The first weekend of May brought over 100,000 fans out to the Monster Energy Carolina Rebellion 2018. With over 60 bands, there was music for everyone which made for a fantastic festival weekend.
Kicking off the hot Friday in Charlotte NC was Avatar. Their exciting and theatrical performance was not only an exciting way to start the day but a rather memorable one as well. The high energy and fast pace songs made the set feel as if it ended way too early.
Next up was Texas Hippie Coalition. With their southern flare, and music that has a classic rock n roll vibe mixed with country, the band fit in perfectly in the Carolinas. Their outlaw type appearance made sure they stood out, and their style of music made them unforgettable.
Bullet For My Valentine was next to play the Carolina Stage. This set was one that seemed to draw a rather unexpectedly large crowd. Playing songs like “Don’t Need You” and “Waking The Demon” their set was one of the faster paced of the day. One song that stuck out during their set was their hit “Tears Don’t Fall”. During this set the crowd was going at its hardest. As their set came to a close it was time to make my way to the Rebellion Stage across the campgrounds for Stone Temple Pilots. Starting off their set with their song “Wicked Garden” the crowd was instantly hooked. But it was during the second song that fans got treated to a bit of a surprise. Lead singer, Jeff Gutt, came off stage to walk between the barricade and sing to the fans from the crowd, instantly mesmerizing them all. Watching the crowd you could tell that all the fans watching were having a great time singing along to songs like “Big Bang Baby” and “Roll Me Under”. As the sun began to set behind the stage, and the sky became a golden haze, it was time for the last song from STP. Closing out the set with “Sex Type Thing” was hands down a perfect way to end things.
The high energy song had the crowd going hard and the backdrop of the sunset made it all perfect. As day one was coming to a close there was one last set left for me to cover for the night, Shinedown. As I made my way back down to the stage through the crowd it seemed as if everyone at the festival was at this one set. You could practically feel the excitement in the air from the fans. Moments later after standing in the dark waiting for the set to start, we began to hear the faint beat to the “The Sound Of Madness”. As each member came onto the stage the crowd screamed louder and louder. “Cut The Cord” really got the crowd going with surfers in the air the entire song against the insane light and laser show.“State Of My Head” is an emotional song and it brought out different emotions in different people in the crowd. Some were cheering and singing along. Others were crying and you could tell that they totally connected with the song. As the set moved along and the crowd cheered and moshed it was time for the last song of the night to be played. They ended with their new song, “Devil” off their new album “Attention Attention”. “Devil” was a song that I had personally waited all day to finally hear live, and I was not disappointed! The crazy high energy and strong beat encouraged fans to mosh and crowd surf even more so than before. This was truly a set that nobody would forget.
Saturday was the busiest day by far with bands stacked back to back. First up on the list for the day was Palaye Royale. Though their set was rather short they still drew a great crowd to the Black Stage. With their 2000s pop-punk feel, reminiscent of Panic! At The Disco, they drew a younger crowd to their set.
Fast forward a bit and it was time for me to shoot one of my personal favorite bands, Shamans Harvest. As I walked up to their set it was incredible to see the crowd that they had drawn to watch them on the Carolina Stage. Opening with their song “Dangerous” created the perfect mood for their “outlaw rock” set. Each band member had a smile as they looked ahead at the massive crowd that had come to see them. Though their set was short there was one song that was played that clearly gave everyone in attendance chills to hear. “In Chains”, a song with a haunting beat and powerful lyrics, was one that I had been looking forward to hearing more than any other that weekend. As the song echoed throughout the crowd and fans sang along with every word there was something very special about the moment. It was as if this wasn’t some major festival but a small intimate show. They truly were able to connect with the crowd in a way I had never before seen.
Across the way at the Rebellion Stage another band I was rather excited to see was fixing to take the stage, Asking Alexandria. This is one of those bands that is perfect for an outdoor festival setting. Playing both old and new tracks such as “Into The Fire”, “Run Free”, and “A Prophecy”, there was a song for every fan, both old and new. Something that stuck out to me specifically about this set was the wide age range of fans that were there to watch the Brits take the stage. It was rather unique to see a band that use to only seem to appeal to younger rock fans seem to captivate a large range of people. For the most part, this set was a pretty fast-paced one with lots of moshing to songs like “To The Stage” and “Not The American Average”. One of the last songs of the set was an emotional one that pulls at the heartstrings with its lyrics. “Moving On” definitely seemed to resonate with the fans with its strong emotional lyrics and performance.
