The first weekend in May is time for Carolina Rebellion, the largest rock and roll show in the mid-Atlantic to roll into the Charlotte region. What began as a one day concert back in 2011 has grown into a three day hard rock and heavy metal festival that brings fans from not only the Carolinas but all over the region. With over 60 bands performing during the weekend, there is a little something for every rock fan to enjoy whether your tastes lean toward metalcore or classic rock. In addition to the live music, festival attendees can enjoy some other experiences of Carolina Rebellion from getting an autograph at one of the artist signings to trying some great new food in the Pig Out Village or purchasing some merchandise from one of the many vendors onsite.
One of the best things about a large festival is the chance to check out some of the many up and coming bands and expand your musical horizons a bit. Day one of Carolina Rebellion offered many opportunities to do that with Mother Feather kicking things off on the Gold Stage with their self-proclaimed brand of “pop cock rock” and exotic costumes. Led by frontman Jesse Hughes, Eagles of Death Metal put in a solid performance on the Rebellion stage. The band became well known after the November 2015 terrorist attack at Le Bataclan night club in Paris during one of their shows. Don’t let the name fool you though, the band’s name is meant to be humorous as they definitely have a more classic, bluesy vibe. Hughes really worked the crowd and even did some microphone acrobatics during their set. Metalcore stalwarts Pierce the Veil put on a heck of a show on the Carolina stage with Mike Fuentes’ s bass drum looking like an alarm clock and a huge TNT in the front of the stage which was set off by a gorilla to an explosion of sparklers on stage. The music was heavy and fast and the band worked every inch of the stage. For me, the show stealer of the day was the Swedish melodic death metal of Amon Amarth on the Black stage. They brought part of their “Jomsviking” set to the festival with a giant Viking ship and warriors with shields and bows and arrows. This band knows how to put on a show and they were the highlight of the day for me. Frontman Johan Hegg was a frenzy of metal madness flashing the devil horns and pumping his fist in the air every chance he got. This is one set not to be missed. As the evening drew on, the crowds began to form for A Perfect Circle led by the one and only Maynard James Keenan. The stage was almost completely dark except for a wash of spotlight at different times on each of the band members. Maynard stayed in the back and in the dark as he performed with abandon, including a chilling version of “Judith.” The first night of Rebellion 2017 came to a close with a soulful set by the ’90s grunge act Soundgarden. Even after all these years, vocalist Chris Cornell has one of the best voices in rock as he led the band through such classics as “Spoonman” and “Fell On Black Days.” With such a great start to this year’s festival, I left tired but eagerly anticipating what day two would have to offer.
I made sure to arrive early enough on Saturday to catch the Arizona band Ded beginning the day with a bang on the Black stage. Their live set was everything I expected it to be with a ton of energy and passion showcased by their hot single “Anti-Everything” and made all the creepier with all the band members wearing white contacts in their eyes. In This Moment put on the most theatrical performance of the day complete with dancers, masks, and a ton of costume changes by singer Maria Brink. The band was tight, the songs were hot, and the crowd was utterly entertained, a perfect combination of music and theater. One of the acts that took me by surprise was the rap rock of Machine Gun Kelly. I almost missed them as the weather was threatening and I took some time to gear up for rain but am so glad I made it in time. His drummer was extremely talented and reminded me of a very young Arejay Hale of Halestorm as he stood up on his drumkit and was throwing and catching sticks with ease. I wondered what type of response MGK would get from the mostly metal crowd but by the time I got to the stage area, a huge crowd was already there chanting MGK. Machine Gun Kelly himself gave a phenomenal performance jumping from the drumset, rapping to the crowd and tearing it up. I may have been skeptical at first but by the time the first song was over, he had made a fan of me and many others in the audience.
Nu-metal heavyweights Korn closed out the Rebellion stage with a rousing set of sheer metal controlled chaos. Korn never fails to impress me in a live setting and this night would be no different as Jonathan Davis rocked it out complete with kilt and boots as they tore through Korn crowd pleasers “Right Now,” “Y’All Want A Single,” and their unique cover of Cameo’s “Word Up!” On any other day Korn would be the headlining act but tonight that honor belonged to the ’80s classic rock band Def Leppard. Their set, although very different from Korn, was no less explosive with a huge arena rock set featuring tons of lights, LED screens and all the bells and whistles. It was a fantastic way to end the evening as the band sounded better than ever and tore into all of their radio favorites including “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and an encore featuring both “Rock of Ages” and “Photograph.”
