Carolina Rebellion returns with head-banging rock sets

The sunny, breezy weather couldn’t have been more perfect for Carolina Rebellion’s return to Concord after the hard rock and metal festival ended abruptly because of rain last May, leaving many fans miffed that they wouldn’t see a reunited Soundgarden or the four other bands that canceled.

But the sun shone on a field of fading tattoos, sunburned skin and black T-shirts this weekend as a steady rumble of blast beats and boomy bass provided the soundtrack for the fourth annual Charlotte festival.

Denmark’s Volbeat was one of the bands that canceled last year, but the band redeemed itself by practically stealing the show with one of the strongest sets of the day. With Rob Caggiano (who signed on after leaving Anthrax in 2013) on guitar, the eclectic group hopped from rockabilly to punk to straight metal with singer Michael Poulsen alternating between amusing banter and soaring vocals.

Corey Beaulieu and Matt Heafy of Trivium, who played an early afternoon set, joined Volbeat for “Evelyn.” Caggiano’s former bandmates Scott Ian, Frank Bello and Charlie Benante helped out on another track, which ended with Bello adorably planting a half-hug/kiss on a smiling, seemingly surprised Caggiano.

Anthrax, which stepped into the veteran slot when Motorhead canceled, played a short set heavy on older fan favorites and live staples such as “I’m the Law” and “Indians.” It struggled with the sound at first, but by its crowd-rousing, Grammy-nominated cover of AC/DC’s “T.N.T.” things jelled. Fans seem to take “Caught in the Mosh” literally, with one young man retreating from the pit with his face covered in blood.

There were actually few technical or scheduling hiccups. Black Label Society’s set was loud, with chest-pounding kick drum, but clear. Zakk Wylde alternated between the showy, squealing guitar he built his career on and less showy, Sabbath-meets-grunge vocals.

Some of the best moments were the unexpected ones – such as Southern California trio Kyng’s cover of “Hot For Teacher” and pro-wrestler Chris Jericho of the band Fozzy, who made up for his weak vocals with stage prowess, a sense of humor and jacket that provided its own light show.

Bands such as Volbeat and Seether, who premiered a new song from its forthcoming album, performed beneath blinking strobes, but lighting and visuals didn’t really come into play until the sun set for Rob Zombie.

Flanked by a backdrop of classic horror icons, Zombie outdid himself in energy and charisma. He was funny – joking and dropping the horror guise at times. And he danced wildly – not just headbanging but exhibiting some fresh moves during “Living Dead Girl.” Earlier I’d thought about preferring most of these acts in a more intimate club setting (many play smaller Charlotte venues), but Zombie proved that his big, bold, colorful show may be better suited to a large stage that gives him plenty of room to teeter on barriers and dash around.

Avenged Sevenfold closed out Saturday’s show with twin-guitar heavy, goth-glam metal. Highlights included the piano-driven “Fiction,” 2010’s crowd-rager “Nightmare,” and older tracks such as “Bat Country.” It also benefited from added pyro and props. Singer M. Shadows raved early on that the show “dwarfed” its first Carolina Rebellion experience in 2011.

As the more metal of the two-day festival (Sunday’s headliners Kid Rock and 311 veer toward the lighter, pop side of hard rock), Saturday’s acts ranged from the grunge-influenced Southern hard rock of Black Stone Cherry to Killswitch Engage’s pummeling melodic metalcore to the heavy funk and rap-metal of Thousand Foot Krutch, the angst-heavy post-grunge of Seether and the more methodical stoner metal of Swedish trio Truckfighters, who opened the show.

The day had its pros and cons – I haven’t seen that many smokers since the ’90s. (Could we possibly introduce e-cigs as a sponsor next year?) And I thought I might never get out of the parking lot afterward. But the music – the most important part – delivered loud and clear, on time and with energy.