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Cover Story

May 10, 2012
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Lazerfest

LAZERfest moves to new location and promises to return better than ever

By Jared Crutis

In Boone, Iowa, heavy metal thunders through city limits on an hourly basis in the form of a few dozen graffitti-laden boxcars being pulled by brutally powerful 180-ton locomotives. But on Sunday, May 13, residents and 20,000 guests will witness a new kind of heavy metal rolling into town: LAZERfest, a one-day rock music festival that’s as much about debauchery and rebellious fun as it is about sonic rage. In other words, everything rock and roll.

Sponsored by Des Moines-based radio station Lazer 103.3 since 2007, the festival has become a yearly summer kick off for music fans in the metro. Although the show was held in 2002 and 2003, it went on hiatus until a triumphant return in 2007. Ever since, LAZERfest has been bringing a wide variety of hard rock and heavy metal bands to central Iowa, with more than 22,000 people attending last year’s show. Organizers are hoping for a simuliar turnout this year.

“So far tickets sales have been really good,” said Lazer 103.3 program director Ryan Patrick. “I think we’ll be in the same ballpark for ticket sales. We’re hoping for great weather, which always helps bring more people out.”

In 2002, the festival was held at Waterworks Park and featured P.O.D., Rob Zombie and Stone Sour on the main stage. The following year, the festival moved to the Indianola Balloon Grounds with Staind, Static-X and Powerman 5000. The balloon grounds went on to be the festival site from 2007 through 2011. This year organizers have moved the festival 60 miles north to the Central Iowa Expo in Boone (1827 217th St.) and are excited about the new location.

“It’s a great facility out there, and it’s only a few minutes away from Jack Trice Stadium. I think, when people hear it’s in Boone they are scared away, but it’s not as far as they think,” Patrick said. “It’s an easy location to get to, and it has plenty of drainage in case of rain. I’m looking forward to seeing how excited the fans are when they get here.”

The new location also offers new amenities and has plenty of room to grow as the festival does.

“We have it set up for the same amount of people as last year, but the grounds can hold 100,000 people. We’re just using a corner of the space, but there is a possibility of expanding, and it offers a great option to grow if we need,” Patrick said. “This location has plenty of flat ground, and you won’t have to walk around with mud up to your knees.”

Although the station is excited about the new venue, Patrick says a few fans have voiced their displeasure.

“I know a lot of people in Indianola are upset because it’s no longer in their backyard. It’s a big plus to drive five minutes and be at a huge rock show,” Patrick said. “Wherever we have the festival, people are going to have to travel. I know the people in Boone and the surrounding area couldn’t be more excited. Things change every few years, and I think once the people see the grounds, they’ll be happy about the change.”

Fans can purchase tickets prior to the show for $42 (through Ticketmaster) or the day of for $50. VIP tickets are also available for $150 (which includes parking, viewing area with risers, dinner, drink tickets and private bathrooms). Doors open at 11:30 a.m. This year’s line-up features a variety of acts including up-and-comers Black Stone Cherry and Art of Dying, iconic rockers Slash (with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators) and former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach, as well as returning acts Buckcherry, Theory of a Deadman and P.O.D. and co-headliners Five Finger Death Punch and Shinedown.

“When we put the line-up together, we look for a mix that shares the essence of the radio station,” Patrick said. “We try to create a bigger and broader show so more fans will show up. Much like the station, the festival crosses generations through hard rock.”

Patrick is excited to see a number of acts.

“Shinedown has a new album coming out and is a great catch for a headliner,” he said. “And Slash, I mean the guy is a rock and roll hall of famer, and as soon as you see that top hat, you know you’re in for a show. I’m also excited for people to hear what an amazing vocalist Myles Kennedy is. That guy has some pipes.”

With plenty of well-known acts, Patrick is also looking forward to fans experiencing some up-and-coming acts.

“Black Stone Cherry is a band who is blossoming right now, and their new tune is one of the most requested at the station. They have played smaller venues, usually opening for someone, so we wanted to give them the opportunity to play in front of a bigger audience and hopefully turn some people onto them,” he said. “Volbeat is another band people are talking about. There is a lot of buzz on them, and I’m excited for people to experience their show.”

