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Mud, Blood, and Rock and Roll

Carolina Rebellion descended upon the Rock City Campgrounds in Concord, NC the first weekend in May. The 2013 lineup was impressive with some of rock’s heavy hitters from the 90’s and fresh talent that is resurrecting the heavy side of rock. Headliners Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Bush were set to crown each evening at the event with the sounds of melodic metal shouted across tens of thousands of fans.

From the beginning there were issues that ultimately led to this event being cancelled in such a way that the name Carolina Rebellion was literally drug though the mud.

Typical gripes about food prices were exacerbated by the fact that General Admission ticket holders could not leave the event grounds and return. “No Re-Entry” signs were posted at all exits. You could not bring any food or drinks inside the venue except for one 16 ounce bottle to hold water. They did offer many “Gluten-Free” options, but charged a premium for them. Ticket holders could upgrade to a “VIP” package ($125 more) to be able to come and go and take advantage of a large tented area with separate bathrooms in between the two main stages. The event grounds were a combination of barely mulched trees, loosely packed dirt, and old graveled areas riddled with grass and holes. Trash cans were hard to find and consequently the grounds were littered quickly with discarded food.  There was nowhere to sit unless you waited in line to hang out in the Marlboro Lounge or paid the VIP premium for the tent. Many concert goers brought blankets in the hopes of a picnic style feast of their favorite bands. The weather and ground conditions destroyed all hope of that.

Maria Brink of In This Moment
Day One started with promise, but as In This Moment approached the Carolina Stage, lead singer Maria Brink struggled against the wind on her skull laden platform.  Overcast skies and the promise of rain made it bone chilling cold even in the pit. The set was phenomenal: blazing guitar lead by strong vocals that ached with defiance.  On the other side of the campgrounds, Sick Puppies continued on the second main stage dubbed Rebellion. Exuberant fans reveled in their set and the staples of rock were in full force: crowd surfing, pit slam circles and smiling faces with fists in the air.

Matt Tuck of Bullet for my Valentine
Asking Alexandria and Bullet for My Valentine continued the show as the venue started to fill up. 

Papa Roach's Jacoby Shaddix
Papa Roach defined Ugly-Pretty and had a stellar set: the first where the crowd sung along to every single song. 

Chino Moreno of Deftones
Deftones seemed muted emotionally, but sloughed through their set with songs spanning over a decade of albums.
Limp Bizkit's Fred Durst
Limp Bizkit took advantage of the descending darkness as Wes Borland’s black body paint and lit up astronaut style headgear haloed the stage.

Wes Borland of Limp Bizkit
Day one was crowned by Alice in Chains as the Saturday Night headlining band.  A new singer hasn’t changed the tone and intensity of the band, which I credit lead guitarist Jerry Cantrell for maintaining.

Day Two the walls of the pit started to crack. The gates remained closed for several hours due to a rain delay, and the promoters never caught up.  When they finally opened the gates, fans were met with horrid conditions. Coarse dirt quickly became mud as the constant rain intensified to downpours several times but never fully stopped.  Some areas were impassable with mud up to your ankles or running water making rivers cutting off areas. Vendors made a killing off of $5 “ponchos” that were just clear plastic garbage bags.

Philip Labonte of All That Remains
We caught All That Remain’s set in a full downpour. The bassist and guitarists were clustered around the drummer’s platform just to stay out of the wet wind.  It looked like the weather was going to end the concert. Those of us that can feel rage and happiness at the same time are not going to be cowed by a little rain.
Hollywood Undead
Fans remained stage front, covered in trash bags, blankets or soaking wet clothes ready for Hollywood Undead to bring the pain. Men with blowers dried the equipment in the never ending battle with the weather, and stage hands pushed water off the stage.

SqueeGee Man
SqueeGee Man slouged water off the stage with fervor. With so many people standing hundreds deep and all eyes on the stage, he was the only thing to watch. A chant rose up, “SQUEE GEE, SQUEE GEE” and he raised his apparatus high and cursed the rain. SqueeGee Man became the embodiment of Carolina Rebellion’s dedicated fans. Tired, wet, and cold, shoving the same wet slop off the same square of stage but doing it and not stopping until the bands could play.  Halfway through Hollywood Undead’s soaked set, they invited SqueeGee Man to join them onstage. The crowd loved it and it gave them hope that standing in the rain for two days, tripping through the mulched mud for 48 hours, being cold and hungry was all going to be worth it to see their favorite musicians play.

Sevendust's Lajon Witherspoon
Unfortunately it wasn’t. More rain delays left fans standing in the mud before Sevendust finally took the Rebellion Stage. They played with intense emotion and interacted with the crowd. Like the Deftones, they played songs spanning over a decade of albums. This was the last full act at Carolina Rebellion. After their set, there were more delays for several hours. The information booth was mobbed and then simply closed up shop. Police presence increased and still no word from the promoters. In the dark they finally announced that the remainder of the show was cancelled due to safety concerns. They advised people to keep their ticket stubs – the same ticket stubs many tossed because of the no re-entry policy, and those that had kept the tiny piece of paper pulled it from their pocket nearly disintegrated from their soaked clothing. The weather had won and left few Carolina Rebellion fans with much more than frustration in their hearts.

Carolina Rebellion was a broken promise. It reminded me of Woodstock ’99 before the fans burninated it in rage.  The weather was out of the promoter’s control, but steps could have been taken to ease its impact. More free tents and shelters would have been a huge help. Allowing ticket holders to leave and return would have given many people a much needed break from the rain and a chance to dry off. The promoters could have implemented better stage shielding for the rain and wind that was clearly forecast weeks in advance.  The event grounds should have been graveled and sanded or properly graded so that rainwater would run off to appropriate areas.  Trash cans should have been all over the grounds instead of in a handful of places on the perimeter.  The fans were willing to endure a great deal to attend Carolina Rebellion; the promoters should have been willing to do the same to make it safe for the bands to play.  We expect overpriced food and drinks. We expect rain delays. We don’t expect cancelling three main acts of a rain or shine show because the promoters were unprepared.

All photos by Stephanie Smith Werner and Claire Hammett

About the Author

Claire Hammett is a native North Carolinian and almost graduate of UNC of Charlotte. She consumes two dystopian fiction novels a week and is an avid gamer specializing in the Call of Duty series. She is the wife of an Army Aviator and the mother of two tech savvy children that continually challenge her view of the world. You can find her on Twitter @ClaireJeepChick

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