This weekend is one of my favorite weekends of the year. My first outdoor festival. It’s a sign that winter is behind us and us Minnesotans can enjoy the next three months before we all hunker down at home again due to the cold. (Okay, maybe we get longer than three months but it’s not much more than that.) Northern Invasion started today in Somerset, Wisconsin and I was excited just to get out, enjoy some great music, and soak up as much sun as a ginger comfortably can.
The day started off strong with locals Cold Kingdom on one of the two side stages. Although early in the day, the crowd clearly didn’t have conserving energy in mind as they exploded at the same time the band took the stage. I wasn’t surprised by the response what with how big of a deal Cold Kingdom is becoming (they’re one of those bands that can barely be considered local at this point) more surprised by how willing the quickly growing crowd was to crowd surf and dance their way through the short set.
As the crowd shifted to the other side stage right next door, Big Story kicked into their explosive set. I recently caught these guys and, although not my cup of key, there’s no denying the vocal power of this band. I loved the way that their energy translated into an outdoor festival. It was intense and full of charisma but wasn’t over the top. It was more than enough to turn the heads of the thousands of people streaming into the festival grounds but didn’t seem overdone. This is one band that I definitely have my eye on.
Grandson was the first act to take the main stage. I was instantly struck by the difference in genre. With more reggae and hip hop influences than the rest of the primarily metal and hard rock lineup- Grandon didn’t hold back and gave the crowd all that he had. It was music that made you want to move and groove and that’s exactly what I found myself doing.
After a quick jaunt to the side stages, I was able to catch a wee but from Dube. Unfortunately, due to sound issues, Dube was forced to kill some time but they did it in the best way possible. They treated the crowd to a guitar-less cover of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’. Although it was a bummer that they weren’t able to use guitars, the band gave their all when it came to the “air guitar fuckery”. The crowd cheered as the sound came back on and the band was actually able to play. Counterfeit played on the stage next to Dube and brought with them their signature vocals. Out of all of the bands today, I think it’s easy to say the the three and four part harmonies this band brought with them could make them one of the most impressive bands on this lineup vocally.
The Bronx was one of my more anticipated acts of the weekend. The second they took the main stage I was reminded why I fell so deeply in love with this group. Their unique brand of almost hardcore mixed with old school punk was exactly what I needed to help get me through the afternoon lull. With a sense of power and control of both stage and crowd, The Bronx’s set was definitely a highlight of the day for me.
St. Croix Casino Stage
Photos by Vito Ingerto
Staying in the hardcore vein of things, the next band I caught was Stick to Your Guns. Having always caught these guys in super intimate venues, I was a bit worried what would happen when playing a giant outdoor fest like this. I worry too much. Much like The Bronx, Stick to Your Guns effortlessly commanded crowd and stage. Even though they are one of the odd guys out what with their hardcore vibes, they got the respect that they deserve and that made me so happy to see.
After a quick bite to eat, it was time for more music. Although I missed most of Black a Stone cherry, their southern rock sound was impossible to ignore. It stood out from the rest of the lineup yet somehow fit perfectly. It was the perfect soundtrack for my walk to the side stage to catch the last part of Ded’set. Eddie one of those bands with alive show that makes you drop everything and pay attention. Although I only caught a couple of songs, I was once again blown away by the electricity in the air as they played.
Bud Lite Stage
Photos by Vito Ingerto
Up next was one of the main reasons for my excitement about going to this festival. senses Fail is one of those bands that has always been with me. They have grown up with me and have sang some of the songs that have try had the biggest impact on my life. As the band kicked into their all too short set, the raindrops started to fall from the sky adding a whole new vibe to the crowd. There was a sense of excitement as if waiting for the rain to become hard and j tense. Although that never happened, the excitement in the crowd was off the charts. The moment that singer buddy jumped from the stage to the top of the crowd was just one of the my exclamation points in an amazing set. Even with a new album out, Senses Fail did a great job of playing the old hits that a whole generation grew up worshiping.
I Prevail was next to conquer the main stage and conquer they did. With an impressive powerful sound that matched the extreme energy, I Prevail’s set was clearly a highlight for many people in attendance.
The next two acts to take over the side stages were Miss May I and Butcher Babies. Much like all of the other acts that graced these smaller side stage, I could easily see either of these acts take over the mainstage with ease. Miss May I brought their signature brutality to their short thirty minute set. The powerful punch they packed in such a short time was truly impressive. Same with The Butcher Babies. Although I have my own personal thoughts on this band that are not all nice, there’s no denying that this group instantly captivated the always moving crowd and had thousands of people in the palm of their hands throughout their quick set.
After a quick drink, it was back to the main stage for the highly anticipated A Perfect Circle. Fronted by Maynard Keenan (who I will be seeing again tomorrow night in his other project Tool), APC is one of those bands with a very cult like following. Although I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan and I couldn’t sing along to every word like the majority of the crowd was doing, it was impossible not to get wrapped up in the excitement that was in the air.
Monster Energy Stage
Photos by Vito Ingerto
My final hike over to the side stages was to see Parkway Drive and Atreyu. Both bands lean further into the metalcore scene than majority of the rest of the bands but that seemed to truly delight the crowd. Although the main headliner was due to take the big stage in just a small amount of time, there were thousands of people at these side stages to support these heavy hitting bands.
Closing out night one of Northern Invasion was the one and only Avenged Sevenfold. Although I’m not a die hard fan, this is a band I have been wanting to see. All of the hype and whispers about how great their live show is came true within the first song. With high energy and a feeling of just having fun, Avenged Sevenfold instantly proved why they deserved this headlining slot. Their set was complete with balls of flames and the occassional firework as if to give the drunks passed out in the field a warning of, “Hey! Time to get up!” Even though the crowd was visibly exhausted and some far too drunk to even call what they were doing a ‘stumble’, everyone was having the time of their lives singing along to Avenged Sevenfold’s anthemic hard rock songs.
I’m exhausted, way more sunburnt than I thought I would be, and my legs feel like mush. Now excuse me while I pass out for five hours just to wake up and do it all again!