The 2nd annual High Elevation Festival was held last weekend in Denver Colorado. This year it was a 2 day event instead of just the one day event in 2016 . Artists representing the good, the bad and the ugly came to town to quench Denver’s thirst for the heavy. Good, in my opinion was the southern giants Mastadon. Bad(ass) would have to be Zakk Sabbath with ugly going to the guys in Avatar. Mastadon brought a healthy slice of metal with a carrer spanning performance. Zakk Wylde playing Black Sabbath songs will always be the most bad ass thing you can see at a concert- unless Sabbath themselves are playing. Avatar being awarded ugly only for the look of the band, nothing to do with their set, which was the exact opposite. The crowd was also quite diverse when it comes to fans represented. Just take one look at the lineup and you will understand why. Five Finger Death Punch Headlined the Friday Main stage while Korn Headlined Saturday. Steel Panther played played the stage just before In This Moment. VERY different bands.
When you step back and take a look at the festival as a whole, just to set the mood for you, there is a lot going on to make this work. The first thing I noticed walking in was the wrist band system they have. If you have never been to Fiddler’s Green Ampitheater it like a ancient Greek theater, but one that hold 18,000 people or so. There was 2 stages, one at the main stage and one set up in a side lot. That means tons of people moving and constantly shuffling from one stage to another. There is a few different price levels of tickets and V.I.P packages. There may have been up to 6 or so combinations for wrist band packages. Instead of getting your different wrist bands at the front gates you were supposed to get them at the section you were to be sat in or V.I.P. section you belonged to. What this did was keep the entrance and exit gates moving. You were able to get into the festival grounds so much quicker. The individual section staff would hand out wrist band packages (on ticket) and let you in. A very simple yet effective way to keep fans happy instead of standing in line waiting to get in.
Another big improvement I noticed over last years festival was the stage times between the main and second. Last year being one day led to more overlaps in the set times. You would see more migration than jamming going on at the beginning and end of some sets. This year the bigger acts were staggered a little better to help aleviate that effect. A technical issue on Saturday before Steel Panther’s set however did delay the start and ended up sort of screwing that whole plan up. The organizers ha their hands full on Saturday with deluge of rain with a dash of horseshit cold. Friday night just before FFDP the sky let loose for just enough time to dampen everything up, but Saturday was relentless and bone chilling cold. Handling heavy speakers, cords, lights and plastic bags to bag those lights was made extremely difficult by the weather. To some fans this dampened their spirits as well as their socks. By 7:00 on Saturday security just let anyone go down front of main stage because of the lack of people. This was a very cool move by the organizers. It is very frustrating to a band to play to a sparsely attended large venue. They need the people of front to get the love. As a fan it really pisses you off to see empty seats better than yours as the ticket price was not cheap due to the names on the bill.
Even throughout the bullshit weather the bands trudged on and brought a hell of a show. At the end of the night when you look around at all the people half frozen/drunk/high there was excitement. The music is what made the day tolerable. I met a couple from Seattle and Minneapolis that came to Denver for this event. Like I said the giant and diverse names made this one hell of a festival for people watching. There was multiple generations of metal heads represented in 2 days. Plenty of Black Label Society represented with Mr. Zakk Wylde. Even his fans alone run the gambit of age. FFDP has their own set of followers, Stone Sour fans themselves also are quite varied. I went to Exodus last week and the fans were a little more blended.
The opening act of the festival was a band called Tattooed Strings. This was a group consisting of 3 vocalists, guitar, bass and drums. Though not my particular brand of whiskey these guys put on a great show with an intro that really made you look and listen to what they were about. Another Friday highlight for me was Halestorm. Lzzy Hale and company puts on a great live show and it goes to show that you don’t have to be a classless set of boobs to front a metal band. She represents to me the next wave of rock giant women. She is about the music and has been for a while. To me this is a huge indicator of your ability to last. The proof is in the pudding. Of course we have to mention FFDP set. I was just covering Moonstock in Illinois with the solar eclipse and saw almost the same exact set and speech from Ivan Moody. They of course brought the place to it’s knees. There are still some cracks underneath the surface with the band. You don’t need a Ph.D. in psycology to see this. Phil from All That Remains come out to sing a song with the band right after Ivan spoke about his “human” moment. He is a very lovable guy that you want to root for and we hope nothing but the best for him and his band.
Day two brought a whole new set of fun and problems. As I mentioned the rain started early and didn’t stop. The most memorable thing for this guys was (opinion alert) was Zakk Sabbath playing “War Pigs” which we all know is the best song ever. Zakkify the song and what you have a crowd full of Iommi air guitar players and back up vocalist filler the air for some distance. Earlier in the day P.O.D. took the satge to bring their style to Denver. It has been quite some time since I last saw the band. They still know how to get the crowd on it’s feet. Steel Panther, if you have never seen these guys live will make you double take at the lyrics. Songs talking about Asian Hookers, glory holes, and just exactly who Micheal Starr’s penis belongs to. I saw a few disgusted folks get up and leave the ampitheater while these guys were playing. They are just not for some I guess! Mastadon slayed the crowd during the storm. There is just no denying how talented these guys are. They up their game every time they play and album they make. Definitely one of my favorites of the day. Stone Sour and Korn rounding out the main stage Saturday night is proof that no matter the style, if done right can have a long lasting presence well into the future.
All things said, it turned out to be a great 2 days of music. The weather may have prevented some from seeing all the bands they like or even staying for the remainder of the night. Lessons were learned from last year that had been implemented to improve this years festival. Stay tuned for year number 3 of the festival. It has been alive for tow years and has only gotten better. I can’t wait to see what next year brings. Whatever it does I hope to see you there!