It’s a big year for 98 Rockfest, the annual rock and metal shindig thrown by local FM radio station 98 Rock. plays a mix of classic and modern rock that leans toward the heavier side of things. Think AC/DC and Black Sabbath for the classic side of things, and Halestorm and Breaking Benjamin for the modern examples. 2016 marks the tenth year that 98 Rockfest has been staged at the Exchange Park Fairgrounds in Ladson. An impressive line of bands have rocked across the 98 Rockfest stage in the past decade, and this year is no exception. In addition to the eventual winner of the finale of this week’s Battle of the Bands at The Sparrow in Park Circle, here’s a rundown of the bands preparing to melt faces this Sunday. Oh, and just in case there’s anyone out there that thinks that modern rock and metal are strictly male territory, this year’s 98 Rockfest features female vocalists and musicians in five out of the seven headlining bands.
Fit For Rivals
Hailing from just down the road in Jacksonville, Florida, Fit For Rivals has seen its star rising steadily in the rock world since the band released its debut album, “Steady Damage,” in 2009. Lead singer Renee Phoenix has a snarling attitude that reminds one of a young Joan Jett, and the band pulls no punches on great studio tracks like “Damage” and “Crash.” It will be interesting to see how Fit For Rivals’ songs translate in a live setting.
Dorothy has only been around for a couple or years, but this Los Angeles band has already developed a reputation as a kick-ass live act. Lead singer Dorothy Martin’s ridiculously soulful voice tends to get much of the attention, but fellow band members Zac Morris (drums), DJ Black (guitar), and Gregg Cash (bass) deserve just as much credit for crafting ultra-catchy songs such as “Raise Hell” and “Wicked Ones.” Just pull up the band’s official video for “Raise Hell” on YouTube and try not to be hypnotized by Martin’s sultry vocals.
“In My Head,” by the New York Band Cilver perfectly demonstrates the power behind lead singer Uliana Preotu’s amazing voice. Formed from the ashes of another great New York band, Me Talk Pretty, Cilver has already been turning heads in the industry thanks to a tight band and a charismatic vocalist. Preotu strikes us as a singer who is not afraid to get close to her fans. We’ll see if that’s true on Sunday.
If you listened to the radio or watched MTV back in the 80’s, you know; when MTV actually played music videos, then you can probably finish this set of lyrics:
“I went to a party last Saturday night…”
From her early days playing as one of rock and roll’s baddest bunch of teenaged girls; The Runaways, with the likes of Joan Jett and Cherie Currie, to her current stint as an author, Lita Ford has rightfully earned her place among the legends of rock and metal. During her 80’s peak one couldn’t escape songs like “Kiss Me Deadly” and “Close My Eyes Forever” on rock radio. That latter song, a duet with Ozzy Osbourne, remains her highest-charting hit, reaching No. 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100 in 1988. A lead guitarist since her days with The Runaways, Lita isn’t just another pretty singing face. This woman can shred her guitar right alongside the best of her male counterparts. This year Ford also released “Living Like A Runaway: A Memoir” which lets Lita tell her story her way, with all its ups and downs. After taking a hiatus for much of the start of the millennium to raise her children, Ford is back to performing and recording with a vengeance, and Sunday’s performance should be awesome.
When it comes to metalcore music, Killswitch Engage is almost always mentioned when fans of that genre start compiling best of lists. The Westfield, Massachusetts band, which formed in 1999, has seen its share of members come and go, including the return of original vocalist Jesse Leach after a decade-long absence. Killswitch Engage’s list of accolades is a long one. The band rose to fame on the strength of its 2004 release “The End of The Heartache,” and has received Grammy nominations, has had its music featured in popular films such as “Resident Evil: Apocalypse,” and played high-profile festivals such as Ozzfest and Monsters of Rock. The band has sold more than 4 million records in the US alone, and its latest release, “Incarnate,” rose as high as the No. 6 spot on the US Billboard Top 200 charts. Expect the mosh pits to be fierce in Ladson when these guys take to the stage on Sunday.
If ever there was a band name that was properly matched to said band’s power and attitude, then it would have to be Halestorm. A multi-year verteran of 98 Rockfest, this dynamic act from Red Lion, Pennsylvania is fronted by singer and guitarist Elizabeth “Lzzy” Hale. To call Hale a force of nature is selling her short. Anyone who has caught Halestorm at one of their past 98 Rockfest appearances knows that Hale leaves every last ounce of energy on the stage during a performance. Lzzy shares the stage with her brother, Arejay, who plays drums for the band, and the siblings have been actively writing and performing music since 1997, when Lzzy was just 13 years old. The band is best known for singles such as “Love Bites (So Do I),” “Freak Like Me,” and “Here’s To Us.” “Love Bites (So Do I)” won the band its first Grammy Award. In less than a decade Halestorm has risen to the top tiers of the ranks of hard rock, and show no signs of slowing down.
Sunday’s headliner at 98 Rockfest, Breaking Benjamin, has seen its share of transition and turmoil in its almost two-decade history. Despite that though, the band, which started in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, remains a hard rock powerhouse. Lead singer and guitarist Benjamin Burnley, the last remaining original member of Breaking Benjamin, has a natural talent for writing catchy, angst-ridden songs that click with the feelings of today’s youth. Despite numerous lineup changes over the years Breaking Benjamin’s output has remained consistent in both sound and quality, resulting in record sales of over 7 million albums in the US alone, including two platinum and two gold records. Radio singles such as “So Cold,” “Breath,” and “I Will Not Bow” have kept fans coming back for more, and the band’s live performance is an emotional kick in the teeth. Seeing Breaking Benjamin live will be a great way to wrap things up on Sunday at 98 Rockfest.
98 Rockfest happens Sunday, April 23 at the Exchange Park Fairgrounds in Ladson, SC from 12:00 noon to 9:00pm. Tickets for the show are $35 in advance and available at etix.com. Check out www.my98rock.com for more information.
Devin Grant’s love for live music began back in 1982 when he won tickets off a local radio station to see Joan Jett and The Blackhearts. Had that show been anything other than epic, he would probably be an accountant, or perhaps a podiatrist. Since that fateful day Devin has attended hundreds of live shows. Once he figured out that he could get free tickets in return for writing about the shows, music journalism seemed a logical choice. Devin’s work has appeared in Charleston’s Free Times, The Charleston City Paper, The Post & Courier, Charleston Magazine, and No Depression. He has interviewed the likes of Mike Watt, The Rev. Al Green, Tori Amos, Mike Doughty, Warren Haynes, and Loretta Lynn. He has photographed hundreds of bands, including The Police, My Morning Jacket, The Eagles, Willie Nelson, White Stripes, and Taylor Swift.