After 12 years of Rock on the Range in Columbus, Ohio, this year marked the debut of the Sonic Temple Art + Music Festival, which took place at Mapfre Stadium over the course of three days (May 17th-19th). Heading into the fest, it looked like Friday may suffer from severe weather conditions, and that Saturday and Sunday would be relatively nice and warm. However, as it turned out, Sunday was the day plagued by weather issues, with the other two days going off without a hitch.
Friday, May 17th
Early bands like Badflower, Wage War, Shvpes, and Hands Like Houses got the action going on the first day of Sonic Temple, with things really taking off with Avatar’s high-energy set on the main stage. Also early on, Zeal & Ardor and Ho99o9, two of the most unique acts on the bill, played concurrently on the Echo Stage and Wave Stage.
The late afternoon and early evening was highlighted by a powerful set by Parkway Drive on the main stage, and a passionate, electro-pop-heavy set by Pussy Riot on the Wave Stage. Halestorm got also got the masses at the main stage moving, with Lzzy Hale’s powerful voice leading the way.
Meanwhile, Zakk Wylde and his band Black Label Society brought the riffs to the Echo Stage, while Tom Morello provided one of the day’s big highlights by bringing System of a Down’s Serj Tankian onstage for a rendition of Audioslave’s “Like a Stone” in tribute to the late Chris Cornell.
The evening continued with Meshuggah whipping the Echo Stage crowd into a frenzy with their intense brand of extreme metal, while Tom Morello and Henry Rollins delivered spoken word performances to a packed tent, with hundreds left listening outside due to overcapacity.
As day turned to night, Ghost took the main stage, with Cardinal Copia and company playing before a packed stadium, showing just how much they’ve risen up the rock and metal ranks in the past few years.
The rain that was forecast for Friday finally started to fall after Ghost’s set, but it didn’t delay System of a Down from taking the stage on time. What did delay System of a Down was a sound issue that forced them to stop after 20 minutes. As guitarist Daron Malakian explained, they had to reboot the system, to which he shouted, “F*ck the system”, leading a chant among the 40,000 in attendance.
After about a 15 minute delay, System of a Down back onstage, sounding and looking better than the early part of the set, when they came out a bit rusty. Serj Tankian has never been the most animated frontman, but he seemed to need a bit of time to loosen up on this particular set.
As far as material, System didn’t disappoint, playing a 27-song setlist. Even after what seemed like a large exodus following, “Chop Suey!”, the band continued to play for a good while longer, closing out the night with “Toxicity” and “Sugar”.
Day 1 Photo Gallery (click to enlarge and scroll through):
Saturday, May 18th
The second day of Sonic Temple started with sets from such acts as Black Coffee, While She Sleeps, and Movements, but it was early Main Stage band Fever 333 who may have stole the show for the entire day. These guys are a Rage Against the Machine for a new generation, with singer Jason Butler an absolute force. The frontman made his way through the audience and into to the stadium seats, where he stood atop a safety rail and won over the crowd before heading back and causing absolute chaos onstage.
Gojira’s set was memorable for a number of reasons, but most of all guitarist Christian Andreu getting burned in the face by pyro, and then quickly returning onstage to finish the set like a champ. The French metallers were also joined by Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe for “Backbone”. In fact, Lamb of God were up next on the main stage, delivering a blistering set that whipped up some circle pits.
Meanwhile, over at the Wave Stage, word came that Action Bronson had canceled due to a knee injury, meaning that Killswitch Engage’s set at the Echo Stage was even more packed than expected.
Papa Roach continued the momentum on the main stage, at one point paying tribute to The Prodigy, who were set to perform at Sonic Temple before singer Keith Flint’s tragic suicide. Jacoby Shaddix and the rest of P-Roach performed The Prodigy’s “Firestarter” in tribute to the late Flint.
Closing out Saturday were Disturbed, who treated the packed stadium to a 14-song set that included new songs like “Are You Ready”, “No More”, and “A Reason to Fight”, along with older hits like “Stupify” and the set-closing “Down With the Sickness”.
Day 2 Photo Gallery (click to enlarge and scroll through):
Sunday, May 19th
While the weather cooperated on Friday and Saturday, it was a different story on Sunday. Concertgoers were greeted with the news that the Wave Stage had been shut down due to high winds, and unfortunately, it remained shuttered the entire day, meaning sets by Basement, Refused, Scars on Broadway, and others were canceled outright.
Before the weather turned even worse, Amigo the Devil opened things up on the main stage with his unique brand of macabre folk rock, even getting a few acoustic circle pits going. The Glorious Sons and The Struts were also able to get their high-energy sets in on the main stage, while Palaye Royale, Yungblud, The Interrupters, and The Hives all turned in strong sets on the Echo Stage.
However, just shy of 6 p.m. the whole festival got shut down with thunderstorms forecast in the area, and the winds not letting up. Fans were forced to evacuate, and it resulted in sets from Chevelle and Bring Me the Horizon getting canceled, with fans wondering if Foo Fighters were even going to perform their headlining set.
At around 7:40, festival organizers alerted fans that the weather had cleared and that Foo Fighters would perform their entire headlining set. And shortly thereafter, it was announced that Joan Jett & The Blackhearts would still play a set on the Echo Stage right before Foo Fighters were set to hit the main stage.
With no other performances going on at the time, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts played to an extremely large and highly enthusiastic crowd, with Jett singing classics like “Bad Reputation”, “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “I Hate Myself for Loving You” during her shortened but unforgettable set.
It was then Foo Fighters’ turn to close out the three-day festival, as comedian Pauly Shore, who was supposed to perform in the Comedy Tent, introduced the band. After arriving onstage, Dave Grohl told the the audience, “You didn’t think we’d play, did you?” and praised the crowd as true rock ‘n’ roll fans for coming back to the venue after the evacuation.
Highlights included dedicating “My Hero” to Pauly Shore and his late father, Sammy Shore, who had just died a day earlier. The Foos invited Pauly to join them onstage during the performance. Later on, Grohl was joined by The Struts frontman (and Freddie Mercury look-alike) Luke Spiller for the Queen / David Bowie classic “Under Pressure”.
Grohl and company ended the evening and the festival with their classics “Best of You” and “Everlong”, helping save what could have been a catastrophic Sunday for what was otherwise a successful inaugural Sonic Temple festival.
Day 3 Photo Gallery (click to enlarge and scroll through):