What can be said about the Rolling Rock Town Fair? Blink 182, Def Leppard, Saliva, Puddle of Mudd, 311, Sum 41, Trapt and others took the stage at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh to rock the proverbial house. And rock they did. The biggest let down to this show was not the bands, the line-up or the fans, but the venue. For the previous three town fairs, the venue was an out-of-the-way fairground that was just outside of Latrobe, PA, where, of course, Rolling Rock is brewed. But due to the sell-out crowds, it was moved to the stadium where the Pittsburgh Steelers play and the entire aura and ambiance was lost. It became a concert, not an event. And for a concert, it was great. As an event, it suffered.
In 2002, people were mud-covered, mud wrestling and mud-slinging their way to a great time. In 2003, they were standing and watching bands. And as far as bands go, Def Leppard was definitely the surprise of the night. When they were headlining their own tour, they were decent. But in Pittsburgh, with all the young bands playing, Def Leppard showed them how it is done. Perhaps the best story of the day was watching the media director try and figure out what to do as every other artist missed their interviews to go and watch Def Leppard. Whether it was Mark Hoppus from Blink or Josey Scott from Saliva, they all wanted to catch a glimpse of what metal is really like. And they got it.
We will start with Boston’s Damone, who sounded decent, but is obviously still fresh out of the gate, as they just didn’t seem to know how to handle playing outside of a small club. Damone's short set was followed by Trapt. Although the band is getting better live, it still has yet to capture their sound in a live performance. Playing their hit “Headstrong” was able to give the crowd something to move to, but it was still early in the day and the few who were there were still nursing hangovers or working on one for the next day.
It was then time for local heroes The Clarks to take the main stage. And again, without the aura and ambience, the whole event seemed to move lethargically as there was nothing for those to do who were waiting to see the later bands but stand around and look bored. Which many did. Not that The Clarks were bad, but when you get thousands of people waiting for the headliners standing with their arms folded, there isn’t much for any band to do.
Finally, a band some were waiting for hit the stage, and when Sum 41 started playing, the stadium began to look a bit like an event. With a few body surfers and mosh pits brewing, it was beginning to look like something. The problem was, we were halfway through the day before this started.
Saliva perhaps put on the most spirited performance of the night. Scott and company, as usual, put everything they had into the set. Maybe they were trying to show off a bit to their idols Def Leppard, who the band was as giddy as schoolgirls to meet, but whatever the reason, they seemed to take it to a level higher than normal. Which is hard to do. Whether you like them or not, they are one of the most spirited bands touring today.
In 2002, Rolling Rock brought in Outkast, which took away from the same day-to-day metal that was on the bill. And although not going to near that extreme, the show was a bit mixed up when 311 came on. This is a great band with some of the best grooves going today. Whether you drink, smoke, both or neither, 311 is able to get everybody’s body moving. 311 was definitely a great mid-day band, as not only did they break the metal monotony, but they were able to help people free themselves from the confines of moshing and surfing.
Puddle of Mudd took the stage to a surprising ovation. Not so much that the surprise wasn’t warranted, but both Puddle and Blink have been in hiatus for a while, and never know what to expect with this generation of music fans. Sometimes a few months can seem like a lifetime and everything is lost. But Puddle didn’t disappoint as they played their hits early and heavy.
At last, after hours and hours of music, music and more music Blink 182 commanded the stage. Unlike fairs in the past, this year the show seemed to last the entire day. Where before it was over before it got started, this year it seemed fans were ready for it to end. But Blink 182 didn’t let that stop them. With their simple riffs and complicated drumbeats, Blink gave the crowd one last gasp of energy before they headed home for the night.
All in all, Rolling Rock put on another top-notch show but one can only hope they move it back to the hills and backwoods of homeland Pennsylvania where the atmosphere lended a better day then even the best music.