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  • Megan Garzone

Review: Fort Rock 2017 Day One

World’s Loudest Month once again kicked off in Fort Myers, Florida with two days of music and madness at Danny Wimmer presents and AEG live’s Fort Rock. Sharing a lineup with our sister festival, Welcome to Rockville in Jacksonville, this year’s performers spanned from 80’s rock to new age metal. With one of the more diverse group of bands we’ve seen in the festivals five year lifespan, there were fans of every age and every genre present for the weekend. From little kids raised on their parent’s shoulders to older rockers holding out strong for Def Leppard’s headlining set, there was something for everyone.

The set up: It’s no surprise after the past few years that it is going to be hot during the festival. The weekend always seems to mark the hottest weekend of the year so far, but thankfully we had a breeze that seemed to keep the temperatures tolerable. Fort Rock once again provided the “cool zone” with a large covered area with misters to cool off with.

The stage set up mirrored that of its previous years, with the Black and Yellow stages side-by-side. I actually prefer the stages next to each other, as it gives festival goers the opportunity to bounce back and forth easily between the two and catch as much live music as they want. I’ve found that the biggest issue fans take with festivals is having to run from opposite ends of festival grounds to catch the bands they came for, and Fort Rock negates this annoyance. Setting up the next band to play while the current band performs on the other stage makes a pretty flawless system for transitioning sets as well. There is very little downtime for the fans, keeping their energy levels up and the day go by fast.

There were tons of alumni bands at this years Fort Rock including on day one Motionless in White (2015), In This Moment (2013 & 2015), Nothing More (2014), Seether (2014), and Papa Roach (2013 & 2015). Each of these bands came and knocked their previous performances out of the park with bigger, better, and tighter performances.

Let’s look back at some of the top highlights of 2017’s Fort Rock Day 1 –

1. The production – One of the most noted downsides to festival performances is that you trade in the “show” for the quantity of bands. You have a quicker breakdown, hotter temperatures, and shorter sets that kill the production value of band’s live performance. Thankfully, this was not the case at Fort Rock and some of these sets were the coolest performances I’ve ever seen. Not one to shy away from props, Motionless in White had the stage littered with candles, Jack-O-Lanterns, flowers, and of course bassist Devin “Ghost” Sola in full costume (this time a Carrie tribute). There was also a girl in costume on stage tossing candy to the crowd and using a super soaker to cool them off early in the day.

In This Moment is another band known for their killer visuals in their live shows and for a daytime festival set I couldn’t have asked for a cooler performance. With singer Maria Brink entering the stage from a red circus tent set center-stage, she donned a white priestess outfit that made me think of the Queen from Alien with her intricate headdress. In just three songs, Brink had three different wardrobe changes, each bringing a new detail to its song. Brink was surrounded by her backup dancers, known as The Blood Girls, and kept the crowd hypnotized with their movements.

Chevelle ended the day, and judging by the last time we saw them, I wasn’t expecting much on the visual front. But when we reached the stage there were tall plant-like lighting rigs spreading out along the backside of the stage. These rigs created one of the most stunning lighting shows I’ve seen in quite some time. The band was lit from the front by spotlights, and an array of pinks, reds, blues, and greens spun behind them.

But it was Nothing More that stole the visual show for the day. The stage was littered with metal, gears, and was giving off a total steampunk vibe with colored CO2 shooting behind the band. But it was when singer Jonny Hawkins stepped up to a lonely drumset in center stage that we got the craziest moment of the day. That drumset was actually attached to Nothing More’s newest stage toy referred to as the Scorpion Tail. The drumset shot up with hydraulics into the air, holding Hawkins at the top with a mic, a MIDI controller, and a killer Skrillex cover in the middle of the set. This is definitely something you need to see live to appreciate, as it was built by the band’s bassist Daniel Oliver, and brings a whole new level of “wild” to their performance.

2. New comers to the festival – One of the biggest bands that played last year’s Rockville, but did not come to Fort Rock was Beartooth. I heard many grumbles from fans about how they would have loved to see them on our end of the weekend, and their voices were heard as Beartooth took the stage at Fort Rock this year. With a seriously aggressive set the band powered up the fans with their popular hits including “Hated,” “Sick of Me,” and “Beaten in Lips.”

Of Mice & Men performed for the first time at Fort Rock, following vocalist Austin Carlile’s departure at the end of 2016. This was the band’s second show since bassist Aaron Pauley took over the vocal duties for the band. You could tell the fans were both excited and anxious to see the energy since the lineup change and they were not disappointed. Performing their newest single “Unbreakable” the band has seemed to transition effortlessly with Pauley taking full time vocals and truly marks a new life for the band.

Even though we had just seen Alter Bridge the weekend before, we were once again blown away by their performance. Maybe it was the bigger crowd the band fed off of but Kennedy, Tremonti, Marshall, and Phillips took their shorter time slot and dumped just as much energy and emotion into it.

3. Dodging tragedy Seether was putting on one of their best live performances I’ve ever seen when a lighting rig set up toppled over almost taking out tour guitarist Clint Lowery (Sevendust) out. Despite this crazy snafu the band didn’t even miss a beat and continued to knock out “Fake It,” “Rise Above This,” and their newest single “Let You Down.”

During Papa Roach’s set, singer Jacoby Shaddix, jumped from the stage down into the crowd to connect with the fans as the sun started to set on day one. Also at this time, a man who I can only assume was heavily under the influence sprinted from behind a drink vendor and jumped up to climb the stage. Security was thankfully on their toes all weekend though, and got the guy before he caused any problems for the band. In the moment it was stressful, but looking back security handled the situation much like they did everything during the weekend – with ease and as swiftly as possible to keep everyone safe. From grabbing every crowd surfer, to keeping the crowd cool with water hoses, these guys (and girls!) were invaluable to the fans.

Stay tuned for Fort Rock Day Two Review

Day one schedule: Felicity / Cover Your Tracks / Beartooth / Motionless in White / Nothing More / In This Moment / Of Mice & Men / Alter Bridge / Three Days Grace / Papa Roach / Chevelle / Def Leppard

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