The annual WIIL Rock festival returned to Shadow Hill Ranch in Twin Lakes, Wis., on August 24. Warm temperatures and nearly cloudless skies welcomed fans for an entire day of rock music. This year's festival featured the second date on the Rock Allegiance tour combined with a handful of other artists who performed across three stages.
Beginning at 10 a.m., Brand New Machine got the day started. WIIL Rock also brought in Edisun, Wayland, Art of Dying and Soil to get the action started early. Unfortunately, all these bands performed before 2 p.m., well before most fans started to make their way into Shadow Hill Ranch. Despite the lackluster afternoon turnout, all the bands delivered energetic sets.
Mid-afternoon talent included Rock Allegiance opener, Airborne, with Red Line Chemistry, L.A. rockers Smile Empty Soul, Chicago-based Lovehammers, Hurt, Trapt and Nonpoint. A 20-minute break occurred between most acts, giving fans time to walk up the hill for another drink or meal.
Nonpoint frontman, Elias Soriano, owned the crowd while performing favorites "Left for You" and "Bullet with a Name." Nonpoint were a perfect choice leading into the big-three from the Rock Allegiance tour to close out the night. All That Remains took the stage at dusk, hitting on all cylinders from the start while also playing to the largest crowd.
The border between the VIP section near the stage and the budget general admission crowd on the grassy hill seemed to sap some of the energy from both the bands and participants, but fans did manage to get a mosh pit going during sets by both Nonpoint and All That Remains. That was testament to both bands who did their best to work the crowd. As All That Remains' Phil Labonte expressed, "We're a crowd participation band, if these guys [security] look bored, then you're not crowd-surfing enough."
Northern Europe was well represented with Finnish act HIM and Danish superstars Volbeat offering a one-two punch to close the night. The melodic, ethereal set by HIM was a bit of a lull after All That Remains throttled the crowd for 45-minutes. HIM offered up about a dozen songs that included a few from their most recent, "Tears on Tape," and an extended cover of Chris Issak's "Wicked Game."
Volbeat continue to make headway into America. Blending a strong fusion of rockabilly, country and metal into a unique blend that is distinctively Volbeat, their 2013 "Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies" impresses. Vocalist Michael Poulsen's quirky stage persona coupled with huge riffs and monstrous sound lifted fan participation to another level. Volbeat simply rocked, from the opening of "Hallelujah Goat" to "Sad Man's Tongue" to hits "Still Counting" and "A Warrior's Call."
There were a couple negatives to the festival. Food and drink purchases were operated on a clumsy voucher system. One had to queue up to purchase tickets, then stand in a separate line to redeem them at any number of food vendors. The lines were long and frequently stalled when tickets had temporarily sold out; while others were standing in a ticket line while thinking they were in a drink line. Thirsty fans were denied water at times because there was a wait for "more tickets to be delivered." A lack of filling stations for free water at any all-day festival just leads to dehydration and is never a good thing.
Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood
The Nameless One
Sad Man's Tongue
Dead But Rising
The Mirror and The Ripper
Heaven Nor Hell
Maybellene I Hofteholder
The Hangman's Body Count
A Warrior's Call
Cape of our Hero
Pool of Booze, Booze, Booza