May 15th, 2016
1500 miles traveled. 2 days. 42 days bands. 3 stages. 24 hours of rock and metal.
Disturbed, Korn, Bring Me the Horizon, Seether, Sixx:A.M., Pop Evil, Sevendust
Ghost, Hellyeah, Saint Asonia, Trivium, Red Sun Rising, Audiotopsy, Silver Snakes
Butcher Babies, Beartooth, The Glorious Sons, From Ashes to New, Lacey Sturm, Andrew Watt, City Of the Weak
While it wouldn’t be easy to top the massive crowd size, titanic sounds and bombastic bands from Northern Invasion’s 1st day of the 2016 festival, tens of thousands of fans were going to give it their best.
Let’s talk about the 3rd stage first.
Local musicians City Of the Weak would open the festival’s 3rd stage. Vocalist Stef Huschka used the band’s time on stage to work the early crowd into a frenzy. CotW put on an amazing show, and I’m honestly shocked they’re not a national touring band at this point.
Sadly, I missed Andrew Watt’s performance. Several people I spoke with at the barricade said that the singer/song writer put on a great show.
The only part about Northern Invasion that I didn’t like were the set times for the 2nd and 3rd stages. Both firing off at the same time meant some of us would have to pick between which band we wanted to see more. But the distance made it relatively easy for photographers to shoot the first song of one band’s set, sprint across the field to the other stage, and make it with enough time to photograph the other band as well.
The artist I was most excited to see would be up next on the 3rd stage. I’ve been a fan of Lacey Sturm’s for over a decade. It broke my heart when she left Flyleaf. Thankfully, Lacey decided to return to touring after the release of full length solo debut. Seeing Sturm on stage without her Flyleaf family was a bit odd at first, but her dedication to fans showed clearly the moment she stepped on stage. Sturm’s powerful voice carried across the field, and was loud enough that those standing in front of the main stage said they could clearly hear her singing.
The amount of energy that Lacey puts into her solo shows rivals that of her time with Flyleaf. We could all tell how much she loved be on stage with Flyleaf, but today’s show surpassed that. She truly looked like she was at home. I’m sure having her husband, Joshua Sturm, in her band, and her two young sons watching from the side helped.
Sturm hammered through 4 tracks off of her solo release (Impossible, Soldier, I’m Not Laughing, Rot), and a cover of The Police’s Roxanne, before finally addressing the crowd. “This next song, I wrote a very long time ago. It was during a time when I was thinking of suicide, but found hope in our Savior, Jesus Christ.” All Around Me was the only Flyleaf track that would be performed in its entirety. Sturm then thanked the crowd for sharing this time with her, and sticking with her even after parting ways with Flyleaf.
“I couldn’t leave out the fans of my older stuff with Flyleaf,” she told several thousand screaming fans. To end her set, Sturm would perform a medley of Flyleaf tracks (I’m So Sick, Fully Alive, Call You Out) that included her cover of How He Loves. Of all the artists who would perform at Northern Invasion’s 2 day festival, it was Lacey Sturm’s set that was the loudest. I’ve never seen more people singing along with an artist before. Every single word. Sturm used her music to embrace us, and we welcomed her with open arms.
Because of time conflicts, I was unable to see From Ashes to New or The Glorious Sons. People that I spoke with said each band was amazing in their own rights though. We wouldn’t expect anything less.
Up next were Beartooth. The band, formed by Caleb Shomo in Columbus, Ohio in 2012, was listed on numerous up-and-coming watch lists, and highly praised by Corey Taylor of Slipknot. If Sturm’s performance was one of the most inspirational of the day, Beartooth’s was the loudest. Because of timing, I was only able to stay for one song, but these guys know how to rock a crowd. Definitely one of the heaviest performances of the day.
As much as I wanted to see Butcher Babies shred into their headlining slot of the 3rd stage, I wasn’t able to. I was able to chat with Carla and Heidi after their set though, and the ladies said it was one of the better festivals that they’ve played. “It looked like one big swirling moshpit,” Heidi told me. I’m sorry I missed seeing that.
Northern Invasion’s 2nd stage for Day 2 was just as packed as the 1st day’s was.
Silver Snakes, who would end up on the Nocturnal Underground Tour with Korn and Breaking Benjamin in the fall of 2016, opened the 2nd day’s events.
Audiotopsy, whom I’d seen a few days prior opening for P.O.D., were one of the band’s I was most excited to see. Even though the band itself is relatively new, it’s members are all veterans to the music scene, and their stage presence proved that. Without a doubt, their set today was one of my favorites.
I wasn’t able to make it for Red Sun Rising, but I wasn’t going to miss Trivium. Forming in Orlando, Florida in 1999, the band signed with Roadrunner Records in 2004 and have since released seven studio albums. Trivium never fails to bring the metal to whichever stage these guys play. Vocalist Matt Heafy is amazing to watch on stage. This guy knows how to pull double duty, vocals and guitars, and work the crowd into a frenzied mosh.
Saint Asonia would be taking the stage next. Another “super-group” to enter the music scene in the past few years, Saint Asonia features members of Three Days Grace, Staind and Finger Eleven. Having decades of combined experience, Saint Asonia put on an amazing set. The band’s 6 song set featured original songs, and one track each from Staind and Three Days Grace. Addressing the crowd, vocalist Adam Gontier made it a point to add that they “don’t play covers. We play songs we wrote.” Regardless of what Saint Asonia played, the crowd’s reaction was nothing less than stellar.
Hellyeah would be follow, but sadly their set wouldn’t last long. Hammering through 4 of their heaviest tracks, the crowd’s reaction was nothing short of brutal. Hellyeah have always given 100% of themselves into each of their sets, whether it’s an opening slot, or a headlining gig. Sadly though technical difficulties forced the band to end their set midway through Human, the 5th song of their set. Ironically, the same issues happened the day before during the band’s Rockfest KC set.
