Plant-Based Adventures in the Derby City: A Sort of Review of Louder Than Life 2021, Part 2

Welcome to the “long awaited” second and almost-certainly final installment of my review of the 2021 Louder Than Life music festival in Louisville, KY. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, you should start there, then come back here and continue. I’ll wait…

Okay, welclome back. As I mentioned in Part 1, Day Three was always the weakest day of the lineup. Nine Inch Nails was slated to headline, and I was excited about that, as I’ve never seen them live, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about their live show from people whose opinions I trust, Mrs. Circlepit included (she’s seen them thrice). Snoop Dogg was scheduled to offer direct support, and I was obviously into that, because regardless of how I might present myself (both in my writing and in my day-to-day life), I do enjoy having fun. Several other artists and bands ended up cancelling between the lineup announcement and the beginning of the festival, and I’m pretty sure the largest percentage of them were scheduled to perform on Saturday.

So anyway, NIN and Snoop were the only two we were particularly stoked to see, and both of them cancelled. NIN was replaced with Disturbed, which is fine, but not really for me (and is certainly not a proper replacement for Nine Inch Nails), and Snoop was replaced by Machine Gun Kelly, who had previously been scheduled to perform immediately before Snoop. MGK was replaced with something I didn’t care about, although I probably would’ve liked it more than I would’ve liked MGK, but long story short, we decided not to attend on Saturday, because the only band we were interested in seeing was Suicidal Tendencies, and quite frankly it just seemed like a lot of hassle to ride the shuttle to the festival grounds, stand in line to get in the gate, walk all the way across the festival grounds to the second stage to watch ST play for 30-40 minutes, walk all the way back across the festival grounds to the shuttle, then ride the shuttle back to the hotel. I’ve seen ST live a few times and they put on a great show, but I’m a middle-aged man, and I was tired.

We started our day with a vague plan that did, in fact, include a shuttle ride to the festival to watch Suicidal Tendencies. We took a white-knuckle drive to the Highlands to eat lunch at Havana Rumba, an absolutely kickass Cuban restaurant owned and operated by a very nice family, followed by a mostly much-less-stressful drive to visit Mrs. Circlepit’s grandma and aunt, followed by a white-knuckle drive back through the Highlands (strictly to avoid festival traffic on I-65, which is a shitty and terrifying drive on the very best day) to the hotel. We returned, the missus decided to take a nap (Havana Rumba will not let you leave hungry), and I sat on the couch to read. Next thing I know she’s waking me up to tell me it’s 6:00, which means we have less than 40 minutes to get our shit together and catch the shuttle before ST takes the stage, which means that without a series of small miracles, we will miss at least a few minutes of ST’s set, which means we decided to stay downtown on Saturday.

We walked a few blocks east to Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen, where we were given a table outside, which allowed for pretty magnificent people-watching (lots of varied events in the city that weekend). We ordered drinks and an appetizer, and perused the vegetarian options (mostly listed under a section titled “Plant Based”), among which was a sandwich called the “Fake A$$ Chicken Sandwich”, which is an objectively dumb name, but which sounded like it could be a pretty good sandwich. The menu describes it thusly: “southern fried vegan chicken, crispy vinegar slaw, vegan garlic aioli, pickles on a kaiser bun”. I asked our server what the “chicken” is made of, and she replied, “it’s plant based.” I said, “I know that, but I was wondering what it’s made of.” The missus added, “like, is it tofu, or seitan, or…” and the server said, “I’m not sure, but I’ll go find out.” She returns very quickly and said “my manager said it’s plant based, but it doesn’t contain any soy”. “I was just curious about what it’s actually made of,” I replied.

That determined and almost-certainly underpaid server, god bless her, said, “I’ll go ask the kitchen. I just asked the front-of-house manager the first time.” A full 4-5 minutes passed before she came back outside. Her face did not indicate good news. “I’m really sorry, but all any of them will tell me is that it’s plant based.” I tried my very best to maintain my cool (and was successful, I think), and said, “That really isn’t a good or proper answer to my question, but it’s not that big of a deal, I’ll just get something else.” The server said “I know, I’m sorry, they just kept saying ‘it’s plant based'”. Then missus then said “do you know if it’s made in-house, or if it’s something you buy pre-made?” She said, “I know we don’t make it in-house, and to be honest, I’ve heard people say it’s kind of bland and not really worth the price.” “That’s perfect,” I replied, “I’ll have one of each taco instead. I’m really sorry for the hassle.”

The tacos were great, as was everything else (the service included – we tipped her very well), and I’d go back in heartbeat, but the first thing I’ll always think of whenever I think of that place is that every dipshit working in the kitchen that night thinks both that server and I are complete idiots, because we can’t seem to understand the words “plant based”. That’s enough of Day Three.

