Rock On The Range 2017 wasn’t what everyone had hoped for. A weekend that was supposed to be the biggest and best Rock On The Range yet, came up short. Burdened by the death of Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell on Thursday, the festival was already facing challenges before it even started.
Friday kicked off with bands such as Beartooth, Thrice and I Prevail. The crowd at each stage seemed to enjoy the start of the weekend as much as they could. Friday afternoon though, there were two things on everyone’s minds. The first question was, what would the festival do to fill Soundgarden’s headlining slot? Second, would the weather forecast be correct? The second question was answered first. Before Of Mice & Men took the main stage, the entire stadium was evacuated due to weather conditions. At the time, there was no rain and the skies were clear. The evacuation was strictly a precaution taken by the festival. Once everyone was cleared out, the weather took a turn for the worse and the storm rolled in. People either went to their cars or headed to one of the buildings across the street for cover. For some though, it was a chance to leave and go grab a bite to eat.
The festival did a great job posting updates on its Facebook page during the storm. Doors reopened Friday around 7 PM and Nita Strauss of Alice Cooper’s band kicked things off with the National Anthem. Luckily for fans, Of Mice & Men, Motionless In White, Bush, Chevelle and the rest of Friday’s lineup all got to play. Some of them had their sets cut short a song or two but that certainly didn’t bother anyone. Gojira, who still played, almost had to cancel due to their gear getting wet from the storm. Throughout the day, bands were dedicating their sets and certain songs to Cornell who seemed to influence every band there in one way or another. The best tribute to the Soundgarden frontman was Live’s cover of “I Am The Highway,” which was an Audioslave song. Ed Kowalczyk, the lead singer of Live, did a phenomenal job and may have done the best tribute of the weekend. The night ended with a special memorial montage for Chris Cornell. Going into the early hours of Saturday morning with an extended curfew, the vocals of Chris Cornell singing “Black Hole Son,” could probably be heard for miles. The memorial also featured Stone Sour members, Corey Taylor and Christian Martucci. The two of them preformed acoustic versions of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and Temple of the Dog’s “Hunger Strike.” After the two songs, they walked off stage and another video played on the big screens to close out the night.
The start of day 2 was delayed because of weather threats once again. The doors opened briefly before Fire From the Gods and One Less Reason took the Zippo and Bud Light Stages. None of the bands got to play though because of the evacuation. Fans who weren’t inside yet couldn’t enter and the fans inside couldn’t leave. Everyone inside at the time were told to stay under cover. So instead of starting at 11:45 AM, the festival kicked off at 2 PM. The day went smoothly from the new starting time. The stand-out bands of the day were Skillet, Alter Bridge, In Flames, The Offspring and Korn. Alter Bridge dedicated their song “Blackbird” to Chris Cornell and it was a powerful performance. Jumping ahead to Korn’s set, which didn’t start until 10:15PM, it was certainly a heavy one. The band came out on stage with “Right Now” and “Here To Stay.” The crowd was going absolutely nuts during this set. When Korn played “Shoots and Ladders” with Metallica’s “One” at the end, it was a sign of how crazy Sunday night would be. Unfortunately, after “Blind,” Korn had to end their set due to another storm coming in. The storm didn’t hit for at least a half hour or more after fans left. If the band had followed previous sets, fans missed “Falling Away From Me” and “Freak On A Leash.” It really sucked to have such an awesome setlist cut short. Fans leaving Saturday night were extremely frustrated and disappointed.
The final day of Rock On The Range seemed doomed because of another day of storms. Fortunately, the weather cooperated and everything started on time. As Lions was one of the opening bands on the Zippo stage and they’re commanded it like veterans. The Monster Energy main stage was packed on the final day. Both Rival Sons and Nothing More were absolutely incredible. Biffy Clyro was a pleasant surprise for fans who had never heard the band. The Zippo stage was also stacked on Sunday. After As Lions, bands such as Dorothy, Radkey and Dinosaur Pile Up played. The last three bands on the Zippo stage were heavy hitters though. Zakk Sabbath, which is Zakk Wylde’s Black Sabbath cover band, was awesome. Only downfall was that Zakk drags the songs out too much with his guitar solos. This lead them to only have time for 5 songs, which wasn’t enough Sabbath. The Dillinger Escape Plan and Amon Amarth both put on awesome shows that include a viking ship and an on stage battle for Amon Amarth.
The Pretty Reckless, who’s lead by Taylor Momsen, performed a cover of Audioslave’s “Like A Stone” during their set. This acoustic version of the Cornell’s Audioslave classic was incredibly moving. It was definitely nice to see the bands at Rock On The Range not pick the Soundgarden hits to cover. Primus was one of the bands no one should have missed on Sunday. Les Claypool was very entertaining to say the least. The frontman talked about going to school with Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett and buying weed from him. This surely made Kirk laugh, who was watching the set with Jose Mangin of SiriusXM. Also spotted watching Primus was Metallica’s James Hetfield.
When Volbeat took the stage, rumors were making their way around the sold-out crowd that another evacuation was possible. Mother Nature just didn’t want MAPFRE stadium to enjoy a day of music without disruptions. Volbeat made it through 8 songs of their set before there was a delay. Luckily the stadium didn’t get evacuated, but the show was delayed for an hour. The majority of fans found cover under the stadium seats to keep dry as possible. For others, they weren’t losing their spots for Metallica. Some fans in the front row who had been at their spot since 11AM weren’t leaving no matter what. This one hour rain delay was probably the worst weather of the weekend. The clouds were practically black, it was lighting and absolutely pouring to say the least. Even with ponchos on, everyone was soaked. For some reason instead of ending Volbeat 2 songs short and just setting up for Metallica, Volbeat came out an hour later to play “Lola Montez” and “Still Counting.” If Korn had to be cut short a few songs, they should have done the same for Volbeat to help save time.
So instead of Metallica coming on stage at 8:45PM, it was a start time of almost 10PM. Metallica didn’t mess around at all and was there to kick everyone’s ass. There was no way Metallica wouldn’t save the weekend. With an 18 song setlist that featured “Creeping Death,” “Harvester of Sorrow,” “Welcome Home (Sanitarium),” “Whiplash,” and “Blackened,” it couldn’t have been any better. They still played their classics like “One,” “Master of Puppets,” etc. which were great for first timers. When the storm was thought to be over, the rain came back during “Seek & Destroy.” That didn’t stop Hetfield and the rest of Metallica from finishing the rest of the night strong. The set was accompanied with pyro blasts from behind the main stage during certain songs and it ended with an awesome fireworks display.
Even with the unfortunate death of Chris Cornell and awful weather, rangers weren’t deterred from having fun. There was a constant see of crowd surfers all weekend and plenty of people who had too much to drink. Hopefully next year’s Rock On The Range has better luck and can book another kick-ass lineup.