Rock on the Range…Super Bowl of the rock festival world!!!

Rock on the Range is considered by many the Super Bowl of the rock festivals. It’s the largest festival of its kind in the United States and has grown expeditiously since its inception in 2007. The first year was a one day event which was headlined by ZZ Top and also featured acts such as Breaking Benjamin, Evanescence, Hinder, Velvet Revolver, Papa Roach and Chevelle among others.

Breaking Benjamin is the reason that I have not missed a Rock on the Range. BB was one of my favorite bands (and still are for that matter) so when I saw that they were going to be in Columbus I bought tickets. When the tickets arrived in the mail they had Rock on the Range written on them so I thought my order had gotten mixed up. After delving into it a little bit I figured out that I had stumbled across an all-day event with some of the best rock groups of the day.

Back then there were no distinctions between stadium and floor admission; you simply had to be at Crew Stadium (now MAPFRE Stadium) early enough to get one of the wristbands that distinguished the floor from the stadium. Fortunately we arrived in time, stood in line and secured one of the wristbands. And I’ve been hooked ever since.

Year two saw the formation of the original “Rock On The Range Party Page Crew“, a satellite group of Rangers that met during the first year or joined in on the festivities through Myspace. There were approximately 20-30 of us who I am still proud to call not only friends but family.

Move forward ten years later and the festival is now a three day extravaganza in which 60 plus bands play as well as more than a dozen comedians. There are at least a half dozen or more satellite groups to join with thousands of members.

Nothing has changed for me over the years, I am still a member of the Party Crew and join in on other pages as well and I still prefer floor admission tickets. But the major difference is at my age I also utilize the seating area a whole lot more to take a break. It’s the best of both worlds and I’ve come to realize it’s easier to get out of seat than it is to get off of the floor; at least it doesn’t hurt as much.

Few shots from ROTR Massive Tailgating event. All photos taken by Larry Ritter/The Rust Belt Chronicles.

The name of the event this year could have very easily be changed to Rock on the RAINge due to the three days of inclement weather which, for the first time in festival history, caused an evacuation of the stadium and a delay in the gates opening due to severe weather, lightning being the main culprit.

Sure there has been rain before but nothing like the deluge that hit Columbus on this particular weekend. Never before has the powers-to-be had to call for evacuation of the stadium. They did so on Friday around 3:00 p.m. much to the dismay of the some of the fans.

About an hour later those who weren’t happy with the decision of the promoters (Danny Wimmer Presents and AEG Presents) got a taste of why they made the call as the skies opened up and the downpour began along with high winds and of you guessed it, lightning.

Once the storm had passed the gates were re-opened and fans once again packed into the stadium to watch the remainder of the show. The list of performers included Bush, Live and a special tribute to the legendary Chris Cornell, lead vocalist for Friday’s scheduled headliner, Soundgarden. Cornell had passed away the night before following a performance at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, Michigan.

In Soundgarden’s stead, Stone Sour and Slipknot front man, Corey Taylor and fellow Stone Sour bandmate, Christian Martucci, made a special guest appearance to perform an acoustic version of Temple of the Dog “Hunger Strike”.                  

Bush and Live also delivered poignant tributes to Cornell, one of the most iconic lead singers and songwriters of our time, as well. Bush, with the help of the entire audience, performed Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” while Live played “I Am The Highway” from Cornell’s Audioslave days.

All was forgotten about the weather evacuation by the time Taylor and Martucci were finished. In fact the only thing resembling rain were the tears in the eyes of the majority of the fans. Cornell tributes were presented throughout the weekend by a good number of the performers.

Saturday got a late start because of the weather but the doors finally opened somewhere in the neighborhood of 2:30. The late start didn’t hurt as badly thanks to get-togethers in the campground and the Massive Tailgating in the parking lot.

Once the action started on the inside it was ROTR as usual; great music, Island Noodles and a lot of people watching. Besides the music, the latter is one of my favorite things to do although the Island Noodles are right up there. The eclectic ensemble of folks that gather at Rock on the Range is one of the greatest things about the festival. It’s a guarantee that you’ll see something that you have never seen before.

 From a music standpoint Saturday’s highlights for me were Attila, the metalcore band out of Atlanta. This four piece group led by front man, Chris ‘Fronzilla’ Fronzak, took a no holds barred attitude and let her rip. That directly resulted in one of the most intense circle pits I have ever witnessed at ROTR. Don’t get me wrong there have been other pits that could probably measure up including those of Lamb of God and Upon a Burning Body, to name a couple, but this particular circle pit was massive and went on for a long while.

Of course the main stage is always the focal point and this year was no exception. Columbus’ own Starset got things started and they were followed by Skillet, Alter Bridge, Seether, Papa Roach, The Offspring and the final act of the night, Korn.

Skillet and Seether at Rock on the Range 2017. All photos taken by Larry Ritter/The Rust Belt Chronicles.

