The second year of the Louder Than Life festival is now officially in the books and I am officially done with this music scene until, perhaps, next year. The gargantuan-sized metal and rock n’ roll music and gourmet man-food extravaganza still has my fucking ears ringing, my clothes still half covered in mud, and that post-concert hangover feeling that I’ve not had since my 20’s. I don’t know if I am wishing that maybe I had indulged just a little more or a little less, at this point. I can’t decide.
Over 50,000 people in two short days flocked to the festival, like droves of wild animals trying to cram their way onto Noah’s arc. According to festival organizers, over 70% of these metalhead and rock n’ roll bastards came from outside Louisville’s city limits. “Bastards” being a word I totally threw in there myself, not the festival. For clarification. And we all experienced the gamut of what Louisville weather can dish out in 48 hour period. Cold, cloudy and rainy one day, and sunny and hot the next. Welcome to the Ohio Valley, folks.
Saturday, 3 October: Muddy Metal Mayhem
So, like I said, tens of thousands of these metalhead bastards spent most of the day stomping around in the mud, the mosh pits, with booze in-hand, avoiding roving packs of security and police, and generally just humping and living the typical American metalhead dream. Whiskey-bent. Hellbound. Making beasts of themselves for a few short hours. Some screaming obscenities at random passer-byers and some at the bands. Some so self-absorbed into the music that nothing else around them really existed. Everyone seemingly losing their minds to the overly-decibeled carnage of America’s most notorious metal and hard rock acts that FM radio stations, MTV and other mainstream media outlets have spent decades force-feeding their fans with.
Sevendust, one of the lesser-overplayed, and more talented acts on the docket, turned in a short, yet tight set, that included an old-school cut “Denial,” and also the newly released “Not Today” off their latest album Kill The Flaw. Just one question, though, guys: that new album title isn’t a subliminal reference to what you intend to do to a certain newly-reunited metal band from Louisville, is it? Probably not, but had to make a joke out of that. Moving on…
The biggest treat of the day came with Chevelle – who mesmerized with musical precision like only a brother-band could do – and went deep into their catalogue with cuts like “Forfeit” and “The Red.” Of course Chevelle probably couldn’t get off stage without playing “Send The Pain Below,” and so they did. Perfectly so.
Then came veteran metal horror rocker Rob Zombie. With pictures of classic horror movie characters as his stage background along with shitty, negative, certain one-word terms I’m not going to report on, Zombie lambasted his fans with his iconic groove-metal style that only he can pull off the way he does it. Somewhat surprisingly, he opened with a romping and rousing take of Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band” before blistering through his own set of 20+ year solo and White Zombie cuts. I’d also be remiss to mention that he totally killed it on his take of a James Brown classic, “Get Up (I Feel Like Being) a Sex Machine.”
Sunday, 4 October: More Sun, More Fun and Interviews!
The last thing I needed on Sunday afternoon to nurse a metal-induced, late Saturday night hangover was another several hour onslaught of cookie-monster singer’s bands. Sorry, but that’s what some unmentioned Saturday acts really sound like at times.
Nonetheless, day two brought better weather, sunny skies, warmer temperatures and a more classic rock n’ roll, and overall friendly vibe. The crowd, noticeably tamer, perhaps as hungover as I was, got a dose of rock n’ roll from the likes of ZZ Top (who I regrettably bailed on), Slash, Breaking Benjamin, Shinedown, Black Stone Cherry, Kentucky Headhunters, Collective Soul and Skid Row, amongst several others.
One metal band, in particular, hailing from Louisville, and who’s in the midst of launching a new comeback tour, FLAW, also performed on this day. On the wrong stage, though, if you ask me. They should’ve been next door on the much larger East stage, all things considered. Nonetheless, they delivered exactly what they’re longtime loyal fanbase still flocks to see them for: metal with catchy melodies.
I actually had the chance to catch up with FLAW after their set, and here is what they had to say about getting back together again and what the future holds:
And of course I also had to pay homage to another set of Kentucky music icons, the Kentucky Headhunters and Black Stone Cherry, who both hail from the hollers of Edmonton, Kentucky in Metcalfe County. Just a few hours south of Louisville. Before their sets I had the chance to sit down and interview Richard Young (Kentucky Headhunters) and John Fred Young (BSC), for a cool first time ever father-son interview between the two. Check out what I made them jabber about when asked what guitar they’d break vs. play, and who they hope becomes President:
Black Stone Cherry went on to amass a hometown crowd that better resembled what they typically play to in the UK and other European tour destinations. I mean, fucking Jimmy Page shows up regularly to their shows in the UK to hang out and watch them. This was the biggest crowd I’ve seen them play in their home state, and I‘ve seen them play countless times since 2002 when I first met them in the basement of the old Jillians on Lexington Avenue here in Louisville. Those guys were maybe 16 to 18 at the time, and being escorted by Richard Young who was their manager. Gee, how things have changed for them since those days.
I love to see Kentucky musicians and artists exporting their creations outside of the state. The Young family of musicians has always done a fine job of doing just that, by keeping both the national and international communities aware that it’s not just bourbon, horses and fast women that come from Kentucky! But kick-ass, boot-scootin, southern rock n’ roll music does, too!
So Let’s Wrap this Shit Up
LTL is one of those festivals that when you honestly proclaim, like I remember doing in the middle of a rum-fit to some dude: that you’re “one crazy bastard,” people will be like “that’s good to hear!” And they mean it. They’re not bullshitting you. That’s what it’s all about. Being crazy bastards listening to loud-ass, rage-a-holic metal and rock n’ roll music. Together. With fancy gourmet $8 hot dogs – or some other gourmet man-food items of choice in one hand – and some sort of whiskey or beer concoction in the other. Screaming at everything and everyone around you. Pretending that one day, maybe you’ll be on that stage.
I’m guessing that’s why they call this festival Louder Than Life. And hold it in good ole’ Louisville, Kentucky, where this kind of loud behavior will be happily tolerated, no matter what you set the decibel level to, in exchange for the extra tax dollar revenue it will generate.
Welcome to Louisville, Louder Than Life! I’m sure you’ll continue to fit right in.
“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”
— Hunter S. Thompson
**These interviews and coverage also published at GonzoToday.com