By: Fridae Mattas
This year Avenged Sevenfold were headlining the Rockstar Uproar festival which hit up thirteen cities prior to Toronto, last date being Montreal the night before. I heard there was major rain in Montreal and I hoped Toronto would hold out. So far the weather was incredible, the sun was shining it was a little frigid in the shade and when the sun went down but other than that it was warm among the body heat of all the people. Unfortunately it started raining during Seether so everyone sitting in the lawns and 400 level ran for cover. I guess the sky didn’t like the band so it began to cry for a few minutes until Three Days Grace’s set. Lucky for me I missed majority of the rain, too busy running up, down and around the Amphitheater before and after my media tracks to meet friends and watch the sets.
This year the second stage was much closer to the main stage and none of the set times overlapped. The Jagermeister stage performances were much earlier and they ended just before the main stage bands started. It was very well thought out but the area they set up the stage in was kind of awkward, if they put the mobile stage the same place they did last year’s stage and use this years time schedule, it would have worked out much better with less congestion. Other than the overcrowding the lone problem was venue security, they were a little slow letting us into the media pit to shoot the bands; we do need a few minutes to check our angles and settings. With Avenged Sevenfold I already knew the rules, they put up a curtain to set up and when the show starts, they drop it to reveal the stage. It takes about ten people to carry that massive curtain back and forth; the media had to wait until they brought it back out. That’s fine with me, they need to do whatever to make it an unforgettable experience for their fans and if that means we have to wait and miss a few seconds, so be it.
First band on the Jager Stage we caught was Art Of Dying, as we climbed through the crowd to find the media pit entrance we thought we would miss our three but made it to the stage just in time. Pay attention if you haven’t already heard of Art Of Dying, they are a band you really need to check out if you like real rock and roll. At this time AOD consists of five; Jonny Hetherington – Vocals, Greg Bradley – Guitar, Jeff Brown – Drums, Cale Gontier – Bass and Tavis Stanley – Guitar. The music is melodic alternative post-grunge rock. They released their major label debut record ‘Vices and Virtues’ on Intoxication/Reprise/Warner in March 2011 quickly climbing to number one on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. Many of the tracks on both records are the same just redone and in my opinion, I liked the sound of their first self titled LP ‘Art Of Dying’ better. Although the new LP has a fantastic duet to one of my favorite songs, the record is a little over produced.
This band has come a long way since I first saw them, they aren’t even the same band but as this unit, they have unquestionable chemistry. Art Of dying is today what the band was meant to be, they all have perceptible stage presence and talent! They clearly enjoy the music they are playing; you can see how much heart is put into the performance, when you hear how incredible the music is played live.
Drums are always solid because Jeff Brown is a sick drummer, he knows his stuff! People don’t give drummers enough respect; they have the most equipment to set up and take down and are the beat keepers, a very important piece of the puzzle! Greg and Tavis on guitars shred those strings to the fullest; they switched it up making the most of the medium sized stage keeping the crowd entertained. Of course Tavis was topless and he matched in nakedness with his wicked cool silent skeleton guitar, probably the coolest looking acoustic axe ever. Harmonies sounded flawless, this band is proof that when you take constructive criticism and apply it, magic happens! The live sets keep getting better every time and this was the first time I’ve seen them on a larger stage where they made themselves right at home. The performance would have been even better if they played the main stage where they had even more room to roam.
Bassist Cale Gontier tore it up; there are many Bassist’s who just stare out into the audience with a blank or redundant look on their face standing there going through the motions or trying to remember notes. Not Cale, he flew around with his Bass, loving every minute of being on that Jagermeister stage absorbing the energy of the hometown crowd, it looked like he could’ve played the tunes in his sleep. Hetherington’s Vocals were almost perfect; tone is much steadier and solid, blending in unison with his bandmate’s as they harmonized. On the down side there were moments of strain and some pitch issues but nothing untrained ears can hear. When Hetherington sang he had a little more confidence than in the past, flying about as he sang showing great control of his vocals.
