The second annual Earth Rocker Festival took place this past Saturday in the quaint town of Inwood, WV at the Shiley Acres concert venue. The festival was put together by the band Clutch who is originally from Frederick, Maryland which is just a stone’s throw away on Interstate 81 from Shiley Acres. This year’s lineup was a stacked card with Eyehategod, Corrosion of Conformity, and Black Label Society joining Clutch for a full day of metal mayhem.
The venue itself was easy to find being just a short distance from the highway with ample parking and camping available for those attendees who wished to spend the night. Shiley Acres is open air with no seating but chairs and pop up tents were allowed to provide some level of comfort for concert goers. Although the stage was fairly bare bones, it provided a good view from just about every area of the concert venue with a top notch sound system to boot. The festival is unique in that it takes place only during the day and is over before dark giving fans an opportunity to see some of their favorite bands in the light of day.
Kicking things off musically were several bands from the local Let There Be Rock School. Four different groups took the stage, showing off what they have been learning and getting some solid on stage experience. The acts ranged in age from grade school to older teens and ran the gamut from thrash to hair metal. There were a few snags as far as changing equipment over and the show was delayed quite a bit but the kids really gave their all and had a once in a lifetime experience and I applaud the festival for allowing the future rockers a chance to shine.
The main event began shortly after with the sludge metal of New Orleans band Eyehategod. Jimmy Bower was a force on guitar as vocalist Mike Williams gave an emotional performance. The band came heavy with their detuned guitars and plenty of feedback. Williams has one of the most foreboding voices in rock and went all out at one point winding the microphone cord around his neck for added effect. After a short but solid set from Eyehategod, the heavy vibe continued on with Corrosion of Conformity. Original guitarist Woody Weatherman took the stage to a chorus of shouts and cheers as Mike Dean posed with his bass. The crowd absolutely exploded when frontman Pepper Keenan hit the stage. The band released a new album earlier this year “No Cross No Crown” but only played one song from the record with “The Luddite.” The rest of the set relied heavily on the band’s fourth album and first with Keenan as lead singer, 1994’s “Deliverance.” The band gave an animated performance with Dean all over the stage and Pepper raising his fists to the rock and roll gods. They closed out their set with what is probably their biggest hit “Clean My Wounds” and the crowd couldn’t get enough. As the band exited the stage, shouts of COC!, COC! could be heard across the venue especially in the mosh pit area in front of the stage.
After a short break, it was time for none other than Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society to take over. As the curtain dropped revealing a giant wall of amps the band kicked things into high gear. Bassist John DeServio was playing to the crowd all evening, throwing out the devil horns every chance he got and drummer Jeff Fabb was pounding the skins with a thunderous force on a raised drum riser at the rear of the stage. Of course, Father Zakk was front and center, clad in his Black Label Society vest and plaid kilt, swinging his hair around and throwing down some blistering leads. Guitarist Dario Lorina was solid as always, a true talent that would be an outstanding lead guitarist in any other band. The crowd went wild as BLS ran through a ten song set that included crowd favorite “Suicide Messiah” and Wylde going out into the crowd to play for the fans up front. Two songs were featured from their latest release “Grimmest Hits” with “Room of Nightmares” and “Trampled Down Below” being well received. It wasn’t all metal mania though as Zakk took his spot behind the piano for a poignant version of “In This River.” Wylde may be most well known for his guitar skills but he also is a fine vocalist with a voice that can tug at your heartstrings. The band closed with “Stillborn” to the delight of the crowd and took time after to acknowledge the fans with Zakk holding up his BLS vest high above his head and pointing toward the sky giving thanks for what was a performance that many would never forget. The band came to the front of the stage for a final bow throwing guitar picks and BLS beach balls to the crowd.
After Black Label Society lit things up, it would be hard for any band to follow their set but hometown heroes Clutch were definitely up to the challenge. As the giant Clutch banner hung at the rear of the stage, the loudspeakers were shaking to the sounds of “We Need Some Money.” It’s a song originally by Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers but Clutch does a funky version of it and typically plays the taped version before they take the stage. The song served its purpose as the fans down front were dancing and singing along and getting totally amped up for what was to come. Clutch hit the stage running with a brand new song “Gimme the Keys” from the forthcoming new album “Book of Bad Decisions” which is currently set for a September release. “Firebirds!” was up next and things really got cooking with lead vocalist Neil Fallon working the crowd like only he can. He is a master showman and offers up some of the most unique facial expressions in the world of rock. Clutch is one of the few bands that can boast their original lineup and they truly play together like a well oiled machine. Drummer Jean-Paul Gaster kept the driving pace hidden behind his drum kit at the back of the stage with bassist Dan Maines to his left. Guitarist Tim Sult kept things low key letting his fingers do the talking with blistering riff after blistering riff. To honor the hometown crowd, Clutch dove back in time to their 1993 album “Transnational Speedway League,” playing “El Jefe Speaks” for the first time in probably a decade. The new tunes melded perfectly in with all the Clutch classics and Fallon’s vocals sounded better than ever even in this massive outdoor venue. Corrosion of Conformity front man Pepper Keenan came out to join the band for a mind blowing set closer “Spacegrass.” After the screams of Clutch!, Clutch! became overpowering, the band returned for a two song encore capping off the evening with “X-Ray Visions,” a personal favorite of my mind.
Before the sun completely set behind the clouds, this year’s Earth Rocker Festival was officially over. It was a terrific day of metal in a cool, unique environment and I can’t wait to see what Clutch will come up with for next year.
Clutch Set List:
Gimme The Keys
How To Shake Hands
El Jefe Speaks
Big News 1
The House That Peterbilt
Hot Bottom Feeder
Promoter (Of Earthbound Causes)
The Elephant Riders
In Walks Barbarella
We would like to thank Doug Weber from New Ocean media for the credentials to review the show.