Over the weekend, over 23,000 people gathered at Jet Blue Park for the fourth annual Fort Rock festival! This year it was bigger and better, as it was two days, rather than one. Now this was a first for this area, that's never happened before. Fans gathered to see bands like The Glorious Sons, Avatar, Issues, Saint Asonia, Sevendust, Ghost, Lamb Of God, Anthrax, Megadeth, A Day To Remember, Five Finger Death Punch and Rob Zombie on day one. Day two was compiled of bands like Red Sun Rising, Trivium, Asking Alexandria, Bullet For My Valentine, Pennywise, Sixx:A.M, 3 Doors Down, Bring Me The Horizon, Shinedown, and Disturbed.
I went with a handful of friends, three of which had never been to a concert before! Over the course of two days, I covered performances for Saint Asonia, Sevendust, Megadeth, A Day To Remember, Five Finger Death Punch, Asking Alexandria, Bullet For My Valentine, Sixx:A.M, 3 Doors Down, Bring Me The Horizon, Shinedown and Disturbed. I came home will over 1,000 pictures, and am still almost a week later picking out favorites!
It was honestly a blast, once all the hiccups got smoothed out. I want to get into all of the fun stuff that happened at Fort Rock, but first I do have to talk about something just really quick. I'm not going to point fingers, or name names but the company that ran this event was very disorganized.
Before I explain, I want to say I am very grateful to have gone, and for the most part, things were fabulous. However, the fact that they had lost my passes, and were not clear on who was going to be given what was very frustrating. I was not the only media person brought in that had problems similar to this, and on top of having problems receiving passes and tickets, security wasn't all told the same thing. Nobody knew on day one how to handle the press in the slightest, right down to the fact that they tried to tell us to enter the press area from a location that wasn't obtainable in the slightest.
Some of it is beyond anyone's control, festivals are never organized very well. They're too big to control really, so that's excusable, but things just simply could have been handled better. That being said, they definitely learned from their mistakes that were made on day one because day two ran a thousand times smoother. It was like being at a completely different festival, honestly. I personally had zero problems on day two, and had an absolute ball. I heard of some other journalists having issues, but I personally found things to be a lot better.
I don't want to go into every detail, because between the vlogs from both days, and stories I told while posting pictures, most of it is covered. BUT some people seemed interested in hearing about the experience over all, so I am going to talk about that and the highlights.
Over all, I would say the experience was a lot of fun. Of course it was, concerts are almost always fun. Aside from the pass issues and security all being told different things, I had a lot of fun with friends at this show. I got to do some things I would have never gotten to do if it weren't for this festival, and can now say I've covered the biggest festival to ever come to Southwest Florida.
I had absolutely no interviews schedule and to be honest, that bummed me out at first. I was seriously so dissapointed because I had originally asked for eleven different interviews, and had been asked for one. None of them worked, and this was actually a first for me. I've never once been to a festival without at least one interview. So, this was definitely odd to me, but I decided not to sweat it. I did hang out in the media tent some on both days, but only actually met two bands, saw three back there and didn't get to sit down with either.
Now that I mentioned that, you probably would like details, huh? Both of these happened on day one, and I guess I should start with the reason I was back there in the first place. Despite not having any interviews scheduled, I had questions written down for a handful of bands for both days, and since I had a pass that granted me access to the media tent anyways, I decided it was worth hanging out in there to try. Plus, it was shaded, with a fan, and not shared by 500 other people, half of whom were smoking pot. So, there were a lot of perks to having the pass, and since I wasn't completely into the lineup for day one, I decided to hang out back there some.
Myself and a friend of mine were actually in there hoping for just one interview, that we sadly never got to attempt, but while we were sitting there talking we saw two different bands come through. The first was Megadeth, who didn't speak to anyone except the radio station. But I did get a picture as they were walking away from their meet and greet at the end, and during their radio interview.
It was nice sitting and listening to them do the interview, and this was a couple hours before their performance. Now I'm not a massive fan of Megadeth, though I have heard most of their music. So, I covered their set and then sat down with some friends.
