BFD 2014 (Dallas, TX)
– Words by Jordan Buford // Photos by James Villa-
BFD is a summer tradition at this point, and one many lovers of harder rock fans look forward to and rejoice in.
97.1 The Eagle puts together the annual festival, which was a daylong event this year, and even when I pulled into one of the parking lots around 1:40, there was already a line stretching well away from the gates at Gexa Energy Pavilion. To put that in perspective, gates didn’t open until two.
Yeah, people were excited for this.
Kicking off the 2014 installment of BFD was one of rock music’s newest sensations: Nothing More.
The San Antonio-based quartet had an abbreviated set this day, and were only able to do 23-minutes worth of tunes.
Beginning with drummer Paul O’Brian, the band made their way on stage, taking it waves, with frontman Jonny Hawkins being the last one on deck, but also the most aggressive, as he pounded away at his additional drum kit that set at center stage. They wowed ears with “Christ Copyright”, before leaving the early birds in awe with their three-man bass solo that has Daniel Oliver (bass) and Mark Vollelunga (guitar) holding down the strings, while Jonny strikes the neck with some drumsticks.
“…You’re skin doesn’t separate you from the world…” went their segue track — a portion of a speech Alan Watts made — and one that’s designed to get people thinking. Jonny then addressed the crowd, saying their single (“This is the Time (Ballast)”) was a song they held close to their hearts, because it was about “the hardest thing in this life”: letting go.
The thunderous song got Dan in the zone, and he delivered more backing vocals than normal; before they concluded with “Salem”, a track that had clap and sing-along moments; but the four-man drum solo was definitely what people will be most apt to remember.
The only downside to such a short set was that the band had little time to make a rapport with the crowd. They had to focus on playing instead of briefly chatting with the crowd here and there, and for Nothing More, being able to connect with the crowd goes a long way to leaving a lasting impression with the crowd. More so than even all their fancy tricks do. I’m not saying it was a bad set by any means. I’m just saying that ten extra minutes would have been great.
Following them was one of the old guards of rock. The only one on the bill, actually, and BFD couldn’t have asked for a better veteran than Tom Keifer, who, at 53, still proved to have a bit of a rebellious spirit. His allotted set time was half an hour, but he took it to 43-minutes.
“…Welcome to June…” Keifer said at one point in his set, as the ever-growing crowd tolerated the sweltering ninety plus degree heat. His new (and debut) solo album “The Way Life Goes” was represented this day in the form of “Not Enough” and “Solid Ground” (the latter made wonderful use of his wife Savannah and fellow female vocalist Kendra Chantelle harmonizing for some backing vocals), though it was the Cinderella stuff that got most of the attention.
Even eighteen years after it was released, “Night Songs” still packs a wicked punch, and had many people singing along, while others head banged to the thick rhythm section. The highlight moment came when Keifer first brought his “better half” out on stage, as the two made “Don’t Know What You Got Til it’s Gone” into a gorgeous acoustic duet, which ended with him back on an electric axe.
“Get up off your ass and let me see your hands!” he commanded at the end. The crowd obliged, and where then treated to another classic, “Nobody’s Fool”. Another delight came in the form of a cover, when the band pulled off an incredible rendition of The Beatles “With a Little Help From My Friends”, and there was no other way to end this than with “Gypsy Road”.
Keifer commanded the crowd incredibly well this afternoon. Maybe even better than any other performer who took the stage; and even though he’s had some setbacks in his career as far as voice issues go, he can still wail with the best of them.
They may have had an early slot, but The Pretty Reckless had plenty of fans out, all of whom cheered when the band took the stage. However, the loudest noises were reserved for frontwoman Taylor Momsen, who took the stage with that rock star swagger.
The erotic moaning sounds that are heard on the recording of “Follow Me Down” played through the speakers, before the four-piece rock outfit ripped into the song, Momsen using a gravely growl on much of that track. She did an impressive backbend during the bridge, her hands never leaving the mic stand; and after that, she got more mobile, making the rounds on the stage during “Since You’re Gone”.
