Saturday, October 12th was the second day of the EXIT 111 festival at Great Stage Park in Manchester, TN. This day was packed with phenomenal bands and fans had some really tough choices to make on figuring out who they planned on seeing. The weather was a tremendous change from Friday as the highs were only in the mid-60s. Fans were running to merch to purchase whatever long-sleeved sweatshirts and blankets they could find.
I started off my day seeing one of my favorite bands Them Evils. This band holds a special place in my heart as they were the first band I photographed on assignment for my friends at DreadMusicReview. I loved them when I saw them nearly 3 years ago and still love them now. The Southern California rockers always reminded me of Led Zeppelin with their music and Jordan Griffin‘s vocals. They rocked the Hell stage that early afternoon with bassist Jake Massanari dancing all over the stage and drummer David Delaney banging away. If you’ve never heard or seen them before, go check them out. You won’t regret it. Then it was over to the Heaven stage and to our surprise was a ramp that jutted out into the pit. Which meant artists now had the opportunity to get close to the fans and media. I knew it was going to make for some great photos. Next on the stage was Alien Weaponry. I’ve listened to their recent album Tū yet never understood the language spoken in it until that day. The band is from New Zealand with the ancestry of the Māori, which is the language used. The band’s performance was amazing and the mix of their culture plus metal music was breathtaking live. Yet again, this is a band you’ll want to see live for yourself. EXIT 111 Day 2 was starting off with a bang.
I headed over to the Rise Above stage to see another of my favorite bands New Years Day. The California metal group has made significant strides to elevate their performances and music. Their latest album Unbreakable is their best work yet and they are always fun to see live. Vocalist Ash Costello was shocked to see how many people showed up to see their performance. It was packed for this early afternoon set, and I completely understood why. New Years Day not only has great music but put on a very entertaining performance. Playing songs “Skeletons”, “Come For Me”, and “Shut Up” (all from Unbreakable), they had the fans bouncing and rocking.
But back at Heaven was one of the most energizing and mind-blowing live performers out there today: Fever 333. Jason Aalon Butler (vocals), Stephen Harrison (guitar), and Aric Improta (drums) use their music to promote their beliefs on racism, politics, and war to make people more aware of the things happening in our world today. And they do it live on stage with energy, passion, and some of the craziest things I’ve ever seen on stage. Jason has no issue putting life and limbs at risk during his performance. This time, it was throwing the microphone down on the ramp and literally sliding, grabbing it mid-slide, and continue to sing from his back. I truly expected him to slide off the ramp into the group of photographers. Stephen strutted down the ramp like Ric Flair and swung his guitar around him while spinning his body. If you’re not pumped up after watching a Fever 333 show you might be dead.
I then headed back to media to interview Nikki Misery guitarist of New Years Day. Besides being one of the nicest people I’ve interviewed, we had a great chat over the band’s latest album Unbreakable, their current tour, and why he considers himself to be a nerd. It was a really fun chat and you can see that interview HERE.
From there it was back to Heaven stage to see another of my favorites Nothing More. The rockers from San Antonio, TX bring nothing but awesome music, amazing talent, and pure energy to the stage. Vocalist Jonny Hawkins is one of the best frontmen in music today with his beautiful vocals and passion he leaves on the stage. The band allowed the media to photograph their entire set as I got to hear some of my favorites from their latest album The Stories We Tell Ourselves including “Let’s Go To War” and “Don’t Stop”. And of course, the chance to see the infamous Scorpion on stage. From there it was a quick run to Hell stage to watch the local Knoxville, TN band Whitechapel lay down the heavy. Their deathcore music had the mosh pits moving hard as they played music from their latest album The Valley including “Brimstone” and “Black Bear”.
But, the heavy metal didn’t stop there. Back at the Heaven stage, we had the French heavy metal band of Gojira! The fans filled the area waiting for them to hear them live and they did not disappoint. Vocalist Joe Duplantier belted out those hard-hitting vocals as the band’s music reverberated through the crowd. It was so loud you literally could feel it in your bones. And their presentation of lights, fog, and music all combined made it an amazing experience. I took a change of pace in music and headed back to Hell stage to see, originally from my current residence in Orlando, FL, Sleeping With Sirens. The rock band had a large female fan presence waiting to see them and when they came out the screams were deafening. The band’s high energy output and thrilling vocals had the fans eating it up and begging for more. They recently released their sixth studio album How It Feels to Be Lost on September 6, 2019.
As we were closing in on the end of the night the weather plummeted into the 40s. Most of us in media were freezing but determined to stick it out to see the rest of the artists. And the next one I wouldn’t miss for the world. Swedish rockers Ghost were playing the Heaven stage (true irony in this) with their amazing cathedral stage set up and that jutted ramp, we just knew Cardinal Copia and the Nameless Ghouls would make their way down to perform on it. And they didn’t disappoint. The fans were the largest I’ve seen at that stage so far and they made it known how much they loved Ghost. Playing some of their most well-known songs including Grammy-winning “Cirice”, “Rats”, “Mummy Dust” (their heaviest song), and closed the night with my personal favorite “Square Hammer”. Ghost left the EXIT 111 fans wanting more.
A quick run back to Hell stage to see the heavy metal band from Atlanta, GA Mastodon. And though they consider themselves a more progressive rock band, it’s hard to deny the heavy sounds they bring out to the stage. It was a good performance from the band braving the cold elements that night. They played an hour-plus set including “The Motherload”, “Megalodon”, “Crystal Kingdom”, and closing with “Blood and Thunder”.
But, the closer on Heaven stage that night was one of the most influential rock bands of my time, Def Leppard. My very first concert ever was seeing Def Leppard perform during the Hysteria tour. The band from England has been rocking stages since 1977 and has gathered a legion of fans during their career. All rock fans know their music and at EXIT 111 last night, they delivered what the fans wanted to hear. Joe Elliott (vocals), Phil Collen (guitar), Rick Savage (bass), Vivian Campbell (guitar), and Rick Allen (drums) came to the stage to this voracious roar from the crowd. Joe was beaming on stage and the band was ready to rock. Besides their great music, well-known lyrics, their stage presence is amazing and a sight to see. Playing such hits like “Animal”, “Too Late For Love”, “Hysteria”, and “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, an absolute sing-along fan favorite, the band closed out their set with “Rock of Ages” and the ever so-loved, and probably my personal top song from them, “Photograph”. The EXIT 111 fans absolutely loved them and I was thrilled to see them live once more.
Day 2 of EXIT 111 was by far the best day yet. With such amazing talent and a line-up that was star-studded, the fans absolutely got their money’s worth that day. Saturday night was absolutely spectacular and we still had one more festival day to go!