Hetherington’s pipes were almost at par with Cale’s Cousin’s vocals when he joined Art Of Dying on stage for the tune “Raining” which features the Three Days Grace front man. It’s definitely an amazing track on a fantastic record and Gontier sang it well with Hetherington. It was good to see the cousins rocking out together and two of Canada’s best male singers sharing the same stage singing one of my favorite songs, epic! The five song set gave Jager stage headliners Protest The Hero a run for their money! Actually, Art Of Dying will give any band a run for their money because they are continually improving their live sets and creating catchy rock tracks people love. Judging by the last tune in their set when the whole crowd sang along to “Die Trying”, Art Of Dying is a force to be reckoned with! Great, now I’ve definitely inflated their egos (Laughs).
Closing things off on the Jager stage it was Protest The Hero’s turn to rock out, how does any band follow a guest appearance by Adam Gontier, really? A few people wandered off but there were more than enough people filling in the empty spots like a revolving door, some would leave, others would enter. I haven’t seen Protest The Hero live since that crazy Hideout show where it was body overflow. Protest The Hero are five larries from Whitby, Ontario, they formed in 1999 and have had the same band line up which I find is extremely rare for rock bands, they usually change members like they do girlfriends and band names. Moe Carlson – Drums, Rody Walker –Vocals, Tim Millar – Guitar, Arif Mirabdolbaghi – Bass and Luke Hoskin – Lead Guitar. They kicked off their six tune set with ‘C’est La Vie’ and just brought the Protest the Hero flavor of progressive melodic metal to the Jagermeister stage. Like Art Of Dying they were extremely personable with the people, loving the fact they were playing in Toronto because they are from here (Well, close to Toronto for most of them).
Protest The Hero front man Rody Walker was very vocal about current Toronto mayor, Rob Ford by making comments like “I hate Rob Ford!” Don’t worry Rody, most of us totally agree with that one. I guess his belly lint eating during ‘Bone Marrow’ gave him a burst of jibbers, but it’s true, who actually voted for Rob Ford? PTH put on a decent set, not the best I have seen them but it was close, vocally it was a little pitchy and diction needs work but I do admire Walker’s range and stage performance he did what a lead vocalist should, entertain the crowd. I wish Guitarist Tim Millar would put more effort into playing, it didn’t look like he was too excited to be on stage, he just stood there most of the time strumming the chords on his end of the stage (stage left, audience right). If you don’t like it, don’t do it, there are many guitarists out there who would trade spots. Thankfully his fellow band mates and lead guitarist Luke Hoskin brought some life into the performance, still have not seen any guitarist perform like Finger Eleven’s Rick Jackett does, he is phenomenal. If you haven’t seen either Art Of Dying or Protest The Hero live or have listened to their music, you certainly need to.
I wish there were more festivals like this when I was a teenager (Wow I feel old when I say that although I’m still in my twenties). Most of the bands in the lineup were signing autographs at different times throughout the day and wrapped up just prior to the main stage performances. They even had eye candy for the fellas with a Miss Uproar contest where a few females would compete to be named Miss Uproar for the City they were in. Art Of Dying’s Tavis and Jonny did the honors introducing the contestants and announcing the winner for Toronto (Sarah), a task I’m sure they did not complain at all about. I did not catch Escape The Fate I honestly do not remember where I was at that point, probably wandering or talking to people but that was for the best because I was not feeling their music from what I could hear as they started on the main stage. Bullet For My Valentine were up after they announced Miss Uproar Toronto, I was excited because I heard good things about them and their music wasn’t so bad either but could they pull it off live? Bullet For My Valentine are from Bridgend, Wales they began their Journey in 1998 before releasing their major label UK debut ‘The Poison’ in 2005 and on February 14th 2006 they released the LP in the United States.
