“Rock music is back!” Despite early rain, throngs of head-bangers cheered their heroes as festival performances — featuring several Michigan acts — returned to Grand Rapids. Review, photos, video.
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The rock ’n’ roll upheaval of Grand Rapids’ Belknap Park has begun.
Delayed for a year by COVID-19, the inaugural Upheaval Festival delivered a head-banging, opening-day wallop Friday with the likes of Korn, Chevelle and Michigan-bred favorites such as The Legal Immigrants, Deadlight Holiday and Assume Nothing.
The festival helped signal the much-awaited return of live music, bringing back the buzz of summer festivals and filling the venue with thousands of rock fans itching to get back to concert normalcy.
“Sixteen months without live music is brutal,” gushed Mirror Lake native Jeff Cober, the first person to enter the festival’s VIP section on Friday, snagging a spot close to the main stage.
“It could have been a man playing a ukulele on the street and I would have been sitting there with my devil horns up.”
Luckily, Upheaval brought not just “a man playing a ukulele” but scores of grinding electric guitars and thundering drums, pumping up legions of concert-hungry fans in spite of some early rain showers.
“Just seeing a family of rock, it’s awesome,” Cober said. “To be with people of our own kind who just want to be here to rock out with other people who like music, just to see everybody after so long with COVID, it’s great.”
Michigan bands carried the bulk of opening sets, including Assume Nothing.
The Mason, Mich.-based madmen rallied a crowd that was just as willing to rock as the band, with pirate-capped patrons and attendees raising a fist in salute as Grand Rapids was mentioned. Even the rain didn’t deter band or fans.
“Oh it’s coming down now, huh?” Assume Nothing singer Riley Roush declared. “Who gives a f—? Rock music is back.”
The band’s gut-busting performance was followed closely by Grand Rapids’ The Legal Immigrants, who brought life below the gloomy skies overhead.
POP EVIL GIVES WEST MICHIGAN SHOUTOUT; KORN WRAPS UP DAY 1
The main stage celebrated Michigan, too, with North Muskegon-founded Pop Evil delivering the performance on Friday that turned a hesitant crowd into full-blown festival fanatics.
During its set, the band roamed the stage and mounted speakers to stand over the crowd. Singer Leigh Kakaty served as the ringmaster, raising his fist as either side of the hairpin-trigger crowd enthusiastically rose with it.
There were personal moments as Kakaty reflected on the long pandemic without live music, following that with the first live performance of “Breathe Again,” a single from the band’s latest album. And before “Torn to Pieces,” the band gave praise to Grand Haven, where the song was written.
But the name that kept coming up on Friday – from stage announcers to patrons – was Day 1 headliner Korn, and for good reason.
As the California nu metal band took the stage in a haze of dimly lit smoke, the packed crowd brimmed with excitement as music swelled. Above all else, the performance was a dramatic one, with singer Jonathan Davis romping around the stage demanding admiration that was gleefully delivered.
Korn certainly delivered the loudest performance of the day for the packed field of raised hands. The band’s hits drew expected waves of singing from the crowd, but when Davis brought out his bagpipes, the masses responded with even more energy.
Consider it the opening day’s rallying cry: Give the performers love and they’ll give it back as intense music. The electrifying crowd around the flickering stage and the dotted hillside of spectators certainly displayed that, giving rock a warm welcome back on Friday.
Day 2 of Upheaval Festival resumes at 2:30 p.m. today (Saturday) with Blue Felix, followed by Vestigial, Nonpoint, Heartsick, Skillet, Stitched Up Heart, Staind, Blacktop Mojo and headliner Rob Zombie. Details, tickets here.
PHOTO GALLERY: Upheaval Festival (Day 1)
Photos by Anthony Norkus
VIDEO: Upheaval Festival (Day 1)
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