Starset is rapidly becoming a fan favorite with their space voyage attire and a sound that is (of course) out of this world. They have been on a meteoric rise since the release of their initial album “Transmissions”.

I can honestly say that I have never seen a bad Skillet set and this one was no different. Husband and wife John (lead vocals, bass) and Korey Cooper (rhythm guitar, keyboards and backup vocals) team with Jen Ledger (drums, vocals) and Seth Morrison (lead guitar) to create a band with as much energy as any around today. Ledger is truly amazing with the sticks.

And then there’s Alter Bridge and Seether. Two stalwarts who continued to produce hit after hit. They are true professionals on the stage and create a unique sound in and of their own. I have long been a Seether fan thanks to the iconic voice of lead man, Shawn Morgan. Both bands sound as good live as they do on their CD’s or vinyl.

Papa Roach’s appearance was their sixth time at Rock on the Range (among the most by any band) and once again they gave the audience an action packed performance. Among the highlights was the gathering of the Olentangy Orange High School marching band to assist with the playing of “Born For Greatness”, the fourth track on their new release ‘Crooked Teeth’.

Lead vocalist, Jacoby Shaddix, is known as one of the most highly energized singers today. He likes to have fun and it was definitely on display during the five minute rendition of the new hit. Not only was Shaddix at the top of his game so too were the members of the Pioneer Marching Band. Great memories for all of those involved I’m sure. I know it was something that I’ll remember for a long while. 

Papa Roach, The Offspring and Korn at Rock on the Range 2017. All photos taken by Larry Ritter/The Rust Belt Chronicles.

This was the first time for me seeing The Offspring but what a pleasure it was. The punk rockers, who have sold over 40 million albums, proved to be a lot of fun to watch. And their music brought back a lot of good memories for a pretty fly guy like me.

To finish off the day of rock was the heavy hitting nu metal superstars, Korn, who were as usual, extremely entertaining. Korn is one of those bands that you never get tired of seeing. Jonathon Davis (lead vocals) and bandmates James “Munky” Shaffer (rhythm guitar), Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu (bass), Brian “Head” Welch (lead guitar) and Ray Luzier (drums) closing set was the perfect way to finalize day two. But then again, Korn closing any night is a good night.

Sunday’s lineup was the epitome and a microcosm of what Rock on the Range is all about. A masterfully put together bill from all corners of rock-and-roll, headlined by the kings of thrash metal, Metallica.

Prior to the big boy’s first appearance at ROTR there were great sets given by newbies Mother Feather, as well as up-and-coming stars, Nothing More. Throw in the omnipresence of one of the greatest guitarist of all-time, Zakk Wylde, performing with his Zakk Sabbath squad.

Those are just some of the highlights for me, but then everyone has different tastes. Rock on the Range has always been about mixing the new with the old and the heavy with the melodic. The different genres were well represented. Wage War and Amon Amarth are no doubt on the heavy side while Dinosaur Pile-Up is a little less aggressive (okay maybe a whole lot less). My point being is that Danny Wimmer Presents does a tremendous job of making sure that every fan has something that they enjoy.

Speaking of enjoying, the main stage card had a little bit for everyone as well. The aforementioned Nothing More, were great with Taylor Momsen and The Pretty Reckless doing an exceptional job in a tear-jerking tribute to Cornell with their rendition of Audioslave’s “Like A Stone”.  

Primus followed with a little bit of its unique experimental/funk metal. Primus could best be described as an acquired taste, but to each, his own, is what I always say. Although I’m not a huge fan, I was amazed at Les Claypool’s abilities on the bass. He is truly a craftsman with the axe.

Volbeat and Primus at Rock on the Range 2017. All photos taken by Larry Ritter/The Rust Belt Chronicles.

Danish heavy metal band, Volbeat, took the stage as the lead in to Metallica. Volbeat has performed several times for the folks at ROTR and their fan base continues to increase in droves. Michael Paulsen and company can bring it with the best of them and they were tearing things up when, once again Mother Nature came calling, causing their set to be cut short.

What looked to be a quick hitting disturbance quickly turned into a monster rain shower with darkening skies and even a few lightning strikes in the outlying areas surrounding the stadium.

It was at this point when I thought I was jinxed and would never actually get to see Metallica. On three different occasions I’ve had tickets to see them and all three times something caused me to miss them. Twice I had tickets but had to cancel due to conflicting circumstances. I actually made it to the Orion Fest in Detroit but inclement weather forced me to miss that as well.

However my fortunes changed this time as the rains began to subside and Volbeat returned to the stage to play two more songs including their final number, the megahit “Still Counting”.

Anticipation started to kick in and the place was abuzz with the reality that the kings of metal were actually going to finally being taking their rightful place at center stage of Rock On The Range. I’m sure there were more people than just me who were like a kid waiting to get to those presents on Christmas morning.

