This past September saw more than 100 bands and over 170,000 fans converge on the bourbon-loving city of Louisville, Kentucky, for the annual Louder Than Life Festival at the Highland Festival Grounds at Kentucky Exposition Center.
Over four days, Danny Wimmer Presents set a festival attendance record making Louder Than Life America’s Biggest Rock Festival. With headliners Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nine Inch Nails, Slipknot, and KISS, playing out their respective nights, there was something for everyone.
Year after year, things get moved and changed to try and accommodate not only concert-goers but also the neighborhood where the festival takes place. While Louder Than Life is strategically placed out on a grassy area as part of the Kentucky Expo Center, situated between a busy highway interchange and next to the Muhammad Ali International Airport, neighbors still can’t help but hear the music.
Last year we saw two main stages side by side, with two other stages placed in opposing corners of the grounds, so all the sounds reflected inward. However, this year, the layout changed. In what seemed to be a great idea, the main stages were still placed side-by-side, while two side stages were also placed side-by-side on the opposite end of the park. A fifth stage was also added for up-and-coming bands to be seen and heard while fans walked the park.
For the most part, the vendor areas and food and beverage were placed all over the venue, ensuring nothing was ever out of reach when you wanted it.
With doors opening at noon, openers Plush could be heard while standing in line, setting the tone for a mainly female-dominated first day. Maggie Lindemman, New Years Day, Eva Under Fire, Dorothy, and Spiritbox played back-to-back before Nothing More finally stopped the onslaught of female-fronted bands at 3:30 pm.
As always, the Texas natives brought everything they had, hyping the crowd and warming them up for the night. Yungblud played simultaneously with Lilith Czar, making a choice very hard, followed by Highly Suspect, then Halestorm giving the crowd what they wanted. Lzzy laid down amazing vocals while her brother Arejay played the drums with ease, proving they’ve been doing it as long as they have for a reason. With a monstrous drum solo, which included his “oversized” drumstick routine, their hour-long set flew by, making us all want more.
Ho99o9 played a side stage while Amy Lee and Evanescence hit the main stage. Both show different in their own right, but there was something for everyone today, with Bring Me The Horizon going up against Tenacious D. Jack Black and Kyle Glass even brought Amy Lee onstage to sing along during their hits “Kyle Quit The Band” and “Lee.”
In what can only be described as amazing, Nine Inch Nails closed tonight with a two-hour set that touched on almost all of their albums and consisted of 23 songs overall. The lighting for their set was fast and bright, mainly all-black backdrops with white strobes. After a few moments, your eyes adjusted, or a headache ensued. Either way, their sound was on point.
We ended up strolling in to catch Vended, which for those who don’t know, consists of Griffin Taylor and Simon Crahan (both sons of Slipknot royalty). Although their sound is not identical to their fathers, it is easy to see where their musical inspiration came from, and they are excellent at the craft already.
All Good Things and Ded put on good, but short sets, with newer group Archetypes, Collide playing to a large crowd on a side stage, with most singing along word for word. Swedish metal group In Flames hit the stage running, and chaos ensued in the crowd, with surfing and moshing to be found everywhere. This is where the crowd split, some heading to Suicide Silence, some to Clutch, followed by another difficult choice, In This Moment od Crown The Empire.
Mastodon, Baroness, and Gwar all put on amazing shows, with Gwar’s being the goriest by far, with blood spraying in all directions soaking the crowd, who seemed to love every minute of it.
Lamb Of God came out heavy and threw everything they had into their set, including pyro. Lead singer Randy Blythe even stopped the crowd for a moment to do a safety check before telling people to destroy everything and screamed that no one was safe, which on its own was a hilarious site to see and hear.
Shinedown slowed it all down, and while they had pyro, the crowd did more singing and dancing and less moshing and smashing in general. While this might not have made sense due to who was headlining this evening, it calmed everyone before the storm.
Slipknot closed the evening with a shorter 13-song set that included new sing “The Dying Song,” amongst other greatest hits like “People=Shit,” “Psychosocial,” and ‘The Heretic Anthem.”
Today opened with Swedish metal group Solence, with Redlight King and Airbourne following. Bloodywood, which mixes traditional Indian music with Metal, drew a monstrous crowd, who were part fan, and part intrigued at the idea of a crossbreed between the two genres. Pop Evil followed, setting the pace for seasoned vets, Sevendust, to take the stage and show newer bands how longevity can be achieved. The Cherry Bombs put on an interesting burlesque-type show set to heavy metal music that included fire and interpretive dance.
Jerry Cantrell (of Alice In Chains) played a laid-back set that included some Alice In Chains songs before Ghostemane flipped the script and dropped 808 hits like candy for almost an hour. Merging Rap with Metal and industrial is a site to see and hear. Chevelle brought us back to Rock & Roll, then Alice In Cooper took us back in time.
Singing through his greatest hits, he often changed jackets to match song titles and even brought out a fake baby doll and chopped his own head off on stage. Coming from a world of gimmick stage shows, he really hasn’t changed over the years.
Rob Zombie closed out the second stage tonight with a 13-song set that included White Zombie hits “Thunder Kiss ‘65” and “More Human Than Human,” as well as a movie trailer for his new flick, “The Munsters.”
KISS finished the evening with 19 songs, including a 2-song encore, spanning their 5-decade career in Rock & Roll, as part of their End Of The Road World Tour. Ending the evening with “Rock and Roll All Nite” is quite fitting for a show of this caliber.
Walking in today, it could be overheard that the festival length was wearing on people. Four full festival days is amazing, and it gives you a chance to see a lot of bands in a short amount of time, but for some who party a bit too hard or can’t handle the level of walking needed, it wears you down quickly.
Radkey could be heard as we approached the venue, with the Warning and Dirty Honey playing amazing sets one after the other. The Struts, fronted by Luke Spiller, gives off an early Queen vibe, offering heavy crowd participation and a sing-along.
Jelly Roll, on the main stage, brought a HUGE crowd, thanks to his current radio hits “Son of a Sinner” and “Last Man Standing”; however, he played through some earlier music that included more of his rap songs. It was amazing for a fan like myself who has been there from the beginning. The Pretty Reckless brought us back to pure rock and roll with lead singer Taylor Momsen and the boys from New York City playing a quick 8-song set.
Always good for a good show, Papa Roach hosted an hour-long sing-along with the crowd singing and dancing the whole time. Incubus followed but had a bit of technical difficulties during “Megalomaniac” before continuing and finishing with hits “Drive” and “Pardon Me.”
Tonight was really about the Red Hot Chili Peppers. For almost two hours, fans were treated to all of their greatest hits, including an intro jam session that seemed to last forever before ending the evening with “By The Way.” There was a moment when a fan tossed a beer at lead Singer Anthony Kiedis, and it was rumored that with sniper-like precision, it took out his in-ear monitors. As they ended their hit song “Give It Away,” he could be heard thanking the crowd for coming out, especially the beer toss guy.
All in all, Louder Than Life is continuously one of my favorite festivals to attend. Not only for the atmosphere, music, and experience but the city of Louisville in general. I often stay a few extra days to visit Bourbon Distilleries, eat at amazing local restaurants, and sightsee some beautiful sights. The city of Louisville has so much to offer besides Louder Than Life, which is exactly why Danny Wimmer Presents has chosen to continue to hold amazing festivals, bring thousands into the area, and put money into the economy there.
Next year’s event has already been announced, and tickets are on sale now. Head over to the official website here to keep up to date with announcements and to grab your tickets today.