For the eighth year in a row, a cavalcade of bands and a host of music fans descended upon Ohio State’s Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio for three days of music and comedy. The 2014 Rock on the Range, held from Friday May 16 through Sunday May 18 featured no less than sixty bands plus a comedy tent, with approximately 40,000 fans in attendance.
Day 1 of the annual rock fest was a day of rarities. The day started off with Swedish desert rockers Truckfighters putting in a performance on the Jagermeister stage, their first (and only) appearance here in the states in 15 years - the band flew to play at Rock on the Range only and subsequently went home to their native Sweden.
Also in short supply in recent years have been members of Pantera reuniting onstage, although that’s what happened during Down’s Day 1 performance on the Ernie Ball stage. Down Vocalist Phil Anselmo (ex-Pantera) and mates were joined onstage by Kill Devil Hill bassist Rex Brown (also ex-Pantera), for a rendition of Down’s “Stone the Crow,” making the fanboys’ in attendance wet dreams come true.
Live appearances by the headliners Guns N’ Roses have been rare, too, since the 90s. And despite frontman Axl Rose’s reputation for taking the stage late and leaving early, the band started right on time at 8:30 p.m. and continued performing for over two and a half hours, although Rose took no shortage of space. The crowd that had thinned by the time they took the stage, however, was evidence of the band’s squandered opportunities, taking 15 years to release a single album and having their live show morph from a down-n-dirty rock band to something more akin to a glitzy Vegas spectacle.
Rose seemed most at home when at the piano and playing the epic ballad “November Rain,” although an unexpected shot of adrenaline came in the form of bassist Tommy Stinson’s rendition of the Sex Pistols’”Holiday in the Sun.”
Weather may have had something to do with the meager crowd for Guns n’ Roses, as it was uncharacteristically chilly for mid-May. The chill turned to dampness on Saturday, as cold winds continued to blow through Crew Stadium and fans experienced the occasional burst of sprinkles.
The bands in attendance continued to hear things up onstage during Day 2, although the set by buzz band Nothing More was marred by equipment malfunctions that put a stop to the music for a good ten minutes. Highlights of the day included the tuneful funkiness of Crobot, the unusually charismatic frontman for Texas Hippie Coalition, and the elaborate stage show of headliners Avenged Sevenfold, which looked something like a set based on Castlevania, with an eerie skeleton and pyro comnbined with window-like screens that projected bandmembers to gargantuan proportions.
The weather improved tremendously for the closing Day 3, with warmer temperatures and sunshine. Acts ranged from the stoned-out rock of Monster Truck to the impassioned classic rock of Wolf Mother, to heavy metal purists Mastodon and Kvelertak. A performance by Kid Rock closed the weekend of music.