Yesterday, I drove out to what appeared to be no man’s land in Big Flats, New York to see The Carnival Of Madness tour. I arrived on an unassuming outdoor stage area attached to what appeared to be a restaurant of some kind with a faded board that listed Shinedown playing that day on the side of the road, surrounding nothing else in particular. Everything about this screamed backwoods as we all get out, but sometimes those events tend to surprise you. On this day, I think everyone was a little surprised for what they were getting themselves into.
The opening band to kick off the show was the relatively new We As Human, a Christian hard rock band not unlike their supposed mentors on the tour Skillet. They play a little more to the heavy side than Skillet and even with a relatively stripped down stage they came out and played pretty hard. The crowd seemed into it as they played a short set with tracks “Zombie” and “Strike Back” getting the best reaction. I was pleasantly surprised how well polished their performance was. Usually an opener can be very hit or miss, but We As Human were very energetic and didn’t sound too green for being on a bigger tour.
I must admit that I was a tad confused by the crowd at this point. Granted a crowd doesn’t always get into the warm up band primarily because well… you’ve just never heard them before so its tough to gauge exactly because you don’t know the words, you don’t know if their sound will change from one song to the next or you have zero experience and nothing to compare them to with a limited window in which to evaluate them if you even care to. However it was at this moment of uncertain ambiguity that I realized this crowd may not be what I was expecting for such a tour.
The majority of the crowd seemed comprised of good ol’ boys. An infinite grouping of people in camouflage hats, and flip flops which to anyone who knows the general rules of crowd surfing and moshing at a show know that cranial accessories and anything that isn’t tied down to your person is subject to being lost to the ages in a sea of chaos. This crowd appeared more to the tune of Toby Keith’s general demographic. I mean it as no insult whatsoever, it is merely that things didn’t quite match up to what I was seeing. People in lawn chairs with overhangs, umbrellas, camo cuzzis, dress tops, and church youth tees.
I merely pushed this assumption out of my mind as I surveyed the grounds further seeing circus performers, meet and greet booths, autograph tables where Skillet had been signing to otherwise what would have been a normal outdoor venue.
Maria Brink and the rest of In This Moment came on to a stage assembled with platforms and old gates atop plain white faceless masks. I’ve always appreciated her stage design as it looks like something out of a twisted noir film hinting to that of something sexual but slightly devious, to a point of aggression combining sexuality and rage in a way that just plain works. She is dressed in a provocative white nurses outfit, while the rest of the band is dressed like the undead something to the tune of Rob Zombies look, but it’s much more their own thing like a fallen angel surrounded by monsters. They opened with their newer hit that’s been all over the radio “Rise With Me” and played songs such as “Adrenalize”, “Whore” and “Blood” among others. Her vocals were on point making even her more high pitched screams seem effortless and the band seemed to be hitting all marks exactly as would be expected from a more veteran band. If anything could be said beyond the obvious sexual nature and aggressive thematic tunes, it’s that they were synchronized more than I’ve seen a lot of bands. It was almost military it was so good.
As In This Moment made their exit, the crowd seemed enthused but it really felt like they were really their solely to watch. Unfairly, I tend to be used to the more violent crowds of people there to see metal jammed into an extremely confined poorly ventilated venue. But at this point it seemed apparent that the crowd wanted to get into it, but just wasn’t sure what to do exactly. I saw hands go up, and maybe a handful out of the hundreds of people there jokingly jump around a bit for short bursts, but it wasn’t that the bands weren’t up there killing it. It was more that they just needed that slight push over the edge.
Enter Papa Roach. Now in all seriousness perhaps people wouldn’t necessarily associate the radio rock band to be the ones that could set off the crowd, but on this day, they gave arguably the best performance I’ve ever seen them give. I thought for sure that the crowd would have been more engaging to Papa Roach because unlike the other two previous acts, they have been around for some time and have very different sounds album to album. So demographic wise, everyone should have been pumped and ready to throw down. They opened up with “Still Swingin,’” from their latest album The Connection. I look about, and still same crowd reaction with a bit more yelling. At this point, I personally had enough. I can let go of the former injustice of arms folded, but a song titled “Still Swingin’” should inspire someone to start swingin’. At that point I saw a larger gentleman push another and wouldn’t you know it, a circle pit started seconds later. From that point on throughout Papa Roach’s set from “Blood Brothers”, to “Angels and Insects” to the song that got them famous “Last Resort” people where thrashing each other. It looked like what you would expect the largest country bar fight to look like, which is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. Jacoby Shaddix was easily the most engaging singer of the tour running into the crowd trying to pump the crowd further in its own rebellion.
Next on was Skillet, but they came out just as it was starting to rain which was fantastic because it made everything that they did seem like it was straight out of a music video. The lights cascading each water droplet as you felt it all coming down, and John Cooper accompanied by his wife Korey and fellow band mates playing just as hard with the water bouncing off of John’s bass . The Memphis formed band dropped the crowd immediately with “Whispers in the Dark” which I prefer because it shows a different type of riff element for that band guitar wise. Skillet has really grown in popularity since changing up a lot of their sound. Most people do not know that they’ve been around since 1996, but had a dramatic career turn around with songs that they of course played like “Comatose”, “Awake and Alive”, and radio earworm favorite “Monster” garnering them more festival and tour exposure with a secular crowd. People were crowd surfing, fist pumping, and generally just losing their minds from being so excited or so unsure what to do with all the energy being pumped through the crowd. However, Skillets new music off their ninth album released last June is definitely a step up even further with tracks “Rise” and “Sick of It” pounding the crowd jumping in unison like a giant heart coming alive nearly exhausting the crowd.
This seemed almost perfect of a transition into the festival’s headliner, Shinedown. Shinedown is arguably one of the biggest success stories in rock music of the last decade despite their not so secret difficulties which they have been openly candid about with drug addiction and band member change ups. But against those odds, they have grown into one of the most complete and well-rounded rock bands out there today.
Touring still off of their last release Amaryllis, which has offered a slew of great music, Shinedown continues to offer up hit music that this time around has been much cleaner but still hard enough to hang with the former The Sound Of Madness. They ranged from aggressive heavy rock tracks like “Devour”, “Enemies” “The Sound of Madness”, and “Bully” to more ballad type music like “ The Crow and the Butterfly”, “Second Chance” and the Skynyrd cover of “Simple Man” which to the backdrop of the over the top stage filled with fire dancers and recurring explosions of ten foot high walls of fire all appearing to be conducted by the ringmaster Brent Smith helped balance out their set perfectly. The visual spectacle of what Shinedown had put on was beyond tremendous. Not to mention the chemistry and charisma Smith brings to the stage both with his band and the audience saying “(Music)… is in the mind it’s in the body, its in the heart and the soul…. rock will never die.”
They offered adrenaline as well as a feel good message that ultimately left the crowd somewhere between exhausted and teary eyed. The show ended with “Bully” leaving the crowd chanting for them to play “45” begging for more. Truly this year’s Carnival of Madness brought a spectacle of performances as well as some of the best well rounded rock hits to hit the stage.
I’m Not Alright
The Crow & The Butterfly
I’ll Follow You
Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay Boom-Lay Boom)
If You Only Knew
Sounds Of Madness
Whispers In The Dark
Sick Of It
Awake And Alive
The Last Night
Not Gonna Die
Circus For A Psycho
Give Me Back My Life
Between Angels And Insects
Where Did The Angels Go
Leader Of The Broken Hearts
… To Be Loved
Getting Away With Murder
Special thanks to Amanda Cagan for all her hard work which helped us make our job easier.