98 RockFest wins over fans with music, beer

Kenny Varner plays the bass for local band Madam Adam during a previous 98RockFest. (Alan Hawes/postandcourier.com)

If you live anywhere in the vicinity of the Exchange Park in Ladson and the windows on your house begin to rattle Friday afternoon, don’t worry, it most likely isn’t an earthquake.

Starting at 3 p.m., local radio station 98 Rock will launch the 2012 installment of 98 RockFest. It is the sixth year that the popular local radio station has held the event, which brings an impressive lineup of bands to the Exchange Park for a day of hard rock goodness.

The ticket price of $33 gets you access to 13 bands on two stages. Participating bands include Sevendust, Halestorm, Lacuna Coil, Adelitas Way, Trivium, Art of Dying, Madam Adam, Otherwise, Soulicit, Souls Harbor, Superbob, For What It’s Worth and Sheldon.

In addition to the bands, there will be a number of vendors onsite selling food, nonalcoholic drinks, beer and other items.

The organizers of 98 RockFest are trying something a bit different this year by holding the event on a Friday instead of a Sunday like in past years.

Talking to 98 Rock program director Matthew Potter as he greeted listeners during a remote broadcast in West Ashley last week, he said that there were several reasons for the change.

“The shows have always been great,” Potter said, “but since we’ve held the event on Sunday in the past, we have always received a certain amount of complaints about it being on a Sunday, and having to get up and go to work the next morning after partying all day. So this way folks get to come out to the show and be able to sleep in the next morning.”

Potter also said that with the logistics involved in getting that many national and international touring bands together, Friday was the best day to hold the event.

Potter also revealed that syndicated morning show host Bubba the Love Sponge will attend Friday’s show along with some of his sidekicks. The station carries the “Bubba the Love Sponge Show,” which is based in Tampa, Fla., live each weekday morning.

When asked who he was most excited about seeing live, Potter said, “Sevendust is always incredible live, and they have some new music coming out, so we’ll get to hear some of the new stuff.

“We’re excited about local acts like Madam Adam and Souls Harbor, as well as our Battle of the Bands winners, Sheldon and For What It’s Worth.

“Trivium is the heavy, heavy stuff for our heavy metal fans, Adelitas Way is sick ... and Lacuna Coil has a huge underground following.”

The members of Lacuna Coil hail from Milan, Italy. The band formed in 1994 and has sold more than 2 million albums worldwide since then. Part of Lacuna Coil’s appeal comes from its unusual sound, due largely to the vocals of Andrea Ferro and Cristina Scabbia, who was originally a backup singer for the band until Ferro and his bandmates decided to try something different.

“Back in 1996, it was not very common to have a band with two lead singers,” Ferro said. “We tried (Scabbia) out as a lead singer, and it worked great, so we decided to have her as a proper lead singer. It opened up so many more possibilities for the band.”

The band’s sound is a mix of alternative and gothic metal, and hearing Ferro and Scabbia exchange vocals on a song makes it clear why the band has such a loyal fan base.

Speaking with Charleston Scene by phone last week, Ferro said that shows have been going well in the U.S. but that it is a bit different from playing in Europe.

“I think that most of the difference is that in America there is more of a rock ’n’ roll lifestyle going on,” he said. “I like playing in concert halls and coliseums here in the U.S., and like playing festivals better in Europe. It’s much more organized over there for festivals.”

Lacuna Coil has been on its current tour for the past several weeks on a trek that started in Mexico City, went down to South America, then back up to North America for dates in California, Washington and Colorado before heading to South Carolina.

“We’ve been playing a lot of older material during the shows on this tour to start with an acoustic set in the middle, then a mix of old and new material.”

But Ferro said that since Friday’s show gave the band less time onstage than in a headlining gig, things would be a bit different.

“With the fest (in Charleston), I think the set we’re going to have will be a half-hour or 45 minutes,” he said. “I think we’ll do a selection of more of the new songs with some of our more famous older songs included.”

In January, the band released “Dark Adrenaline,” and some fans have said that the new album sounds different from previous Lacuna Coil releases.

“I think we’ve been able to combine the signature sound of Lacuna Coil from previous albums,” Ferro said, “but there is also a very modern approach to the music. We wanted an album that was contemporary, but also one that represented well where we were coming from.”

Ferro said he was looking forward to performing in the Lowcountry at 98 RockFest, especially since Lacuna Coil had played with at least one of the other acts in the past.

“We played with Hailstorm about three years ago,” he said. “They opened for us at a few shows.”

Another band on the bill Friday has roots in the Lowcountry.

“We all grew up together in Summerville,” said Scott Gould, singer/guitarist for Madam Adam. “We have been playing together since we were about 15 years old, and we are celebrating our 15th year together. It’s been a crazy ride. We’ve been lucky that life hasn’t interjected too much.”

Madam Adam played 98 RockFest last year. At the time, the band was newly signed to Roadrunner Records and was the first band to play that day.

Speaking to Gould last week while the band was recording material for its next album, it became evident that Madam Adam has traveled a long way since then. Though they haven’t gone outside the U.S. yet, the members have toured across the country, going as far away as Seattle.

“Yeah, we’re huge grunge fans,” Gould said. “We went to Kurt Cobain’s house and stood on the driveway, then we had four days to get back to Pennsylvania to start another tour.”

Gould also recounted how during the drive back across the country, the band’s van hit a patch of black ice early one morning, and the passengers found themselves spinning around helplessly.

“We spun out in the middle of nowhere close to Butte, Mont.,” he said. “I woke up with my headphones on, spinning around. Luckily, it was really early and there was no traffic, so we kind of slid into a huge embankment of snow.”

Gould said that work on the new album was going very well.

“We took the last half of last year off,” he said. “At the beginning of this year, we started writing pretty hard-core. We don’t know whether it’s going to be an album or an EP yet, but we have some new stuff, and I think we’re going to try to play at least one new song on Friday at the show.”

The material the band is recording will be used to shop for a producer. Gould advised that no one had been selected yet, but that they’re talking with another notable local, Eric Bass, who plays in the band Shinedown and also happens to own Ocean Industries, a recording studio on James Island.

“Yeah, Bass and (Eric) Rickert and Jeff (Leonard). I think they are going to take care of it when it’s time,” Gould said.

Like Lacuna Coil, Madam Adam has had the pleasure of touring with at least one of the other bands on Friday’s bill.

“We toured with Adelitas Way last year, and those were really cool guys. It will be good to hang out with them on Friday just like old times.”

When asked whom he was most excited about seeing perform at 98 RockFest, Gould said, “I’m really looking forward to Sevendust. I’ve never seen them live, and I’ve been listening to their music for a while.”

No matter what your taste in hard rock, 98 RockFest has something for just about every metal fan.