The third annual Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival is currently pummeling its way across the US, and I was lucky enough to catch the show in the middle of the desert during the Albuquerque stop at the Isleta Amphitheater. This year’s lineup is arguably the best lineup yet, with headliners Alice in Chains and Jane’s Addiction anchoring the main stage with support from Circa Survive and Coheed and Cambria.
In addition to these hard rock staples, the other two stages running during the blistering heat of the day were not to be missed. Highlights included Walking Papers, Beware of Darkness, Middle Class Rut, and The Dead Daisies.
Moving from back to front, let me start off with Alice in Chains. Frontman William DuVall continues to impress as he leads AIC to becoming one of the best live bands of the past decade. Of course, we hardcore fans truly miss the late Layne Staley, but DuVall is an absolute stellar addition (notice I didn’t say replacement) to the band. Jerry Cantrell knows exactly what he’s doing when it comes to keeping the legacy of AIC intact, while paving the way for its future at the same time.
AIC setlist was a perfect mix of old and new, and if there is any room to complain, it’s simply because they have too much great music to squeeze into one night. Their latest release The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here has my vote for hard rock album of the year, and I would even go so far as to say it’s the band’s finest work to date. With world class songwriting, brilliant musicianship, and a stage presence that just oozes with rock ‘n’ roll confidence, I simply cannot say enough good things about Alice in Chains and how they continue to deliver for their fans.
Jane’s Addiction—what can be said that hasn’t been said before? Another outstanding performance led by Perry Farrell and Dave Navarro. From classics such as “Mountain Song” to the terribly underrated “Just Because,” they simply brought the energy to another level. I find it remarkable that any band can be so consistent in delivering greatness, and yet they make it look so effortless. Oh, and they have a new single, “Another Soulmate,” that’s out that is f*cking in incredible as well.
On the festival stage during the day were several standouts, including the aforementioned Walking Papers, Middle Class Rut, The Dead Daisies, and Beware of Darkness.
Walking Papers were a clear standout of the day. Formed by Seattle music scene staple Jeff Angell of The Missionary Position and Barrett Martin formerly of the Screaming Trees, these guys played no-frills, stripped-down, blues-infused rock ‘n’ roll. There are not many bands that can play this sort of music today, let alone tell a story quite like Angell.
Add into this mix Guns N Roses bassist Duff McKagen, and you have a supergroup of sorts that needs to be heard. Check out the tracks “Already Dead” and the timely themed “The Whole World’s Watching” for some of the best songwriting you will hear. My personal favorite “Leave Me in the Dark” is rock’s best hope at bringing back the lost art of storytelling through music.
The surprise of the day for me were LA-based newbies Beware of Darkness. These guys are currently on a US/ UK tear with the breakout success of their single “Howl,” and they have the live performance to back it up.
Sounding somewhat like a love child between Refused, BRMC, and Jimi Hendrix, this trio has a wall of sound that would make even Phil Spector jealous.
Middle Class Rut is a band that I have always thought deserved to be much bigger than they are. Two brilliant records into their career so far, they are one of the most powerful live acts I have seen.
The Sacramento duo consisting of vocalist/guitarist Zack Lopez and vocalist/drummer Sean Stockham were another one of my favorite performances that day, although I would guess that their live show caters better to a club, only because you can’t blow the roof off of an outside performance.
The Dead Daisies are another supergroup of sorts gracing the side stage. Formed by lead singer Jon Stevens (INXS, Noiseworks) and guitarist David Lowy (Mink, The Angles) mid-last year, they have been making their mark on the rock scene ever since.
Having toured already with the likes of Aerosmith, ZZ Top, and Wolfmother, it was a perfect classic sound to round out the festival. Guitarist extraordinaire Richard Fortus (Guns N Roses, Thin Lizzy, Honky Toast, Psychedelic Furs, Pale Divine) simply dazzled the crowd with his stage presence, and furthermore, his raw talent. This guy is clearly one of the most underrated players around today. I wouldn’t hesitate to give him Top 10 status ranking among the finest guitarists worldwide today.