Day Four was a big’un. Lots of bands we were interested in checking out, both old and new. Metallica was headlining again (rumors abound that they were gonna play “The Black Album” in its entirety), and Judas Priest, Pennywise, The HU, Ayron Jones, Badflower, Sabaton, and Fozzy were all on the Sunday lineup as well. We got off the shuttle as Ayron Jones began his set, and thankfully the lines moved quickly thought the gates, so we got to actually see the majority of his set, which sounded great, and was delivered with a lot of energy. Fozzy was next on our agenda, but they weren’t really a necessity so much as a performance I just wanted to check out, since I had the opportunity to do so. I’ve been a fan of professional wrestling for most of my life, and Chris Jericho was always an entertaining wrestler, so I figured I owed it to myself to finally check out his band, given that all I had to do was walk maybe 50 yards from where we stood for Ayron Jones.

The verdict, re: Fozzy? Entertaining stage presence, enjoyble songs, but nothing special. Regarding the band, Mrs. Circlepit said “it looks like Chris Jericho walked into a Hot Topic and said ‘I’m starting a band, and we’ll probably play a lot of hard rock and metal festivals, who’s in?'” That was as apt a description as I could’ve mustered. I joked that they could call themselves Chris Jericho and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Stereotypes. There was the Guy Who Could’ve Been in a 90’s Pop Punk Band (with Ska Tendencies) on either bass or guitar (I can’t remember which), the Guy Who Could’ve Been in Creed on guitar, the Guy Who Could’ve Been in Some Band Like Buckcherry on either guitar or bass, and the Guy Who Could’ve Been in a New Wave Band on drums, all fronted by one of the most entertaining men to ever hold a microphone in a wrestling ring, The Man of 1,004 Holds himself, Chris Jericho. I’ll definitely watch them again if they’re at a festival I’m attending, but only if their set doesn’t conflict with another band that I’d rather see.

Speaking of bands I’d rather see, The HU were up next on the other main stage (I’ve forgotten which was which), so we made our way over there and promptly had our minds blown by their absolutely unique mix of Mongolian folk music and thick-ass metal grooves. Seriously, if you get a chance to see The HU live, do not miss it. They were fantastic.

Seriously, holy SHIT!

Badflower was next on the other main stage, and they were very good. We made it a point to check out several of the bands we’d never heard of in the weeks and months leading up to the festival, and Badflower was one of the bands that piqued our interest. They’re a bit melodramatic, and they definitely cater to a younger audience, but I enjoyed them, and I’m pretty sure if I was 20 years younger, I’d be a legitmate fan. At one point, their singer asked the crowd how they were doing, or some such trope, and there were some cheers and whatnot, then he said to a guy (presumably) in the audience, “who said fuck you? Did you mean that? Jesus Fucking Christ, that’s so mean”, and I thought that was pretty funny. Anyhoo, as they finished up their set, we walked back over the other main stage to catch Pennywise.

“What’s up, Louder Than Life? We’re Pennywise, and we’re already drunk. There’s no hope for us.” So said Pennywise frontman Jim Lindberg, kicking off a raucous, super high-energy 40-ish minute set filled with classics and funny stage banter and a cover of the Beastie Boys’ classic “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)”, as chosen by the crowd (the other option was a Nirvana cover, probably “Territorial Pissings” based on past setlists). Pennywise was an important part of my life when I was in my early 20’s, and I’d seen them twice before (both times on the Warped Tour), but this set was the most I’ve ever enjoyed them. The band was obviously having fun, the crowd around me was having a blast, and The HU seemed to be thrilled to join Pennywise on stage for perennial show closer/tear-causer “Bro Hymn”.

This is not my footage.

Seether and Breaking Benjamin were next on the main stages, and not for us, so we got some fuckin delicious iced lattes and checked out Sabaton, who were headlining the second stage. They were tight as hell and super entertaining, and I’d definitely check them out again. We followed our iced lattes with dinner from a food vendor called Tickle Pickle (based out of Cincinnatti, OH). It was the best food I’ve ever had in a festival or concert environment. I got the “Pearl Jam” burger (jalapeno jam, caramelized onions, tomato, and goat cheese) with an Impossible patty, and the missus got “God’s Mac and Cheese”, which was some dope-ass mac-n-cheese topped with crushed up Grippo’s BBQ chips. I’ll definitely check them out next time I’m in Cincinnatti.

