Review and photos by Lizzy Davis
Everyone must have stayed for System of a Down’s entire set and partied a little hard on day one of Sonic Temple, as there was a significantly smaller early crowd at Mapfre Stadium on Saturday. The weather continued to cooperate, with warm temperatures and not a cloud in the sky while The Plot In You and No1Cares opened the Echo at Wave stages just after noon.
There was an odd 30 minute gap after the first two bands played before Evan Konrad and Boston Manor performed overlapping sets. Boston Manor has been out on tour with A Day to Remember and brought a familiar high energy set to get the early crowd moving. They even managed to start a massive circle pit that was running laps in front of the Wave Stage.
Black Coffee was the first band of the day on the Main Stage at 1:55 p.m., but while its set was going on, Mark Morton (guitarist of Lamb of God) did a secret acoustic Zippo Session that a few lucky people got to catch. Morton recently released his first solo album, “Anesthetic,” and although the Zippo Sessions were short, he managed to pack a punch in just four songs. Various guest vocalists accompanied him, including Mark Morales (Sons of Texas) and Mark Lanegan. Last but certainly not least, Papa Roach vocalist Jacoby Shaddix made a surprise appearance to perform “Sworn Apart,” a song on “Anesthetic” that features Shaddix on the studio recording.
Having embarked on multiple years of the Vans Warped Tour, U.K. metal outfit While She Sleeps is no novice to the festival scene. The band released its second studio album, “So What?,” in March and included two of the new singles, “Anti-Social” and “The Guilty Party,” in its loud, energy-fueled 30-minute set.
Fever 333 has become the talk of the rock and metal music scene in the past year, and after seeing its live show, there’s no question why. By the third song, frontman Jason Aalon Butler (formerly of Letlive) had poured a bottle of water on himself, run through the stadium stands (with a corded mic, no less) and hid under a stage rug, singing from underneath it. If that wasn’t enough to get your attention, the full band participated in a drum solo that Butler concluded by joking, “What DWP didn’t tell you is that they hired the Blue Man Group. They just ain’t got the paint on right now!”
Butler continued his eyebrow-raising antics, going so far as to jump off stage, pick up a (full) garbage can and tossing it onstage before dumping the contents of it on himself and then placing it on his head and dancing around the stage while wearing it (no, you can’t make this up!). The band calmed down long enough to express its gratitude to the crowd, thanking everyone for creating a space for people of color. It’s difficult to predict what will happen during a Fever 333 show, and the band is an experience all on its own.
Fever 333 made for a hard set to follow, but Gojira brought the fire—albeit a little too literally during its set. After a guest appearance from Lamb of God vocalist Randy Blythe during “Backbone,” Gojira continued with “Silvera” and “Stranded.” The French metal band almost made it through the latter without a hitch, but one last burst of pyro went off at the end of the song and a gust of wind blew the flame back, blasting guitarist Christian Andreu directly in the face. Vocalist Joe Duplantier hadn’t seen the moment happen but took to the mic when he realized his guitarist had disappeared and asked if he was OK. Duplantier requested the crowd to encourage Andreu to come back to the stage, and they willingly obliged with chants of “Christian, Christian!” Amazingly (and thankfully), he returned to play the rest of the set, making this one of the most metal moments in recent festival history.
U.K. band Architects pulled a massive crowd for its set on the Echo Stage while the Main Stage was being decorated with an all-new backdrop for In This Moment. Three large, black cathedral-esque houses spanned the stage, behind where the band would stand. Each member came out in a black robe for the opening song, “Fly Like an Eagle,” aa cover of the original by Steve Miller Band. With numerous costume changes and dancers (referred to as “Blood Girls”), there was no shortage of things to watch, and of course, the ever-stunning Maria Brink had no trouble enchanting a crowd.
While In This Moment sways toward a theatrical performance, Killswitch Engage always lightens the mood with playful, comedic banter. There was no questioning the love festival-goers had for Killswitch Engage, as it drew one of the largest crowds to the Echo Stage of the entire weekend. Vocalist Jesse Leech was fueling from the massive crowd’s energy and even jumped off the stage multiple times to walk along the barricade and sing up close and personal with fans.
The stadium appeared to be approaching max capacity just before Lamb of God hit the stage and the crowd chanted, “Lamb-of-God! Lamb-of-God!” in anxious anticipation. Even after the band came out heavy with “Omerta,” the crowd continued to chant and did so between nearly every single song of Lamb of God’s set. Vocalist Randy Blythe had warmed up with Gojira earlier in the day and fed off the crowd, giving him even more energy than usual. There were jumps and flying dreads galore throughout “Walk With Me in Hell,” “512,” “RednecK” and numerous other popular hits.
During Lamb of God’s set, a massive gray cloud meandered into view behind the stadium. Rain in the distance ended up casting a double rainbow opposite the stage, and although there was one clap of thunder and some slight wind, the storm thankfully passed by without wreaking havoc or causing any delays.
After The Cult closed out the Echo Stage around 8 p.m., Papa Roach set out to steal the show. The band opened with the song that shot it to success years ago, “Last Resort,” and fired off hit after hit, including a guest appearance from Maria Brink for “Gravity.” Though vocalist Jacoby Shaddix is known to be energetic and personable on stage, he seemed extra grateful and genuinely honored to be performing at Sonic Temple. Shaddix expressed his gratitude when he said, “It’s nights like these that make me grateful to be alive. It is an honor to perform for you, to connect with you. We fucking love you guys.”
Papa Roach wasn’t originally scheduled to be on the bill for Sonic Temple but was called in to fill The Prodigy’s spot after the death of lead vocalist Keith Flint. Shaddix explained the situation, saying, “Originally, Papa Roach was not on the Sonic Temple lineup because a legendary band called The Prodigy was supposed to be here. I got a text from the producers [DWP] asking if we would take their place, and I replied, ‘Hell fucking yes!’ But we couldn’t do it without honoring Keith Flint.” The band went on to play an epic cover of “Firestarter” dedicated to Flint before closing its set with “…To Be Loved.”
While waiting for the day’s final act to set up, comedian Andrew Dice Clay came out to perform a short, impromptu routine. Once he finished, a playlist came on with Linkin Park’s “In The End.” The song turned out to be one of the most beautiful and memorable moments of the weekend as every person in the crowd sang along, honoring the late Chester Bennington.
Likely due to the wind and safety concerns after Gojira’s earlier pyro incident, Disturbed had a surprisingly stripped down set that lacked the usual amounts of pyro the band is known to have. The lack of visual effects let David Draiman’s vocals take the spotlight, and the band sounded on top of its game. Disturbed performed a well-balanced set, which ranged from early, heavy-hitting bangers like “Down with the Sickness” to a softer acoustic performance of “Reason to Fight,” which Draiman delivered with the heartfelt message of “My friends, you are not alone.”