News Column

Rockfest brings together classics, up-and-comers

May 30, 2014

By Andrew Gaug, St. Joseph News-Press, Mo.

May 30--50,000 people in attendance every year can't be wrong.

Dubbed the biggest one-day festival in the country, 98.9 The Rock's Rockfest 2014 celebrates its 11th year starting at noon May 31 at Liberty Memorial Park in Kansas City.

It will be a year of reunions and new faces at Rockfest 2014 as festival veterans Korn, Staind, Five Finger Death Punch and Killswitch Engage return to headline with up-and-comers like The Pretty Reckless, Nothing More and Escape The Fate.

Playing at Rockfest for the first time since 2009, Korn returns in a more familiar form than their previous performance, this time with original guitarist Brian "Head" Welch.

"We're really excited to have Head back with the band," Bob Edwards, program director for 98.9 The Rock, says. "To have Head back in the band and to have that original package of Korn is really exciting."

Touring behind 2013's "The Paradigm Shift," the band is celebrating the 20th anniversary of its breakthrough self-titled debut album.

"You always think of Korn as a band being somewhat recent, but they're a good heritage artist, been around for 20 years," Edwards says.

Being around 20 years doesn't mean the band has slowed down. Its latest hit, "Never Never," currently sits at No. 1 on the Billboard Active Rock chart.

Along with that song, fans can expect a mixture of classic favorites ranging from the raw beginnings, such as "Shoots and Ladders," "Twist" and "Blind," mixed with electronic and dubstep-inspired songs off of "Issues" and "The Path of Totality."

"Music from their entire career works really well with our audience. The chance to bring them back with Head back in the band, we just thought would be a perfect way to cap off the night," Edwards says.

Returning to Rockfest the first time in eight years, hard rock band Staind not only ends its absence at the festival but also a two-year hiatus, as lead singer Aaron Lewis was busy touring venues in places such as Kansas City in support of his country solo album, "The Road."

Judging by recent setlists at similar rock festivals such as Rocklahoma, fans can expect the group to play a mix of hits ranging from its metal roots ("Mudshuvel," "Spleen") to the ballads that made it a multi-platinum selling band ("Right Here," "Outside," "It's Been Awhile").

It will be a gut-punching, harder rocking affair with recent top-selling metal acts Five Finger Death Punch and Killswitch Engage.

Five Finger Death Punch is one of the hottest hard rock bands to come out of the active rock scene in the past five years. Its 2011 album, "American Capitalist," reached No. 3 on the Billboard 200, while both volumes of 2013's two-part series "The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell" reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200.

The band's current hit, a cover of the traditional folk song "House of the Rising Sun," is in constant rotation on 98.9 The Rock. Not that the band has any time to notice this, as it's constantly touring.

"We're so wrapped up in our daily bubble of what we do that we're usually too busy to step back and enjoy it," Five Finger Death Punch drummer Jeremy Spencer told St. Joe Live in a previous interview. "But when we do, it's like, 'Wow, man, the band's really grown.'"

Earning praise from critics and finding a comfortable place in the Billboard Top 20 albums, Killswitch Engage returns to Rockfest with original vocalist Jesse Leach, who reunited with the band in 2013 after an 11-year absence.

Their latest album, "Disarm the Descent," debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 charts, and the lead single, "In Due Time," was nominated for a Grammy for Best Metal Perfomance.

To say it's a new beginning for the band would be an understatement.

"When you're on tour and you're with someone who hasn't been jaded by years and years on the road, seeing things through their eyes for the first time is really exciting," bassist Mike D'Antonio told St. Joe Live in a previous interview. "It's like this big, black cloud is gone and now we're basking in the sunshine."

Along with seasoned Rockfest performers such as '80s hair metal band Steel Panther and the Zakk Wylde-fronted Black Label Society, you'll notice some bands replacing Rockfest staples like The Pretty Reckless, who are taking over the reins of female-fronted rock bands like Halestorm, and bands like SOiL and Heaven's Basement taking over for Volbeat and Shinedown.

"For our second stage, we're always trying to bring in the next big bands and the next bands that are really going to pop and are really going to happen," Edwards says.

Always trying to keep things relatively fresh, Edwards says organizers wanted to inject some new blood into the more than 20-year-old festival similar to what they did with a once unknown hard rock band.

"The first year we moved the show to Liberty Memorial, Shinedown was a brand-new band. We paid $500 for them to come out and do the show. A decade later, they're headlining the entire event," he says.

There are two bands Edwards says to look out for: Nothing More and The Pretty Reckless.

"There's a huge buzz in the industry about (Nothing More). I think that they could be the band that ends up stealing the show," he says. "There's always one band on the second stage that takes everyone by surprise. Apparently their stage show is just amazing."

Garnering interest not only for their music, The Pretty Reckless started out as controversial, with lead singer Taylor Momsen, the child star of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "Spy Kids 2," known for literally stripping down on stage and causing a ruckus.

"Certainly, there's a very big buzz on The Pretty Reckless with the whole Taylor Momsen thing, the way her career has gone," Edwards says.

That would all be for naught if the band didn't have the music to back up the controversy. It's played everything from Marilyn Manson shows to Warped Tour, while their latest album, "Going to Hell," debuted at No. 5 in the Billboard 200.

While the bands are part of the excitement, other features of Rockfest, ranging from affordable $5 drinks to being able to zipline over the crowd from the Monster Energy main stage to the Captain Morgan side stage to getting autographs from every band, it's proof that listening to your fans can bring a huge a crowd.

"For our loyal listeners that come out every year to the show, we want them to see different things every year and have it be a different experience," Edwards says. "I wouldn't want anyone to come see the same movie 10 times in a row, so I'm not going to give them the same show 10 times in a row."

And being able to meet all of the bands for no extra cost is pretty cool.

"Every year at Rockfest, every band has agreed to do 30 minutes in the autograph booth," Edwards says. "People call up and say 'I'll do anything for a backstage pass. I just want to get an autograph.' I'm like 'All you have to do is have a ticket, come stand in line and the schedule's up. Come meet the band you want to meet.'"

Andrew Gaug can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPGaug.


(c)2014 the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.)

Visit the St. Joseph News-Press (St. Joseph, Mo.) at

Distributed by MCT Information Services

For more stories covering arts and entertainment, please see HispanicBusiness' Arts & Entertainment Channel

Source: St. Joseph News-Press (MO)

Story Tools Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters