Is Rock Dead? Rob Zombie and Others Prove Not during BFD 2015

– Words by Jordan Buford / Photos by James Villa –
97.1 The Eagles BFD – Gexa Energy Pavilion / Sunday, May 31, 2015

97.1 The Eagle's BFD (Gexa Energy Pavilion - Dallas, TX) 5/31/15

In a month that had already found me at two festivals (one here in Dallas, one a little further away), why not go ahead and end May with one more?!

97.1 The Eagle (KEGL) was taking over Gexa Energy Pavilion for the annual BFD festival, bringing several heavy hitters in the rock and metal worlds to Dallas for one massive event that would see 18,000 people walking through the gates on this Sunday.

The day didn’t get off to the best start, some people waking up to find out via social networks that The Pretty Reckless had had to cancel due to their drummer getting ill. Signs informing people of that were taped to the box offices; and as I stood in line to get my stuff, I overheard some people talking about it, being bummed Taylor Momsen and her band would not be there.

Alas, a situation like that can’t be helped.

Because of that, the schedule had been reworked to allow some of the later bands more time; and as the start time of three-o’clock arrived, there were already several hundred people there, some milling around, some in their seats, while others staked their places out on the lawn, all ready for the long day ahead.

We Are Harlot was up first, knocking out as many songs from their debut self-titled album as they could in the half hour or so that they had the stage. “Easier to Leave” was one such one; and upon finishing it, frontman Danny Worsnop mentioned they had had an interesting past twenty-four hours, in which he said they had lost some of their crew. “It may sound a little wild,” he said, putting a positive spin on it by stating they were going to be a little wild themselves.

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“Someday” went out to all the ladies; while bassist Brian Weaver led the onlookers in a clap along as “Never Turn Back” got going, quite a few people participating, while others were seen jumping around wildly.

The often blistering rock pace they set was a good foot for the day to get off on; and it wasn’t long after when things began to get even more intense.

I first saw Sons of Texas while doing a festival in Florida the month prior, and was looking forward to seeing them again, as they had been a standout of that one in my opinion.

97.1 The Eagle's BFD (Gexa Energy Pavilion - Dallas, TX) 5/31/15

The same ferocity was in play on this afternoon, guitarists Jon Olivares and Jes De Hoyos racing about the stage and shredding on their axes during the explosive opener of “Bury the Hatchet”. Frontman Mark Morales was quick to start getting everyone involved as well, asking they all jump at one point.

The singer showed off the more melodic side of his voice on “Pull it and Fire”, as they continued cranking out songs off their Baptized in the Rio Grande album (including the title track), right up until they brought things to a wicked close in the form of “Texas Trim”.

If you like metal, you’ll love Sons of Texas; and with all these appearances at different major festivals just in the last month (along with finishing up a tour with In This Moment), they’re poised for big things.

Metal and rock (with some trace amounts of melodic vibes) mixed when All That Remains took the stage, the tranquil sounds that begin “This Probably Won’t End Well” being rather deceiving for the all-out show that was about to transpire. They quickly bridged themselves into their next song, after which Philip Labonte took a moment to address everyone, commenting on the nice, sunny day Dallas was experiencing. “…Seems like Dallas could use a nice day,” he said, speaking of all the rain that the area had been getting, parts of the city having even been flooded just a few days before.

97.1 The Eagle's BFD (Gexa Energy Pavilion - Dallas, TX) 5/31/15

He then mentioned the record they had put out nearly four months ago now, setting up a track that showcased both his singing and screaming voices, “Pernicious”, during which the beats from Jason Costa and his double kick drum could be felt even out on the lawn.

They commanded the stage like no other thus far this day; bassist Jeanne Sagan adding a sense of grace to her otherwise raw style of playing as she thrashed along to the music. They continued through their catalog, “Six” being a highlight as they broke out some older stuff, before ending with a track from Overcome, “Two Weeks”.

They were another band I had seen for the first time right at a month prior to this, impressing me just as much this day as they did then.

Just the commanding presence they have and the fact that it never wanes during however long they have the stage is something else.

The day had just been getting better and better; and now, it was time for some of the ladies in the hard rock/metal world to show their stuff.

In This Moment was first, as Maria Brink and her band put on their Vegas-esque rock show that saw her doing a few costume changes in the 40-minutes or so that they had the stage.

97.1 The Eagle's BFD (Gexa Energy Pavilion - Dallas, TX) 5/31/15

“Tell me, ladies and gentlemen, are you sick like me?!” she asked after their opening song, “Sick Like Me”, before retreating to change wardrobes. She and her two backing dancers returned in nurses costumes (of course, they accentuated their figures) for the title track off last year’s Black Widow album.

