Something wicked this way came and left a path of destruction big enough to swallow up all of Eastern Kentucky Tuesday night as the Carnival of Madness finally touched down in Pikeville. Featuring five of today's top rock acts managed by InDeGoot Entertainment, 10 Years, Sevendust, Puddle of Mudd, Chevelle and Shinedown came together for the first annual Carnival of Madness, bringing the concert of the summer.
The Carnival was kicked off by the Knoxville-native 10 Years. The lesser known band of the lineup, they drew the crowd in quickly playing their hits like "Beautiful" and "Wasteland" while winning over soon-to-be fans with a lively stage show, complete with an ax-wielding guitarist, and not just his 6-stringed-ax. The never-unmoving Brian Vodinh actually swung a real ax around on stage, even using it as a drumstick to beat a cymbal as they closed out their set. Each band member possessed a frenetic energy that gave the crowd that jolt that it needed to start the night of madness off on the right foot.
Next to rock the room was Sevendust. The rock veterans hit the stage with a sound much different than the band preceding them. Fronted by showman Lajon Witherspoon, Sevendust played with a hard rock attitude and confidence gained from years on the road. Playing hit after hit, the crowd wasn't led to moshing as might have been expected, but front row lips still mouthed every word to songs from the newly released album "Cold Day Memory" and all the way back through classic songs like "Angel's Son" and "Praise." Witherspoon described the Sevendust mentality perfectly as their set approached its close with a simple yet poignant statement: "Whether you love us or hate us, (at which point he dropped the pointing finger he had been holding out and replaced it with a finger more fitting to his second option) you can't ignore us." And this night especially, the band was not ignored. Their stellar stage show full of energy and action, especially from undeniable drummer Morgan Rose, and left the crowd hungry for more.
That hunger was satiated by Puddle of Mudd. As singer Wes Scantlin took the stage, members of the audience, including me, were a bit worried about his state. Rumors from past stops of the Carnival said that he seemed to be less than sober for the performance. As he began the first song, standing unmoving at the microphone, it seemed this show would be no different. As the second song began though, Scantlin seemed to awaken from the frozen daze as he encouraged the audience to hold their hands high in the air and wave their "spirit fingers." As strange as the request was, the audience's obedience was even stranger. Nearly every finger in the crowd began wildly waving with more energy than the cheerleaders in the "Bring It On" movie that made the move famous. He continued to sing the songs that made the band famous, and new fan favorites like "Spaceship," with repeated spirit finger episodes all while dancing around the stage like a 13-year-old girl at a slumber party listening to Justin Bieber. He told the crowd "Let's rock and shit," and that's exactly what Puddle of Mudd did- they rocked, and easily brought one of the more entertaining, or at least more fun, performances of the night.
Chevelle took the warmed up stage next, bringing a show infinitely different from the previous acts. The nearly bare stage setup, with no visible stacks of amps, no flashy banner hanging behind and no frills, could have been a indication of their performance as well. Singer Pete Loeffler sang and played the songs immaculately, but for most of the show stayed fairly stationary at the center stage microphone. The show was still enjoyable, though, as they put their hearts into the songs that everyone could sing along to, especially with "The Red," the song that first gained the band mainstream recognition.
After Chevelle finished their set, the audience anxiously awaited the next act, the reason that many had driven hours and miles to a town in the middle of nowhere with a slightly sketchy reputation. That is the power of Shinedown, though, a band made up of four men who have captured the ears and hearts of millions of fans across the globe. After waiting hours for the doors to open though the heat index was over 100 degrees, then standing more than five hours in an auditorium that did not feel much cooler than outside, the fans knew that soon the sweat and pain would soon be worth it.
Singer Brent Smith’s power to captivate the audience pulled each soul into his every word, blocking out the problems of the world that were left outside. Once Shinedown took the stage, he did just that. The stage set up was their most impressive yet, with a an enormous screen behind them displaying images and videos, Barry Kerch perched on a drum riser that sat him far above the heads of his band mates, and costumes that complemented the carnival theme. Smith even entered the stage with a top hat and cane, signifying his role as ringmaster of the circus that was Madness.
"This isn't just a show, this is an event. We're making memories tonight," Smith told the audience as the air in the room was electrified with the anxious anticipation of the memories they were about to make.
And an event it was. Shinedown is known for their amazing live shows, packed with as much heart and energy as any band. From Smith's dazzling vocals to the powerful drumming of Kerch, mixed with the energy of Zach Myers and his ridiculous guitar skills, and the overall amazing musicianship of Eric Bass on bass, guitar and keyboard, the band captivated the audience, holding them tightly by their hair, unrelentingly refusing to let go until both were left filled to the brim with satisfaction and exhaustion.
Hit after hit, though the crowd was a "hard one," according to Smith, the band gave a performance that did not disappoint, even if the small crowd was a bit of a letdown to them. And proving that they really are a band that understands that without fans, they would be nothing, the guys signed nearly 200 autographs for those willing to buy what was likely their second or third copy of "The Sound of Madness." Surely exhausted and disgusting after sweating on stage for their long set, each of the men smiled, shook hands and scrawled their signatures on cd's and posters for the dedicated fans who stuck around way past 11 pm, treating every person that came through the line like they were the first fans they had ever met.
It's "events" like the Carnival of Madness and that prove that Shinedown and rock are still very much alive and are going nowhere but up.