“Sweet Things” was another killer track with a blistering pace and some seductiveness thrown in, like when Momsen kneeled down in front of the mic stand, then gradually climbed up it. Let’s not forget guitarist Ben Phillips, either, who sings a few lines on that one, making it all the more haunting.
They kept powering through their 32-minute long set, complete with sing-along moments, while the crowd even decided to clap along at times; and if Momsens’ voice (which is truly impressive) and powerful persona weren’t enough to get your attention, she ensured her actions would, like when she grinded against the mic stand.
The title track of their newest album “Going to Hell” featured some dominating bass lines from Mark Damon, while the end was perfectly executed, as Momsen throw her hands in the air in perfect time with the fast beats drummer Jamie Perkins was delivering. “It’s a fucked up world.” she simply said before their final song, and apparently next single from the record, “Fucked Up World”.
The Pretty Reckless is a great hard rock band who has rather quickly made a name for themselves; and for anyone who says women don’t have a place in hard rock music (I know there are some people like that out there), go see one of their shows. Taylor Momsen will be sure to educate you and show you otherwise.
The Grand Rapids, Michigan born Pop Evil was next, and they pulled no punches during their 34-minutes on stage, hitting hard with opener ”Flawed”, which came to an end with Leigh Kakaty holding the base of his mic stand and hoisting it into the air. They rolled on with “Hero”, and on the first chorus, Chachi Riot stood up from his drum kit, continuing to play the drums with unmatched ferocity, before sitting back on his stool.
“How you doing out in the grass? How about you stand the fuck up, this is a rock ‘n’ roll show!” Kakaty roared afterwards, and his enthusiasm succeeded in getting not just those on the lawn to stand, but also those in their seats.
Once song after another kept flying at people, before the band suddenly left the stage, and if it hadn’t been for the sample track that still played, you would have thought they were calling it an early show. “…I can’t see you if I can’t see your hands!” Kakaty shouted when they returned, and instantaneously, nearly everyone’s hands went up for “Deal with the Devil”. The crowds “horns” then could be seen on “Last Man Standing”, before some fans began jumping around at the start of their closer, Trenches”.
It was a jam-packed rock show Pop Evil delivered, and they ended it by starting a chant of “USA!”, something the attendees were all too eager to join in on.
The heaviest 34-minutes of the day belonged to Killswitch Engage, who had those down in the pit moshing as soon as they started “A Bid Farewell”. Jesse Leach was running all about the stage, even leaping into the air at one point, as he soared to another section of the stage and stuck the landing. “The New Awakening” came across as an anthem to the fans, and the track from the group’s latest release had plenty of fists pumping in the air.
Afterward, Leach mentioned how happy they were to be playing a “radio fest”, before they showed off their (slightly) softer side with “Always”, a track that was dedicated to all the fallen soldiers, which gave the lyrics a different perspective. Upon finishing it, lead guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz called for a circle pit up on the lawn, and after the song that followed, he said it was time for one down in the pit. “…If a drink falls, pick it up! No drink goes down today!” he instructed, using his unique sense of humor to get a laugh from the crowd. The laughs continued after “The End of Heartache”, when Dutkiewicz said he knew there were a million other things people could be doing, and he was grateful they were watching them. “You could be renting lawn chairs… You could be jerking off in the men’s bathroom… Which is what I plan on doing after the show…” he said.
“My Curse” was dedicated to all the pretty ladies in the crowd, while their final song was for any and all metal heads and head bangers, and their cover of Dios’ “Holy Diver” was a great note to end on.
Personally, metal is seldom a genre I’m a fan of, as the music is often too heavy for my tastes. There’s something about Killswitch Engage, though — especially after seeing them live — that makes you love them. Part of that could probably be attributed to the fact that they go full throttle from the time they step on stage until they get off. Their stage presence is immense, too; and they’re downright exhilarating to watch.
The sight of Vinnie Paul was enough to whip the crowd into a frenzy, as he twirled a drum stick around in his fingers, before taking a seat. Hellyeah were the “hometown heroes” on the bill so to speak, and singer Chad Grey later mentioned that this was the final date of their current tour. “Let’s fucking do this!” he roared, as “Cowboy Way” got their 43-minute long set in motion.
