photos courtesy Kristen Mankowski
Worry started to fill me on the ride up to the show. I was in the car,
driving my girlfriend and myself to see a longtime favorite band of mine, and
suddenly the sky unleashed its floodgates. I rarely go to outdoor shows, but
when I do, I prefer to not be soaked from head to toe, whether by rain or the
beer a fellow concert-goer recently purchased. Luckily, after some time we
passed the downpour and arrived to some light drizzling, with hopes the rain
wasn't stalking us.
After a bit of walking around, bypassing scalpers and other peddlers, we
picked up our tickets from the booth and made our way into the venue. I'd never
been to Jiffy Lube Live (formerly the Nissan Pavilion), so we quickly glanced at
the map nearby and followed everyone else around the path. Soon we heard sounds
of opening bands on the side-stages, which is exactly where we needed to be.
Meandering our way through the crowd in front of the Jagermeister stage, which
Fozzy was headlining, we arrived to the sounds of Sao Paulo-based band,
Cruz, who did a great rendition of Bob Marley's "I Shot The Sheriff" featuring
P.O.D.'s Luis Castillo.
The way the festival's lineups work is that at each of the side stages, which
are directly beside each other, one band plays while the techs tear down and set
up for the following band on the other stage. This means that a lot of people
leave after each band ends and make their way over to the other stage,
presenting us with the opportunity to easily snag a place at the front-left of
the stage, setting up camp until Fozzy were to play several hours later. After
standing through several more bands at the Jager stage, Candlelight Red
and In This Moment, the latter of which was highly theatrical, filling the stage
with fences covered in skulls and twenty-foot white drapery hanging from the
microphone, it was time for Fozzy to play.
Unlike an indoor venue, there are no lights that can be dimmed, no surprising
arrival of the band. But as the backing track of the first song, "Spider In My Mouth",
began to play, and drummer Frank Fontsere stood and threw his hands to the sky,
the air was filled with anticipation nonetheless. Then the speakers exploded with
the opening riff, and the rest of the band hurled themselves on stage and began
an all-out assault on the waiting crowd.
Some bands write fantastic songs, but fall short live because they don't realize
that in addition to playing well, a show is also about knowing how to entertain.
Fozzy understand this all too well, and they're masters of getting the crowd involved.
Chris Jericho's years of working crowds over in professional wrestling, combined
with Rich Ward's experience in audience-antics with other bands like Stuck Mojo
make this duo a downright riot. Midway through the set, Jericho pulled a trick out
of Freddie Mercury's bag, replicating the Wembley call-and-response sing-along,
complete with the ending "F*ck You". Ward, in his own move of crowd involvement,
jumped offstage and into the audience while playing his guitar, letting them hold
him up as he ripped through the song.
Though the setlist was short, due to tight festival scheduling, the band packed a punch
that kept everyone itching for "one more". After the opening song, they jumped
right into the lead single, entitled "Sandpaper", off their new album, Sin And Bones,
which the whole crowd seemed to know the lyrics to already. Following this was
"God Pounds His Nails", once again featuring the audience as special guest vocalists
during the chorus, and then the Sin And Bones title track. Reaching back to the All
That Remains LP, they continued with their biggest hit, "Enemy", teasing the crowd
later in the song by lowering their volume and crouching down on stage, raising the
volume as they stood until the crowd was screaming, and then suddenly ducking down
and cutting the sound once more. To close, they brought us back to the present with
another new song -- sure to be a continuing live favorite-- "Blood Happens", that flows
from rapid fire bludgeoning to a mellow duel guitar interlude, only to come back to
smack you once more with a blistering solo, courtesy of Billy Grey!
While some bands let you know how much they love playing for you in their
words, this group of guys lets you know in every movement on (and off) the stage.
Whether it's the battle of backs between Ward and bassist Paul DiLeo, seeing
which one can keep playing while pushing the other into a hunch, or guessing
which guitarist Jericho can hit by spinning his microphone stand around like a
Weeble Wobble, you know they're having a good time. And after the music, they
all sat down to sign autographs for an hour, talking to each fan and letting them
know how much they appreciate them coming out to the show.
While some critics attempt to discredit the band as a serious musical entity due
simply to frontman, Jericho, being a professional wrestler, I believe they're
cheating themselves out of a good time. While he may not be a Bruce Dickinson
or Freddie Mercury, and most people aren't, he's a good singer who is growing
with each record release. Couple that with his and the rest of the band's ability
to please a crowd, and you've got a recipe for an entertaining time. Fozzy originally
joked about being HUGE ROCKSTARS, and I believe they're getting there. For
now, at the very least, they are our "party hosts". And what a hell of a party it is!