I got some really good pictures from their set, if anyone is interested!
They didn't go on though until almost seven o'clock, and when they were in the tent was probably somewhere around 4. We had actually gone back there hoping to get one interview in particular, and that was Saint Asonia.
For those who don't know, Saint Asonia's frontman is the former front man of Three Days Grace. Adam Gontier's lyrics have always meant the world to me, and this was my chance to finally meet him and thank him for all he's done. It was also my dream interview.
I've lived in this town my whole life, and have always been involved with the radio stations, so a handful of the DJs know who I am. One in particular, Zito, has told me before if I needed help with anything, it didn't hurt to ask him. So after waiting in the tent for close to an hour, I asked if he knew when Saint Asonia would be in, and explained why.
Out of respect for the band, I'm not going to say exactly what he said, but I will say that he told me they would probably be back out around 5pm. We said alright, and decided to go get some water, and hang out for a bit before going back in there again.
When we went back in there, within minutes Avatar walked in. This is when I discovered the radio station was having some technical problems, and because of that, they weren't able to stream or do interviews. So, a lot of the bands were being told to go home (and by 'home', I mean their tour bus.) I did walk up to them though, and introduced myself. I actually wish I had gotten to do this interview because it would have been a first for me. I was going to wing their interview completely on the spot. But, I didn't get to because the radio station had to quick record something, and then they left.
That's okay though, that was just a small opportunity I wanted to try.
I sat back down and was talking to a friend of mine for a few more minutes when she all the sudden leans in and asks, "Hey, who's that? They're wearing Five Finger Death Punch merch." I said it could have just been fans, then turned around to see.
Now I had known Five Finger Death Punch was scheduled to do a meet and greet that day. My mom was originally going to go to it, but due to her health, the heat would have been too much for her. So, she opted out of the meet and greet, and was going to watch their performance later in the day. Due to the stress I had already gone through earlier in the day with the pass, I hand honestly completely forgotten about the meet and greet.
There was a crowd of people, so I couldn't see who she was talking about at first. Then Chris Kael, 5FDP's bassist, stepped out just a bit from the crowd and I knew who I was looking at. I mean, come on, how many people do you know with a dreaded beard that goes down their chest? He's the only one I can name.
I leaned into my friend and said, "That is Five Finger Death Punch!" And this may sound a bit fangirlish, but I took a picture and sent it to my mom with the caption, "I'M BY FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH." Excuse how it sounds and remember that they are my mom's favorite band, they mean the world to her. They speak to her, and she has two tattoos referencing "Remember Everything." She had made me promise that if I got anywhere near Five Finger Death Punch to show them her tattoos and tell them what they mean to her. I didn't think it was possible, but apparently things happen when you least expect it!
I'm not exactly what you would call a shy person. Actually, I'm far from it. I went up and asked the radio DJ if I could do the meet and greet for my mom since I was back there. He said "I don't see why not, but where's she?" I told him she was at home, and about the heat and he then said "Yes, of course." The moment I saw Chris Kael and Ivan Moody free of people, I walked right up to them -with a line of fans ready for a meet and greet watching it all. (5FDP fans can be aggressive, as I saw later, so this was a bit brave and in that second I didn't even think about that. I was just focused on talking to them for my mom, as I knew what it meant to her.)
Here's how it went; I walked up and for some reason tapped Chris on the shoulder, and said "Excuse me..." (Like I was trying to get help in the grocery store or something??) Chris looked over his shoulder and then lightly smacks Ivan and says, "Hey, we have a fan here."
They both turn to me and we all exchanged hellos. I then explained what they mean to my mom, as I was pulling up the pictures of her tattoos on my phone. I said something along the lines of, "Hey, my mom loves you guys, you mean a lot to her." Chris sort of smiled and goes, "Let me guess, your mom loves us -but you hate us?" I answered right away with, "Oh no, of course not! I love you guys too, but your lyrics really speak to my mom. To the point that she has two tattoos referencing you guys." This is when I showed them the pictures.
