between lyrics which makes him very entertaining to photograph and watch. Some of their setlist included “Everyone I Know Has Fangs”, “Sand”, and “Jordan”. It was a very entertaining set and I’m glad I caught them.
Sleeping With Sirens – Monster Energy Stage
I made my way back to the main stage and stayed on that side for the rest of the day. Sleeping With Sirens, a band that formed in my current residence of Orlando, FL, was next on stage. The rock band has produced 5 studio albums with their most recent, ‘Gossip’, released on September 22nd a week before the festival. They also produced one acoustic EP. After their first studio album, the other 4 all charted in the Billboard 200 and their third album, ‘Feel’, peaked at #3. Kellin Quinn (vocals), Gabe Barham (drums), Justin Hills (bass), Jack Fowler (lead guitar), and Nick Martin (rhythm guitar) walked out to screaming fans. Kellin’s vocals blew my mind. His voice starts in the high range and then he raises it even higher. Musically they produce a solid rock sound that had the fans bouncing. Female fans started crowd surfing over the barriers to get a closer glimpse of the band. Some of their setlist included “Empire to Ashes”, “We Like It Loud”, and “Kick Me”.
Starset – Loudmouth Stage
This was one of the bands I was looking forward to seeing live this weekend. Based out of Columbus, OH, Starset itself is a concept who’s backstory are built into their backstory. Starset was formed by The Starset Society to reach out to the public. Their goal is to spread the word about “the Message” from mysterious signals received from space. Their first album, ‘Transmissions’ debuted at #49 on the Billboard 200. Their most recent album ‘Vessels’ was released in January 2017. Dustin Bates (vocals), Ron DeChant (bass), Brock Richards (guitar), and Adam Gilbert (drums) have definitely made an impression in the music world. When they started their set, Jonathan Kampfe (cello) and Siobhan Cronin (violin) were on stage holding still as statues. When the music started and the band walked out on stage it was a stunning sight. I knew the band used spacesuits as part of their costuming, but to see it live is breathtaking. Adam was hidden behind an opaque glass box and the front of it became transparent only during certain points of the set. Dustin’s vocals are excellent and the band’s music is amazing. They put in a phenomenal set including “Satellite”, “My Demons”, “Bringing It Down”, and “Monster”.
Of Mice & Men – Monster Energy Stage
The band from Orange County, CA was ready to give the fans some heavy metal on stage. The band originally formed back in 2009 and has since released 4 studio albums. Their last album, ‘Cold World’, was released in 2016. The band underwent a major change when founding member and vocalist, Austin Carlile, left the band. Aaron Pauley (vocals, bass) stepped in as the band’s frontman. The rest of the band includes David “Valentino” Artegea (drums), Alan Ashby (rhythm guitar), and Phil Manansala (lead guitar). They were definitely one of the heavier acts of the day with Aaron providing screaming vocals and Phil with heavy quick riffs. David was smiling throughout their set banging his head to his own beats. Their setlist included “Unbreakable”, “Back To Me”, and “Pain”.
Eagles of Death Metal – Loudmouth Stage
The band from Palm Desert, CA was one of the gems of this Louder Than Life lineup. Originally formed in 1998 though the band didn’t release their first album until 2004. ‘Peace, Love, Death Metal’ was a huge success with many of the songs from the album being used in commercials and video games. They released 3 additional studio albums with ‘Zipper Down’ being their last album released in 2015. The band also released two DVDs with their most recent in 2017 titled ‘I Love You All The Time: Live at the Olympia in Paris’. The show was a tribute to those killed during their concert in November 2015 when terrorists attacked their performance at the Bataclan Theatre in Paris. 89 people lost their lives that day. Eagles of Death Metal brought out their best blues rock that day. Jesse Hughes (vocals, guitar), Dave Catching (guitar), Jennie Vee (bass), Eden Valdino (guitar), and Jorma Vik (drums) were spot on rocking and grooving the stage. The band was having a good time and the crowd was loving it too. Their setlist included “I Only Want You”, “I Want You So Hard (Bad Boy’s News)”, and a wonderful rendition of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream”.
