This year, Fort Rock did its first festival in their new location in Markham Park in Sunrise, Florida. Based on the crowds – topping 30,000, a record-breaker – and the enthusiasm, excitement and energy on display, I’d say it was a rousing success!
The lineup this year was strong and powerful, with what had to be a majority of folks’ favorite bands. Shinedown, Five Finger Death Punch, Breaking Benjamin, Stone Temple Pilots, Halestorm, Pop Evil, and of course Ozzy Osbourne had crowds rushing the rail, singing along, sometimes moshing. Fists and horns waved through the air. Shinedown is at the top of their game, as they ready for the release of their new album. They are definitely a fan favorite that unites all ages, as I was standing by a thirteen year old boy who knew every word to every song. This was his first festival and he was stoked.
Five Finger Death Punch sounded amazing, with Ivan Moody’s return. His vocals are as strong as ever, and the band as a whole are genuine showmen. Breaking Benjamin were on point, and Ben’s drum solo on his lightsaber bedecked drum kit pretty much owned the whole show. Lzzy Hale and Halestorm have come a long way since I first saw them in 2009, and they sound better than ever.
What can one say about Ozzy Osbourne? He’s approaching seventy but doesn’t look it or sound it! His first song was “Bark At the Moon” and coincidentally enough, there was a full moon in the sky as he sang.The crowd was wild until they were almost out of control, and unsurprisingly was the biggest crush of the festival. His performance was the perfect ending to an incredible weekend.
Of course at a large music festival, there are new bands to discover and love; in my case it was Bad Wolves, whose rendition of the Cranberries’ “Zombie” is heart wrenching. The band announced that proceeds from the song would go into a fund to assist Dolores O’Riordan’s children. I also enjoyed Avatar, who had a different kind of sound and a rather unique stage setting. I also enjoyed Underoath (boys from Florida, no less), Trivium (also from Florida), and ‘68 is a power duo with an awesome sound. This is just scratching the surface of the musical acts, which also included Godsmack, Hatebreed, Toothgrinder, Hollywood Undead, Stone Sour (who also sounded incredible), Sevendust, Red Sun Rising, Bullet For My Valentine, Texas Hippie Coalition, and Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown. There was a band and a sound for everyone. I have to say, it’s going to be tough to match this lineup next year.
The two stages were right next to each other, and each stage had jumbotrons. This was especially useful as there was only five minutes between sets, making it almost impossible to get from one stage to another in a timely manner. It’s especially distressing to those of us who like to “ride the rail” – in this case if you wanted to ride the rail for any given band, you missed out on truly seeing a couple of the other bands on the opposite stage. I would definitely like to see a somewhat longer break between sets. That being said, I have to give the organizers credit for getting everything to run smoothly and on time.
FYE had their fan experience booth set up, where fans could meet their favorite bands and have an item signed. Lines were long but it didn’t stop diehards from waiting. I gave it a try for Pop Evil; the line moved quickly, and was very organized and controlled. The band, of course, was extremely gracious. I would definitely say the fan experience was a fun experience.
No festival would be complete without food offerings and vendors. Foodwise, it was the macaroni and cheese booths that were the hit of the consumables; after being told multiple times I had to try it, I did and it was delicious. I had to stop myself from going back for more. The event also had a beautiful cooling station set under and multicolored tent-like structure, with machines blowing cool wet air. There were more of those machines scattered throughout the park.
Overall, it was an unforgettable, exciting weekend. I’m already looking forward to 2019, which will again be held at Markham Park in Sunrise, Florida.
Photos by Arlene Allen