Review and photos by Lizzy Davis
After a traffic-filled day one and a storm-filled day two, Epicenter Festival needed something relieving to happen on the final day. The weather wasn’t looking promising, though, and right as Demob Happy was about to kick off day three on the Pine Stage, the bottom fell out again. People groaned as they scrambled to take cover under trees and in ponchos. Thankfully, gear on stage already was wrapped in protective plastic, and the rain didn’t stop the laid-back band’s opening set from going on just before 12:30 p.m.
The rain didn’t stick around too long, and skies started to clear up when While She Sleeps hit the stage. The U.K. band was ready to wake the crowd up, packing wild energy and jumps into its early show. While She Sleeps recently released its second studio album, “So What?,” and included two of the new tracks in the set.
Teenage Wrist turned the style back to something reminiscent of the ‘90s grunge rock sound. Unfortunately, it started to rain again, and the drizzle persisted through Ontario, Canada, band The Dirty Nil’s set. Also hailing from Ontario were The Glorious Sons, who were next up at the Quarry Stage. Although perhaps not a household name in the United Sates (yet), the Southern-sounding rock band has had eight consecutive top 10 rock radio hits in Canada, including its first number one single “Everything is Alright.” The band brought a good energy, and vocalist Brett Emmons was interactive, flashing expressive faces at the crowd as he strutted across the stage barefoot.
Reignwolf performed on the Quarry Stage at 3:55 p.m. and delivered what turned out to be one of the standout performances of the day. The band originally consisted of a single member, Jordan Cook, but he brought a drummer and bassist along with him for the festival show. The three members interacted incredibly well with each other and somehow made their set feel more like an intimate show than a festival appearance.
One of the hardest overlaps of the weekend was Architects and Fever 333 conflicting sets at 4:30 p.m.. Fever 333 has become one of the most talked-about bands in the rock and metal scene in the past year, thanks to its intense live shows. Every performance is unique, and it’s impossible to predict what stunts the band members will pull. Epicenter was no exception, as guitarist Stephen “Steevis” Harrison made his way to the main stage soundboard, then proceeded to climb the support beams to the top, performing its final song “Hunting Season” while overlooking the crowd from above.
Meanwhile, U.K. native band Architects rarely tours the United States and that was made visibly evident when vocalist Sam Carter addressed the massive turnout for its set on the Octane Stage. Carter asked, “How many people are seeing us for the first time?” There was a massive cheer as nearly 90 percent of the crowd threw their hands in the air. Carter, clearly blown away by the turnout, responded, “Wow. This is so fucking cool!” The band played an eight-song set that consisted mostly of tracks from its last two releases, “Holy Hell” and “All Our Gods Have Abandoned Us.”
California native ska-punk band The Interrupters were all smiles as they ran onstage sporting sunglasses in defiance of the still overcast skies. The band interjected a different but fun style of ska-punk music into the day’s lineup and easily won the crowd over with catchy tunes that could be sung along to whether anyone had heard the songs before or not.
Back over on the appropriately named Octane Stage, Jose Mangin, the voice of the SiriusXM radio station, came out to introduce the next band. Though Killswitch Engage was scheduled to play at the same time as Live, it pulled a massive crowd and vocalist Jesse Leech was clearly feeding off the energy. Leech also seemed to enjoy the low height of the side stage, which enabled him to jump off it and walk along the barricade during “My Curse.” The band dedicated its final song to Ronnie James Dio and closed with a cover of “Holy Diver.” Lead guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz imparted one final message to the massive crowd saying, “Thank you, have a good time, drink some beer and put your penis somewhere funny!”
Most of the crowd from Killswitch Engage’s set simply migrated to the left and prepared to watch Tom Morello. All eyes were on the stage when guitar riffs started playing, but Morello was nowhere in sight— until everyone realized he somehow had made his way to the center of the crowd and was playing from there. The majority of Morello’s set consisted of songs from his 2018 debut solo album, “The Atlas Underground.” Being sure to add a taste of familiarity, he also included an impressive medley of songs from his days with Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave.
While everyone was occupied with sets on other stages, the main stage had been decorated with massive speaker stacks and risers. The skies finally cleared, and there was a beautiful sunset setting just as Bring Me the Horizon took the stage. The U.K. band has been taking America by storm after the release of its latest album, “Amo,” and has stepped up its live show in terms of both production and performance. Its set featured CO2 guns, fiery pyro fans and exotic, ninja-like dancers, pitting Bring Me the Horizon’s show as one of the most standout acts of the entire weekend.
Day three continued on the upswing and ultimately concluded on a massively positive end. Foo Fighters came out more than ready, willing and even seemingly content to rock out all night through, not one, not two, but two and a half hours full of hits. Vocalist Dave Grohl made sure to make one thing clear early on in the set though, saying, “We won’t be playing any Tool songs. We’re not that good!” The band went on to plough through hit after hit of its own, foregoing nothing in its discography from the old favorites like “Monkey Wrench” to newer singles such as “Run.”
Following a drum solo from Taylor Hawkins (which included his drum kit being launched into the air on hydraulics), Grohl and Hawkins swapped positions. With Grohl behind the drum kit, Hawkins took over the microphone and vocal duties to sing “Sunday Rain.” Grohl followed it up with “My Hero,” which he dedicated to his mother, serving as a reminder that it was Mother’s Day. After an impressive 20-song setlist, Foo Fighters closed the inaugural Epicenter Festival with “Everlong.”
The extensive set and mostly cooperative weather brought a much-needed positive end to Epicenter. Though there certainly were some areas that had room for improvement, the festival brought plenty of rock and fun experiences throughout the weekend. There are hints Epicenter will return next year and that organizers are listening to feedback, so with any luck, the first year can be taken as a learning experience that will guarantee better years to come.
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