Photos by Merideth C. & review by Jordan Sarah Weatherhead
Every lover of rock and alternative music embraces the Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival. The day full of heavy hitters, as well as local breakout bands from each city it travels to, is being hugely accepted and growing immensely each year. Last year when they travelled to DTE Energy Music Theatre in Clarkston, MI I was devastated to find that I would be going on a trip back home to North Dakota the day it was in town. Facebook was buzzing with the announcement of the show’s date and people were posting about their ticket purchases. I was down, but not out. This year I was going to make up for it and I did just that. Not only did I attend Uproar, but I did it with such enthusiasm and spirit that it turned out to be one of the greatest nights of my life…and here’s why.
The traffic was horrible, but as soon as we got to DTE around 6pm the place was buzzing. You could tell that fans had been at the outdoor venue all day long and were still amped up from beer, energy drinks, good company, sunshine, and of course, great music. We walked in the gates and instantly got pumped up. My husband and I entered from the back of the hill and as we made the long climb up the back stairs to the top, Adelitas Way played us in. The slope was PACKED FULL of people in the warm sun and everyone was smiling. When we got to the top and looked down onto the stage the band members were in full out rock mode as they sang their big hit, “Alive.” As we grabbed a beer at the bottom and made our way across the crowd to the VIP section, we stopped to hear lead singer Rick DeJesus addressing the audience. He was thanking everyone for rocking out with them and then said, “So when all these people get here after our show and fill in these empty seats you can tell them to FUCK OFF CUZ THEY MISSED ONE HELL OF A SHOW!!!” The crowd roared back in response and they broke into “Criticize.”
We stood there to watch their performance before heading away from the stage and into the swarm of attendees filling up with beer and nachos. As the stage was being set for Staind, a low and constant murmur fell over the people. Everyone was calmly but impatiently waiting for them to take their turn. Just as we took our places at the base of the hill, directly behind the handicapped section, the band members entered the stage and lead singer Aaron Lewis finally stepped out. He was wearing a green camouflage baseball cap and dressed laid back as usual. He wasted no time diving right into the classics such as “It’s Been Awhile,” “Fade,” and “Outside.” Sadly the band didn’t have time for my personal favorite “Epiphany,” but they made up for it anyway. Aaron Lewis took some time to talk to the fans that had been loyal to him through thick and thin and said a moving “thank you” to the entire Detroit community. Seeing him live was truly incredible. It helped to be surrounded by such major fans to my left, right, front, and back. People sang along to every song and didn’t miss a note. Goes to show how much respect the state of Michigan has for Lewis and the whole Staind family!
As Staind ended, a simultaneous “Awe” was let out and people filed towards the restrooms. I joined but ever so quickly returned right back to my original spot, careful not to miss a second of Godsmack’s performance. The people standing next to me were so jacked up I thought they were going to explode. Everyone around us was so inviting and eager for the rest of the night that I felt like I was there with thousands of friends. My husband and I started jamming out with some heavy head banging and air guitars with the guys next to us as lead singer Sully Erna and his band mates started to fill the outdoor arena with the classic Godsmack sound.
The longer they played, the closer everyone in the audience got. There was no fighting or anyone getting annoyed at each other; no strangers arguing or bumping each other in aggression, just pure respect and mutual love for Godsmack. