Live: 2012 Rockstar Energy Uproar Festival

CYNTHIA WOODS MITCHELL PAVILION — 9/15/2012: The 2012 Rockstar Energy UPROAR Festival arrived in The Woodlands like a travelling circus of hard rock and metal music. Unlike the skater-punk vibe of the Vans Warped Tour, this tour is decidedly mainstream nu-metal and hard rock. It was my first time to attend the event, and I tried to approach it with an open mind for new (i.e., heavier and more “mainstream” than I usually listen to) music.

As a “photographer first — fan second” for this fest, I wasn’t up for a full day of rock. The whole thing got started at 1:30PM, and I guess if you drank enough Rockstar Energy drinks you’d be able to make it through from start to finish, but I was there to see some bands I’d never bothered to listen to beyond a couple of radio hits that I might have accidentally heard in my friend’s car. Obviously, I’m too cool to admit to listening to corporate rock radio myself, but not too cool to take an evening to sharpen up my photography chops practicing on these bands.

I made it to the event about halfway through P.O.D.‘s (aka Payable on Death) set. A general theme through the festival seemed to be that the acts playing were acts who were able to start their careers just as MTV was losing its relevance — at least, for me, that’s how it was. I remember P.O.D.’s first hit, “Alive,” from 2001, but as far as I knew, that was all they ever did.

About 1000 fans were already there at The Woodlands Pavilion to show how wrong I was. They’ve been motoring along, away from my radar, ever since. P.O.D. and all the acts before them played a side stage that was built by the event planners, while the rest of the acts would be on the main stage, and as a photographer, that’s what I was most interested in. I can’t explain how fun it is to shoot photos at The Woodlands. Nervewrackingly fun! P.O.D. saved “Alive” for last, and I woke up with it in my head today, so it’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Adelitas Way, from Las Vegas, was up first on the big stage. The setup on the main stage was efficient — each band was set up with all their amps and drum risers on rollers, so that the crew would be able to set up the following act quickly. Adelitas Way was a lot of fun to photograph, and early in the evening like this, it wasn’t too crowded in the pit.

Of course, it wasn’t dark enough to get the beautiful lighting you want as a photographer, but the band made up for it, especially with singer Rick DeJesus‘s open-mouthed wailing. My favorite shot is a close-up of a screaming singer. Unfortunately, after the photography was over, I made my way to my seat to listen to the band as they played song after song of riffs right out of the book, Hard Rock for Dummies. Also, DeJesus kept reminding the crowd there weren’t enough people in the crowd yet, by saying, “Where’s all the people in the pit?!”

Yes, we get it. It’s hard to open a show at The Woodlands. Another theme from all of the frontmen was that, “We hear everything’s bigger in Texas, so come on and make some noise!” By the time Shinedown said that, I had to laugh!

Massachusetts’ Staind was up next. They’re obviously one of those bands you will remember if you spent any time in front of a television with MTV back in the early 2000s. If you were like me, you wondered at that time how we as music lovers went from Led Zeppelin to Black Sabbath to Van Halen to Guns ‘N Roses to Alice in Chains to Limp Bizkit to Staind… So, yeah, I’m not a fan.

“It’s Been Awhile” received the biggest ovation, of course. I bet that song bought a lot of tattoos. I didn’t recognize any of their songs or find much interesting, despite trying to appreciate them. I found my mind wandering to the fact that I’m teaching my music students about major and minor, so lately I’ve been getting a lot of practice listening to that minor third interval. Staind seemed to enjoy that minor third themselves quite a bit. Again, as with Adelitas Way, the songs didn’t stray far from the template.

Godsmack, another Massachusetts product were up next. I think I might have seen them on Headbanger’s Ball one time. (I know at this point you’re probably thinking, “why did you even go to this show?”, but I already answered that question.)

My first thought was that they sounded so much like Metallica. Then they played “Voodoo,” and I realized that a song I’d always thought was Alice in Chains or Mad Season was actually Godsmack. Just when I was about to take a break, the drummer’s riser started rolling out toward the front of the stage. Then another set of drums started rolling on the stage from the side. The singer, Sully Erna, was playing the second set of drums. The “drum battle” that ensued was the highlight of the evening. You should YouTube it; it was definitely worth the drive to see that.

Jacksonville, Florida’s Shinedown rounded out the event with more radio-ready rock, and from the minute they walked on the stage, the band acted like the headliner (although the first thing I noticed was how small in stature they are). To a jaded old rocker like me, that can come across as cheesy, but it made the 94.5 FM-listening fans stand up and rock out.

The next thing I noticed about them was that their singer, Brent Smith, can belt it. If Shinedown hadn’t happened, you would have seen him competing on American Idol or The Voice at some point. Out of the whole night, I think it’s the number one thing I went away with: “Wow, what a set of pipes!” Not the pipes of Jimmy Gnecco or Matt Bellamy (my favorite rock singers of the last 15 years), mind you, but ideal for this kind of music.

Toward the end of the set, Smith and guitarist Zach Meyers, came out to the soundboard with an acoustic guitar to sing Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.” Smith did the song justice and seemed to do it effortlessly. I decided that was the perfect way to end the evening and beat the crowd, so I made a quick exit. Overall, I had a fun time taking photos and enjoyed enough of the music to write a little about it. Hope you enjoy the photos! END

(Article photos [top to bottom]: Rick DeJesus (Adelitas Way); Mike Mushok (Staind); Robbie Merrill (Godsmack); Brent Smith (Shinedown). All photos by Jason Smith.)




Live review by . Live review posted Thursday, September 27th, 2012. Filed under Features, Live Reviews.

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