Live: Carnival of Madness in Fort Wayne

Despite sweltering heat and humidity, thousands of fans flocked to Parkview Field in Fort Wayne, Indiana Sunday afternoon for radio station 98.9 The Bear’s Birthday Bash.  At times, the line to get in snaked through the city for several blocks, but concertgoers stood patiently in the hot sun even as technical problems caused entry to the venue to be delayed for 30 minutes.

Due to the delay, the station’s house band, Hell Came Home, was bumped off the lineup, but later graciously came on stage to say hi to the crowd.  That made Devour the Day from Memphis, TN the first band to play, and they played hard. Unfortunately, technical issues plagued the sound board for the first song, and the bass nearly drowned out every other sound.  Once those were resolved, however, and fans could actually make out what was playing, they responded favorably.  With a hard-hitting set list that included all five of their singles plus a cut from their latest album, S.O.A.R., Devour the Day started out the evening on a strong note.

Next up was Red Sun Rising, a band with such a strong presence in Central Indiana that you’d think they were local. Hailing from nearby Akron, Ohio, and with only one album to date, RSR’s nearly flawless performance was comprised of strong vocals, heart-thumping bass and drums, and skillful guitars.  Lead singer Mike Protich captivated the audience (especially the female members) with styles that that ranged from gritty and growly to sultry and soulful.

Highlights included super-high-energy set-opener “Push,” the about-to-be-released single, “Amnesia,” and “Bliss”  RSR’s first number-one single, “The Otherside” had fans singing at the tops of their lungs and band members grinning.  A haunting cover of Alanis Morissette’s “Uninvited” briefly mellowed the otherwise hard-rock set. Dripping with sweat and virtually panting, the band closed with their creepy, yet catchy number-one hit, “Emotionless.”

Halestorm then wreaked their havoc with powerful vocals and intense guitar. Tearing in with “Love Bites” to kick things off, Lzzy’s guitar strap reminds us that she is “Lzzy fucking Hale,” and that she’ll kick your ass. Her voice commands attention, and her stage presence is every bit of bad ass that I wanted to be when I was a 10-year old wannabe rock star.

The whole band was a spectacle of black, leather, and rebellious attitude. Worth noting was Arejay Hale, who has served as the band’s drummer since 1997 alongside his sister. An immensely talented percussionist, he handled the set with finesse, adding impressive tricks and an amazing drum solo. All the members were wonderfully engaging with the crowd, but my heart absolutely melted when Lzzy handed her sunglasses to a young girl in the crowd.

By the time Shinedown took the stage, the sun had nearly set, but night air was still uncomfortably hot – especially for the fans in the pit.  Many had been there for over four hours, but others had just joined the throng.  As the crowd grew and sweaty bodies pressed against the barrier (and each other), the mood was anticipatory, with a touch of irritability thrown in.  As Brent Smith, Zach Myers, Barry Kerch and Eric Bass strode onto the stage, however, the mood instantly changed.  As they pounded out the first frenetic riff of \”Adrenaline,\” Shinedown united the crowd in pure happiness.

Proving that his band may be the amongst classiest out there, Brent Smith made it a point to shake the hand of every security guard and photographer in the pit. Smith also reached out to the audience by passing out cold water bottles to the fans, telling them to share with others…which they did.  It was a beautiful sight to see the water bottles being passed around – although the health department surely would have disapproved.

Unlike some bands who focus on their new songs right after an album drops, Shinedown played a mix of crowd-pleasers from all their albums.  Newer tunes like \”Cut the Cord\” and \”Asking for it\” have a decidedly more complex sound than songs such as \”Call Me\” or \”Second Chance,\” and hearing them in the same set helped to highlight the fact that the members of this band have refused to remain static.

As proof of this, the audience was surprised by a solo from bassist Eric Bass, who provided vocals and keyboards for a cover of Radiohead\’s \”Creep.\”  Although a clear departure from Shinedown\’s normal style, it was both well done by Bass and well received by the crowd.

The one thing marring an otherwise impressive show was the constant crowd surfing throughout the entire pit area.  The continual passing (and occasional dropping) of bodies, the frequent hoisting of fans onto other fans\’ shoulders, and the occasional scuffle served to distract the audience as well as the band, causing Smith to stop the show.

Dripping with sweat himself, he reminded concertgoers that the temps were over 100 degrees, the security guards were doing their best to keep everyone safe, and that everyone needed to just play nice.  Although the surfing continued throughout the remainder of the show, Smith\’s heartfelt speech seemed to dissipate much of the hostility.

Shinedown wrapped up the set with the now-classic, \”Sound of Madness,\” which energized the fans, and of course left them wanting more.  Unfortunately, the clock read exactly 10 PM, which was the city\’s curfew.  Smith apologized for not being able to play longer, and left the audience with his trademark phrase, \”It\’s never goodbye.  It\’s just till next time.\”

-Kelly Fox