The first-ever Sonic Temple Art + Music Festival concluded on Sunday, May 19, 2019 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The spring festival weather evacuation streak had let Sonic Temple go off without a hitch for 2 days, but day 3 brought gusting winds and ominous skies. The Wave Stage had to be shut down, and never reopened, canceling sets from Demob Happy, Scarlxrd, Basement, Black Pistol Fire, Refused and Scars On Broadway featuring Daron Malakian from System Of A Down. The other side stage, Echo Stage, had its video monitors taken down for safety, but was able to carry on with all scheduled acts – Teenage Wrist, Dirty Honey, Palaye Royale, Yungblud, The Interrupters, The Hives and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts. The Monster Energy Stadium Stage was able to get through 3 acts before shutting down due to wind conditions. Eventually the entire festival was evacuated to the parking lots for a couple of hours, but fans just started moshing and crowd surfing in the rain, using their car stereos for music. Main stage sets by The Distillers, Chevelle and Bring Me The Horizon had to be canceled, but fans were let back in and Foo Fighters went on as scheduled around 9:00. They played an exhilarating 2 hour set, quite long for a festival setting, which left most people satisfied, despite missing out on several bands.
The Echo Stage had a very eclectic mix of artists, from different countries, playing different styles. While these bands may not have been on everyone’s radar, they all put on entertaining shows and definitely earned new fans. Palaye Royale wore coordinating red outfits. Their lead singer’s movements are reminiscent of Mick Jagger’s strut, but stepped up a notch with climbing and jumping off monitors. The guys looked great and played great, a sort of retro psychedelic metal. Yungblud wore a black dress, pink socks and patent leather shoes, perhaps a nod to the glam of his grandfather who was in T. Rex. He was so active on stage, his techs could not keep his microphone and guitar cords straight. At one point, he threw his guitar into the crowd, but then his tech got it back. The Interrupters are a ska punk band from LA. Lead singer Aimee Allen dressed like a 50’s hipster. This band has the typical ska energy mixed with punk messages, such as the anti-bigotry “Take Back the Power”. The Hives are an unusual, artistic band from Sweden. Their show was a bit surreal as the storm approached and the venue was evacuated under Code Red condition as they finished playing.
Amigo The Devil kicked things off on the main stage inside Mapfre Stadium. He looks like a cross between Johnny Cash and John Belushi. He strums and acoustic guitar or a banjo, while singing songs about death, dying and romance. He described himself as a fat Dave Grohl, joking that we start the day with the fat version, and then end with the skinny version. His ballads are very entertaining and quite philosophical, particularly if you pay close attention to the lyrics. Some of note are “You, me and the devil makes 3”, “There’s only one kind of people in this world – people who die”, and “I’ve always been scared of loving someone just a little bit more than I’m loved”. As the crowd screamed out for some Slayer, Amigo obliged with a nursery rhyme style chorus of Angel of Death.
The Glorious Sons, a Southern Rock band from Canada, were next on the stadium stage, playing under heavy rainclouds. Lead singer Brett Emmons sings with passionate intensity and crazy eyes of Janis Joplin, tossing in a bluesy harmonica solo to complement his vocals. The band gave a stirring performance, highlighted by their hit “Sawed Off Shotgun”. The Struts are a theatrical English band, featuring Luke Spiller on vocals, sporting a fabulous black and white costume. His great stage presence and style are reminiscent of Tim Curry in Rocky Horror. He had the crowd moving their feet from the minute he got on stage. He shared how his record label told him to “stop with the fucking make up. Stop with the fucking weird clothes. It will be bad for your career.” His reply was “ But I do it so well!”.
After the storms passed by, and the evacuation ended, everybody came back into the stadium for the finale. Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Joan Jett & The Blackhearts finished off the Echo Stage with a tight set featuring her classics, including a kick-ass rendition of “Bad Reputation”, killer vocals on “Cherry Bomb”, crowd participation on “Do You Wanna Touch Me”, and all time hit “I Love Rock ’n’ Roll”. She let the crowd know that she had played a lot of shows in Ohio with her first band, The Runaways, and then played the first song she ever wrote, “You Drive Me Wild”.
Comedian Pauly Shore took the main stage to introduce Foo Fighters. He was wearing a t-shirt with a photo of his father, who had died the night before at age 92, covered by a Cubs jersey customized with SHORE and 92 on the back. Dave Grohl and company came out swinging, playing with the anxious crowd’s emotions, commenting “You didn’t think we were going to play did you? You know we’re going to fuck with you all night long!”. They went on to tear through 2 full hours of nonstop hits and surprises. Pauly Shore was invited on stage for an acoustic tribute to his father, as “My Hero” went from a mellow crowd sing-along to an electric release of emotion. The band played the original MTV theme song for Pauly, but had to ask the audience if they even knew what they were playing. Dave Grohl later put down the guitar and microphone to climb behind the drum kit. Drummer and backup vocalist Taylor Hawkins took over lead vocal duties, but cleverly pulled out Luke Spiller from The Struts for an amazing version of the Queen / David Bowie classic “Under Pressure”. Foo Fighters are truly living legends and their live shows always add to that legend. For Sonic Temple Art + Music Festival, it was a perfect ending to an imperfect day.
Review by Hudson and Johnnie Crow