I Couldn’t Think of a Clever Title: A Sort of Review of Louder Than Life 2021, Part 1

I started writing this last Tuesday (9/28), the day after we got home from LTL, then I worked every day since, until today. I decided to go ahead and publish this part, which covers the first two days, and then finish up another time, so that I’m at least getting something out there. I’ll probably finish it next week, but we’ll see – I can be very lazy. Enjoy! Y’know…if you want.

Louder Than Life 2021 is in the books, and I am very sad/glad it’s over. Let’s back up a bit, though, and start from the beginning(ish)…

In the olden times (April 2019), Mrs. Circlepit told me that if Guns ‘n’ Roses were coming anywhere near us on their Not in This Lifetime tour, she’d like to try to attend. Her 40th birthday was coming up later that year, and we’d already skipped out on the first leg of the tour, and we were both experiencing some regret from the decision. Less than a week later, G’n’R was announced as the Saturday headliner at Louder Than Life, so we snapped up tickets immediately. The day was later announced to include Ice Cube, Suicidal Tendencies, Melvins, Anti-Flag, Andrew W.K., Red Kross, Dropkick Murphys, and Stone Temple Pilots (with their Scott Weiland look-and-sound-alike), along with some bands we’d never heard/heard of. Seemed like a no-brainer. We ended up not getting to see Melvins (they played at the same time as Ice Cube, and Ice Cube (with WC!) (of WC and the Maad Circle!) was definitely more of a “once in a lifetime” kinda thing), and we missed Red Kross (I forget why), but everything we did see was great, and the people-watching…

I’ll back up a bit further now: we’d planned on getting single-day tickets in 2018 for the Sunday lineup, which included Nine Inch Nails, Clutch, Ice Cube, Deftones, Primus, Billy Idol, The Sword, and Monster Magnet, along with some other bands we’d never heard/heard of. That also seemed like a no-brainer, but then one week prior to the show, the entire festival was cancelled due to flooding. The team at Danny Wimmer Presents went to work securing a location that could not be completely covered by the Ohio River for the 2019 fest, and now they have a dedicated space at the fairgrounds/expo center, adjacent to Kentucky Kingdom amusement park, right over there near the airport. If this space is ever completely covered by the Ohio River, we’ve got much bigger problems than a cancelled music festival.

Anyway, back to 2019: we got our tickets, and we had a very good time, but with the venue being newly created (along with a miserable dry spell/heat wave), the day was hotter than Hades (if I remember correctly, the temperature topped out at something like 180 billion degress, but the sun might have damaged my brain, so I could be off a bit), and every time a mosh pit broke out, a mini Dust Bowl would immediately spring to life and engulf the crowd. By the end of the night, when Guns ‘n’ Roses finally went on (a full hour late, naturally), we were so exhausted and dehydrated that we just sat down on the gravel and tried not to pass out until we couldn’t stand it any longer. We made our way to the Uber/Lyft pickup area while the band played “Paradise City”, paid 30-40 bucks for a ride to our hotel less than 2 miles away, and passed out. The next day, we agreed that while we had fun, we were gettin too old for that shit, and that was that.

Me too, Roger…me too.

About a month later, Metallica was announced as the Friday and Sunday headliner for 2020, and we bought weekend passes as soon as they went on sale. Not long after, they announced that Metallica wouldn’t be able to perform, as the show dates conflicted with some rehab commitments that James had. A short time later, a fourth day was added to the festival, with Metallica then announced as the Thursday headliner, with all weekend passes to include Thursday admission. We were already on a rollercoaster, but we figured we were strapped in safely, so we’d just go along with the ride. We of course had no idea how long and steep those hills were gonna end up being.

The pandemic (or “plandemic” if you’re a complete dolt) obviously shut down last year’s fest, but we were given the option to roll our passes over to this year, which we did, scoring a pretty cool free t-shirt in the process. When the lineup was announced for this year, it was a real mixed bag. Metallica headlining on Friday and Sunday with direct support from Jane’s Addiction and Judas Priest respectively (fuck yes!), Nine Inch Nails headlining Saturday with direct support from Snoop Dogg (my god, yes!), and Korn headlining Thursday, with direct support from Staind (a polite no thank you from us, especially re: Staind), along with a whole lot of other stuff (some good, some bad, some we’d never heard of), much of which I will get to in due time.

