Ghost, Volbeat best of strong lineup at Revolution Rock Festival
There's a carved-in-marble inventory of awe-inducing endurance feats. The Tour de France. The Ironman triathlon. The Iditarod dog sled race. Watching the entire Keanu Reeves filmography with no anti-seasick medicine.
I've done none of those things — but, as of Saturday, I made it through an arduous but enjoyable 10-plus hour celebration called the inaugural Revolution Rock Festival at Foxwoods. Sixteen really loud bands played, representing the vast array of metal and hard rock music including legendary acts such as Avenged Sevenfold, Slayer, Anthrax, Sevendust and Killswitch Engage. There were up-and-coming youngsters such as Crobot, Kyng, Devour the Day and Twelve Foot Ninja. And don't forget what some might call second-tier acts who nonetheless have plenty of decidedly loyal followers — including Chevelle, Of Mice & Men, The Amity Affliction, and Nothing More.
Am I leaving anyone out?
Why, yes. That would be Sweden's shtick-happy Ghost — whose astonishing set was the festival's next-to-last performance and the best thing I saw all day. Yes, they have a skull-faced front man — Papa Emeritus III — who chose to take the stage with slick-backed hair and without the usual Pope mitre. Yes, he's backed by a tremendous five-piece band of "Nameless Ghouls" who wear identical, mouth-less devil masks and monk bathrobes. From their dark entrance processional — Jocelyn Pook's "Masked Ball" — they roared through a fine 40-minute set of hooky hard rock including "Square Hammer," "Cirice," "Mummy Dust" and "Absolution."
But there was oh, so much more. For starters, it was a beautiful pre-fall day and trees on the gentle hills backdropping Foxwoods property were starting to change color. This marked for a nice contrast with the thousands of black T-shirts worn by the rapturous music fans in attendance. I saw at least one T-shirt for each band on the bill, but you'd have to be Johannes Kepler to actually quantify the number of Slayer or Avenged Sevenfold logos. Those dudes must be jumping tax brackets on the T-shirt royalties alone.
Laid out on a vast asphalt parking lot with two stages at either end, Revolution was festooned with plenty of beer, food and merch kiosks on either side, and the order of the day was for precisely-timed sets ping-ponging from one stage to the other. The performances went off like clockwork with no overlaps, and people got quickly into the tide-like rhythm of dashing back and forth from one act to the next.
Space doesn't allow for analysis of all the bands, but there was something about each I enjoyed. I thought Crobot and frontman Brandon Yeagley have amazing energy. Killswitch Engage — whose drummer wore a UConn basketball jersey — boast bizarrely charming between-song patter in the context of their mesmeric aggression. Los Angeles power trio Kyng were very good, summoning in an admittedly old observer memories of harmonies and majesty of the Baker-Gurvitz Army.
Denmark's Volbeat was freakin' fanstastic. Yes, they're metal — but it's a complex alloy of rockabilly, pub rock, vicious riffs and incredible melodies from vocalist Michael Poulsen. Repping time-honored thrash, Anthrax and Slayer did what they do, and headliners Avenged Sevenfold delivered in a big way. And I'd never heard Nothing More or The Amity Affliction. Both impressed.
The crowd was very well-behaved — something area citizens worried about when Preston was proposed as the original fest site. The sound from both stages was particularly clear, which is never easy outdoors and with the musical dynamics and rhythm of metal. We'll look forward to Revolution II — by which time Ghost should be one of the biggest bands in the world.