And when that first chord was finally struck the jubilation of actually getting to witness a Metallica show live was here. To say I was star-struck would be a vast understatement. I was in awe of the talent that I was witnessing. All the major hits kept rolling one after the other. James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett delivered riveting riffs and licks with their guitars while Robert Trujillo (bass) and Lars Ulrich (drums) provided a thunderous sound that even Mother Nature would be proud of.

As Metallica continued to play, I not only was mesmerized but I also kept thinking to myself, where does Rock on the Range go from here? How can it possibly get any better than this?

Metallica at Rock on the Range 2017. All photos taken by Larry Ritter/The Rust Belt Chronicles.

Then it hit me like the lightning that caused so many problems the entire weekend…of course it can get better. That’s what Danny Wimmer Presents and AEG Presents do for Rock on the Range. They always try to one-up themselves year after year. And from my experience they have accomplished just that.  do the same for the other festivals that are part of the “World’s Loudest Month” such as Fort Rock, Welcome to Rockville, Carolina Rebellion, Northern Invasion, Rocklahoma, River City Rockfest and Rockfest.

DWP continues their work throughout the summer and into the fall with other events such as Rock Allegiance, Chicago Open Air, Houston Open Air, Aftershock and Louder Than Life. With that kind of experience it’s easy to see why I have complete faith in their ability to provide an unbelievable lineup every year.

From ZZ Top to Stone Temple Pilots, Kid Rock and Slipknot, Motley Crue, Guns-n-Roses and Disturbed and now Metallica, DWP and AEG has always given high priority to melding the old with the new and the different layers that makeup the rock-n-roll genre. They do their job well and do so with a passion like no other in the business.

I have no way of knowing what next year will bring but I do know two things for sure…the lineup will be full of promising rising stars and legends alike. And as long as I’m above ground, I’ll be in Columbus on the third weekend of May for the rock-n-roll Super Bowl.

ROTR is more than simply a three day rock festival. It is a massive family reunion for all rock fans, young and old alike.

As for this year’s version of the family reunion, I can say without a doubt that I’m glad I was there and finally got the chance to see one of the greatest bands to ever grace a stage. To witness Metallica melting faces is something that I’ll never forget and will be packed in the memory banks like all of the previous 10 years of rocking!

Rock on the Range 2017 will be remembered for a variety of reasons. There is the sadness that filled the hearts of the rock fans knowing that one of the headliners and the entire rock world had lost a legend the night before the fest. There were special appearances by Corey Taylor to pay tribute to Cornell along with many others from different bands throughout the weekend. And then of course there was Mother Nature hammering the area with storm after storm causing the first ever evacuation of the festival.

Despite it all, the positives far outweigh the negatives and even if that weren’t the case, I’d still be back next year, ready to rock out with my ROTR family which by the way grew to a record 135,000 folks over the three day event. I’m not sure if that’s an accurate number or not but those in attendance for Metallica wouldn’t put up an argument.

Until next time this is Big L saying ‘keep those horns up and rock on’!!  \m/ \m/

 

 

               

 

                 

                  

               

Disclaimer/Disclosure

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Larry Ritter About Larry Ritter

Hello my name is Larry Ritter, or “Big L” to most of my friends. I’m a production supervisor for a major manufacturer of auto parts here in northwest Ohio. I received an Associate’s degree from Owen’s Community College where I graduated cum laude honors. I have a true passion for music, sports, photography and riding motorcycles. My love for these things are surpassed by just one thing, family, which includes two sons, a daughter and eight grandchildren.

Comments

  1. Honest question. Seriously.. Were you even there on friday or saturday? Bush played a single VERSE of “Black Hole Sun” inbetween songs and Korn played 48 minutes before being thrown off stage due to weather. Friday had a FOUR AND A HALF hour long delay, not one hour.

    • Thanks for reading the article and commenting.
      Honest answer, yes I was there for Rock on the Range this year and for all eleven years
      Although you show you have read the article your interpretation of the hour was totally misunderstood. I stated that after an hour, those who were complaining about the evacuation found out why DWP, AEG and MAPFRE Stadium officials made the call they made. Because it was about that time that the rain, lightning and thunder hit, or do you not recall that?
      And for Korn playing 45 minutes until being shut down, well the had to make a call once again based on information they were given. 45 minutes of Korn is better than an hour-and-a-half and someone losing their life due to a lightning strike. But hey that’s just me!

  2. BeefyChief says:

    You mentioned the Massive Tailgate, but you forgot to mention( while people were waiting to get into the stadium because of the rain delay) that The World I Knew was playing completely disregarding that whole event.

    • Anonymous says:

      I didn’t fail to mentioned that’, it was done on purpose. I am doing a completely separate article on The Massive Tailgating.

      But thanks for reading the article and posting your concerns. Be on the lookout for the Massive Tailgating article.

      Big L

  3. Excellent read! Thank you for capturing the weekend for us and allowing us to relive it through your words. Here’s to RotR18 !! \m/

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