Ivan smiled and said "That's awesome!" And Chris instantly goes, "Hey, its Remember Everything!" I told him too that they were memorial tattoos for my great grandparents which they seemed to think was sweet. They both then go, 'Hey tell your mom we love her, and thank you."
What I didn't know is the girl who originally won the meet and greet, and gave it to my mom, saw me doing this and took some pictures. Which she promptly sent to my mom as this was going on. Thank you for that, Roxy, I appreciate that a lot. Especially because I thought I was recording the entire thing and apparently the camera wasn't recording.
Here is the picture Roxy took of me showing them her tattoos, and myself with Ivan and Chris. I didn't get a chance to talk to the other members, but they were all back there hanging out.
We finally gave up on meeting Saint Asonia, but I did discover that they had a signing earlier in the day. Sadly, I was covering Sevendust at the time, so I had no idea. But luckily, my boyfriend saw it and went to it. There he got me a copy of Saint Asonia's album signed by the entire band. He gave them all Immortal Music bracelets, and told Adam what he's done for me.
I admit, this is very bittersweet to me. On some level, I'm so grateful he went and did it when I wasn't able to. On another, I'm very sad that someone else did it for me. Plus, I actually almost walked away from Sevendust. Had I walked away, I could have met them. The reason I almost walked away was their bass was set just a little too high, and it was piercing my ears. It didn't help that the speakers were as big as I am, so I felt the bass through out my body and it was hurting my ears badly. I stuck it out though, since I was already there, and did get some great pictures.
Saturday really wasn't all that eventful. I only covered a few sets. Saint Asonia, Sevendust, Megadeth, A Day To Remember and Five Finger Death Punch. We left before Rob Zombie, due to the crowd and all of us being exhausted.
I had heard Five Finger Death Punch's fans were quite aggressive, but people don't always live up to their reputation. Sadly, in this case, they did. I had also heard similar things about A Day To Remember fans, and they played back to back. They both put on fantastic performances, and the crowds had not been bad t all. Until about half way through A Day To Remember's set.
All of the sudden, fights started breaking out, and people started being generally shitty to one another. Don't know what happened there, but clearly something.
None the less, I greatly enjoyed both bands, and I honestly must say performance wise, my favorite highlights from day one were Saint Asonia and A Day To Remember. I had never actually seen either one perform before, though I saw Adam with Three Days Grace two other times in the past. Five years had past since the last time, and he performs just as awesomely as he did in the past. I absolutely loved that they played "I Hate Everything About You." I got a semi crappy quality video of that song. I was having too much fun to keep the camera still...oops. I'm sorry! That's been one of my favorite songs for years, and it always reminds me of a very happy time with my best friend.
I also absolutely loved that A Day To Remember performed "Sometimes You're The Hammer, Sometimes You're the Nail" because I didn't even know they played that one live until they started playing it. I have a tattoo referencing that song, for those who didn't know. I was actually sitting on our blanket when it started playing and I instantly noticed and said, "I'll be right back...they're playing the song my tattoo is from" to my mom, who had just gotten there, and ran into the crowd. I have that on video too, but its not up yet. Stay tuned into the YouTube channel because there's still a few more videos yet to be uploaded that I will hopefully get up this weekend.
That's about all I have to say for day one. I enjoyed Five Finger Death Punch, but I was so tired by the time they got on that I kind of just chilled on the blanket during them. I was glad to be there though because it was my mom's last concert, and two of my friend's first concerts. The fact that I nearly fell asleep with Five Finger Death Punch not extremely far in front of me, and surely some mosh pits going on as well, says how tired I was.
Yet somehow I managed to get up and do it all again the next day. We actually went earlier on day one than we did on day two, though I admit, we all were a bit sluggish. I opted out of covering the first couple of bands just to get some more down time in because frankly -I was exhausted. A friend of mine showed up at my house a little after seven AM to help me put a new video editing program on the computer and give us plenty of time to get around before we had to leave. I felt a bit bad for him because I was not out of bed yet when he showed up, and promptly proceeded to curl up in the corner of my bed not saying much for twenty minutes as I woke up and scrolled through my phone.
