FESTIVAL REVIEW: LOUDER THAN LIFE Live At Champions Park, Louisville
On an extremely hot and humid night in July of 1980, with temperatures pushing way over 90 degrees, four of us crammed into a Honda Civic, crossed the border into the United States and headed down to Ohio. Our destination… the Toledo Speedway Jam featuring Heart, The Joe Perry Project, Blackfoot, and my first exposure to summer concert festivals. Cell Phones, Instagram, the Internet and more importantly bottled water didn’t even exist back then, 20,000 people shared what seemed like only 5 porta-johns, and the line-ups for $5 cokes and $10 hot dogs stretched for miles. People baked in the summer sun with little or no place to take refuge from the sun-scorched black top.
Fast-forward 35 years and Dan Wimmer Presents has taken the experience to a whole different level. Producing 14 festivals in 13 cities annually, I can attest that they are first-class all the way, and this past weekend’s show in Louisville, Kentucky – Louder Than Life – was no exception.
Multi-platinum headliners Korn, Slipknot, Disturbed, and Slayer capped the 39 acts featured at the festival. The three stages were complemented with near-perfect sound and a height that allowed everyone to enjoy the show. For those not front and center, Wimmer placed LED screens throughout the park and big-screen TVs in the bar areas, so no one missed one beat of the action. Once again, an added expense to Wimmer, but a tribute to his dedication to the quality of these events. Supporting the main line was a group of acts including old-schoolers Cheap Trick, Zakk Sabbath and Alter Bridge, plus up-and-comers like Them Evils, I Prevail, and Crobot. The festival was truly a worldwide event with acts coming from England, Wales, Canada, Sweden, Australia and more.
However,the musical acts were just the tip of the festival iceberg. There was gourmet food that spanned the entire realm of worldwide cuisine, with price levels less than that of a Big Mac Combo. The restroom facilities were both abundant AND clean, with this journalist never having to wait more than about 30 seconds for an open opportunity. Wimmer knows that the food and beverage side of a festival is not just a sideline service, but is a very big factor in the overall experience of attending the show. When was the last time you walked into the bar area of a festival and saw chandeliers hanging from the roof of the tent? With over 150 bartenders on site, the service was quick and the drinks flowed. The bar areas were huge, and allowed everyone and anyone to get a break from the sun. Complementing them were leather couches, picnic tables, fresh flowers, oak barrels, and even a barber shop! As the sun set on the horizon, the park took on a glow as neon lighting took over. Gone were the days of old, where you had to stumble around in pitch-black, replaced by nicely lit trees and well-marked pathways.
Looking for the latest in metal swag, the vendor area featured so much more than the usual basic assortment of t-shirts, hoodies, and hats. How about a fully interactive music tent where you could get your hands on the latest equipment from the likes of Fender, Ibanez, Eventide, and more ?
Monster Energy was there offering up free samples, and this writer is now hooked on the new GRONK flavour! Jack Daniels, Miller Lite, and Falls City Beer each had fan experience areas the size of small cities.
With names like Black Rock Grill, Cravin Cajun, Longshot Lobsta and Holy Mole, you knew your taste buds were in for a treat in the food area. More than just the assortment, I was truly impressed by the cost factor associated with the food. Every vendor was more than generous in their portion size and well within reason in what they charged.
While most promoters will charge fans over $100 for a 30-second meet-and-greet at a gig, this festival was full of stars walking through the crowd signing autographs, taking selfies, and enjoying the experience right along side their loyal base of fans. The FYE tent featured a never ending, revolving line of musicians signing just about anything and everything a fan had to offer up.
Yes, this event was more than just the acts themselves. It was about watching Corey Taylor jump on stage with Korn, watching a sea of surfers ranging in age from pre-pubescent to post-grandma (including Louder favorite Abby McCormick in her wheelchair), meeting new friends, watching security make sure each surfer has a soft landing while protecting those at the rail, and watching Clay Busch and his team operate on little or no sleep to ensure EVERYTHING went smooth as silk. It was about life, our generation’s Woodstock, and a weekend that will live in our memories forever.
If you weren’t lucky enough to attend this or any of the numerous other summer festivals, mark your calendar now, add tickets to your Christmas wish list, do whatever it takes, but most of all make sure you get your ass there and enjoy the experience of a lifetime.