Bands and their fans overcome sloppy conditions at Rockfest

Fans make their way along a muddy hillside during Saturday's Rockfest on May 30, 2015 at the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Mo.
Fans make their way along a muddy hillside during Saturday's Rockfest on May 30, 2015 at the Liberty Memorial in Kansas City, Mo. JSLEEZER@KCSTAR.COM

When Anthrax opened its set at Rockfest on Saturday with the thrash metal classic “Caught In a Mosh,” the festival’s many inconveniences were temporarily rendered inconsequential.

Long lines, muddy grounds and tight quarters seemed small prices to pay for hearing a seminal song by a group that Johnny Dare, the radio personality representing festival organizer 98.9 The Rock, introduced as “a band that changed metal.”

The 11-hour event— a concert billed as “the biggest one-day music festival in America”— featured many such transcendent moments.

Several of the biggest and best bands in hard rock and heavy metal were among the 20 acts that performed on three stages.

Not everything ran smoothly. The popular band the Pretty Reckless cancelled due to a member’s illness. While it didn’t rain during the festival, soggy conditions created problems.

“The rain has complicated everything,” Dare said.

Layers of mulch near the primary stage provided relatively firm footing, but accessing the dozens of portable toilets at the northwest corner of the site required navigating treacherous slopes of pungent muck.

At least two boggy areas became mud wrestling pits. Like monkeys in a zoo, some of the combatants flung filth at passerby.

Projectiles of a different sort were thrown at the singer of the stoner metal band Crobot. Brandon Yeagley straddled the shoulders of guitarist Chris Bishop mid-song and raised his shirt to expose his chest. His playful subversion of one of Rockfest’s most notorious traditions was rewarded with a pelting of strings of beads by amused members of the audience.

The Kansas City based rap star Tech N9ne dazzled in a rock-tinged appearance he characterized as “the biggest show we’ve ever done in Kansas City.” He was entirely in his element during his Rockfest debut.

During a rendition of the speed-rap song “Worldwide Choppers,” he appeared to break the fall of a crowd-surfer as she crossed the stage barrier.

Some rock purists took issue with his presence. Their objections are silly. The proper question isn’t whether or not Tech N9ne belonged at Rockfest. Instead, it’s what took so long to make it happen.

Festival headliner Rob Zombie was substantially less efficient. During a ramshackle performance that he said was “the first show we’ve played in about eight months,” the shock-rocker complained about the stage lighting, the security staff and his malfunctioning belt.

The willingness of tens of thousands of fans to subject themselves to trying conditions was acknowledged by Lzzy Hale of Halestorm.

“Kansas City, you are the most rock and roll city in all of America,” she yelled.

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