If that wasn’t enough rock and roll to fill your weekend, rebels still had one full day of music ahead as Day 3 got going with the Amsterdam rockers The Charm The Fury. The band had a great sound but suffered a bit in their performance with members banging into each other and seeming out of place. The band will need to polish up their live set to match their sound if they want to draw a crowd at festivals in the future. Sunday seemed to be the most crowded day out of the weekend and it was absolutely crazy trying to get around the crowds of people as I headed from stage to stage. The lineup of bands was amazing as the festival seemed to save the best for last. Goth rockers Motionless In White got a well deserved spot on the big Rebellion stage and their fan base turned up in droves to check out their set. They had a fun almost carnival like atmosphere with bass player Devin “Ghost” Sola in full costume and makeup and a clown that shot the audience with a water cannon and threw candy out to the crowd. Musically they were on fire as well pumping up the crowd with raucous hits like “Loud(F *ck It)” and “A-M-E-R-I-C-A.” It’s been a fun ride watching this band get bigger and better and I expect huge things from them in the future. At the opposite end of the venue, the Christian rockers of Skillet put on another blistering performance led by frontman John Cooper. This band sometimes gets overlooked due to their religious beliefs but they definitely know how to rock and always bring a stellar set.
After amazing performances by both Three Days Grace and Seether, it was time for one of my favorite bands to hit the stage, Papa Roach. As a voice came onto the speakers saying “F8ck Papa Roach!” the crowd began chanting the same and the band came out with middle fingers high in the air. If I had to choose just one band to epitomize what a rock festival should be like it would be Papa Roach. They have boundless energy and give it all each and every time they step on stage. Vocalist Jacoby Shaddix was an absolute madman as he climbed onto the barricades to sing and high five fans before running back onstage jumping up high enough to slap the speakers hanging on the side of the stage. Fun and crazy rock and roll is what the band is all about and that is just what they delivered. The alternative punk rock attack of The Offspring was next up as they took the stage amid a sea of lights and knocked the crowd right on their asses. These guys were on and it was hard to believe they have been bringing this level of performance for over 30 years. It was an exhilarating set with frontman Dexter Holland working it like it was still 1984. Again, this was an act that I wasn’t sure would be well received at this type of festival but the crowd ate it up as the band ripped through classics like “You’re Gonna Go Far, Kid” and “Why Don’t You Get a Job?” Yes, I’m going to say it, they’re “pretty fly” for some old guys. The metal of Avenged Sevenfold was up next with guitarist Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance lighting it up every chance they got. Vocalist M. Shadows sounded amazing as they got the show going with “The Stage” before hitting into A7X classics “Afterlife” and “Nightmare.” The stage set matched the music with lights and flames galore and I loved that they included a drum solo in their set. Often at a festival there isn’t enough time and the band opts out but it was nice to see Brooks Wackerman get his time to shine as he wowed the crowd behind the kit.
As Day 3 came to close, it was time to head to the parking lots and make our way home from the biggest and best Carolina Rebellion yet. I can’t wait to see what they come up with for 2018. Until then, see you later Rebels.
Soundgarden Set List:
Kyle Petty, Son of Richard
Black Hole Sun
The Day I Tried To live
Been Away Too Long
Fell On Black Days
Blow Up the Outside World
Slaves & Bulldozers (with snipped ot “In My Time of Dying”)
Def Leppard Set List:
Let It Go
Rock on (David Essex cover)
Bringin’ on the Heartbreak
Let’s Get Rocked
Pour Some Sugar On Me
Rock of Ages
Avenged Sevenfold Set List:
Hail to the King
So Far Away
A Little Piece of Heaven
We would like to thank Kristine Ashton-Magnuson from Ashton-Magnuson Media for the credentials to review the festival.