Since dropping their first record in 2005 they have released two more albums most recently ‘Fever’ which was released in 2010. This band was new to my eyes and ears so I was expecting Matthew Tuck – Vocals, Michael Paget – Guitar, Michael Thomas – Drums and Jason Jamesfor on Bass to blow my mind. The crowd was anxious when the intro started in, once the British flag backdrop came down with a fist bursting through it holding the band’s name, the fans exploded. Almost everyone on the floor was singing along to all of their songs from the opening track “Your Betrayal” to the last tune of the set ‘Alone’. They didn’t blow my mind but they didn’t waste my time either, the set was promising and I did love the guitar solo near the end of the set. The whole band participated in entertaining the crowd, vox even migrated around the stage to different risers and Bassist Jason Jamesfor has great tone when he screams it sounded amazing! I kept asking everyone if Vox and Lead Guitar were brothers because they look alike and both played those sexy flying V’s similar with ease. I need to see them live again; they were definitely repeat performance worthy. If you get the chance, do it! The Rockstar Uproar Festival is still touring check the website for dates.
Something about this band was not floating my boat, as I listened and watched them on the stage I was getting sleepy because they were indeed boring me. The only thing that amused me were the decorations on Morgan’s mic stand which looked like these giant flesh and metal testicles hanging as he sang. Bassist, Dale Stewart was the main source of entertainment for the crowd because front man Morgan just stood behind his guitar most of the time occasionally moving but not too far, I don’t think he wandered over to the other side of the stage at all. We all know drummers aren’t mobile and John Humphrey couldn’t do anything more, he did what he needed to do and that was keep smash those cans. Shaun’s vocals were solid it just wasn’t a unique sound, he bounces between emulating Cobain to mimicking Pearl Jam vox Eddie Vedder, he even wore flannel. I didn’t hear any Shaun Morgan, if they can write better songs, Morgan finds his voice and loosens up a little, it might work. I guess the reason why I never liked this bands music is because they are unoriginal, perfect example is the last song in the set ‘Remedy’ which had different lyrics to Nirvana’s ‘Come as You Are’ music and melody. That’s not cool ever; I hate it when bands and artists recycle songs especially when they make their own version and it doesn’t even come close to the original. It was funny to me because I was like wait, are they covering Nirvana? That would have been cool if they did a Nirvana cover but as they played it, clearly it wasn’t a Nirvana tune, Cobain wasn’t the singer and I didn’t know any of the words. I just sang the Nirvana lyrics to myself because that melody and those chords in that order are originally Nirvana not Seether. This band will not be selling out stadiums anytime soon; the songs are not strong enough to carry them to that level. Bullet for My Valentine’s performance was much more entertaining, they should have switched set times.
Just before Seether’s set ended it started to rain which kind of sucked but for me it was fine, at least there was no mud at the Molson Canadian Amphitheater! I wish I had my photographer Melanie Schade for the last two bands because it was insane in the media pit. One of the assbob photographers told me not stretch out my hand a lift my camera in the air during Avenged Sevenfold. I was gonna deck the bastard because he was much taller than I, about six feet tall (I’m only 5’8) and he even stood on his briefcase to take shots blocking most of my and everyone else’s Three Days Grace pictures but we didn’t say anything. There were risers on top of an already high stage, I have to lift my camera to get the drummers half the time, unlike them; I shoot the whole band and not just the vocalist. When I’m shooting a band and there is space to move around, I shoot as many angles as I can, trying to get individual shots of every member in the band and group shots which are harder to obtain on the bigger stages. Most other photographers and media outlets just care about the front person, why? I don’t know but I have respect for everyone on the stage.
Three Days Grace began their set with ‘The Good Life’ and as always Gontier didn’t even need to sing, the crowd filled in for him which must be an incredible feeling. This time even Bassist Brad Walst was coming out of his shell, as was Barry Stock who was rocking a dual neck guitar for a few of the tracks like ‘Pain’. Drummer Neil Sanderson not only rocked those cans giving his all he always sings backup to help round out the sound.
