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Louder Than Life



Photo Credits:  Tim Ash

Louder Than Life roars into Louisville, Kentucky, for the third year at Champions Park, welcoming not only those about to rock, but anyone up for gourmet festival food, bourbon and special experiences that give Louder Than Life a unique take on the typical hard rock music festival. Those attending can experience a myriad of artists on three stages, as well as have the chance to engage with many of them at special meet-n-greets on the festival grounds. Really... how cool is that?

Louder Than Life is running like a well-oiled machine, despite the fact that most festivals take a few years to work out all of the kinks. LTL has the stages located in the right places and, more importantly, they have the right acts on them at the right times. If you are all about seeing who is relevant and who is current on the music scene, have no fear, because Louder Than Life delivers with a punch.

Following last year's sellout with over 50,000 in attendance, you may wonder how they could possibly top 2015. Well, they managed to find a way.

This year, the acts are mind-blowing, but there is a diversity here that you may not find on every festival stage. At one point during the day, the Swedish metal band Avatar will be working the crowd into a frenzy, while later in the evening, you can see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's Cheap Trick. You can see a 90-year-old woman crowd-surfing, and an eight-year-old hoisted up on someone's shoulders all in the same audience! That doesn't happen everywhere, but it DOES happen at Louder Than Life.


On Day One, the Zorn Stage welcomes in a slew of amazing acts, including Bishop Gunn, Dinosaur Pile-Up, Being As An Ocean, Sick Puppies, Chevy Metal and Cheap Trick. Sick Puppies are an obvious crowd favorite, with "Street Fighter", "Riptide", "Where Do I Begin" and "You're Going Down". And when Cheap Trick take the stage, the hits seem to rain down from the sky with "Baby Loves To Rock", "Stiff Competition", "I Want You To Want Me", "Dream Police" and "Surrender".


The Loud Mouth Stage explodes to life with 68, Young Guns, Avatar, The Amity Affliction, Hellyeah, Pierce The Veil and Slayer. While every act on this stage left an impression on the crowd, I can't help but feel as if one in particular seems to be the topic of conversation.

Before Avatar even hit the stage, it's not hard to hear people in the crowd excitedly discussing when they first saw this obviously memorable band, with many answering that it was right here at Louder Than Life in 2014. Some aren't quite that familiar with Avatar, and those that are, passionately attempt to give a description of this act that has seemed to take LTL by storm. And when they file out onto the stage, in costumes reminiscent of a sideshow in years gone by, it's easy to see why they draw a lot of attention. However, when they begin to play, it is obvious why they, in fact, DESERVE this attention. Johannes Eckerström possesses an amazing vocal ability, backed up by a band who can not only swing their long hair in unison, but can create beats and riffs that will stay in your head for weeks. As Eckerström prowls the stage, waving his cane like some sort of maniacal conductor, the crowd can't help but play along, reacting to his antics with thunderous applause. They explode with new "For the Swarm", plus favorites like "Hail the Apocalypse", "Paint Me Red" and "Smells Like a Freakshow". Avatar most definitely provide one of the absolute best performances of the day.


Closing down the Loud Mouth Stage on Day One, Slayer play to an audience of super fans, with fists in the air and every lyric on their tongue. They open with "Repentless", never changing gears for tracks like "Disciple", "Dead Skin Mask", "South of Heaven", "Raining Blood" and "Angel of Death". Anyone who says that metal is dead, didn't see Slayer perform at LTL.

On this opening day, the Monster Stage literally erupts with talent, including Twelve Foot Ninja, Neck Deep, I Prevail, Motionless In White, Anthrax, The Cult and Avenged Sevenfold.

Motionless In White, who played on what is now the Zorn Stage back in 2014, fill every inch of the Loud Mouth Stage, as lead vocalist Chris "Motionless" Cerulli's demanding presence seems to envelop the crowd, welcoming them in before he delves into "Devil's Night", "570", "A-M-E-R-I-C-A" and "Reincarnate". This band is TIGHT, as they also give an electrifying performance of Rammstein's "Du Hast", which is definitely a festival highlight. 


And then, as night closes in, the final act of Day One at Louder Than Life take the stage, making no qualms about the fact that Avenged Sevenfold are here because they plan to rock your face off! Soaring through numbers like "Nightmare", "Hail to the King", "Buried Alive", "Acid Rain", Bat Country" and "Unholy Confessions", this performance leaves no question as to why they are headlining this massive stage for this hard-rocking festival.

On Day Two, the Zorn Stage is alive with Them Evils, Smashing Satellites, Sabaton, Kyng, Zakk Sabbath and Clutch. Zakk Sabath offer an intense festival experience, with the highly-recognizable vocals of Zakk Wylde featured on a slew of Black Sabbath covers, including "Children of the Grave", "War Pigs" and "Fairies Wear Boots".

