It was the first weekend of May and that can only mean one thing for rock fans. Once again it was time for Carolina Rebellion to invade the Rock City Campgrounds with the mid-Atlantic’s largest rock and roll extravaganza. 2018 marked the eight year of the music festival which brought some of the biggest and hottest bands around for a weekend of music and mayhem.

The weather couldn’t have been better for an outdoor festival with plenty of sunshine and Carolina blue skies as I arrived to the campgrounds early Friday morning. The festival offers plenty of free parking with shuttle buses running all weekend long offering festival goers a hassle free way to get to the entrance gates.   Once inside, attendees can enjoy not only music but a wide assortment of food and drinks. With everything from traditional festival food like burgers and pizza to Island Noodles and gourmet choices in the Pig Out Village, there was a little something for everyone including vegetarian and gluten free options. Of course there was also a wide array of libations for those who wished to indulge including beer, wine, and liquor with the Caduceus Wine Garden and Jack Daniels VIP Tent being popular options. There were plenty of stands spread out across the grounds and the concession lines seemed to be moving quickly.   For many it wouldn’t be a festival without bringing home a souvenir so there were several official Carolina Rebellion merchandise stands with a variety of shirts, hoodies, and other clothing options as well as various vendors selling their wares. If that weren’t enough to keep one busy, this year’s festival also offered some one of a king experiences with artist signings at various scheduled times and special acoustic sessions happening in the Zippo tent .

Friday’s festivities got off to an early start as Swedish rockers Avatar hit the Rebellion stage for a theatrical set which featured the King of Avatar Country on his throne and elaborate costumes. There were four stages in all with the main attractions staggered on the Rebellion and Carolina stages to ensure you wouldn’t miss anything. The two smaller stages, the Black and the Gold stage often overlapped forcing fans to choose between the two. Personally I chose the Black stage more often than not due to its convenient location about halfway between the two main stages. Things got sent into overdrive with solid sets by Sevendust and Parkway Drive which whipped the crowds into a frenzy as the crowd surfing began in earnest.   Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor was nursing a leg injury which limited his stage movements somewhat but in no way hampered his vocal performance as he led the band through some of Stone Sour’s biggest hits and selections off their latest album “Hydrograd.”   Another act I was eager to check out was Stone Temple Pilots and their new lead singer Jeff Gutt. Gutt is definitely a Scott Weilland sound alike with similar stage mannerisms as well. Although Gutt is a fine vocalist, I miss the Weiland days and would almost prefer a singer with a totally different style. Not surprisingly and judging solely on the number of people and bodies I had to walk through to get to the photo pit, the largest crowd of Friday was front and center for Shinedown. The band always puts on a spectacular performance and they had a pretty laser and light show along with them this time. Their newest album “Attention,Attention” was released the same day as their festival appearance and fans had been given signs to wave and hold up during Shinedown’s set.   Lead vocalist Brent Smith is simply one of the finest singers ever to grace a stage and as usual gave me chills as the band played their version of “Simple Man,” one of the best rock covers ever.   It was chaotic making my way back to the Carolina stage for the final performance of the evening which went to nineties grunge specialists, Alice In Chains.   The band is set to re-explode on the scene with their first new single in five years “The One You Know” making its live debut and the promise of a full length album in the near future. Guitarist Jerry Cantrell is already a rock and roll icon and singer William Duvall has done an amazing job over the years following in the difficult to fill shoes of the late Layne Staley. The band did not disappoint and left fans eager for more as they closed out the first night of Rebellion with the grunge classic “Rooster.” Day one was officially in the books and it was time to head home to renew and reenergize for the rest of the weekend.

Day two was another beautiful day with the action once again starting early with solid showings from Asking Alexandria and Trivium. One of the most enjoyable performances came from Andy Black and Black Veil Brides. The band has a giant fan base and it’s easy to see why as their live set was tons of fun with the band members interacting with the audience and doing their best to keep the action going. Another spectacular act was next as the theatrics of In This Moment amped up the crowd. The beauitful Maria Brink led the band through a set full of elaborate costumes, choreographed dance routines, and even a gun to shoot out smoke at the crowd. In This Moment is a big reason many of the fans came to the festival which makes sense as the band is clearly in a league of its own production wise. One of the best things about a rock show is the spectacle of it and nobody does that better than In This Moment. Accompanied by solid songs and top notch musicianship, I’m sure the band will be a festival staple for many, many years to come. Another huge draw was the return of Breaking Benjamin to Carolina Rebellion. Several years ago they made their comeback appearance at the festival and fans were eager for their return. Frontman Ben Burnley has suffered his share of health issues over the years but you wouldn’t know that based on his performance. This was the most active I have seen Ben in a long time as he ran around the stage pumping his fists as he led the band through some of their biggest hits. There were some not to be missed sets going on at the Black stage as well with an outstanding set from crowd favorite New Year’s Day before the Butcher Babies took it to another level with their unique costumes as they attempted to break the world record for crowd surfers. I’m haven’t heard if the record was broken or not but the scene at the pits was definitely crazy. The most poignant moment of the weekend came during Five Finger Death Punch’s set. After kicking things off at a frenzied pace, Ivan Moody slowed things down as he brought a special guest onstage. A young cancer patient came out as the band did an acoustic portion of the set. There was not a dry eye in the house and in fact things got so quiet, some of the photographers in the media tent thought that their set had ended early. As we walked over to the Carolina stage, you could see the scene unfold on the jumbo screens and it was truly beautiful. The night was not over yet as Sully Erna and Godsmack were about to literally blow things up. Starting off their set with “When Legends Rise,” the Massachusetts rockers put in a high energy show with all the bells and whistles including smoke, fire, and plenty of pyro. The show featured all their big hits and of course their dual drum solo “Batalla de los Tambores” which features drummer Shannon Larkin and Sully Erna on separate battling kits.   As their set closed out with chants of ‘I Stand Alone!,” it was a perfect ending to an incredible day two.