Hollywood Undead – Monster Energy Stage
What do you get when you put 5 guys in unique masks and microphones and instruments on stage? You get Hollywood Undead getting the crowd riled up and singing along. The band from Los Angeles, CA was formed in 2005 and released five albums, with their most recent, ‘Five’, being released in 2017. Their rock rap style took the airwaves by storm garnering them high rankings on the Billboard charts. And this day was no different when J-Dog, Funny Man, Johnny 3, Charlie Scene, Danny, and touring drummer, Tyler Mahurin took the stage. Rapping, rocking, fireworks, and energetic performances had the crowd behind them all through their set. Some of their setlist included “Usual Suspects”, “Undead”, “War Child”, and a live debut of “California Dreaming”.
Gojira – Loudmouth Stage
You know you’re popular when Jose Mangin from SiriusXM comes out to introduce you. He spoke to the crowd about everyone’s love for metal and he knew how many fans loved the next band coming up. He spoke about how often he played them on his radio show and introduced the band from Bayonne, France, Gojira! The band originally formed in 1996 under the name Godzilla and changed it in 2001 to Gojira. They have become one of the most forefront heavy metal bands of recent times. They have released 6 studio albums, the latest being ‘Magma’ in 2016, and 3 DVDs. The band received 2 Grammy nominations in 2016. When Joe Duplantier (vocals, rhythm guitar), Mario Duplantier (drums), Christian Andreu (lead guitar), and Jean-Michel Labadie (bass) hit the stage, the thousands and thousands in attendance roared. And when they played it was everything the crowd could have wished. Hard hitting bass, guitar, and drums, solid vocal work, and the frenzied crowd made their performance memorable. Their setlist included “Only Pain”, “Silvera”, “Flying Whales”, and “Vacuity”.
Halestorm – Monster Energy Stage
Halestorm, constantly touring rock band from Red Lion, PA, was next on stage. The band has foundations as far back as 1997 between the two siblings Lzzy and Arejay Hale. In 2005 when they would sign with Atlantic Records and in 2009 release their first album, which was self-titled. Since then they released two additional studio albums and 3 cover albums all with the title ‘Reanimate’. The band is a crowd favorite, especially since they tour so often. Halestorm consists of Lzzy Hale (vocals, rhythm guitar), Arejay Hale (drums), Joe Hottinger (lead guitar), andJosh Smith (bass). As soon as they hit the stage you could feel the excitement ripple across your skin. Arejay stood on his drumset urging the crowd to get crazy and when Lzzy stepped out on stage, looking out over the crowd, she smiled and ripped into their set. Halestorm’s studio albums are always worth the time to listen. But, seeing them live is an experience to absorb. The band is energetic, hard rocking, and always make their shows personable to the fans and fun. Their set list included some of their best hits including “Love Bites (So Do I)”, “Mz. Hyde”, “I Get Off”, and “I Miss the Misery”.
Mastodon – Loudmouth Stage
As the day went on you could see with each band hitting the main stages were building up the crowd more and more. The field was elbow to elbow with people staring at the stages and the main screens to get a glimpse of the artists on stage. And when the metal band from Atlanta, GA stepped out it was if a powder keg exploded. Mastodon looked as excited as the fans as they stepped out all smiles and waving to the crowd to get crazy. The band who started in 2000 released 7 studio albums and 2 EPs in their career. One studio album, ‘Emperor of Sand’ and one EP, ‘Cold Dark Place’, were both released in 2017. The band has accumulated Grammy nominations and two Metal Hammer Golden God awards. Troy Sanders (bass, vocals), Brent Hinds (lead guitar, vocals), Bill Kelliher (rhythm guitar, vocals), and Brann Dailor (drums, vocals) opened up with intensity, passion, and the hard rock sound everyone came to know and love from them. Mastodon was fiery on the stage and the fans loved it. Their setlist included “Sultan’s Curse”, “Crystal Skull”, “Ancient Kingdom”, “Megalodon”, and “Andromeda”.