Patrick said this year’s festival has the potential to be the best yet.

“Regardless of what type of music you like, there is something for everyone in this line-up. It’s a great deal, as you’re getting to see 13 bands for less than $5 a piece,” he said. “Once you get here, you’ll realize why people talk about and look forward to LAZERfest every year — it’s the first official party of the summer.”

The headliner

Five Finger Death Punch

Five Finger Death Punch hits the stage at 8:35 p.m.

Five Finger Death Punch not only can lay claim to one of the best names in metal, they also deliver the sonic goods. The band — Ivan Moody (vocals), Zoltan Bathory (guitar), Jason Hook (guitar), Jeremy Spencer (drums) and Chris Kael (bass) — has been rising through the ranks since their 2007 debut, “The Way of The Fist.” Their recent album, 2011’s “American Capitalist,” debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard charts and has sold more than 300,000 copies.

“We’re certainly enjoying our current success,” said drummer Jeremy Spencer during a phone interview. “Our goal when we started was to play arenas with a big production, which is happening right now, so we are loving it. Every band wants the big payoff, but we have had our nose to the grind, and we’re certainly grateful to be here. While out on the road, we’re wrapped in our cocoon so you don’t really see it building. But once you go home and have some time off, you see the rise and you become proud of the work you’ve put in.”

The band has run the gauntlet at LAZERfest, playing during the day in 2008 and 2010, before eventually landing in this year’s co-headlining spot.

“Playing Iowa and Des Moines has always been a positive experience for us,” he said. “The fans have been with us from the beginning, and we’re really appreciative of that. We dig playing there every time we come through, and we’re always excited to come back.”

Spencer promises to give fans their money’s worth.

“Although we won’t have a full-scale production going, we’re excited for the fans to see us, and we plan on playing multiple songs from every album,” he said. “Our goal is to put on an amazing show for fans while creating new fans who walk away telling their friends, ‘You have to see them live.’ ”

The road warriors

Theory of a Deadman

Theory of a Deadman is scheduled to perform at 5:55 p.m.

Canadian imports Theory of a Deadman have had a busy year. After releasing 2011’s “The Truth Is…” the band embarked on a whirlwind tour that hasn’t slowed down.

“We have been busy as heck,” said frontman Tyler Connolly. “We have the whole summer and fall lined up for tours, and then we hope to get back into the studio next year and work on our fifth album.”

The band — Connolly (vocals and lead guitar), David Brenner (rhythm guitar), Dean Beck (bass) and Joey Dandeneau (drums) — has been enjoying the success of the recent album, which has spawned a few rocking hits including “Lowlife,” “Out of My Head” and “Bitch Came Back,” as well as showing a softer side with “Hurricane.”

“We’ve had great fan response and have been pleasantly surprised with the album’s success,” Connolly said. “ ‘Hurricane’ has done really well on rock radio, which kind of shys away from slower songs. We were a bit worried it wouldn’t take off, but it’s been a big surprise as the fans enjoy it and have been calling in and requesting it.”

Theory of a Deadman is another band that graced the LAZERfest stage in the past, playing in 2008 and 2011.

“Lazer 103.3 has been one of those stations that supported us from day one,” Connolly said. “We have good memories of playing past LAZERfests and the Val Air Ballroom. We have never had a bad show in Des Moines, or Iowa for that matter. The fans love us, and we look forward to coming back every time.”

The band members are looking forward to playing for their fans and introducing their music to concertgoers who may have never heard them.

“We don’t have explosions or flamethrowers; we just go out there and play some rocking songs,” Connolly said.

The imports

Volbeat

Danish rockers Volbeat will invade Lazerfest at 4:25 p.m.

Let the invasion commence. Danish metal band Volbeat — Michael Poulsen (vocals, guitar), Anders Kjølholm (bass) and Jon Larsen (drummer) — has already conquered its home country and now are moving into U.S. territory thanks to the success of their 2011 release, “Beyond Hell/Above Heaven,” and its hit “A Warrior’s Call.”

“We started playing together more than a decade ago. We had a few songs together, but we weren’t really sure who was going to listen,” said Larsen. “We thought it sounded good, and soon more people started listening, and we began building a fan base.”

