The first year of any concert festival is a learning experience. Just ask Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman. He reportedly lost money the first year he put on the skate punk concert. The organizers of Rockapalooza, a day-long hardcore punk and hip-hop festival held yesterday at the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds, undoubtedly learned some lessons from yesterday’s show. With plenty of parking, the fairgrounds proved to be a good site for the show. When we arrived in the later afternoon, we parked easily and then had little trouble getting into the concert. And even though the rain made some spots a bit muddy, the weather wasn’t a major issue. The biggest problem was the proximity of the stages to one another.
All five stages bumped up against each other, making it difficult to clearly hear any given artist, especially since sets overlapped with one another. One rapper who played to a sparse crowd that barely got into the double digits complained vociferously about the sound and kept trying to turn the volume up so his music could be heard above the din that rapper Twista was making on the stage next to his. “I prepared for this show and drove nine mother fuckin’ hours to get here. Fuck [the promoters],” he said during one of his profanity-laced tirades. While melodic hardcore acts such as Along Came a Spider and Attack Attack put on fine performances despite having to compete with the sound emanating from other stages, there were far too many issues with the sound.
And since promoters didn’t post set times, it made it difficult to figure out which band was going on when. We arrived in the late afternoon anticipating that headliners Devil Wears Prada and Machine Gun Kelly would perform in the early evening. Set times for the main stages weren’t posted anywhere and even security personnel didn’t know who would go on when. When we were told they wouldn’t be on until much later in the evening, we didn’t stick around. Many of the vendors followed suit and packed up early. Summing up his experience at the festival, one vendor wrote “come talk to me because I’m bored” on a piece of cardboard he displayed on his table. Yep, the early years can be tough ones.