A few weeks ago, Nine Inch Nails cancelled all their 2021 tour dates, citing COVID concerns, and they were replaced with Disturbed, which I’d rather hear/see than Staind, but which I’m still not interested in. Someone else on the Saturday lineup cancelled (I can’t remember who anymore) and they were replaced with Suicidal Tendencies, which was pretty fuckin awesome news for me. I’ve been a fan of ST for years, and their performance at LTL 2019 was one of the highlights for me. At this point, ST and Snoop Dogg were the only reasons I was interested in going on Saturday, although I wouldn’t have minded seeing Ice Nine Kills, mostly just because of the horror movie stuff they fuck with. Last week, Snoop cancelled, leaving a 40-minute set from Suicidal Tendencies as the only real reason I had for entering the festival grounds on Saturday. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We arrived in town on Wednesday afternoon, checked into our suite at the Galt House (this trip was a celebration of our 10th and 11th wedding anniversaries, plus 2 birthdays apiece on account of 2020, so we decided to stay in comfort), and tried to relax and rest up. We weren’t planning on getting there too early on Thursday, but we’re old, and we knew we needed to be prepared in order to enjoy ourselves to the maximum possible extent.

Thursday afternoon, we got on the shuttle to the park ($40 bucks for a weekend pass with unlimited rides to and from our hotel vs. $40+ for an Uber or a Lyft per trip (not to mention the wait time) or $20/day to park and deal with that bullshit traffic – thanks, Pegasus Transportation!) along with one other festival-goer who flew up from Puerto Rico for the weekend, and were dropped off pretty much at the festival gates by a guy who may as well have been a cartoon character (imagine Ed from City Slickers as a cartoon). Fun side story: we were all talking about the many events going on in town that weekend, as well as about events we and the other passenger had either missed or had rescheduled on us due to COVID, and talk turned to Motley Crue, at which time the Cartoon Bruno Kirby told us that Motley Crue were staying at the Galt House, and that Pegasus was transporting each of them to the shows in separate cars. “Are they playing at the Yum! Center?” asked the missus, all of us genuinely confused as to how we hadn’t heard about Motley Crue playing the same two nights as Metallica in Louisville, KY. At that moment, I realized he was almost certainly mixing up the two bands, and then he responded “No, at this festival, same as youse are goin to,” at which point I whispered to the missus “He thinks Metallica is Motley Crue,” and the three of us just said “huh”, and let that conversation die Quietly. It did provide us with a pretty steady source of laughter the rest of the weekend, imagining that guy talking to Lars as if he were Tommy Lee, maybe asking him about his sex tape, or how he feels about Machine Gun Kelly portraying him in a movie about his band, or maybe even just telling him how much he loves “Girls, Girls, Girls”.

Anyway, we arrived on the grounds at around 3:00, got the lay of the land, then got a beer and found a shady spot under the Jack Daniels tent and checked out Sevendust on the main stage. Sevendust isn’t really her thing, and I don’t really know their music, but I’ve enjoyed them well enough when I’ve heard them, and I knew that Lajon has a good singing voice, and I wanted to hear it live. Turns out his voice sounds even better live, though the only Sevendust song I know, still, is their cover of “I Am (I’m Me)” from the album Twisted Forever – A Tribute to the Legendary Twisted Sister. It’s a great song, a very good cover, and cool album.