“I want some aggression!” Grey shouted during their second song, “Matter of Time”, but he reinforced the sacred rules of the pit, that if you see someone go down, you help them up. “…Who sits at a kickass rock show?!” he wondered aloud, encouraging everyone, no matter where they were at, to get on their feet, before giving it up to Paul, for their next number.
With a new CD due out in just a little more than a week, they also gave the audience a taste of it, doing “Blood for Blood”, which often had Grey singing into a megaphone, adding an interesting effect to the vocals. The best moment came towards the end, when he made a heartfelt speech about one of their songs, and how the meaning behind it has changed to him over the years. He talked about how he was an outcast after he got into heavy metal music, noting that it was that music that saved his life. “Some people might say this is just a rock concert, but I say this is fucking therapy. We need this at least a couple times a year to get right…” he said, which set up “Band of Brothers”.
The job of concluding the show fell to the song that shares the same title as the band’s name, and it had the crowd raving, right up until Vinnie Paul threw his drum sticks into the crowd, and then slammed his hands against the cymbals.
Hellyeah received the strongest reaction from concert goers when compared to the other bands that had already played. I’d bet the hometown ties had something to do with that (and they made sure to say Dallas and Fort Worth, rather than just lump everyone who was there being from Dallas), but that wasn’t the only reason. Folks really just thoroughly enjoyed the performance they put on.
After them, you had Theory of a Deadman, and oh, what a difference a week can make. Having seen them at a music festival the weekend prior, Tyler Connolly mentioned he had, had a recent bout with laryngitis, which was still affecting his voice at the time. However, he was back up to par for the Dallas audience.
They treated fans to such songs as “Lowlife” and “Bitch Came Back”, the former had Connolly asking to see everyone’s rock horn or devil horns, while the latter was dedicated to “all the lovely ladies”. They, too, did some cuts from their forthcoming album, songs like “Drown” and the title track “Savages”, and at least one of those saw David Brenner playing a double guitar.
As their set wound down, Connolly proceeded to set up their final number, but first, they had a little fun. He played the opening riff of “Sweet Home Alabama”, making it into a sort of parody as he spoke more than sang, “…Texas will always be bigger and better than you”. They also threw in a taste of Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City”, before ending with their own, “Bad Girlfriend”.
I enjoyed them much more now that they were all 100%, and while Theory of a Deadman may have lacked the harder edge sound many of the bands on BFD had, they held their own against the others with ease, and never seemed out of place.
Another odd man out on the bill was Steel Panther, who had traveled all the way from Los Angeles to give Dallas a dose of their 80’s inspired heavy metal.
All the lights went out before the band took the stage, and they got their 41-minute long set going with what was about the only truly serious song these glam rockers did, “Eyes of a Panther”. They bridged it right into “Party Like Tomorrow is the End of the World” — which was another great tune — and it ended with frontman Michael Starr grabbing the headstock of both the bass and guitar, acting as if he were a conduit and the power was flowing through him, before he began thrusting his pelvis into the air. It was then that they went in for the kill, sinking their razor sharp claws of humor into the onlookers.
“…Dallas is our favorite city!” one of them declared (I’ll be honest, I was far enough away I couldn’t see who was doing the talking 100% of the time). “The other night you said Detroit was.” bassist Lexxi Foxx remarked, before his band mates outright told him to shut up. “He’s stupid.” they joked. “If he were any smarter, he’d be a guitar player, or even a lead singer.” “Maybe even working at Subway.” Starr added.
The banter continued, and among a variety of things, it was mentioned that Starr had his first three-way at the ripe old age of nine. “…It was with his Aunt Shelly and Uncle Ron. I know what you’re thinking, that’s hot.” Foxx said to the crowd, getting laughs from everyone, even if they were only out of pure shock. Later, drummer Stix Zadinia was named one of the best drummers in their band, and after no less than six minutes of chatting, they continued with the music, doing “Gangbang at the Old Folks Home”. The song was about exactly what the title suggests, involving a pizza delivery boy making a delivery to a nursing home (I guess in more ways than one). There was no denying that the raunchy segment of the night was now in full effect, and it was glorious.