Moving along with the day a bit we were getting down to some of the last sets of the night before the headliners played. Not only was I about to photograph some of my favorite artists, they were also three back to back sets of badass female fronted bands! First on this list to play was In This Moment. A band that no matter how many times you see them will never disappoint you! With their theatrical performances and stage set up its one of those live acts that are somewhat unbelievable to watch. For the massive crowd out to see them they opened with the song “Blood”. It didn’t disappoint, but the song that truly got the crowd going and excited was the end song “Whore”. During that song I think I saw the most female crowd surfers I had honestly ever seen at a show and it was a pretty awesome sight.
Next on the list was Butcher Babies over at the Black Stage. I was pretty excited to finally see these amazing ladies for the first time. With their incredible energy and heavy songs, these ladies knew how to go hard during a set, and I mean HARD! I haven’t ever seen any artist, male or female, be able to get a crowd going so strong and take the stage like the Butcher Babies did. If there’s one thing you should know about the Butcher Babies though it’s that these ladies go harder than any male fronted band you will ever see live. Singer, Heidi Butcher jumped into the crowd during their song “Monsters Ball”, and then immediately after they followed up the song saying: “Here’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Word on the street is we’re setting a world record today. Who here has played the climb of live before? So what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna count how many crowd surfers we can get today during this song. We have to beat 263 can we fucking do it Rebellion?” Though I had seen lots of crowd surfers that weekend I had never seen that many during one set before. Something that made it even better to witness those crowd surfers was that it was predominantly women helping contribute to that record-breaking set! After the rowdy Butcher Babies set, across the campgrounds on the Rebellion Stage, the last incredible female-fronted act was about to happen. It was time for Halestorm to take the stage. Playing songs like “Love Bites”, “Apocalyptic”, and “I Get Off” fans were given a wide range of old and new songs, but the band had something special up their sleeve. One of the last songs of the night was a new song from the band that they were live premiering for the crowd at Rebellion called “Uncomfortable”. With its killer guitar shredding and strong vocals it was obvious that this song was going to soon become a fan favorite. Following up the premiere of “Uncomfortable” was a Halestorm classic. “I Miss The Misery”, a faster song that leaves the crowd just wanting more, was all round just perfect to end on. Back at the Carolina Stage, as the sun was beginning to set, Breaking Benjamin was keeping the high energy alive opening things with their song “Red Cold River”. The highlight of this set was a cover of the Star Wars Imperial March, which was probably hands down the best thing I saw all day. Seeing the crowd smile and giggle hearing the tiny cover of a film classic, and watching the members all smile as they played it, made for an unforgettable memory. As the sun had set on the second day of Carolina Rebellion, it was time to make my way back to the Rebellion Stage to see none other than Five Finger Death Punch. Just like the night before for the Shinedown set, it was as if the entire crowd had all moved to see Five Finger take the stage. As I was walking into the photo pit, I heard something from a group of fans discussing how they had been standing there since noon that day waiting to see Five Finger play. That alone just showed some of the dedication their fans have. A few moments later the lights went up on the stage and the crowd erupted in a shriek of excitement. The band took the stage opening with the song “Under And Over It” making for a very fast start to get the crowd going. As expected Five Finger puts on a memorable set every time but there was something very very special about this set. During the set after the acoustic version of “Wrong Side Of Heaven” was played frontman, Ivan, stopped and pulled a young lady from side stage and said to her, “Now this is what life is all about right here. I remember the last time I saw you. You look amazing. I remember everything.” The guitar in the background began to play “Remember Everything” as Ivan hugged the young girl and she gripped him tightly resting her head against his shoulder, he began to sing the lyrics to her. This moment was absolutely tear-jerking. The young girl held onto him as he sang and his voice cracked as he held back tears of his own. This was a sight I had never seen at a show before. It felt as if time stood still for a moment watching this happen and hearing faint cries from the crowd at the emotional performance. During the song the guitar stopped and the lyrics echoed across the crowd. Then Ivan motioned to everyone to sing the next part and the crowd didn’t disappoint as everyone sang together. Following this up though was an encore nobody expected to get. “The Bleeding” was the song that was played for the encore with none other than In This Moment frontwoman, Maria Brink. Hearing these two incredible vocalist perform live together was chilling. Their vocals complimented one another perfectly and the song echoed through the crowd, it felt surreal to see two people so talented sing together. As day two of Carolina Rebellion ended on such a perfect note it just made me more excited to see what was in store on the final day of the festival.