Don’t take my word for it…

I digress. After Sevendust we walked around and listened to a little bit of Wage War’s set and partook in some people watching, not surprised at the lack of face coverings, and not surprised (but seriously fucking annoyed) by the amount of cigarette and weed smoke being blown directly into faces and crowds by inconsiderate jackasses. Even in non-pandemic times, if you don’t at least try to blow your smoke up into the air when you’re in a crowd of strangers, you’re an asshole. The buzz on the LTL facebook groups is that the food from Island Noodles will change your life (I was half-expecting a handjob from all the hype I’d heard and read, which did not happen; there’ll be more on Island Noodles later), but the line was way too long for me to wanna stand in it, so we had some okay pizza from Pie Baby Wood-Fired Pizza instead (it was as good as thin, floppy pizza can be) while we waited for Anthrax to start. This was my 5th or 6th time seeing Anthrax live, but my first time in a crowd this big, and I was excited about that, but I also was expecting their abbreviated set to be more or less a “greatest hits”-type thing, and they delivered exactly what I expected, while sounding fan-fucking-tastic doing it, which I also expected. I was hoping for collaboration with Cypress Hill on an epic cover of “Bring the Noise” (a hope brought on solely by my imagination), but alas, that did not happen.

Beartooth played after Anthrax for some reaon and they were enjoyable enough, then Cypress Hill (featuring DJ Lord from Public Enemy!) delivered a 100% flawless one-hour set absolutely stacked with classics, closed out by an incredibly high-energy cover of “Jump Around”, the whole thing covered by cloud of smoke thicker than I’ve ever seen at a live show. Sen Dog introduced B-Real as “the highest man in the world”, and I feel like that might be true. A lady who looked like an elementary school teacher I know was dancing and rapping along with “(Rock) Superstar” like her life depended on it, and that was awesome to see. After Cypress Hill, we hit the portajohns and headed for our shuttle, our curiosity regarding Korn overshadowed by our desire to hear and see as little of Staind as possible. Seriously, Aaron Lewis is a jabroni, and at two-and-a-half songs on our way out of the venue, I heard plenty. Our early departure rewarded us with a shuttle all to ourselves, a luxury we would not be afforded again.

Friday had more stuff we wanted to see/hear, but we still didn’t have to get there too early, so Mrs. Circlepit treated herself to a manicure at the hotel while I read a book and listened to some Killswitch Engage songs. They’re a band I’ve never really bothered to give a chance, but my buddy D-Lo is a megafan, so I felt like I had to check them out, and I wanted to familiarize myself with a bit with their discography before hearing them live.

Our shuttle ride in was dumb. Aside from us and one other relatively quiet guy there were Five Loud Dipshits who kept yelling about how good Staind was the night before and this Insufferable Hipster Couple who took every possible opportunity to let us all know that they live in Chicago, as if anyone could have possibly given a shit. At one point, Girl Hipster said “Is anyone actually excited about Jane’s Addiction?” at which point every person on the shuttle (except for the driver) raised their hand (this was the only point during this particular trip where I did not want to smack the dumb faces off all those Loud Dipshits, especially the one sitting directly behind me), and it was the only time Girl Hipster was speechless the entire ride.

Regarding the matter of Killswitch Engage, the jury (i.e., me) has reached its verdict, and it is unanimous. “What say you”, you ask? I say I like their songs well enough, they sound fuckin great live, they bring a fantastic amount of energy to the stage, and if I was 10-15 years younger, they’d almost certainly be one of my favorite bands. Their lyrics are insightful and inspirational, and their riffs are heavy as shit, but I already have a stable of bands I turn to when I need a lyrical pick-me-up and/or to be bludgeoned into submission by riffs. I still wouldn’t necessarily call myself a fan, but I like them more than I did that morning, and I’d definitely check them out live again.

I decided to hop in the merch line during Gojira’s set, knowing it would take a while to get to the front, but also knowing that I’d be able to hear them loud and clear while I waited, and assuming I’d be able to catch at least a few minutes of the end of their set. I naturally chose the slowest-moving line, and at one point the two women at the front were taking so long I wondered if they were trying to buy the entire goddamn festival. “Just pick a fuckin shirt and get out of the way, for fuck sake!” I shouted, and everyone around me agreed, even the drunk 20-year-old in front of me who seemed mere seconds away from vomiting and passing out. They finally finished their transaction and talked a lot of shit while they exited the area, and I finally got my Anthrax and Judas Priest shirts about halfway through Rise Against’s second song.