The filthy and often downright crazy banter continued between songs, and they had the audience near tears much of the time, because it was all so outrageous you couldn’t help but laugh. Based on crowd reaction, “Community Property” was a highlight of the night, and the balled was another lyrical masterpiece that had everyone dying of laughter. Guitarist Satchel pointed out a guy in the crowd afterwards, saying he could tell by the look in his eyes that he wanted to come up on stage and kick his ass. So, to ease the supposed tension, he said they were going to do a heavy metal song that could induce a lot of head banging. “Death to All but Metal” did just the trick, and it was also the end of their show.
They had the rock star attitude up there on stage, and the look was pulled off perfectly (Foxx was even sporting a pair of purple sparkly pants). They more or less send up the 80’s metal genre, though they pull off the sound to a tee. They’re hilarious, too, and let’s be honest, there’s not much substance in their songs. They don’t do poignant love songs that will strike a nerve nor monstrous rock tracks that you could take seriously. Steel Panthers specialty is pushing things to the limits (and usually taking them beyond), but it’s all done with a sense of self-awareness.
Case in point, there was a joke made that could have been construed as mildly racist, but the band was joking and it was readily apparent they meant it as a joke, and people were okay with that (and no, no derogatory language was used.) They were just there to entertain, and they did a spectacular job at it.
Gexa was pretty packed out by this point, and everyone was ecstatic to see Five Finger Death Punch. A fact that was made clear by the raising of the bands banner, and that simple actions had fans roaring.
Most bands could only wish to have fans that dedicated and die-hard.
“Wake up, Dallas!” said the unmistakable voice that belongs to Ivan Moody. The band was nowhere to be seen, still waiting in the wings as their intro music —which happened to be Napoleon XIV, “They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!”— began.
They struck hard and swift with “Under and Over it”. “Sing it!” Moody bellowed at the end of the first chorus, leaving it all up the crowd to sing the last portion. The fans and band alike were very pumped up, and as it came to an end, Moody grabbed a bottle of water and slung it out at the crowd.
Their showmanship is exceptional, as was showcased throughout the night, especially when Moody asked if everyone was ready. The fans didn’t know exactly for what, though they clearly were. “Then it’s time! Let’s burn this mother fucker!” he shouted before “Burn it Down”, a track that belonged to the rhythm section of Jeremy Spencer and Chris Kael, drums and bass, respectively.
“Turn that spotlight on where it belongs: on the back. I don’t need it. I’m not Axl fucking Rose.” Moody told the guy operating the lights as he paced about the stage. A cool moment came a couple songs later, when the lights went out completely, and lead guitarist Jason Hooks’ guitar began growing green, as the lights on it flashed throughout “Lift Me Up”.
Afterwards Moody acknowledged that they knew most of everyone who was here was surely tired, and probably out a good bit of cash, too. “We appreciate you sticking around for us…” he said quite honestly; before mentioning someone had once told him 5FDP has the craziest fans on the planet. “My response, ‘They’re not crazy, just sincere.’” he said. “So, from this day forward, you will be known as bad company!” he roared, setting them up for a cover of Bad Companys’ “Bad Company”. It was during that song I noticed a man (who I assume had served his country at one point) took off one of his prosthetic legs and was waving it around in the air, because that’s how much he was loving this.
“Burn MF” drew another strong reaction from the crowd, who were head banging and moshing to the song. By the time their set was almost over, it was past the scheduled curfew time. They were slated to end at 10:45, but since the day had started running slightly behind, they didn’t even get started until ten, and they weren’t going to let the rules cut their show short. “Here to Die” was one of the songs they did after the original closing time, and the opening notes of “The Bleeding” were enough to peak everyone’s excitement, as they sang/screamed along to every last word.
For the duration of their set, 5FDP had every last person there on their feet, and really, how could you not be? Their actions on stage were all so precise and executed so fluidly to the music that it was almost impossible to not be in awe over them. They stormed the stage and unloaded a full-scale assault on the fans ears, and it made for an experience no one here will forget.
BFD 2014 was a great day from start to finish. For those who arrived before or as soon as gates opened, it was a long one, but still totally worth it. I’m already curious and eager as to what 2015’s lineup will look like.