Judas Priest took the stage and rained molten metal all over everyone. Rob Halford fucking nailed those high notes, and the band was tight as tourniqet (to steal a line from Pink Floyd). Rob moved around on stage a bit slower than he used to, but he was moving faster than I do when I wake up the morning, and he’s got almost 30 years on me. Speaking of dudes in their 40’s, you may have heard about Priest guitarist Richie Faulkner (at 41 years old, the youngest member of the band by at least 10 years) coming very close to death on stage. I can say with full confidence that Richie Faulkner was the only person in attendance that night who had any idea that Richie Faulkner was in any kind of pain. Watch this footage and have your mind blown as you realize that Richie Faulkner’s chest cavity is filling up with blood while he absolutely shreds his “Painkiller” solo…

That’s him in the thumbnail there, in case you don’t already know. This is also not my footage.

Earlier in the evening, a visibly excited Kirk Hammet joined the band on stage for a ripping version of “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)”.

Once again, not my footage.

And speaking of Kirk Hammet, Metallica followed the mighty Priest with aplomb, and kicked off their second headlining set with a great rendition of “Hardwired” from their most recent album, the pretty good Hardwired…to Self-Destruct. “The Four Horsemen” and “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” were dope, and then a very early-90’s-MTV-production-style video about the band’s juggernaut album in a year chock-full of juggernaut albums played on the screens, leading directly into the band performing 1991’s Metallica (a.k.a. “The Black Album”) in its entirety, but from back to front, which was a fun twist on the album, and had the added effect of helping us not feel weird about beginning our journey toward the exit (via the shitters, which were only used for peeing, because after 4 days, they nasty) toward the end of the album. I mean, “Enter Sandman” and “Sad But True” are fuckin cool songs, but I didn’t need to pay close attention to them at that point, and the stream of people who seemed to have the same idea as us was pretty sizeable.

We stood nearer the gate and watched them close out their set with shit-hot versions of “Blackened” and “Creeping Death” (it was the first time they’ve ever closed a show with “Creeping Death”, but it seems like it was created for the task). While “Creeping Death” was in full swing, a couple of dudes were walking past us toward the exit when one of them fell to his knees and started to clutch his chest. Mrs. Circlepit sprang into action to offer assistance, but the man assured her he was just having an acid reflux flareup. She offered him some Tums from her purse and he accepted, standing up almost immediately upon swallowing and indicating that he felt much better. He then asked us if we’d like come to his buddy’s house and party with them. He lived real close by, apparently.

We politely declined, and made our way to the entirely-too-hot, far-too-crowded, way-too-intoxicated shuttle back to the hotel and very quickly fell asleep. Our adventure was over, and like the last time, I was filled with a strange mix of relief and sadness. The Missus said the next day that she wasn’t sure she could do that ever again unless we were to spring for VIP tickets, and like last time, we bought tickets shortly thereafter, as soon as I confirmed that I could take that time off work again.

We won’t know who’s playing for another few months, but based on past lineups, I can’t imagine there won’t be at least one headliner we’ll wanna see (probably at least two), and they always stack the rest of the lineup with at least three or four kickass bands/artists (usually more), and the people watching is always entertaining, plus this time, we’ll have access to a dedicated merchandise booth (which will only take 30 mintues instead of 45 minutes), shade (where dickheads will still prop their feet up on a chair and put their backpack on another chair) and air-conditioned restrooms (that a bunch of dumbfucks will no doubt still piss all over).

Should be a great time, and I’m sure I’ll relate the experience here (or somewhere, anyway), but hopefully I’ll get back to this at least a few times before then. Work is finally getting to a point where I can be places other than there sometimes, and that’s neat. At this rate, if people would stop fucking staring at us while they wait for their food, start complying with the local mask mandate/our policy without being little bitches about it, and stop standing in a cluster at the end of the bar where they block the servers, food runners, and bussers, I might even stop vaguely wishing for a quick and merciful death for 6-10 hours a day.

I’m only kidding, it’s no more than 2, maybe 2-1/2 hours most days. It’s called “the rush”.

Oh! I almost forgot: I mentioned in Part 1 that there would be “more on Island Noodles later”, and wouldn’t want anyone to think I’m a goddamn liar. At some point early on Day 4, I noticed that the line for Island Noodles only had like 15 people in it, so I queued up and waited in gleeful anticipation to try this life-changing food. Here’s my official “hot take” on Island Noodles: it was thoroughly okay. The noodles were cooked well, the vegetables were fresh and crispy, and the sauce was salty but tasty, and it was definitely the healthiest food I’ve ever eaten at a non-food related festival, but I just can’t imagine anything living up to the hype I’ve seen about them on LTL-related social media. I’d buy it again, but I wouldn’t stand in one of the typical 40-deep lines to wait for it.

Thanks for reading. If you liked what you read, why not tell a friend? If you didn’t like what you read, I dunno, thanks for giving it a shot, I guess? Maybe you’ll like something else I’ve written. Maybe not. Until next time, remember to keep one foot in the gutter and one fist in the gold.

Open this fucking pit up!

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