Heavy Bob Goes to Earth Rocker III
My journey for Earth Rocker is not that different than others. I fly out of my hometown to Baltimore the day before and then join other Clutch minded people at Tiki’s for a wonderful gathering. Though not an official part of Earth Rocker for many it might as well be. But that is for another time. A very good time, but a different time.
As I arrived at Shiley Acres a rush of memories hit me all at once from last year’s festival. It’s the feeling of being where you are supposed to be with a group of people that are your best friends even if you have never met. There is nothing like it I have ever experienced and I will tell you it is like a drug. Once you have a taste you just want it more.
I arrived just before noon. A bit later than planned but just in time to be part of the group photo by the gates. Instantly I was meet with hugs, handshakes and hellos. The family is starting to assemble and the vibe is growing for the day. After the photo Dean Lazzaro and I head up the hill into tent city. This is one of the things that make this event so much different than others I attend. Mr. Shiley allowing people to come and camp the night before and the night of the show is just one of the numerous things he does that really shows that he cares about the fans coming to the show.
Dean and I meet up right away with our other running mate for the day, Damian Soliz. Damian traveled a stressful journey all the way from Corpus Christi Texas thanks to the help of a small group of Clutch brethren that included Andrew Wendell, Scott Laforce and Dwight and Beth Dingus who pulled together to get him to the show. My part in this was getting him from the airport to Inwood and back for his Flight out Sunday. Now that the three amigos were together it was time to make our way around tent city. It is hard to explain to an outsider the atmosphere you experience as you walk through the campsites. People are friendly and genuinely glad to see you. You won’t go hungry because almost each stop somebody is offering a bite of something, a beverage our to join them in the round of seats they are in and to join the conversation.
After about an hour of hanging with the family it was time to head into the show. Let There Be Rock School opened up the day playing an awesome mix of killer rock tunes to get the crowd moving in the gate and to get them into the right state of mind. Those kids are truly talented and I hope that we will see them doing their thing all of the world.
Next up was Fireball Ministry. They are a band that had been on my bucket list up until just about a year ago when I had the chance to catch them opening for Clutch in Athens Ga. Since they hit the stage early it was HOT( It was HOT all day really). I was very happy to see Scott Reader( ex- Kyuss) was back with them after he had to step back for medical reasons shortly after the show I saw. The band blistered through a set that featured mostly songs from their latest release but they did throw in a few songs from the past. Later members of the group were out in the crowd talking with the fans.
Cro-Mags J.M. then took the stage and added some punk to the day. The crowd seemed to be having almost as much fun as the band. I am always a fan of mixing in different styles to the festival. Clutch has never held to one lone style in their playing or the support bands for their shows. Cro-Mags J.M. were a perfect fit for a mid-day change of pace.
Next up on the stage was Killswitch Engage. From the first chord to the last you could tell these guys have been out there earning their right to be on the biggest stages, playing with the best bands. The set was filled with heavy hitters and crowd favorites Including “ My Last Serenade”,The End Of Heartache” and their killer cover of the Dio classic “ Holy Diver” to close the show. Although most people would say that they were the odd fit for the day I think they won over many of the sceptics in the crowd.
Finally as the sun began its disappearing act towards the horizon The Mighty Clutch take the stage. The show opened with a four pack of songs from their latest release Book Of Bad Decisions whipping the crowd into a euphoric frenzy. This is what everyone had been waiting for. Bearded dudes, tattooed ladies, boys and girls of all ages singing at full volume right along with Neil. It’s like nothing you have ever experienced, unless you’re a Gearhead. The band pulled out some great songs for the set including “Precious and Grace”, the ZZ Top cover that is part of the From The Vault series, “Willie Nelson”( a longtime fan favorite), and one of my favorites “The Face”.
Smiles were on everyone’s faces as people locked arms and rocked out to the most honest band in the land. They closed the main set with “ A Quick Death in Texas” and then stepped off stage to get a bit of a breather before they came back out and pulled the old switcheroo with a bit of “Electric Worry into One Eyed Dollar”. The final cherry on top was a return to the days of old with “Rats”. It was incredible hearing the band play songs that were part of the earliest shows that I had attended way back when.
Now at a normal show this is the time that you are sad it’s over and start thinking about heading home. That is not the case at Earth Rocker. For most the night is just getting started. As you make your way out of the event gates you can already smell the grills releasing their captivating aroma. Calling you to join the other Mother Clutchers that are gearing up (see what I did there) for a long night of food, fun and family.
Yes it is a long hot day but honestly I don’t care about that, even though it kicks my butt. The community that gathers from all over the world for this event is worth the price of admission all by itself.
See you next year Shiley Acres, Tiki’s and my best friends that I only get to hang with once or twice a year!
Outlaw Review/ The Doom Saloon
PHOTOS BY BENEY CHRIS BENEFIEL