The weekend before Memorial Day at Mapfre Stadium is a special time in Columbus, Ohio. Every year, the soccer stadium is the home of Rock on the Range. The festival is a raucous three days of loud rock and metal music, both new and old. The variety of acts it conjures is beyond compare. It is the biggest rock festival in the United States. It usually brings in about 120,000 people; however, this year, the stadium was at maximum occupancy with 135,000 people in attendance. Thousands of rockers from all across the United States and Canada make the pilgrimage each year to get their fill of music, food, alcohol and more.
Nourishment is a must at any festival. The duration is at least twelve hours for those who stay all day. Rock on the Range has so much to choose from to eat and drink. The selection improves every year. There were vendors from around the country, as well as ones from the local Columbus area. One in particular was Schmidt’s Sausage. Their food was a traditional German fare for a very reasonable price. For a large sausage sandwich, German potato salad, and sauerkraut, the price tag was only $10. In comparison to this, there are several very popular stands called Island Noodles. They sell Asian style noodles with vegetables and chicken. A takeout style container from the stand costs $10. The lines were always a mile long at dinnertime, so the food is definitely amazing; however, it is not quite as filling as a hearty, German meal. For other tastes, there was a “Mac Attack!” stand, selling a few types of extravagant macaroni and cheese. There was also a very popular burger stand that had a gourmet selection, as compared to the plain, boring burgers the stadium was advertising.
The first day of Rock on the Range was Friday May 19. Early in the day, inclement weather plagued much of Columbus. Due to severe thunderstorms and lightning, the event coordinators evacuated the stadium for fans, bands, and crew safety. The show was delayed for four hours until the storm had passed. People stayed in their cars in the parking lot awaiting official word that the gates were reopening. Once the gates were open again, event coordinators made sure every band played a shortened set by a few minutes and worked with the city to extend the curfew past 11:00pm. Soundgarden was to headline Friday; but sadly, the day before on May 18, lead singer Chris Cornell committed suicide in his Detroit hotel room. There was no time to find a replacement for the band, so there was a tribute in Cornell’s honor in place of Soundgarden’s set. The tribute began as LIVE’s set had finished. Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah played from the speakers with a picture of Cornell on the screens with a digital candle. Corey Taylor of Slipknot fame made an appearance to play a couple acoustic songs with fellow Stone Sour bandmate, Christian Martucci. They played Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd and Hunger Strike by Temple of the Dog. LIVE, from York PA, reunited to perform for the first time since 2009. They were to be a co-headliner with Soundgarden. In place of one of their hits, they played I Am the Highway by Chris Cornell’s side project, Audioslave. This was a common occurrence through the weekend. Most bands that I watched played a song in honor of the late Cornell. It was very touching, but very sad at the same time.
Saturday started slowly due to weather concerns again. The venue had opened to allow fans in at 11 in the morning only to close the gates. A string of rough storms were approaching and the stadium crew did not want to risk anyone getting hurt. The small delay did not stop anyone from having an awesome time however. There was quite a variety of rock genres represented, from punk rock with The Offspring to nümetal with Korn. For most of the day, the weather was nice. Towards the end of the day, however, it changed drastically. Korn was headlining this night of music and had played about an hour into their set. They were abruptly pulled offstage much to lead singer Jonathan Davis’ chagrin. Their last song of the evening to everyone’s surprise was Blind, which meant there were still big hits to be played. Due to severe storms, Korn was cut short, so nobody got to hear Freak on a Leash and Falling Away From Me at the end of the day.
Sunday was the big day. The one everyone was looking forward to. Metallica was to end the night and the festival for the year. Ahead of them, Volbeat took the stage and their singer Michael Poulsen did a great job at getting the crowd ready for the main event. He encouraged festival goers to go wild with excitement and let the crowd surfers come forward. Fans obliged and keep the crowd surfers coming toward the stage from all over the field. The weather held out well for the day, until the middle of Volbeat‘s set. They were quickly ushered off stage. The crowd was told they would come back to finish their set after the passage of yet another storm. This marked the first time during the weekend that the stadium was not evacuated. Despite Mapfre’s concerns about severe weather, they allowed everyone to stay. People in the stands hurriedly put on their ponchos as the sky turned dark. People in the pit combined ponchos to create a shelter from the rain and wind. The storm delayed the show about an hour; but, as promised, Volbeat did return to finish their set. Shortly after, Metallica debuted. Their set was quite simple with just three microphones and a drum kit; yet, they had the biggest screen I have ever seen used at Mapfre Stadium. I have been attending this event for five years now and have never seen the venue as full or animated. The crowds especially closer to the stage were wild with excitement. Metallica played for two hours and fifteen minutes, which is rare for a Rock on the Range headliner. Most usually play for a little over an hour. They played not only songs that everyone knows like Enter Sandman and For Whom the Bell Tolls but also old and new material. Other honorable mentions who played on Friday were Beartooth (a Columbus native band), I Prevail, Of Mice & Men, Motionless in White, Sum 41, Chevelle, Bush, and Pierce the Veil closed out the Zippo side stage. Saturday also held mentions of Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Starset, Alter Bridge, White Chapel, Seether, In Flames, Papa Roach, and Coheed & Cambria closed out the Zippo side stage. Sunday’s honorable mentions were As Lions, Rival Sons, Nothing More, Biffy Clyro, Zakk Sabbath, Suicide Silence, The Pretty Reckless, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Deafheaven, Primus, and Amon Amarth closed out the Zippo side stage.
If you are a rock music fan, I recommend that you make the trip out to Rock on the Range at least once in your life. There is such a variety of musicians, foods, alcohols, and vendors that it would be hard for someone to dislike all of it. The 2017 year was impeccable, and I feel that it will be hard to top. That being said, Mapfre stadium will likely fill up like Disney World the same time next year. I, along with thousands of other music lovers, will be amongst the swarm.
Special thanks to Kristine Ashton-Magnuson at Ashton-Magnuson Media and to Jason Squires and Kenny Bahr for the use of their photos!
All photos by Jason Squires and Kenny Bahr
©2017. Please DO NOT copy or use without permission.
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