Although the Danish metal scene is tiny compaired to the U.S., fans were quickly drawn to the band’s hard-hitting sound.

“It’s a much smaller scene, but it’s alive and well with a lot more bands touring around,” he said. “But other than that, it’s not much different. Everyone comes out to rock and have a good time. When we started, we never thought we would be touring the U.S., but it has been great.”

Last year the band began seeing more and more faces in the crowd as their headlining tour began selling out.

“We were really proud when we started selling out shows because America is the birthplace of rock and roll,” he said. “We’re very proud of what we have done. Who would think that a little band from Denmark could do that?”

The album’s first single, “A Warrior’s Call,” was a No. 1 hit on rock radio, and the follow-up single, “Still Counting,” has risen to No. 15 in only three weeks on the active rock charts.

“American radio has really picked up our songs, which has been great for us. The crowds are getting bigger, and more kids are singing along,” he said. “As long as people show up for the show, we’re happy.”

The band is looking forward to its spot in the LAZERfest lineup.

“We like playing festivals because we get the opportunity to play to a slightly different crowd than we normally do, as it’s not only metal fans but also rock and alternative fans,” Larsen said. “We know what songs work live, so we try to do the same thing no matter if we’re playing for 20 minutes or two hours.”

The underdogs

P.O.D.

P.O.D. returns to the Lazerfest stage at 3 p.m.

For more than 15 years, Payable on Death (P.O.D.) has been walking the fine line between the Christian and the mainstream rock scenes. Although the band’s background might have opened the door for a number of opportunities, it didn’t define them.

“I wasn’t raised a Christian, but I had gotten saved. I was more into hip-hop and reggae when Wuv asked me to be in the band,” said frontman Sonny Sandoval. “So we mixed it all up — punk rock, hardcore, hip hop and reggae — and created a unique sound with a message. When people found out we were Christians, we were asked to play churches, but we never set out to market ourselves that way. We were just a band who had Christian beliefs.”

The band released two albums (“Snuff the Punk” and “Brown”) while in the Christian scene, but didn’t reach mainstream success until 1999’s “The Fundamental Elements of Southtown.” Their major label debut with Atlantic Records featured hits “Southtown,” “Rock the Party (Off the Hook)” and a cover of U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky.”

“The Christian scene wasn’t mainstream, so not a lot of people knew about us. But we had built a great fan base — warriors as we call them — and we knew they would come with us,” Sandoval said. “We knew that if we made great music and were honest about our faith, eventually the walls would break down. I don’t even think Atlantic thought we could do it, but that first album went platinum, and our Christian warrior fan base got us there.”

The band’s follow-up, “Satellite,” shot them to stardom, selling more than three-million copies thanks to hits, “Alive” and “Youth of the Nation.” Subsequent albums had popular singles, but none reached the popularity of “Satellite.” In June, the band will release its eighth album, “Murdered Love,” on a new label.

“We took time off to refocus and get our heads out of the business,” Sandoval said. “We made the record we wanted to make. Razor and Tie has taken really good care of us, and they didn’t put any pressure on us, which led us to creating some great songs.”

P.O.D. headlined the 2002 LAZERfest and is eager to return to central Iowa.

“I love that we’re the underdogs coming back to the scene. We love playing those 20-30 minute sets, because it gets dangerous. We can pack the set full of bangers and blow the crowd away,” he said. “I believe that when you experience P.O.D. live, you’ll become a fan for life. We could make records and put them out to make money all day, but I would rather see our fans feel the music and go crazy during our live show. That’s what motivates us to continue.” CV

*************************

LAZERfest line-up

1 p.m. — Dead Horse Trauma

1:25 p.m. — Art of Dying

1:55 p.m. — Black Stone Cherry

2:25 p.m. — Adelitas Way

3 p.m. — P.O.D.

3:40 p.m. — Sebastian Bach

4:25 P.m. — Volbeat

5:10 p.m. — Buckcherry

5:55 p.m. — Theory of a Deadman

6:40 p.m. — Chevelle

7:30 p.m. — Slash ft. Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators

8:35 p.m. — Five Finger Death Punch

10 p.m. — Shinedown



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