Rockstar Uproar Festival @ Credit Union Centre, Saskatoon SK, September 30, 2010

Hellyeah

Words and Photos By Adrien Begrand

It wasn’t the most cutting-edge collection of bands, but with a media pass easy to secure and nothing better to do on a Thursday night, why not head out to the Rockstar Uproar Festival? With an open mind, a perpetual caffeine buzz thanks to that drink they keep flogging, and no ticket buyer’s remorse, who knows what pleasant surprises one might come across?

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Though a wonderfully sunny afternoon, the type of 17 degree day that has prairie folk still wearing shorts as if in denial that the fleetingly brief summer has long since passed, things don’t exactly get to a promising start as a couple of unknown bands, Oshawa alt-metal bores Hail the Villain and Minneapolis Volbeat wannabes New Medicine create an ungodly din at the Jägermeister stage, which occupies a small chunk of parking lot at Credit Union Centre. This stuff is so mediocre I’m questioning why I’m doing this, and I only just got there.

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Thank goodness for White Cowbell Oklahoma. On paper the notion of a Southern Rock band from Ontario sounds too contrived to even work, but these guys have always been convincing, a staple of the Canadian rock club circuit and no strangers to this part of the country. So while it would have been nice to have seen likeable Aussies Airbourne tear up the stage, White Cowbell was a welcome respite from the obnoxious d00d metal, a tightly performed Black Oak Arkansas knock-off that left some bewildered and others, like yours truly, smiling.

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Almost as entertaining as the aforementioned band’s jumpsuited, Ferrellian cowbell player was the increasing discomfort among the punters outside, who after drinking copious amounts of the free energy drink, had to deal with the fact that a)there were no porta-potties, b) the only restrooms were inside the arena, and c) the doors weren’t opening for another hour.

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Pantera fans are so desperate for some sort of connection to their favourite band that they’re willing to endure Hellyeah, a boring, flaccid imitation featuring Vinnie Paul and a couple of fellas from the awful nu-metal band Mudvayne. In fact Paul’s drumming with this band is so lazy, he might as well sit in a recliner behind the kit.

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Still, the well-meaning Hellyeah is perfectly harmless, and the Pantera/Down fans turned up in droves. Personally, I was bored after they played signature tune “Goddamn”, and as their set drew to a close I headed inside to beat the rush to the main stage.

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I was hoping for one measly pleasant surprise on this day, and got one in Halestorm, a hooky hard rock foursome that boasts a formidable frontwoman in one Lzzy Hale. Picture the attitude of Joan Jett, the guitar chops of Lita Ford, the fashion sense of Cherie Currie, and the powerhouse voice of Kelly Clarkson atop arrangements that walk the line between alt-metal chugs and cock rock swagger. That woman can sing, the songs are simple yet memorable, and it didn’t take long for the entire arena to warm up to the band.

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Lzzy’s brother, drummer Arejay, meanwhile, is another story entirely, coming off as a bizarre cross between Rikki Rockett and YouTube fave Steve Moore. At the very least he keeps time in spite of his antics, but NO opening band should ever be allowed a drum solo. It killed all the momentum Halestorm had going for them, that is until kid sis started singing again.

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I never cared for Stone Sour at all, and rolled my eyes when I saw their new album in my mail the other day, but listening to Audio Secrecy on the way to the show I quickly realized that not only is it a very good hard rock album, but I’ll take it over Slipknot’s abysmal last record any day. I’d rather hear a power ballad from a clean-cut Corey Taylor rather than the same guy wearing a silly rubber clown mask.

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In fact Taylor comes off as so clean cut, I’d be tempted to call Stone Sour Adult Contemporary Metal. Safe riffs, safe melodies, sly combinations of pop and metal (“Say You’ll Haunt Me”), and even smiles from Messrs. Taylor, Root, et al. I’ll take it as a pleasant diversion, but if this band gets any lighter we’ll be creeping up on Michael McDonald territory here.

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I sat and had some poutine during Avenged Sevenfold‘s set. One is cheesy and nauseating. The other is poutine.

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Seriously, is there a more obnoxious band than A7X? They’re a glorified Atreyu with production value. Total amateur hour metal. But the kids couldn’t care less, and ate it all up, from the fire and pyro to the humourless attempts at shock rock. Sure, KISS does the exact same thing, but at least they know how to write a catchy song.

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What’s more depressing than their actual music is that those kids will actually be feeling nostalgia for Avenged Sevenfold in 20 years’ time. The great Simpsons line has never sounded more painfully true: I used to be “with it.” But then they changed what “it” was. Now what I’m “with” isn’t “it” and what’s “it” seems weird and scary to me. It’ll happen to you.

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I’ve always been fairly non-committal when it comes to Disturbed, not a fan but don’t hate ’em either, but for the first portion of their hour-long headlining set, I was impressed. Vocalist David Draiman isn’t the most magnetic frontman around, walking woodenly around the stage as if having just been wound up, but he remains a superb singer, and thanks to a terrific mix that put his vocals front and centre, he was more than able to make up for his lack of charisma.

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Top marks for the stage visuals too, as a gigantic pixel board behind Draiman and the Three Other Guys served up some terrific visuals that complemented the music in Tool-like fashion.

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Am I the only one who thinks “Ten Thousand Fists” bears a striking similarity to Manowar? Draiman sure likes to grunt-ah as much as Eric Adams-ah. Ah. Ah.

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Inevitably, what’s always bugged me about Disturbed in the past rose to the surface the longer they played. The set started off very strongly with new track “Asylum”, the dance-infused “The Game”, “Prayer”, and “Liberate”, but after the dopey, insufferable cover of Genesis’s “Land of Confusion” the songs started to bleed into one another until the borderline-novelty tune “Down With the Sickness” ended things on an anticlimactic note.

Adam has been a photographer for Hellbound since day 1 and also has a hand in the technical aspects of running the site. Plus he's the man behind heavymetalhamilton.ca.