The first-ever Sonic Temple Art + Music Festival kicked off on Friday, May 17th, 2019 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. The festival is produced by Danny Wimmer Presents, one of the co-creators of Rock On The Range, which took place at the same date and location for the past 12 years. Rangers were anxious to see what, if anything, would change along with the name. For the most part, everything was the same. The Art which was added to the festival was headlined by legendary street artist RISK, with visual art components that allowed attendees to come face to face with amazing art installations, live mural painting, and live screen-printing across the entire festival grounds, as well as additional activities inside the festival’s Art Tent. The Music remained the same, with the best rock music the world has to offer represented across 3 large stages.
The Monster Energy Stadium Stage had one of the strongest lineups you will ever see at an American festival. Los Angeles-based rising stars Badflower, Swedish gothic gods Avatar, Ohio’s aggressive Beartooth, Australia’s powerful Parkway Drive, Pennsylvania’s sexiest siblings Halestorm, Sweden’s theatrical Ghost and Armenian-American legends System Of A Down provided a barrage of intense rock and roll, each in their own distinct style.
The Echo Stage was just as intense, rolling out bands who got heavier as the day turned to night. The Jacks, Shvpes, Wage War, Zeal & Ardor, Bad Wolves, Black Label Society and Meshuggah all put on great shows. The Wave Stage offered alternatives to the heaviness, with an eclectic mix of Radattack, Hands Like Houses, Cleopatrick, Ho99o9, Pussy Riot and guitar genius Tom Morello (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, Prophets Of Rage). The SiriusXM Comedy & Spoken Word Tent presented spoken word performances by musicians Nadya from Pussy Riot, Shapel Lacey, Tom Morello and Henry Rollins from Rollins Band and Black Flag.
The greatest thing about Sonic Temple was the variety of music, all within the rock and roll genre. The Jacks from Los Angeles play a blues-based style, and their debut album will be out soon. England’s Shvpes featuring Griffin Dickinson quickly had the crowd jumping and mosh pits spinning. Wage War had a lot of crowdsurfing, a perfect match to their metalcore. Zeal & Ardor is a Swiss avante-garde band which mixes spiritual music with black metal, using lyrics like: “The river bed will run red with the blood of the saints and the blood of the holy.” It was like a revival at a gospel tent in Hell! Australia’s aggressive masters Parkway Drive tore through an intense set that left fans breathless. Avatar set the tone early with a delicious brew of operatic theater and Swedish metal. Lead singer Johannes Eckerstrom dressed like an auctioneer at a gothic cirque du soleil. He seemed to be channeling Freddy Mercury and Jack Nicholson in “the Shining”.
One of the hottest new bands is Badflower. Lead singer Josh Katz spoke about people struggling with anxiety. Josh looks like the cute surfer kid next door who keeps his demons hidden. His passionate singing style is mesmerizing to watch. His smile is warm and infectious. They also played a special private acoustic set on the Zippo Sessions stage. Josh’s vocals were more prominent, and their beautiful, haunting lyrics were highlighted in the intimate setting. Halestorm began their set with a kickass Arejay Hale drum solo. Lzzy Hale reminisced about playing this festival 10 years ago on a much smaller stage. She thanked her fans for their support saying: “Columbus, you took a chance on two kids who just wanted to rock!” This is a band whose live show continues to improve year after year. Ghost turned up the production value with a massive stage set up. The masked Swedes acted out their dramatic songs, playing up their religious mythology. The piece de resistance was a rare appearance by System Of A Down. Their high tech audio visual extravaganza hit a technical glitch early on, but the system was rebooted and the show went on with passion and energy. All is well with Sonic Temple Art + Music Festival.
Words by Hudson and Johnnie Crow