Clutch bring their signature sound to LTL, closing down the Zorn Stage for the final night. They entrance their nearly cult-status fans with "Firebirds!", "The Regulator", "Noble Savage" and "The Face".


The Loud Mouth Stage responds with a fierceness with Adelitas Way, Trivium, Pop Evil, Skillet, Ghost and Disturbed.

Pop Evil are truly veterans of the music festival scene. They seem to intuitively know just what the audience wants, especially when it's to hear a steady flow of favorites like "Ways to Get High", "Deal With the Devil", "Trenches" and "Footsteps". They even find a way to slow things down a bit for "100 in a 55" and "Torn to Pieces", without losing their momentum, which is definitely not easy to do in front of the Louder Than Life crowd. But I think what makes Pop Evil such experts at playing to a festival audience is their connection to the crowd. Vocalist Lee Kakaty doesn't seem happy until he's literally all up in the crowd, often singing entire songs while perched above his fans, held up in the air by festival goers. This goes a bit beyond crowd surfing. And what does Kakaty do when he sees that the crowd in front of the adjoining stage can't get a good view? Well, he runs down until he's in the center of both stages, never even skipping a note.


And the Loud Mouth stage keeps presenting phenomenal performances, with yet another memorable Swedish band. I'm not sure what they have in the water up there, but it sounds like heavy metal. Ghost put on the most theatrical display of the entire festival, moving dramatically through favorites like "Pit and the Pendulum" and "Cirice". In what can best be described as a religious spectacle gone terribly wrong, Ghost entertain the audience with intricate guitar solos and the brilliant vocals of Papa Emeritus III. Drawing an instant reaction from the crowd, Ghost would have to be a favorite at this year's Louder Than Life.


Soon, the crowd begins to grow restless. Even though it has been only minutes since the previous stage has been vacated and the final act of the Loud Mouth Stage prepares to perform, the anticipation makes the wait feel like far longer than its ten or so minutes. However, the buzz is understandable, because the crowd can't seem to wait for Disturbed to explode upon Louder Than Life. When they do appear, there is no disappointment, as they immediately jump into "Ten Thousand Fists", which is, in fact, a very low estimate of the fists that are indeed raised. As Disturbed move through other memorable favorites like "The Game", "Prayer" and "Stupify", it becomes apparent that no one has yet embraced this festival crowd quite like David Draiman, who reaches out as if to envelop them all  in for their inspired, moment-building rendition of "The Sound of Silence". And there IS silence. The hum of the crowd stops, as everyone seems in awe of Draiman's vocal prowess, along with his powerful flair for the dramatic, as the song slowly builds to a deafening crescendo. But the madness picks right back up where it left off, as Disturbed breaks into "Inside the Fire", just before Benji Webb of Skindred joins them on stage for Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name." Ending the set with "Voices" and "Down With the Sickness", this is one of the most memorable sets for Louder Than Life... ever.


The Monster Stage presents Crobot, Skindred, Parkway Drive, Sevendust, Alter Bridge, Korn and Slipknot on this final night. The crowd is worked into a frenzy, with so many heavy-hitting artists, all on one stage.

Sevendust just instinctively know what their fans at Louder Than Life want, and they don't even pause for a moment before giving it to them. They roar into "Pieces", with a pit forming before Lajon Witherspoon can even get to the chorus. When I think of a band performing as a cohesive unit, all integral parts of a machine, I think of Sevendust. They rage through "Face to Face", "Shine" and "Thank You", consistently building momentum until the crowd realizes that this is the perfect definition of "rock".


And when you hear those bagpipes, don't get in the beer line. Run at full speed back to the stage, because you can't miss a second of Korn. Vetarans of the rock scene, Korn began an era that brought us exactly the type of music that Louder Than Life is known for. Whether they are bringing in the old school with "Shoots and Ladders" and "Blind", or tearing through the rest of their well-known catalog with "Coming Undone", "Falling Away From Me" and "Freak on a Leash", Jonathan Davis displays the charisma of a well-toured frontman, never still for more than a millisecond.


To end the night, Slipknot bring to the stage a madness that can't quite be duplicated, as they rip through "Be Prepared For Hell", "Eyeless", "Wait and Bleed" and "Psychosocial." This crowd surely has never seen such energy onstage until at this very moment. Led by the infamous Corey Taylor, these nine mask-covered artists close down this year's Louder Than Life in a way that seems very fitting: LOUD.

Upon even more reflection, this year's Louder Than Life provides great food, amazing music, BOURBON and special interactions with the artists in a unique, carnival-style setting that truly embraces the culture that can be found in Louisville, Kentucky. As this festival continues to grow each and every year, it will be really special to see where things go, and just how much bigger this thing can get it. But if you know anything for certain, expect 2017 to somehow be an even better year for LTL. I'm not sure how they continue to top the previous year, but so far, they have managed to find a way.

Stay tuned for details on Louder Than Life 2017!