The performance was a pleasant visible progression from last year’s show down the road at The Direct Energy Centre. Vocals were still a little pitchy but they are strengthening, Gontier also plays the guitar for some of the tracks and flies around to entertain the people. They didn’t have any pyro for this set which was okay because from what I saw the crowd was impressed by the constant high energy vibe. After playing one of my favorite tracks ‘I Hate Everything About You’ they played ‘Home’, another track I like but they made the tune even better by throwing in Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’. The whole amphitheater went wild, the guys in the VIP box just a few feet in front of me were hugging it out and chest bumping each other as we all attempted to rap along with Adam.
I do think they should have been allowed to play a few more tunes than Seether considering last year when Disturbed was headlining, Avenged Sevenfold had a ten track set with pyro and everything. Regardless of the short set it was an incredible performance with a lot more audience interaction making it a little more intimate and special for them. One thing that stood out because it was very peculiar was when Adam had a little schizo monologue moment arguing with his skeleton hand mic stand before getting into the next track. That was the weirdest thing I’ve seen all day but I guess maybehewas talking to himself in a way. Go watch Three Days Grace when you get the chance, you will not be disappointed.
Last year this band blew me away and they weren’t even headlining, this year their stage show was just as exceptional only difference was the vibe and vocals. This time Matthew Sanders (M. Shadows) vocals just didn’t sound right, most of the performance he sounded flat and congested, too nasally for my ears especially during the ballad dedicated to his lost friend and bandmate “Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan”. It was a great effort on Shadows part and the tune is a good song just not greatly sung yet. Sanders vocals still need work to pull off a proper melodic power rock ballad but it is surprising he even attempts them. That is an admirable quality in a person, showing persistence to keep growing and evolving. Go on with your bad self and continue learning and expanding your talents, don’t stop those vocal lessons; you need help to release your inner gospel singer (Laughs).
The fans loved it, regardless of what I have to say because they were making some serious noise! Last year Avenged Sevenfold had the hanging man with the cool nightmare house and fabulous pyrotechnics, this year there was a huge bat skull as the backdrop, it shot fire balls and the skull’s eyes lit up at times. With their exquisite lighting the stage looked unbelievable. They came in with a bang, fire streams exploded as the intro played followed by opening track ‘Nightmare’. Bassist Johnny Christ was the most genuine out of the guitars, Zacky Vengeance and Synyster Gates were a little boring as lead and Rhythm, they eventually started getting into it but come on guys give the people what they came to see, don’t leave all the work to Shadows. As the headliners, you have to school all of the other bands because more is expected of you. I loved that they played ‘Bat Country’ because last year they did not and Shadows like the entertainer he is, pointed that out.
For the finale during “Unholy Confessions” the wings of the skull bat were set a blaze as was the top of the skull. It’s always amazing when there are flames flying everywhere, absolutely fantastic to watch. I am kind of a pyro, I love playing with fire. This year Mike Portnoy was not the drummer because he was just temporarily filling in for Avenged Sevenfold’s lost brother “Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan’. They did however find a newbie, Richard Arin Ilejay as the beat master for this tour. His future with the band is still undecided but for now the kid does some pretty good work handling those sticks. Avenged Sevenfold put on a show not many will be able to top but Three Days Grace took it home vocally, they had home-base advantage.
This year The Rockstar Uproar festival had a better lineup and was much more organized minus the confusion at the beginning. There were some families and a few females but most of the people who were at the show were males, it was not sold out but I would say there were over 10,000 people rocking out to the tunes! If the Rockstar Uproar festival comes to your city with these bands and you like alternative to heavier rock, go see it! Actually, run like the wind because this show is totally worth your money and more. I am looking forward to next year, curious to see who will rock our faces off in 2012. Major thank you goes out to my awesome Jager stage photographer Melanie Schade and the amazing people at AM-Media for all your help. You can find more of the Rockstar Uproar festival photos on the slide show below or on FridaeTV facebook, both sets are mostly different.