One of the most anticipated rock festivals on the east coast, Rock Allegiance, had a major change in venue this year. For the past 2 years, the festival has been held at the Talon Stadium in Chester, Pennsylvania. This year, the venue was switched to just across the Delaware River to the BB&T Pavilion and Wiggins Park in Camden, New Jersey. This change was a double edge sword. In one way the new venue had some fun and interesting facets that the other venue didn’t have. However, for a festival as large as this one, accommodating 3 stages in this smaller venue proved challenging. This didn’t stop the lineup of amazing bands bringing their best to a crowd of eager fans.
In the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, you would expect a crowd that would be nervous or on edge. This crowd was anything but. Clearly the security at the entry point had been stepped up with a through pat down and metal detectors. Nevertheless, throughout the venue, security was spotty at best and yet the crowd was relaxed and obviously enjoying themselves in a very self-contained and respectful manner. Even given the less than ideal stage settings, the crowd remained calm and relaxed.
The main stage of BB&T Pavilion is the permanent structure that houses all the concerts performed there. Under normal circumstances this would be a great venue. Yet, for a festival of this caliber, it wasn’t the best choice. It is clear that most concerts in this venue are night time events, as the stage was very difficult to see from the lawn during the afternoon. The stadium seating is not normal for this festival and most rock festivals for that matter. The traditional festival setting of crowds standing around the stage, allowing everyone a chance to get to the front of the stage, was not present here, at least on this particular stage. However, for holders of the VIP package, this venue held a certain allure that most VIP packages at other festivals lack. For instance, there was a special pit section that allowed purchasers to get up close to the headlining performers with minimal crowd to fight through. Ideal for the 3% who held a VIP pass. Not so much for the rest of the crowd.
An interesting and unique addition to BB&T Pavilion and Wiggins Park, again open only to the VIP, was the VIP lounges on the USS New Jersey Battleship parked in Camden Harbor. Self-guided tours were free to concert goers and at night the battleship was lit up beautifully. It allowed people with VIP passes to take a welcome break from a very crowded venue.
Monster Energy, the festival sponsor, offered concert goers a place to go and relax and try free full size monster energy drinks. Only a certain number of patrons were allowed in the Monster Energy area at a time, so there was often a line. FYE is another regular vendor at festivals such as this. The FYE tent housed a large selection of band merchandise and gave purchasers a meet and greet opportunity with a number of the performing bands. Participating bands were Beartooth, Radkey, Ded, Black Map, August Burns Red and Halestorm. Fans could have their purchases signed and spend a few moments talking to the bands.
The second stage was clearly the most open and able to accommodate a festival crowd. The Wiggins Park portion of this venue made this an obvious choice. The band New Year’s Day, kicked off the festival on this stage. New Year’s Day was a last-minute addition to the festival, when Marilyn Manson dropped out due to injury. They played a rousing cover of Pantera’s ‘F@#king Hostile’. They were followed by 5 other bands, He is Legend, Joyous Wolf, Greta Van Fleet, Beartooth, and Gojira, who in equal measure tore up the stage with their own individual brand of heart pumping rock.
One of the greatest parts of attending a festival such as Rock Allegiance, it that each band is really bringing their very best to the stage. There is a healthy dose of friendly competition between all the bands playing. Each band wants to be remembered as being the best or the favorite at the festival, especially when they are playing among 20 or more other bands. The festival atmosphere also seems to bring the bands who played early in the day, such as the Biters, out to mingle amongst the crowd, to listen to the other bands. This gives the audience, who happen to notice them in the crowd, a low-key opportunity to get autographs and a picture.
If the second stage was more than able to accommodate the crowd, the third stage was severely under adequate. While early in the day, when the first few bands played such as Biters, Ded, and Black Map, the gathering crowds weren’t completely horrible. The hard rocking band, Ded, brought out a crazy, brutal mosh pit. The pit was no holds barred. Men and women alike were swing their fist and kicking their legs, causing more than a few injures. The lack of space was most apparent, when bands such as Starset and August Burns Red played. What little area there was around the stage and up a steep hill to the left of the stage was packed with people, with practically no room to move. Vendors set up around the stage also impeded on the space available. Of the three stages, this was the least able to handle the crowds.
The main stage was set up with stadium seating and a pit that was opened to the general public only until the main headliners came on, at which point it was closed and open to only to VIP with pit passes. The early acts such as Radkey and Steel Panther didn’t draw huge numbers to the main stage but the later performers such as In This Moment, Halestorm and Mastodon brought them in throngs. Those with general admission passes were forced to fill in the lawn. The main stage seating is huge and the lawn is a long way from the stage. It was unfortunate that performances during the day, such as the one from In This Moment, didn’t have the same impact. Due to the fog and dark lighting of their show, the people in the upper end of the auditorium and in the lawn, could not see the performance.
One of the more pleasant surprises at the festival was the performance by Five Finger Death Punch. The crowd was clearly concerned with which version of Ivan Moody was going to show up. They were more than ecstatic that the one who was ready to rock was present and accounted for. The band played continuously for their full gig slot without incident. At one-point Ivan Moody brought Maria Brinks, the lead singer of In This Moment, on stage to sing ‘The Bleeding’. Five Finger Death Punch delivered a stellar show, a clear sign that the band is on the upswing once again.
The most impressive performance of the festival most assuredly came from Rob Zombie, who was the final act of the evening. With his endless energy and flamboyant showmanship, he grabbed a hold of an exhausted audience and shook them awake with his hard pounding psychedelic metal. The show was a visual and auditory carnival of video screens and electronic tracks mixed with hard metal core that made the crowd dance to the patented Rob Zombie music. A ten-foot-tall giant robot character graced the stage and danced to ‘More Human than Human’. Zombie himself dance and sang all over the stage, and interacted with the crowd, showing his gratitude for their fandom. Zombie demonstrated his down to earth nature by moving along the front of the stage and touching the hands of every audience member he could reach. He is a pure showman who appears to love performing and brings the audience an unforgettable show. It is very obvious why he is considered a rock legend.
Over all this festival brought out a huge number of up and coming rock bands as well as familiar favorites in a mix of rock genres. Although the overall consensus of the crowd was that they were less than happy with the venue change, they enjoyed the band lineup and are certain to return the following year.