As the seething masses shifted once more, tens of thousands gathered in front of the second stage for one of the most talked about bands of 2016. Ghost were about to perform.
Thousands of fans yearned for absolution, and Ghost did not disappoint. Focusing on tracks from their most recent release, Meliora, the Grammy nominated band selected fan favorites from each of their full length releases for their Northern Invasion setlist.
While a festival setting meant a shorter set for Ghost, the band still hammered through 8 of their heaviest tracks. Papa Emiritus, addressing the crowd, put our minds at ease and told us the band would be back on the road soon enough and promised a full set the next time they were in the area. Headlining the second stage meant the band would be playing at dusk. Their time slot gave them the opportunity to better incorporate the purple, red and green stage lights that had gone relatively unnoticed during the day’s performances. Seeing Ghost play in an outdoor setting was completely different from an indoor concert. Both are equally impressive. Ghost were the perfect choice to close out the second stage on Northern Invasion’s 2nd day.
Swinging back to Northern Invasion’s main stage, Sunday morning would be kicked off by Sevendust. While I questioned why a band who’s been around for almost 2 decades would open the festival’s Main Stage, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Sevendust are the kind of band to wake us the fuck up.
Vocalist Lajon Witherspoon paced the stage and worked the early morning crowd into a frenzy. The band’s short set was more than enough to hype the crowd, and prime us for what was about to come.
Michigan’s Pop Evil were up next. I’m going to be honest with you, Pop Evil’s set was the most disappointing of the entire festival for me. While the band’s stage presence was great, and they played the tracks that the fans wanted to hear, it was blatantly obvious that vocalist Leigh Kakaty was lip-syncing to prerecorded tracks. I’ve seen almost a thousand difference performances from hundreds of bands, some of which I know sing along with backing tracks, but to my knowledge I’ve never witnessed an entire lip-synced set before. The disappointing part is that I’m sure none of the thousands of people in the crowd knew what was going down on stage. It really makes me wonder if any of Pop Evil’s members were actually playing their instruments live on stage.
Another super-group playing Northern Invasion, Los Angeles’ Sixx:A.M. were a welcome return back to what authentic rock music should be about. Sixx:A.M. were born to rock the festival scene. Loud. Sexy. Zero Fucks Given. Nikki Sixx brought together a great group of musicians.
Midway through the day, Seether would be taking the stage next. I’m still thankful that the band has found the perfect combination of talent and drive to maintain a career through two decades. Even after so many years, vocalist and founder, Shaun Morgan still looks humbled and appreciative while on stage. Morgan’s vocals were strong as ever as the band smashed through their 10 song set. It was amazing to hear thousands of fans singing along with Morgan, the height of which was an almost a Capella version of Broken.
Northern Invasion’s European invasion continued with England’s Bring Me the Horizon. While the band’s set was brutal and stirred up the largest mosh pit’s of the day, it was vocalist Oliver Sykes’ attitude that ruined their set for me. Syke’s, wearing a Bernie Sander’s t-shirt, seemed a bit full of himself on stage. Regardless, Bring Me the Horizon got the best reaction of out the Generation Y members of the crowd, and honestly did put on an amazing set.
After Ghost closed out Northern Invasion’s 2nd stage, and Butcher Babies the 3rd stage, all attention was now focused on the Main Stage and the two bands left to perform.
Were the crowd ready for Northern Invasion to be over? Far from it. Were we ready for Korn and Disturbed? Without a doubt.
Having just over two decades of touring experience under their belts, Korn have perfected their live show. The band’s physical set wasn’t lavish. A black backdrop with the band’s logo in white enough. It wasn’t until the dusk became to creep over the valley during the band’s performance of Hater that the light show was used to it’s fullest.
Korn’s set was nothing short of spectacular. For over an hour, the band reminded us how relevant their music is even after two decades. The band didn’t focus on any specific era from their extensive musical catalogue, instead they chose to focus on what the fans wanted to hear, selecting tracks from almost each of their albums.
Korn’s 15 song set featured some of the heaviest tracks from the band’s extensive catalogue. Each track played was a fan favorite that pushed the crowd to the edge of insanity. Moving to the top of the valley, over-looking tens of thousands of fans, it was inspiring to see so many people loosing themselves to Korn’s music. The mosh-pit during Faget, a song I never thought I’d hear performed live, was one of the largest I’d seen this weekend. The energy that Korn shared with their fans made sure no one would ever forget about their Northern Invasion set.
As darkness had already enveloped the amphitheater, Disturbed were heralded to the stage to close our the best two consecutive days many of us would have all year. Disturbed, on the road touring in support of their latest release, Immortalized, would be having a come-back after a 5 year hiatus.
Once taking the stage, Disturbed wasted no time firing up the crowd. Literally. The band’s 14 song set included tracks from each of their releases and a medley of covers from Nine Inch Nails, U2, The Who, and Rage Against the Machine. Disturbed’s Northern Invasion set would also be the only time on their Immortalized tour to have the cover’s medley in the setlist. The band utilized a dazzling light show and massive pyrotechnics to enhance their set. After a full day of rock and heavy metal, it seemed like the fans weren’t about to let up.
Sadly, nothing good lasts forever, and Disturbed’s amazing hour and a 30 minute set seemed to go by too quickly. Northern Invasion was coming to an end. Thankfully thought, Disturbed know the right way to close out a festival.
The memories that tens of thousands of people made over a long weekend would fill our social media and make for some amazing stories to tell our friends that couldn’t make the journey with us. Northern Invasion 2016 would go down in my books as the best festival I’ve ever attended.
Do yourselves a favor and don’t miss out in 2017.