Brian Smith

The Camden waterfront transformed into a mosh pit of casual rock fans, metalheads, and Juggalos Saturday afternoon at the BB&T Pavilion. For the fourth consecutive year, music festival Rock Allegiance came to the Philadelphia area. This year’s lineup was headlined by Limp Bizkit, Papa Roach, and Skillet, following the cancellation of Avenged Sevenfold due to their singer’s damaged voice. I had the opportunity to see Fozzy, Badflower, Knocked Loose, GWAR, Skillet, Of Mice and Men, Bullet for my Valentine, and Papa Roach.

Fozzy started off my first Rock Allegiance experience with a bang. The band is led by multi-talented singer Chris Jericho. Jericho is arguably most famous for his long career in WWE wrestling, but he has also hosted the game show Downfall and competed on Dancing with the Stars. His energetic personality and experience in front of audiences cultivated through his body of work make Jericho an entertaining presence on stage. Following their 7 song, 35-minute performance, I made my way over to the waterfront stage to check it out.

Having been to BB&T before, I had never seen them set up a stage right along the river, so I was intrigued to see what it was all about. The Delaware River and Philadelphia skyline created a picturesque background for the stage. I first saw Badflower, there, a new rock band from Los Angeles, California. The band has only one EP released to date but is in the process of creating new music. Their set was jam-packed with energetic songs and striking lyrics, inciting the first of many mosh pits I would see. In the middle of their performance they played their newest single “Ghost,” which peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart and deals with the topics of suicide and depression.

Following Badflower was Knocked Loose, the hardcore punk band from Oldham County, Kentucky. From the moment they took the stage to the final song, the hardcore energy never let up. At one point, lead singer Bryan Garris even joked that the next song would slow things down before breaking into yet another metalcore-type jam. Knocked Loose has been associated with the likes of Code Orange and Counterparts in the revival of the metalcore scene. This was evident throughout their set, where every song felt like a musical rendition of a bloody mosh pit, and the band encouraged on their listeners to “Be a**holes.”

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Knocked Loose

I followed up Knocked Loose with arguably the most grotesque performance of the day. GWAR, famous for their over-the-top costumes and violent lyrics, served the fans exactly what they came for. Their thematic concept is based upon intergalactic warriors complete with violent and sexual tendencies. Within minutes of getting there, I got to witness one of the goriest and politically charged performances in all of history. As the opening chords for their AC/DC cover of “If You Want Blood” began, someone came out in an oversized Donald Trump costume. After some back and forth with Blothar, the lead singer, the fake Trump had his chest torn off to reveal his gruesome insides, complete with spewing blood. As the set continued, the band members would frequently douse the crowd in fake blood or fight between themselves.

Returning to the main stage, Skillet played an intense set that you couldn’t stand still through. The 22-year-old Christian rock band opened with the empowering “Feel Invincible” from their most recent record Unleashed. After playing “Whispers in the Dark,” singer John Cooper introduced “Sick of It” by exclaiming that he is “sick of my rock and roll heroes killing themselves,” commenting on a sad reality that has taken over the music industry. Two songs later, a live cellist on a hydraulic platform joined the stage to play “Awake and Alive,” a song that heavily features drummer Jen Ledger on vocals. The 8-song set ended on a tear with hits “Hero,” “Monster,” and “The Resistance.” Skillet’s performance was a much-needed energy boost around the six o’clock hour, bridging the gap between the undercards and the upcoming main events.

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Skillet

Next up was Of Mice and Men, who are often described as a mix of metalcore and nu metal. They played a wild 30-minute set against the Philly skyline that had the crowd jumping from start to finish, including their most popular songs “Would You Still Be There” and “Unbreakable.” Of Mice and Men acted as a perfect opener for the headliner at the waterfront stage, Bullet for My Valentine. Fans filled the entire grass section, all the way up the hill, hitting its max capacity on the relatively small stage. The British metal sensation (named Best British Band in 2006, 2008-2010) quipped throughout the show about their short set length but didn’t let it stop them from playing all their greatest hits. Bullet came out fast with “Don’t Need You” and “Over It,” both from their most recent album Gravity. A short pause ensued before the iconic drum opening to “Your Betrayal” started and the crowd lost its mind. The angsty lyrics and screams were matched by the audience who had clearly felt the pain of this song before. Barely breathing between songs, Bullet continued to get harder and faster, leading up to the final three songs. “Letting You Go” started the ending trilogy, followed by their smash hit “Tears Don’t Fall,” and finally “Waking the Demon.” Bullet for My Valentine was obviously not used to being on the undercard having the track record that they do, but the band made every minute of it count. The audience wasn’t still for a second of the show, and dozens of fans crowd surfed to the front as the set came to a close.

Bullet’s set ran until Papa Roach’s set began, causing a mass migration between the two stages. Led by singer/rapper Jacoby Shaddix, Papa Roach entertained the main stage as the first of the two headlining acts at the festival. The rock group shook the walls of the BB&T Pavilion with old hits (“Between Angels and Insects,” “…To Be Loved”) and new ones (“Face Everything and Rise,” “American Dreams”) within the first half of their setlist. Their last six songs consisted of quite possibly their four best songs, an incredible cover, and their latest single. Starting with 2004’s hit “Scars,” Papa Roach sprinted into a cover of Blur’s famous “Song 2.” Next up were “Help” and “Born for Greatness,” two tracks off 2017’s Crooked Teeth that brought Papa Roach back to the forefront of the rock scene. After playing “Who Do You Trust,” which had been released just the day before, Papa Roach played the most anticipated song of the evening. Their massive hit “Last Resort” brought everyone back to the early 2000’s. The audience belted out every word and let out one final scream before the set ended.

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Papa Roach

Having 10% left on my phone and coming off a bad night of sleep, I decided to leave before Limp Bizkit’s closing set. This was a definite mistake, however, because their set was unlike any other that day. During their performance, Insane Clown Posse member Shaggy 2 Dope rushed the stage and attempted to drop kick lead singer Fred Durst. Fortunately for Durst, Shaggy barely tapped him and instead was tackled by numerous security guards (check out the wild footage here). I see no better metaphor for Rock Allegiance 2018 than that moment; aggressive, energetic, and exciting.

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