The final day of Carolina Rebellion 2018, being one of the hotter days of the weekend, started on a pretty exciting note with Thrice being my first band. Hearing a song like “Black Honey” live is incredible with its moody feel and hard beat. Across the grounds at the Rebellion Stage a band I had personally never seen before was jumping onto the stage.
Greta Van Fleet was next on my list. Something about this set was very different than any other I had seen. As the band took the stage immediately their appearance caught my eye. Their very seventies style attire, and songs reminiscent of Led Zeppelin, left me highly impressed with the band. The band was young but their stage presence and strong vocals was that of seasoned artists. Songs like “Edge Of Darkness” and “Safari Song” seemed to build an unbeatable energy with each song. The song that stuck out in my mind as most memorable of their set was “Highway Tune”. It’s one of those songs that you listen to when you’re driving on a long trip. It just has this nostalgic beat and sound to it that draws you in and even more so when it’s played live. Moving along with the day and a few sets later it was time to head back to the same stage to see a band I was super excited to finally catch live.
The Struts were next up on my list. Opening with the upbeat retro style song, “Put Your Hands Up”, the band immediately established a strong crowd connection. What made this set so interesting was frontman Luke Spiller’s outfit that reminded me of a combination between music icons David Bowie and Freddie Mercury. Moving through the set it was clear that the British rockers were one of those bands that make you feel like you’re in a time machine going back to the glam rock era. The song “Could Have Been Me” was the next to last song of the set and It was a striking performance. As the song echoed across the crowd with its carefree lyrics and nostalgic vocals you got the feel of an old classic rock festival. You honestly felt the energy in the crowd change and intensify to this song.
Next up on the list was one of the first headliners for the evening. Billy Idol was set to play across the way at the Rebellion Stage. His crowd was a broad fan base. Opening the set with the song “Shock To The System” fans cheered the loudest I had heard so far as the iconic rockstar came onto the stage. The set progressed and classics like “Dancing With Myself” and “King Rocker” were played. Then it was time for the song all fans had waited to hear. “Rebel Yell” was the last song of the set and closed it out stupendously.
A couple of sets later the sun had gone down and it was time for yet another headlining act to take the stage. Queens Of The Stone Age was one of the final acts for Carolina Rebellion 2018. As the lights went up and the crowd cheered there was something about the band’s silhouettes moving across the stage that was catching. Songs like “No One Knows”, “My God Is The Sun”, and “Sick, Sick, Sick” increased the crowds excitement with every song. They closed things out with one of my personal favorites “A Song For The Dead”. There was an incredible light show and heavy guitars that the crowd really connected with and finished the high energy set beautifully. As the set ended fans made their way back to the Carolina Stage for the final set of Carolina Rebellion 2018.
Muse was set to close out the Festival and the crowd was massive within only a few moments. As fans eagerly waited for the final set to start you could feel the anticipation build in the air. The lights went down and fans stared eagerly at the now dark stage. Moments later the band took the stage and the crowd cheered as loud as it could one final time. Kicking things off with their song “Psycho” the crowd went crazy.“Time Is Running Out” and “Plug In Baby” were also played and the set flew by in no time. As the set came to a close with the song “Stockholm Syndrome” the crowd went insane. As the song ended and the band left the stage the crowd chanted for an encore. And that’s exactly what they got with three last songs, “Take A Bow”, “Uprising”, and “Knights Of Cydonia”. The crowd left it all at the stage especially during “Knights Of Cydonia” with it being the last song of Carolina Rebellion 2018. Hearing the crowd sing along with the band and watching the spectacular light show was truly the best way to end such an incredible festival.
Carolina Rebellion had finally come to a close that night and the festival gave fans in attendance yet another absolutely incredible year. Everyone brought it from the awesome artist’s sets and shows on the lineup to the killer behind the scenes crew making sure everything went smoothly. One thing is for sure: Carolina Rebellion 2018 delivered on an amazing festival for all in attendance. I can’t wait to see you all at Carolina Rebellion 2019!