Carolina Rebellion 2017
Concord, North Carolina
May 5, 6, and 7, 2017
Heartfelt Note: This article was written prior to the devastating knowledge of Chris Cornell’s passing on May 18, 2017. Seeing Chris in concert with Soundgarden is an obvious #11 (or #1) to this list, as seeing him live was quite an honor. His voice was and always will be one of the most talented and powerful on this planet. RIP, Chris Cornell. You will be forever missed.
What’s so awesome about a massive music festival? Just about everything. If you’ve never been to one, and especially not to Carolina Rebellion in Concord, NC, then you must add attending this event to your “life list.” Being one in a sea of 105,000 people, amidst music lovers and waves of crowd surfers, is an eye-opening, energizing, and forever memorable, life altering experience. Why? Check out the Top Ten reasons below.
1. The Music
Of course, the music is the magnet that draws the extreme crowd to this 3-day music festival with 60 bands and four stages. Every, single band was beyond fantastic, and headliners Soundgarden, Def Leppard, and Avenged Sevenfold simply rocked it, but here are some personal highlights:
- Biggest Surprise Hit: Eagles of Death Metal. If you’re envisioning “death metal” right now, think again. This band plays amazingly great ROCK! Everyone loved the lead singer’s vocals, bright yellow shirt, and crazy awesome dancing; the girl bassist; the ZZ Top-looking guitarist; and, unquestionably, the fantastic sound. Must download now!
- Most Anticipated: A Perfect Circle. The crowd eagerly awaited the arrival of Maynard James Keenan, the elusive lead singer, who sang on stage only in silhouette, wearing red pants and a wig of long, braided dreadlocks. Aside from providing a killer show, Maynard had quick, funny one-liners in between songs, such as:
- “It’s good to see everybody rebelling.”
- “I saw The Cult; it’s a good day.”
- “In two songs, Soundgarden; it’s a good day.”
- Soon-to-Be-Huge Prediction: Highly Suspect. A band that plays highly magnetic music with a very intriguing, hard rocking, and no screaming sound. The lead singer has a sexy, husky voice and at one point declared that it was “A good day for R & D… and sex. I’ll be backstage if anyone wants to have it.” Hmmm. Intriguing.
- The Favorites: Seether, Volbeat, Three Days Grace, Korn, Chevelle, Avenged Sevenfold, Def Leppard, and Soundgarden.
- The Whole Collection: In all honesty, each band at Carolina Rebellion 2017 was incredible, whether people were familiar with the acts or just hearing for the first time. The benefit of a music festival is to enjoy new music!
2. The Food and Drink (including wine!)
Food and drink vendors were plentiful. A few hits were:
- Cauduceus Wine Garden: Featuring four wines (including the dry white Chupacabra) from Tool and A Perfect Circle’s Maynard James Keenan’s Arizona winery. Wine at a rock festival? Yes, please!
- Pie Baby: Delicious wood-fired pizza with a crispy, blackened bottom. Tasted like more.
- Flip Flop Rob’s BBQ: Offered a “sundae” featuring layers of pulled pork, baked beans, and coleslaw, topped with sauce. As a recovering carnivore, it looked marvelous (sorry, Morrissey).
3. VIP Experience
Absolutely nothing can beat the optional VIP experience at Carolina Rebellion 2017: tents, shade, seating, tables, and private air-conditioned bathrooms. Who could ask for anything more?
4. The Organization
Even though having interviewed Gary Spivack, one of Carolina Rebellion’s festival producers prior to the show, I still cannot quite fathom how the organizers pulled off this gigantic festival without a hitch. Herding and pleasing 105,000 people and 60 bands with tons of vendors is no simple task. The event was completely organized, and the bands were perfectly timed and on schedule. Kudos!
5. The Peace
Surely like a flashback to Woodstock, Carolina Rebellion 2017 was one of the most surprisingly peaceful events that I’ve attended in my lifetime, hard rock music and all. We often hear the saying, “Can’t we all just get along?” Well, we did. I saw No fighting. No couples arguing. No girls crying. No boys crying. It was groovy and refreshingly awesome! What’s so funny about peace, love, and understanding? Nothing! Even when Three Days Grace sang, “Let’s start a Riot,” the crowd – while hyper and slammin’ engaged – remained relatively chill, anger-wise. Like the lead singer of The Cult kept saying, I, too, say this to the crowd, “Thank you, kindly.” Faith in humanity restored!
6. People Watching
A fellow audience member from New England said to me, “The people watching is just phenomenal,” as we watched a guy with wild hair, no shirt, and a kilt dancing enthusiastically to the beat of his own drummer. More interesting sightings:
- A guy wearing knee-high beer socks (think: a tall beer)
- Tons of guys in kilts (I didn’t like them at first, but now I do; they make me curious)
- People wearing gas masks (even small children; sure, why not?)
- Several guys in bacon outfits (they received lots of attention)
- An exceptionally skinny Hulk Hogan look-alike
- A blow-up alien making its way through the crowd
- Lots of various, bold hair colors, wild hair styles, and even a purple afro’d mohawk
- A guy in red underwear (that’s it)
- An entire army of masked people parading to an unknown location
- A plethora of people wearing bandanas over-the-face in an old fashioned bank robber style (it was dusty on Sunday, so I think I get it now)
- It was fantastic to see people of all ages, from 6 months old (laughing and wearing sound-blocking ear muffs) to their seeming 80s
7. The Setting
Being just outside of Charlotte, NC in Concord, the weather was pretty good for early May. A bit freezing on Friday with a touch of mud, and with thankfully no rain Saturday, Sunday was purely perfect with sunny skies and scattered clouds. (As the lead singer of Black Map declared, “Charlotte’s a fucking great place!”) Interestingly, Carolina Rebellion 2017 was staged just outside of the Charlotte Motor Speedway on a huge grassy area large enough to fit a Ferris Wheel, two huge VIP tents, four large stages, tons of vendors, and people, people, people.
8. Crowd Surfing
And, tons of it! Crowd surfing is great to see visually, from a distance. Person after person riding the crowd waves is super cool to watch. Um, but it’s a bit more difficult to stand under (like during A Perfect Circle when a huge guy wearing nothing but heavy boots and Ohio State tighty whities surfed through; it was tough). But, as an audience member, you are required to pitch in. No ifs, ands, or buts. You are a part of the crowd surfing machine, helping to make it all happen.
9. New Friends
Almost last, and certainly not least, making new friends was the absolute highlight of the three-day experience. I talked to tons of people from all over the US, like:
- Alex, a very young-looking lady who held my hand and led me to the front of the crowd during A Perfect Circle on Friday,
- Steven, a 23-year old, who was afraid I might have a nearby angry husband, but bought me a gin and tonic on Friday anyway,
- Susan, who endearingly got the chills just thinking about the upcoming Seether performance earlier on Sunday,
- And, Scott and Jerry, the most amazing guys who became my Sunday besties, and hopefully longtime buds.
10. Next Year
The only complaint about the music festival could be that time machines do not yet exist so that we Carolina Rebellion 2017 attendees cannot go back in time to experience the blood pumping, excitement again. Alas, we have our memories. Thankfully, this is an annual event. See you next year, Carolina!