After many years of watching and hearing of the great time some friends have had at a variety of concerts, I decided earlier this year that I wanted to go to my first concert and it would be at the MAPFRE Stadium for the 10th-annual “Rock on the Range” in Columbus.
I began my weekend on Saturday in the wind and rain to hear a few bands and I arrived at the stadium just a little after 11 a.m. I could tell that I was in for a real treat before I made it to the gate as hundreds of fans were already waiting to get in, and even more were tailgating for the long wait until Rob Zombie played at around 9 p.m. I made my way to get my media passes and was in the stadium quickly.
I listened to Lacey Sturm first, right before noon on stage two. Granted she did not have the most amazing set, but her voice wailed throughout the grounds and warmed up the crowd. She is far from my favorite singer and I was reminded why when I heard the screeches emitting from her voice box, but even through the steady rain that moistened the audience, they stood and loved every second. But that is the thing about rock fans, wind, rain, snow or ice, they will endure nearly any weather to listen to the music they love.
Payable On Death (P.O.D.) was up first on the Monster Main Stage. This Christian rock band has been a staple in my household since I was a kid. I am not a Christian myself, but the music this band creates is more than just for the faithful, it is for rockers of all varieties. It was during this set that I discovered how many kids end up coming to Rock on the Range. As P.O.D. began performing “Youth of the Nation,” children were put on shoulders and were sent surfing the crowd. The moment was touching and spoke volumes about rock culture; that it isn’t just for the old or the young, but it is for anyone who wants to feel the music. The band ended with a personal favorite, “Alive,” which really got the crowd going.
Saturday was filled with some impressive bands, but I only stayed through Pop Evil, whose set was nearly flawless. At one point lead singer Leigh Kakaty was held up by his legs in the crowd as he continued to sing. I left shortly before 5 p.m. soaked to the bone and a bit chilly from walking back to my car. I was already beginning to feel hooked on the atmosphere of the concert, but I still had another day ahead.
Sunday was the reason I wanted to go to Rock on the Range though and, I can say in hind-sight, that I was incredibly impressed with the sheer number of people and also by the camaraderie of the fans. I took my friend Connor with me on Sunday and we arrived at about noon.
With great groups beginning the day, there would be too much to say about the music. Each had unique sounds and great sets, but the first big concert for us would be Wolfmother. The crowd was pumped for the band and they brought their A-game. Bring Me The Horizon played after them and was also a great way to lead up to the final two bands, the Deftones and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
It was directly before and during the Deftones concert that I got a feel for the true rock scene. I spent the time leading up to the show, shoulder to shoulder and front to back with many people, chatting with a guy from Toledo about his own music. Connor and I were just about three or four rows of fans away from the stage talking with everyone around us. It was awesome to see how polite everyone was, especially after hearing my whole life about how some of these rock-n-roll fans are hateful. Everywhere around me were strangers talking their favorite bands, sharing smokes with new unknown friends and buying beers for each other. It truly warmed my heart seeing that these people could all get along because of their love of the music.
Then it happened, the Deftones started and the crowd roared. Suddenly they began to shift and move. If you were not paying attention every moment, you could be quickly knocked down by the moving crowd or kicked in the head by the random crowd surfer. Each song sent the crowd into a frenzy as we danced, screamed, cheered and sang along. Connor and I were being shifted around with the audience, losing our friends from the beginning of the show and gaining new ones every time a pause occurred. At one point, I nearly slipped on a piece of trash below me and bent to move it out of the way when several hands were placed on my back. I returned upright and could hear voices asking if I was okay. These people, who barely knew me, took time to make sure I was okay.
Connor took a break from the final band of the evening, the Red Hot Chili Peppers. After waiting for nine-and-a-half hours and beginning to feel the exhaustion, the group I had waited for took the stage. They did not disappoint, playing their most memorable tunes and providing an amazing stage presence. I made it up to about the same spot as I did for the Deftones, just a few rows of fans in front of me. At the end of their set, the crowd demanded more. Chants of “one more song” and “encore” could be heard, and we were treated to two more songs from the band.
The line-up alone was impressive enough to bring in rock-n-roll fans from all over the nation, but it was not the only thing bringing all of these people together. I realized while at my first concert that the fans are the reason to go. The bands could be great, and the food and atmosphere can be perfect, but it is the fans that make up the best entertainment. Seeing people jam to their favorite songs, ride the waves of the crowd and find lasting relationships in their peers was enough to get me hooked. I am going to attend more concerts in the future and one day I hope to share this experience with my daughter and pass on the love for great rock music.
One thing is for sure, I may not see the Red Hot Chili Peppers in concert ever again, but I am glad I took this opportunity to go because I got to see more than one of my favorite bands. I got to see a whole new side of the culture of rockers that I am more than happy to be a part of.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy