Rock Allegiance 2017: Live At BB&T Pavilion, Camden, NJ


On a perfect autumn day in October, the 3rd annual Rock Allegiance Festival rolled into BB&T Pavilion & Wiggins Waterfront Park in Camden NJ and over 20,000 rock and metal fans took in a great one-day event. Twenty bands played on three stages while fans of all ages enjoyed food and a fun atmosphere that included a riverside view of Philadelphia and a great VIP area on a real Navy battleship!

The venue was pretty spread out with a lot of parking since there were actually two sports venues next to each other. The main stage in the pavilion was huge and the sound was fairly good the entire day. It only felt like a marathon toward the end of the day when the troop to the second the second stage was worth it but tiresome. On the other hand the second stage was a backdrop for some of the most dramatic moments of the fest. The third stage was solid, and closer to the main part of the venue. It was cool to be a fest with a great big diverse crowd that seemed to really support most of the bands, not just their favorites.

The fans were greeted in early day by New Years Day and He is Legend. Ded and Black Map played on the third stage, but they seemed to have a presence that was too big for the side stage. Black Map really put on a great show and got one of the first mosh pits of the day for their single ‘Run Rabbit Run’.

 

After we hit up the press room and did an interview, I saw the best set of the day in my opinion. Watching Greta Van Fleet on the second stage for the first time was a revelation. Mature beyond their years, not adhering to any kind of pop format, the band jammed hard, and had the crowd wrapped around their fingers. If you are looking for the next great American rock band, these young men are it. They could be headlining festivals like this someday, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least.

Other bands on the bill like Beartooth, Starset and August Burns Red played on the side stages to full crowds. The real eclecticism of the lineup shown through in acts like these.

What really sets apart festivals like Rock Allegiance, and other rock and metals fests is the top of the bill. Few other fests can really pull a collection of top-level headline bands like Rock Allegiance can. It’s the trademark of fests by Danny Wimmer Presents to bring out the top talent over and over again. The value of seeing 4-6 bands that could headline on their own, in this case the final acts of this day is major, in an era when acts are hanging it up, and there are fewer bankable stars than before.

In This Moment was the first real standout band of the main stage, with Maria Brink having as many costume changes as songs they played. Dialing the theatrics up to 11, In This Moment played a lot of material from their new album Ritual (Roadrunner). Mastodon has been crushing it all year with their new full-length Emperor of Sand (Reprise) likely to win a lot of album of the year honors, and their new EP Cold Dark Place, the band has no shortage of fresh material. With their sick musicianship and their mind-warping stage show, Mastodon almost stole the entire day as the best band present.

Not to be outdone, Gojira closed the second stage with crushing effect. Playing in nighttime darkness, with an insane light show and smoke blasts, Gojira almost felt like the extreme metal version of the big spectacle type of set you might get from KISS or Motley Crue. Musically they were tight as can be and controlled the crowd effortlessly. Not ten feet away from my vantage point, Bran from Mastodon and John from Baroness watched the set together and nodded in agreement at how awesome they were. Gojira might be one of the few bands capable of picking up the mantle of headlining these festivals in the USA soon like they do in Europe already.

Halestorm was next on the main stage and they came to rock faces off. Lzzy Hale was just awesome as she led the band and the audience through a set of hit after hit song. Based on the sing-along quotient of the crowd, it was plain to see their heads were in the building. The entire band was killer, but none more so than Arejay Hale on the drums who did an awesome drum solo/mini-cover set/comedy act that had us all dying from laughter. Halestorm is one of the best bands to see at a festival, and they too should be headlining some of these things soon.

Five Finger Death Punch had a lot of people curious about how they would do on this night since this was one of their first shows back with Ivan Moody back on the road. For their part… the band was tight and Ivan showed no rust at all. Ivan is kind of like a jokey ringmaster of sorts, quipping with the crowd, poking fun at himself, and putting on a good show. The band was big on highlights with guest performances from Maria Brink and Brent Hinds coming out to perform with them. Somehow a fight broke out in the mosh pit and someone did get in with a switchblade knife, but he was immediately apprehended by security and tossed out. Aint nobody got time for weapons at Rock Allegiance, man. I will say security seemed overprotective, cautious and very tight all day, so I have no idea how that guy got a knife in. Anyway, we moved on with the rest of our night after that. Always a highlight of every FFDP show: the band will do a special tribute to American soldiers worldwide, and also when they bring little children on stage. Really cool stuff that a lot of other bands could learn a thing, or two from.

We waited around to see and hear Rob Zombie bring it on home for us tonight. I had seen Rob over the summer at Chicago Open Air, and he was great so my hopes¬†were up high for another good time. I much prefer RZ live to his records, and tonight as no different. Something about the stage brings the animal out of Rob and his killer band of John 5, Ginger Fish, and Piggy D. They played mostly the hits, a few deep cuts, and shared a real spectacle visually, which is what we’ve come to expect.

Until next time rock fans!

WORDS BY KEITH CHACHKES

PHOTOS BY OMAR CORDY/OJC PHOTOGRAHPY/HEATHER WILKERSON PHOTOGRAPHY