My friend Nate and I gladly posed for a picture while in line for Lazerfest Sunday afternoon. As it turns out, the line we needed to be in was much shorter. The value of being in the right line was just one of the many lessons we learned from our experience.
My crazy quest to Lazerfest
Disclaimer: If you are not interested in alternative rock music, you likely will not be interested in this blog. I also apologize for the length as it was difficult to trim down a 16-hour story.
Over the past decade or so, I have become a huge fan of alternative rock music and have seen dozens of bands perform. So, when the opportunity presented itself to see up to 16 bands at Lazerfest on Sunday in the Des Moines area, I decided to take advantage.
I invested $42 in a ticket plus $8.60 in "convenience charges" -- which removes all courtesy in my opinion -- and made my plans.
I left Spencer at 10:15 Sunday morning with every intention of picking up my friend Nate at 1 p.m. in Ames and arriving at the venue at 2 p.m., a full 40 minutes before RED -- the first band I wanted to see -- was scheduled to take the stage.
I was able to accomplish the first step of that plan and after a quick fast-food stop, we were on our way and still on schedule.
Because the festival was happening at the Indianola Balloon Grounds, also known as the middle of nowhere, the organizers were offering shuttle rides from the Southridge Mall in Des Moines. Seeing hundreds of people in line and not knowing how many shuttles were running, we chose to keep driving.
Within minutes we realized just how many carloads of people were attempting to make the same turn to the same venue as traffic slowed to a crawl. A gravel detour proved worthless and we dejectedly re-entered the fray. News that venue parking was no longer available broke our spirits further and we flirted with the idea of turning back to take the shuttle before deciding to persevere with hopes of finding a parking spot in Indianola.
At about 3:30 p.m. we pulled into a strip mall parking lot and started our hike, thankful for our long strides as we passed numerous groups on the same pilgrimage. Granted, it also helped that we did not have any booze or cigarettes to slow us down.
As we neared the venue, we heard Halestorm's "I Get Off" and I not only knew we had missed the first two bands we wanted to see but that we also would likely have to settle for listening to Skillet's set from the line rather than experiencing it. We later discovered that we had wasted 45 minutes in line as only a dozen other people were waiting to pick up pre-purchased tickets at the will call booth.
Nonetheless, we made it to the performance area in just enough time to catch a sneak preview of Papa Roach, who will be bringing their headlining tour to the Clay County Events Center on June 9, along with Sick Puppies and Janus.
Their set was both hard-hitting and high-energy. They even broke out a song from their new album, which is due to be released in September. With at least twice as much playing time available, hopefully they will break out another song or two from the new album when they visit Spencer.
To conclude their time, they played "Last Resort" -- the song that vaulted them onto the national stage -- as thousands sang along.
Seether was the next band that I cared about as they have been near the top of my list of bands to see for at least five years.
They did not disappoint.
In fact, I considered it the highlight of the entire day when they played "Broken" with the help of Lzzy Hale from Halestorm. Just about every successful rock band has a power ballad and Seether fit that bill when they re-released "Broken" with lead singer Shaun Morgan's then-girlfriend Amy Lee helping him with the vocals. Hale not only filled in for Lee, but made the song her own, to the pleasure of a chorus of fans.
The South African rockers mixed in their cover of George Michael's "Careless Whisper," their melancholy single "Breakdown" and popular "Rise Above This," as well as harder tracks like "Fake It" and "Remedy."
In contrast to Seether, Alice Cooper was turning -- and decapitating -- heads on the same stage about 45 minutes later.
He started slowly with two songs I knew -- "School's Out" and "No More Mr. Nice Guy" -- before using the rest of his set to remind me that my rock and roll education needs a refresher.
As his act moved on, it became a theatrical production which made me thankful that friends had prepared me with horror movies over the past two weeks. I counted three beheadings and two impalements, which resulted in Cooper being restrained by a pink straight jacket at one point.
He was not my favorite act by any means, but he was entertaining and I do respect what he has done for rock music. As the deejay who introduced him reminded the crowd, without Cooper there would be no KISS, AC/DC would not have happened and Slipknot likely would not have the title of best-selling band from Iowa.
When Rob Zombie took the stage, the crowd literally went crazy. Body surfing continued, girlfriends got on their boyfriends' shoulders and mosh pits broke out.
One such pit was created just a few people from me, which was fine. But people started moving and I ended up on the very edge of the circle containing the human collisions.
This did not last long as an errant forearm caught me in the nose. Fortunately, I have a tough nose. Apparently, I have a harder head, as it was knocked back and broke someone's nose.
With the value of our health in mind, we left the venue, deciding to beat the crowds and listen to Three Days Grace and Godsmack as we walked back to our vehicle. Before we walked out, we saw the person who had cracked me in the nose being carried to the first-aid tent, hardly looking conscious.
Thankfully, before we had walked too far, a woman in an Astro van offered us a ride for $5 each.
Finally, my crazy quest was concluding. At a gas station, we met a fan who had come all the way from Chicago for the show, only to lose everything in his pockets -- his ID, his cash, everything -- while bodysurfing.
His comment was, "I don't care, I got to see Rob Zombie."
"At least someone enjoyed that craziness," I thought to myself before beginning my much less-eventful return trip.