Half of their 6-song set focused on that release, the other half drawing from Blood, the crowd roaring for them after each sinful song, clearly loving the band and what they were doing, right up through “Blood”, which had them wishing Brink had just a little more time to work her seductive magic on the stage.

I think many would argue that up until that point in the day, In This Moment was the best act yet. Even with the other later bands taken into consideration, Brink and company would still probably rank as one of the best highlights of the day.

97.1 The Eagle's BFD (Gexa Energy Pavilion - Dallas, TX) 5/31/15

Indeed, they stand apart from everyone else with the different way they go about performing, making it far more of a visually stimulating show than just putting on a rock show. The flare makes it even easier to gravitate towards them.

The stage would have belonged to The Pretty Reckless next, but despite them having to drop off, things were running pretty close to the original schedule, with Halestorm taking the stage just about 20-minutes ahead of what had been listed.

They were quite possibly the best thing about BFD, giving even the great Rob Zombie a slight run for his money. Drummer Arejay Hale set the stage well, walking to his drum kit and then letting out a mighty scream that seemed to energize all. Moments later, Lzzy Hale and the rest of the group appeared on stage, firing up “Love Bites (So Do I)”. The frontwoman set to work at pumping up the crowd as well, practically ordering them to make some noise at one point, something the now thousands of people did, even clapping along to the track a bit later.

97.1 The Eagle's BFD (Gexa Energy Pavilion - Dallas, TX) 5/31/15

Before their second number, she mentioned they had a little history in Dallas, elaborating some upon finishing the song, saying their first trip to the city was back in 2006 when touring with Seether and Shinedown. “…That was the first time I ever cut myself on my guitar,” she stated, somewhat equating that to a blood bond with the city.

That was about the extent of their stopping, as they otherwise barreled through this onslaught of songs, taking everyone back to their first album with “It’s not You”, before hitting a stretch of songs from the new Into the Wild Life. “Amen” and “Scream” already feeling like they’ve been around forever, many singing and shouting along to them.

As hard as Lzzy was going, moving around the stage every chance she got, Arejay was being every bit as dominating, standing up and even jumping around behind his kit as he knocked out the beats, stealing the spotlight at times. That behavior was perhaps best seen during “Apocalyptic”, that intoxicating number being the final one before their closer of “I Miss the Misery”, which saw them getting the audience involved one last time by singing and clapping along.

97.1 The Eagle's BFD (Gexa Energy Pavilion - Dallas, TX) 5/31/15

I had seen Halestorm just seven days before this down in San Antonio, and at times, it did sound like those past seven days had taken a toll on Lzzy’s voice. It was more when she spoke, she sounded a bit raspy, and considering how many shows they play and the fact that they take it to the max every time, it’s easy to understand why. However, that somehow managed to not make an impact on her singing voice; not even on the vicious screams she often let loose this evening, which still sounded phenomenal.

They obliterated it during the time they had the stage, certainly proving worthy of the later time slot they got, which came right before what felt like the co-headliners.

It’s probably safe to say that many people in Dallas probably thought they may never see Breaking Benjamin again, at least until last year when the dust settled and Benjamin Burnley announced the band was back with a brand new lineup.

97.1 The Eagle's BFD (Gexa Energy Pavilion - Dallas, TX) 5/31/15

Those fans residing in North Texas had obviously been anxiously waiting for this day; and the seats in the actual amphitheater part as well as the spots on the lawn were almost all gone, looking like everyone who did turn out this year was already there.

Burnley and the rest of his band used the element of surprise often this night, which worked well, since none of the fans had a clue on what to expect in terms of songs.

The crowd roared as they took the stage, the subtle notes being no indicator as to what was coming. Then Burnley and fellow guitarists Keith Wallen and Jasen Rauch started the chords that begin “So Cold”, roars of excitement filling the air.

“…I can’t tell you how good it is to be back on this stage again,” Burnley said afterwards, as they segued into their next song, one that saw a good sized mosh-pit break out in one section of the lawn, something the singer noticed and pointed out, commenting how awesome it looked.

97.1 The Eagle's BFD (Gexa Energy Pavilion - Dallas, TX) 5/31/15

He shouted out The Eagle before “Failure”, thanking the radio station for still playing rock music, noting he had nothing against pop music and enjoyed it, “…But we need our rock!!” he bellowed. Being a new song, it was about the only one that not everyone was singing along to, though even those who didn’t know it were obviously loving every second of it.

“…I want to hear you sing this one even better!” the singer then instructed as they busted out another that all were sure to know. Later, they had some fun, the instrumentalists playing the “Imperial March” from Star Wars (a film franchise Burnley said he was a huge fan of), which began a medley of sorts of different songs, including “Smell Like Teen Spirit”. It didn’t sound quite like what Nirvana made into smash hit, though the crowd appeared to love it; and for kicks, it was pretty fun.