But then he suggested Starbucks and that woke my ass up! We went down there and I almost instantly hit up the merch tent, and then we found a spot to lay out the blanket. I sat down with my friends for a bit, and then decided to go cover Asking Alexandria.
Honestly, I was quite impressed! I heard them live at Warped tour last year and admittedly was not impressed then, but I was with them on Sunday. And I got some great pictures of their set!
After that, I covered every set I could, except for Pennywise. During Pennywise, I decided to go into the media tent with a friend of mine who had never been to a show. We were hoping to meet someone, and hopefully get an interview, but nobody walked in while we were in there. Instead, we enjoyed some shade, a fan, and a good conversation with a bunch of other photographers and journalists.
I admit, I don't talk to many people who do what I do, so actually sitting down and chatting with people that fully understand everything. Also learned a few things about some venues around the state that I didn't know before. For venue privacy, I won't disclose where, but I will say I found it very interesting.
During the day, I covered the performances of Asking Alexandria, Pop Evil, Bullet For My Valentine, Sixx:A.M, 3 Doors Down, Bring Me The Horizon, Shinedown, and Disturbed.
Now let me say this -there is no other band like Shinedown. I will get into everyone else in a minute, but this is something I found to be very special. If you've seen Shinedown live, you know that at some point, Brent Smith has the crowd introduce themselves to those around them. He'll say something along the lines of "Look to your left, now look to your right. You may know these people, and you may have never seen them before. Introduce yourself." He likes having that camaraderie, and I've never seen any other band do this.
I've seen Shinedown live now four times, and they've done this every time. Normally though, its later in the set, I would say about half way through. But this time, he decided to do it just before the third song. I already forget what that was....I know the second was "If You Only Knew" but I can't remember what anyone played while I was in front of the barricade in full. I rarely do, I think I'm always too focused on the photos to notice that much, even if I'm singing along.
But I digress, here's what I thought was cool. As Brent had the crowd introduce themselves, he apparently decided he wanted to do it too. I was actually trying to take a picture of Zach, the band's guitarist at that second, and I saw Brent crouch down in the corner of my eye. Here's what I feel bad about because I think out of the twenty photographers, I think we all were looking away from him.
I finally looked over him and he just has this look on his face like, "Yes, hi. Hello. Someone notice I'm here." I had no idea what he wanted, so I just mouthed, "Hi, what do you want?' Why that is what came to my mind, I don't know. You would think given the fact that one of my favorite singers was crouched down three feet in front of me, my first reaction would have been to go over to him. Instead it was to question what the hell he was doing. Don't ask, I don't know.
By now a few of us had noticed, and he motioned like, "Hey, come here." So then I noticed what he wanted and went to shake his hand.
That sounds completely anti-climatic now that I have it written out, but it actually was so sweet because that was a first. I've never once had any band member acknowledge the photographers as people before. They usually barely notice us down there -which is totally understandable. They're doing their job, and we're doing ours. They're in a zone, and so are we, but that's also why I didn't notice him right away. But that's why this was so special. Normally, if they happen to notice photographers at all, they just smile or pose for a picture. Maybe wave. So having someone come down because they just wanted to say hi was something very unique and special.
I've said it before, and I shall say it again for those in the back. There's no other band like Shinedown!
Go see them live, I mean this. They're incredible live. Like I said, this was my fourth time seeing them live and I will definitely see them again. They never get old. Fun fact! They are the first band I've seen four times.
I also love their fan base, they're all so wonderful. I had a gentlemen hold my camera up for me, and stick right by me for safety during "Enemies" (That video will be up shortly), and I had a girl push me gently in front of her just because she saw that I couldn't see that well. Several helped me get closer, and one guy offered to put me on his shoulders. These are all just very nice strangers! Their fans are some of the sweetest people I've ever seen and I love it so much.
Rewind a bit to just before Shinedown for a minute though. And that was Bring Me The Horizon. I have a handful of things to say about them, starting with the fact that they were amazing live! Given, I am a big fan of their newer music (Sempiternal and That's The Spirit), so the fact that they only played stuff from those two albums made me very happy. They put on a fantastic show, and frankly, I would love to see them again.
