LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - They were the brightest of times; they were the sloppiest of times. In more ways than one, the 2015 Louder than Life Festival in Louisville was a tale of two days.
Saturday was muddy and gray while Sunday was sunny and blue. Saturday's gloom matched the dark, drop-tuned guitars growling late '90s/early 2000s grunge-metal, while Sunday's pleasant highs in the 70s found bands on stage who toured in the '70s.
The river side of champions park housed whiskey and wrestling, while the opposite side was for gourmet man food and beer.
And in the middle of all of this, thousands bounced from stage to stage with crowd-surfing often being the best mode of transportation, taking in more than 50 acts, along with plenty of off-stage action.
After parking, which proved to be costly and challenging for at least a few according to social media, fans walking in the single entry gate were greeted by a larger than life metal sculpture of a steer named Big Bully that shot fire and periodically let out anguished moos.
At the far end of the main path, the two largest stages, side by side, broadcast bands on a row of four large-screen monitors, giving good sightlines and facilitating minimal downtime with the next group of rockers kicking off minutes after the preceding bowed goodnight.
Packing in such a deep lineup without overlap meant short sets, 30 minutes for many on the undercard. Saturday night headliner Rob Zombie lamented "I only get to play an hour for you?"
Brief sets also meant most acts played nothing but the hits with little time to promote new material. That was true when Skid Row took the stage with Tony Harnell taking over vocals from Johnny Solinger, singing the songs made popular as the '80s became the '90s by Sebastian Bach including a "Slave to the Grind" opener and "Youth Gone Wild" closer. They were one of several nostalgic acts, not always with original lineups, to rock the East Stage on Sunday along with The Kentucky Headhunters, Lynard Skynard and, with perhaps the loudest sing-a-long set of the weekend, 3 Doors Down. ZZ Top kept the theme going to end the night on the main stage.
Rob Zombie brought his horror-movie carnival to the same stage Saturday night, working in covers and teases of Grand Funk Railroad, James Brown and the Ramones alongside White Zombie favorites and a closer/finale of "Living Dead Girl" and "Dragula." Beforehand, on the adjacent stage, Godsmack ran through the more popular cuts of their Alice-in-Chains-inspired career, after Chevelle rocked out on the opposite side of the field from their catalouge of the era that followed nu metal and grunge metal.
On Sunday, Breaking Benjamin won over fans old and new alike by working in a medley made of riffs from Tool (Schism), Nirvana (Smells Like Teen Spirit) and Pantera (Walk) in the middle of their set.
Afterward, Slash with Miles Kennedy & The Conspirators followed with a strong performance balancing select solo cuts with Guns 'N Roses classics, wrapping "Sweet Child o' Mine" and "Paradise City" around "Slither" from Slash's Velvet Revolver days.
Edmonton, Kentucky's Black Stone Cherry brought a homestyle form of hard rock to their afternoon slot, their last show of the year before returning to the studio, dedicating "In My Blood" to service members and closing with an extended, forceful jam with deep-guitar and blasting-drum tradeoffs on the otherwise playful "Blame it on the Boom Boom."
Resurrected Louisville metal-rockers Flaw brought maybe the largest crowd to the smallest stage with a short set of favorites along with a new song and a promise of a new album sometime in the first quarter of 2016.
Food trucks at Louder than Life featured some of Louisville's finest, slinging gourmet grilled cheese from Lil Cheezer's, tacos from Holy Mole, Longshot Lobsta lobster rolls and sushi from the Louisville Sushi Truck for men and women alike, rain or shine.