After all these years so many spent waiting to see Breaking Benjamin again, their time on stage seemed to pass too quickly, with hits like “Until the End” and “The Diary of Jane” being saved for last.

97.1 The Eagle's BFD (Gexa Energy Pavilion - Dallas, TX) 5/31/15

This was quite the triumphant return to Dallas for Breaking Benjamin and was pretty amazing seeing a close to capacity arena all screaming for the band. Clearly, no one forgot about Burnley and the band he helms during their years long hiatus, and he hasn’t forgotten about the fans either, wanting to give them everything they had to give this night.

They were a pretty solid way to warm up for the headliner, Rob Zombie, who would soon be taking the stage.

The one thing about BFD is that with only one stage to work with, there has to be downtime, unlike some other festivals. I think that’s actually a good thing though, as all day it had allowed people to go get food, drinks or use the restroom as they waited for the next act.

The crowd was elated when the bright stage lights that had been on so the crew could set the stage suddenly dimmed; every set of eyes quickly adjusting as Zombie and his band took the stage.

97.1 The Eagle's BFD (Gexa Energy Pavilion - Dallas, TX) 5/31/15

“Dallas, are you ready to do this?!” he asked, sounding as if he were posing a legitimate question, even sparing a couple seconds to allow the spectators to cheer and applaud in response. Their lengthy set included a few covers, some of which Zombie had nothing to do with writing, like Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American Band”, though that didn’t keep he and his group from making it their own. John 5 cranked out the guitar solo with ease, wasting no time in showing off his prowess, while Zombie held the mic out at the audience at one point, letting them sing a line of the song that perfectly set up the show. Oh, and the flying leap the singer took off his riser at the front of the stage looked pretty cool, as he landed by the drum kit.

When it did come time to do an original number, he wasted no time in striking with something everyone would love, going right back to his debut solo album, Hillbilly Deluxe…, pulling out “Superbeast”. “Dallas, I think you know what I want you to do, but I’m gonna ask anyway. ‘Is anybody high?’” Zombie said upon finishing that original. He continued to pace around the stage, saying in response, “So am I!” before asking the patrons “put aside the notions” of how they should be conducting themselves. That then led to a rendition of James Brown’s “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine”, during which Zombie continuously urged the onlookers to get more into it, as well as asking all the ladies to dance along, saying he couldn’t party with just a bunch of dudes.

97.1 The Eagle's BFD (Gexa Energy Pavilion - Dallas, TX) 5/31/15

The singer continued being his lively self during “Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown”, often kicking the air as he moved about, even starting a clap along at one point. That song offered a perfect segue into one of a few good conversations Zombie had with everyone, this first one being that someone at the radio station had asked him if he thought rock was dead. “…If this means rock is dead, I’m fine with it. I’m alive, you’re alive, who cares,” he said, sounding rather nonchalant as he gave his own perfect answer.

“In the spirit of rock, here’s a 25-minute long drum solo,” he cracked as all but Ginger Fish left the stage, leaving him to do a sizable drum solo, though certainly nothing like 25-minutes.

Another good chat Zombie had came a song or so later, when he touched on a “disturbing trend” he’s noticed, saying back in the day, going out in the crowd was a risky thing that could get you hurt, but not anymore, since most people are on their cell phones. He didn’t beat around the bush in telling everyone who might be recording the show to just not, because it would sound and look horrible. Some artists may take more offense to that then others, but either way, he has a great point, because no matter what you capture on your phone, it can’t do the actual memory of watching a show justice.

97.1 The Eagle's BFD (Gexa Energy Pavilion - Dallas, TX) 5/31/15

“Sick Bubble-Gum” and “House of 1000 Corpses” were another couple of great offerings, fully showcasing the horror rock style he’s known for; while The Ramones “Blitzkrieg Bop” got a more slightly hard rock twist put on it, and “Thunder Kiss ‘65” was another classic from White Zombie’s catalog that they knocked out.

That pretty much did it for their set, though when they did make their exit, the thousands of people who were still sticking around were wanting more. Soon, their request was answered, with “Dragula” being the lone encore of a superb set.

While it had been a long day out at BFD, it didn’t seem it at all. Even with the downtime between acts, the time just flew by, up until the point it was a bit surprising it was already time for the headliner.

Rock ruled this day, the lineup in itself answering the question Zombie was asked about rock being dead with a resounding no. From the up and comers who may be pretty well known stars in a few years to acts who have been doing this for a few years, proving their mettle as some of the best hard rockers around, the day never disappointed.

BFD 2015 was another smashing success, and I’ll bet next year’s show will be every bit as extraordinary in its own right.

James Villa