That being said, I have never seen a crowd get that dangerous before. Yeah there were the mosh pits, and Oli did call for a Wall Of Death (another thing I had never witnessed in person before), but I think that was the least of the danger, oddly. On the final song, "Drown", Oli told the crowd that he had cleared it with security and wanted people to crowd surf to him for a high five. Instantly a few people got up, but then it became like a fountain of people because he added, "And you will get a backstage pass if you do."
You know damn good and well nobody got a backstage pass. Some people technically ended up back there -unconscious. I saw a man who had to have been 6'3 come out of that crowd completely knocked out, and upside down -who had definitely crowd surfed.
There were so many injured people, all of us photographers had to run through the festival to go cover Shinedown because they were still pulling people out when we had to get over there. I've never seen that happen at any other show, and they were still pulling people out two songs into Shinedown's performance.
It looked cool from the safety of a table in the VIP section, but it just was a bit much. That being said I honestly did love their performance. They played all of my favorite songs by them, and the energy the crowd had was just incredible. I actually got a couple of videos during their set, including "Drown", if you're interested. Drown is just below, but I also got a joint video of "Antivist" and "Throne" together. You can watch that right here if you're interested.
Pretty much all of day two was spent running back and forth from covering performances and sitting with friends. I fully admit though, I was awake but maybe not all present until Bring Me The Horizon got on the stage. I was having fun all day but I think my energy actually came to me right when they took the stage.
I was having fun for most of the day, but I honestly enjoyed the last three bands more than anything all day. I just talked about Shinedown and BMTH, and that now bring me to Disturbed. Before I talk about them though, here's the pictures from Shinedown and BMTH's sets that I really liked in particular.
Now I will get onto Disturbed. Disturbed is one of those band's I've liked for a while but never full on loved. Obviously because of their massive success they've had with every album, I've had a respect for them. I mean -four out of their five albums have DEBUTED at number 1, and even the one that didn't has gone platinum like four times over. If you don't respect that, there's something wrong with you.
I digressed again, sorry! Any way, what I was going to say is I wouldn't say I'm a massive fan of Disturbed, though I do enjoy them. So, I was actually a bit indifferent about seeing them live. I wanted to cover them very badly, because of how well loved they are, but performance wise, I wasn't expecting to be impressed.
Always expect the unexpected, folks.
I've been to a lot of shows, and frankly have never seen ANYTHING quite like Disturbed. I can't fully explain it, but there was something about their energy and the whole vibe. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that its been years since Disturbed has performed anywhere, and possibly 10 years since they've been in my area, but there was just an infectious vibe in the area that you had to love. It was so awesome hearing 20,000 people screaming the lyrics to so many songs like "Stupify", "The Game", "Down With The Sickness", and so many more.
Also, if anyone can look like a God (possibly the devil if you would prefer that) its David Draiman with red light behind him. I mean look at this!
There's honestly only one way to describe Disturbed live and that was badass.
Over all, the experience was pretty awesome! Would I do a two day festival again? I honestly don't know. Right now, I'm saying no, unless I am absolutely dying to see all of both days, because I feel like having that much down time on day one kind of set me up for more exhaustion for day two. Had we been able to control what happened, I would have put day two as day one, because then I would have been moving non stop basically all day, and then been able to still be there but relax on day two.
With the way it was, I had too much time where I was sitting down, so I got tired. I mean, you're going to be tired no matter what, I think I would have preferred it the way I just described.
Still over all a great experience, and I honestly had a lot of fun doing all the preview content as well. Well over 100 reviews were written in four months, all of which were regarding the festival. Along with that were biographies for all of the artists, and a bunch of news!
Hopefully you guys enjoyed it, and be sure to go check out all of the pictures over on Facebook! I'm still working on uploading the last few videos, and will be back with you guys very shortly with an update regarding the website!
Stay tuned because I plan on taking a short little break just to have some down time and everything and then will be back with all new content. I plan on attempting a new series and making some changes!
If you have any suggestions, comments or questions, please feel free to ask anywhere! I love to hear your feedback.
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