Each year in early Spring, Charleston’s 98Rock radio station holds the annual 98Rockfest at the Exchange Park Fairgrounds. This year’s one-day extravaganza brought the likes of A Day To Remember, Issues, Crown the Empire, Art of Anarchy and many more rising rock bands heard on the renowned local radio station. Ecstasy (figuratively, but perhaps the recreational substance as well) filled the air as thousands lined up at the crack of noon Sunday to barrel through the gateway under the blistering, southern sun.
14 bands, thousands of fans and hours of rock and roll.
This year’s local Battle of the Bands winner Halfway Down kicked off the afternoon. Their short set on the festival’s second stage warmed up (rather unnecessarily as the temperature gauge read 85 degrees) the audience that continued to purchase tickets and roll through the turnstiles. Crown The Empire graced opened up the main stage with their unique metalcore that draws comparisons to predecessors Linkin Park. Opening with “Millenia”, the Andy Leo fronted band bounced around, arousing the first crowd surfers and mosh pits of the afternoon. Recently releasing third studio album Retrograde, CTE didn’t struggle in creating a crowd-pleasing set list. From the brand new “Zero” to the old “The Fallout”, Crown the Empire set the bar high from the get-go.
Swedish face paint icons Avatar took on the afternoon sun headfirst and quickly, along with the crowd, sweated off any and all makeup. The band unveiled an entertaining set that consisted of not only over seas rock and roll, but also top-notch theatrics – most notably when frontman Johannes Eckerström drank from a black gas can. The metal heads tossed the festival over to Red Sun Rising who showcased booming rock. With just one studio album to date, the Ohio natives have skyrocketed up the rock charts with tracks “Emotionless,” “The Otherside” and “Amnesia.”
Stitched Up Heart boasted some of the best rock on the festival’s second stage alongside bands Gemini Syndrome and Otherwise. Stitched Up Heart found themselves stationed on mainstream rock radio after releasing their debut album Never Alone last June. The album features tracks “Finally Free,” “Catch Me When I Fall” and “Monster” – all of which have had their fair share of radio time.
Both Art of Anarchy, fronted by Scott Stapp of Creed, and Issues shared a mix of both heavy and smooth rock and roll. Led by talented vocalists, both bands put together performances worthy of headliner plaudits. Issues’s mix of clean and unclean vocals, provided by the renowned Tyler Carter and Michael Bohn, respectively, offered up the most melodic music of the day. Fans tossed up the horns for the entire set list and their energy never wavered.
A Day To Remember gave the masses a performance to remember as lead vocalist Jeremy McKinnon toyed with cameras and enticed the audience into multiple mosh pits and an overload of crowd surfing. Their diverse set consisting of the lesser-known tracks off their first albums mixed seamlessly with the songs off their most recent album, Bad Vibrations. The frontman persuaded the crowd into the creating the most memorable moment of the night: crowd surfers surfing atop other crowd surfers. Was it safe? Not at all, but as McKinnon said, “You all paid good money to be here.” The audience agreed and each show-goer “disrespected their surroundings” in the most respectful way possible.