A day that began with a 70 percent chance of rain to the flooding extreme morphed into a 100 percent extravaganza of metal, food, beer, fun and nary a drop from the skies last Saturday. Nothing, evidently, was going to rain on the sixth annual River City Rockfest's parade.
Heavy on a roster of bands that flourished in the '90s -- something even Primus singer and bassist extraordinaire Les Claypool pointed out -- and heavy on the, well, heaviness, the festival treated more than 25,000 fans to a full day of partying headlined by Nine Inch Nails. Set up for the first time jointly in the parking lots of the Freeman Coliseum and a portion of the AT&T Center, with the Bud Light Courtyard serving as the halfway point, three distant stages provided a variety of metal talent and a field day for those who enjoy monitoring pedometers.
Stone Temple Pilots headlined the second stage with new singer Jeff Gutt, a virtual carbon copy of the late original frontman Scott Weiland in terms of look, mannerisms and sound. Which is to say STP is back in ‘90s form.
Living Colour came out of the Shade, the title of its new album, with original members Corey Glover on vocals, guitarist Vernon Reid and drummer Will Calhoun joined by birthday-boy bassist Doug Wimbish on a few new tracks and classic favorites "Type" and of course 99.5-KISS FM tune-on-repeat "Cult of Personality." They even covered The Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go," which can be found on the deluxe version of their debut Vivid, which is commemorating 30 years.
The Rockfest also brought out the "cycos" known as Suicidal Tendencies. Playing what was considered the third and smallest stage but which was lined up in the middle of the lots, original vocalist Mike Muir was so gung-ho on starting with his trademark, "What the hell is going on around here" on "You Can't Bring Me Down," but moisture on stage begged to differ as he slipped and fell on his keister. No worse for the wear, Muir picked himself up and got the set smashing with former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo and hometown guitarist Dean Pleasants, a graduate of Sam Houston High School.
Chevelle, Bush and Clutch joined locals The Heroine, Lynnwood King & The Revival, Covina and Upon A Burning Body as well as All That Remains, which was added to the fest's lineup after Hellyeah bowed out following the death of drummer and former Pantera mainstay Vinnie Paul. The Heroine, fronted by King, and his jazz choir spinoff The Revival are the only bands local or national to play all six Rockfests. Covina, meanwhile, kicked off the day on the third stage with a noon set of San Antonio metalcore aided by friend and vocalist Paul Freedman of A House Divided.
Upon A Burning Body, as they did at the three-day, 55-band Knotfest in 2014 in San Bernardino, California (coverage here), incited the largest pits. Having played the second stage in 2015, the hometown national band received its first Rockfest main-stage opportunity and didn't disappoint with a 1:30 p.m. set. Vocalist Danny Leal donned a David Robinson Spurs jersey, and the party was on with opener “Red Razor Wrists" and “Texas Blood Money,” with its "Deep in the Heart of Texas" intro.
Bush and Stone Temple Pilots kept up the ‘90s vibe with frontmen Gavin Rossdale and Gutt, respectively, jumping off the stage and singing among the crowd. Primus won the unofficial award for Most Weird Vibe not only with its unique brand of rock that showcases Claypool’s ridiculous skill on the low end, but also the unpredictable event of body surfers making their presence felt on “Too Many Puppies” and “Mr. Krinkle.” Nine Inch Nails ended the joyous occasion with “Mr. Self-Destruct” himself, Trent Reznor, and Co. tearing through “Closer” and encores “The Hand That Feeds” and “Head Like a Hole” as part of a 90-minute set.
It's impossible to photograph every band at a festival such as the River City Rockfest, even when you're there from first note to last. Some bands’ set times overlap, the walks from one end-stage to the other can grow arduous, and there’s simply plenty of booths and games the fest has to offer that need to be enjoyed while the music is cranking. With enough food trucks, "Beer Beverage" and liquor tents and merch stands to fulfill a three-day fest let alone the one-day Rockfest, AEG's foray into the River City was done right in terms of setup, organization and opportunities for fun. Even if the musical roster was not as solid as previous years headlined by Guns N' Roses, Linkin Park, Disturbed and Def Leppard.
For the 2018 version, arguably the roster's most intriguing artist, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, did not permit media photography. Jett must not have been feeling photogenic on her 60th birthday even though she was plastered on the huge stage screens throughout "Bad Reputation," “Cherry Bomb,” "I Love Rock N' Roll" and "I Hate Myself For Loving You." Stone Temple Pilots, meanwhile, was the lone artist mandating artist approval of all photographs prior to publishing but had not acknowledged Alamo True Metal's submissions six days ago as of press time. And unlike prior Rockfests, no media video footage was allowed.
So with that said, feel free to peruse the 232-photo slideshow now and when you begin coming down with a case of Rockfest withdrawals. Until next year, keep Rockfest-ing.