Sunday is typically a more relaxed day and this held true even by Carolina Rebellion standards. The crowd was noticeably thinner all day than it had been on Friday and Saturday. I’m sure there were a variety of factors at play including those who had to work Monday or who were already tired and wore out from two days at a festival but it once again brings up the question of the lineup. Headlining Sunday night of Carolina Rebellion was the English rockers Muse and many attendees were admittedly not that excited about it preferring a harder rock act be on the bill. At any rate, variety is in my opinion a good thing and Sunday brought out some acts that I never would have caught otherwise. The young band Greta Van Fleet was one of the most anticipated sets of the day. They may be young but they are extremely talented and technically proficient musicians. With a definite Led Zeppelinesque sound, the band put on a heck of a show with a real classic rock feel. Another stand out of the day was the English band The Struts. I just can’t say enough about this band. They’ve got a very cool Queen like vibe and vocalist Luke Spiller is a consummate showman full of charisma and charm. I highly recommend checking them out if you haven’t already done so. Although the day was definitely more laid back, there were a few high intensity acts appearing on the smaller stages. The hardcore punk of Code Orange hit the Black stage with a jolt of electric energy. The band was all over the place running and jumping on and off the stage. It was difficult to figure out who and what you should watch as there was so much going on. Another band that lived up to their hype was the punk rock of The Fever 333 led by frontman Jason Aalon Butler. They were a frenzy of movement as they hit the Gold stage bringing their unique stage persona and extreme set to a large crowd of fans. Since I’m an old school eighties rocker, I was extremely excited to see the one and only Billy Idol make his appearance.   Billy looked and sounded great as he played to the largest crowd of the day. People were dancing and rocking as guitarist Steve Stevens let it rip. Just as everyone was having fun, Idol’s set was over way too soon as the crowd screamed in a Rebel Yell for “More, More, More!” Queens of the Stone Age made an appearance led by controversial frontman Josh Homme. Due to the infamous kicking of a photographer incident last year, media was only allowed to the very end of the stage to take photos. The lighting was intense as they kicked off their set paying homage to Billy Idol with a snippet of “White Wedding” thrown into the mix. The crowd seemed to be pumped for the performance which was difficult to see from my vantage point. Day three was almost over but not before the alternative rock sounds of Muse closed out the weekend on the Carolina Stage. While it may not have been everyone’s cup of tea, Muse put in a solid performance led by lead vocalist and guitarist Matt Bellamy. The back of the stage was covered with giant LED screens with images that changed throughout the set. The band sounded great in a live setting and tried to keep things interesting interspersing snippets of classic rock tunes from AC/DC’s “Back in Black” to the Deftones’ “My Own Summer (Shove It)” throughout their set. It was a well done set which included a three song encore complete with confetti cannons to round out the weekend.

It seemed as if it had just begun but Carolina Rebellion 2018 was officially over leaving fans with memories of a lifetime and looking forward to what 2019 may bring. Until next year, rock on rebels!

Alice In Chains Set List:

Check My Brain

Again

Them Bones

Bleed the Freak

Dam That River

The One You Know

Grind

Nutshell

No Excuses

Man in the Box

We Die young

Would?

Rooster

 

Godsmack Set List:

 

When Legends Rise

Eye of the Storm

Awake

1000hp

Unforgettable

Something Different

Cryin’ Like a Bitch

Keep Away

Voodoo

Batalla de los Tambores

Whatever

 

Encore:

Bulletproof

I Stand Alone

 

Muse Set List:

 

Psycho

Interlude

Hysteria

Thought Contagion

Map of the Problematique

Plug In Baby

The 2nd Law, Isolated System

The Handler

Supermassive Black Hole

Munich Jam

Time Is Running Out

Stockholm Syndrome

 

Encore:

Take a Bow

Uprising

Knights of Cydonia

Photo Gallery

 

 

We would like to thank Kristine Ashton-Magnuson from Ashton-Magnuson Media for the credentials to review the festival.

 

About The Author Kris Engelhart

I am a small business owner, freelance writer, and part-time piano instructor in Charlotte, NC. My musical career started at the age of five when I was forced into taking piano lessons. I played flute in the school band and added the guitar as a young teen. There is nothing I would rather do than be at a live show. My first concert was Shaun Cassidy at the Memorial Auditorium in Buffalo in 1978. My top five live shows ever are: 1. Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band – Memorial Auditorium, Buffalo, NY 1984- They played for 3 ½ hours and it was awesome. 2. Carolina Rebellion- Metrolina Expo Grounds, Charlotte, NC, May, 2011 – The first ever Carolina Rebellion featured over 15 bands with Avenged Sevenfold headlining. Non-stop music for over 12 hours. 3. Chevelle- Food Lion Speed Street, Charlotte, NC, May, 2008 - The first time I ever saw Chevelle live and I was hooked! 4. Skillet with Red- Bojangle’s Coliseum, Charlotte, NC, April, 2010 – Skillet is one of my favorite bands and they totally kick it live. 5. 106.5 The End’s Weenie Roast #9- Verizon Wireless Amiptheater, Charlotte, NC , October, 2003- Featured Staind, Shinedown, Three Days Grace.