Gojira sounded great, by the way. So much heaviness coming off that stage. Rise Against is another one of D-Lo’s favorites, but aside from a song or two, my familarity begins and ends with their first album (2001’s The Unraveling), when they were pretty much 88 Fingers Louie with a different singer. They did not play any songs from The Uraveling, and I was not surprised by that. They sounded amazing live, but I’d have absolutely shit my pants if they’d played “Six Ways ‘Til Sunday”.

It almost makes me shit my pants when it comes on a mix I’ve made. I can’t even imagine hearing it live.

Rise Against finished, and Jane’s Addiction came out to the opening strains of “Up the Beach”, and we made ourselves down to the pit area (where we were essentially the only masked people, although if all the shitheads blowing smoke in our faces on Thursday didn’t give us COVID, probably nothing ever will), and Jane’s Addiction blew our minds apart. Such a weird, fun, magical, heavy experience. Tears flowed during “Jane Says”, my head banged during “Mountain Song”, my ass danced itself nearly clean off during “Stop”, and my mouth gaped during “Ted, Just Admit It…” The band was fucking brilliant, and Perry’s banter was fucking hilarious, and we were surprised to learn the next day that a loooooot of people in that crowd were offended and/or disgusted and/or completely flummoxed by “how much of magical weirdo Perry Farrell is”, to quote my better half.

How do you not love that guy?

The crowd rippled with anticipation waiting for Metallica’s first set to begin. Finally, after what seemed like minutes, the house music faded out, and “It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock and Roll)” by AC/DC blared over the PA, followed by Ennio Morricone’s “The Ecstasy of Gold” from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, followed by Metallica, blasting out as furious a version of “Whiplash” as they could possibly manage at this point in their lives and careers. They continued to tear through a varied (and very solid) set spanning almost their entire LP discography (minus St. Anger, Load, and Metallica (a.k.a. “The Black Album”), though the latter will be touched upon later. It was all killer and no filler, even including the songs I don’t know all that well, like “No Leaf Clover”, and the songs from Hardwired…to Self-Destruct, and the songs I know better but don’t care that much about, like “Fuel”. What I’ve learned in my now three times seeing Metallica live is that they even make the songs I don’t care about sound badass live.

“You wanna get some whiskey and make some bad decisions?” asked the missus, and I advised her that I did. “Moth Into Flame” caused me to mosh like Scott Ian as we made our way toward the Blackened Whiskey tent, and I was reminded that I had an open water bottle in my pocket as water spilled all over my leg and shorts, but my good time was undeterred. We got some whiskey and sat down in a significantly less-crowded area (sitting for only the second time that day, in fact) and enjoyed the rest of the show from the comfort of some really uncomfortable folding chairs. While there, I saw a guy with a hand truck banging his head and singing along while he delivered some cases of soda to a food tent. On his way back, he left his hand truck in the field and proceeded to rock his balls off while the band played their hit “Whiskey in the Jar” from 1998’s Garage, Inc. covers album.

Go man, go!

After kicking off their encore with “Battery”, James said in a very sincere-sounding voice, “Louisville, I have something very important to tell you..GIMME FUEL GIMME FIRE GIMME THAT WHICH I DESIIIIIIIRE, OOH!“, and then they played “Fuel”, and I’ve been giggling about that for a week. We headed toward the gates as “Seek & Destroy” began, and boarded the shuttle for the ride back.

The “shuttle” this time actually ended up being a full-sized passenger bus filled all the way up, and included the Insufferable Hipsters from the ride in. Pretty lame, and decidedly less comfortable than the smaller shuttles we’d been on up to that point, but still better than paying surge prices for an Uber, or having the fat Loud Dipshit behind me again.

We went to bed exhausted but happy, which is the best way to go to bed. Saturday – with its razor-thin lineup – was nigh, and Sunday – with its relatively stacked lineup from open-to-close – was…slightly more nigh. But those’ll have to wait until next time, because I have other shit to do. Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed it…

I’ll leave you with a few more pictures from the festival grounds. Be sure to check back for the “exciting” conclusion, coming soon(ish) to a toilet near you!

Open this fucking pit up!

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