Lazerfest 2012 review
Lazerfest 2012 review
What a difference a change of location can make.
Over the last few years I’ve pretty much come to expect that it will be cold and rainy at Lazerfest. That there will be huge mud pits and that by the end of the day I will be a little miserable, not matter how good the music is.
The 2012 Lazerfest changed all that.
The largest portion of the problem with past Lazerfests has been the weather, which is something organizers have no control over. But the past location, the Indianola Balloon Grounds, didn’t help matters, with its poor drainage, limited parking and difficulty of access from the highway.
This year I pulled into the Central Iowa Expo in Boone and parked with no wait, while in the past I’ve waited an hour or more in my car after leaving the freeway. The Expo grounds seemed more open, with good line of sight toward the two stages and plenty of vendors. After waiting more than an hour for a corn dog in 2010, it was nice to be able to grab some food with almost no wait and not miss a band’s entire set.
There’s a lot of gravel at the Expo grounds, especially right on front of the stages. It’s better than mud, but I suspect those standing (or moshing) on it all day are in a bit of pain today.
I apologize for taking a bit to get to the music, but the new location was a big change and I wanted to share my thoughts.
First, from a technical standpoint I thought the music seemed a lot clearer this year. Vocals weren’t getting lost in the mix of instruments and every band sounded great. I’m not sure if they’ve done this in the past, but I could tell this year they were pumping the music through both stages sound systems. It made standing in front of whatever stage was empty almost as good as being at the one a band was playing on.
But this year Lazerfest didn’t have video screens, which would have been a big plus for those who didn’t want to move back and forth to get a good view.
And the bands? Volbeat came away as my favorite of the day. They’re rockabilly metal by way of Denmark, and it was their first time playing the area. They caught my ear by asking the crowd if their were any Johnny Cash fans in the crowd before dedicating “Sad Man’s Tongue” to the man in black. Volbeat’s song uses the tune of “Folsom Prison Blues” as its basis.
Later they played a more rocking version of Dusty Springfield’s “I Only Want to Be With You.” So often when a metal band tackles an older song they try to give it a darker twist. It was refreshing to hear that Volbeat kept their take true to the original while also making it work with their sound.
P.O.D headlined the first Lazerfest in 2002, but I’m not sure their sound holds up as well today. Playing in a much earlier slot this year, they managed to get the crowd swaying their arms to “Youth of the Nation,” “Alive” and a shortened version of Sublime’s “What I Got.”
Sebastian Bach provided the festival with probably its biggest surprise, bringing out Slipknot/Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor, who he called “my best friend in rock and roll.” Taylor responded with “I don’t know why I’m up here” and Bach dedicated Skid Row’s “Youth Gone Wild” to him. Taylor joined in on a chorus.
Just an aside, but I suspect Bach and Slash might have album covers in their attics that age instead of them. Dudes don’t seem to have changed much in 25 years.
Speaking of Slash, his set with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators featured the blistering guitar work the ax man is known for. On the one hand, it was incredible hearing Slash play through “Sweet Child of Mine” and “Paradise City” live, but it’s just odd hearing someone other than Axl Rose doing the vocals. Don’t get me wrong, Kennedy sounds better than Rose does these days, but that portion of the set also had the feel of Slash dropping in for a few songs with a really good cover band.
But again, its’ a tough balance to strike. The crowd was enjoying the set before, but the energy just exploded when the opening riff of “Sweet Child of Mine” started.
Theory of a Deadman and Buckcherry are two of the more familiar faces are Lazerfest. Buckcherry sounded much the same as past years, but I like Theory’s use of humor in their set. The Canadian band started off their shows with a sample of “Blame Canada,” and frontman Tyler Connolly said Iowa is becoming like a second home to the band, and that he’s sure he has some illegitimate kids in the area.
Co-headlining the show was Five Finger Death Punch, returning just two years since their last Lazerfest. The crowd was very receptive of their style, and frontman Ivan Moody knows how to work (up) a crowd.
“It’s time to wake the F**k up!” he shouted to the crowd before kicking things off with “Under and Over It.” Moody mentioned that the band just got back from its second visit to Kuwait and asked the crowd to applaud any service members in the audience. Moody also selected a number of kids he spotted in the audience to join the band on stage (with their parents) to get them clear of the rowdy crowd.
Moody talked up the musical knowledge of guitarist Jason Hooks and got him to play through an assortment of riffs from “Crazy Train,” “Catch Scratch Fever” and more before playing a bit of “18 & Life” and bringing Sebastian Bach back on stage. After the little medley 5FDP launched into their hit cover of “Bad Company”
During an encore the band got nearly every lighter in the crowd lifted up for their slower song, “Remember Everything.” In an age where the glow of cell phones has seemingly replaced the lighter at concerts, it was nice to see this throwback to the good old days.
In 2010 and 2011 I felt that Lazerfest peaked with the second to last act, in those cases Three Days Grace and Stone Sour. That holds true again this year with Five Finger Death Punch and Shinedown. Shinedown was very good, but 5FDP is a band that would be tough for anyone to follow. The crowd was so energized that things couldn’t help but wind down a bit.
Not that Shinedown didn’t shine. Frontman Brent Smith said he was in too good a mood to try to do the hardcore thing (miming crossing his arms and frowning), and the band put on a show worthy of their many fans.
It was a set full of hits like “Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay Boom-Lay Boom,” “Second Chance,” “Fly From the Inside” and more. Shinedown is a very worthy headlining act, but after Death Punch the crowd seemed a bit wiped out, with a steady stream of attendees heading off to search for their cars.
Attendance was down a bit this year, from 23,000 in 2011 to around 15,000. The greater distance from Des Moines may have been a factor, as could the fact that Shinedown and Five Finger Death Punch have both played the area in the last two years. I’ll be curious to see if more fans will make the trek to Boone for Lazerfest 2013.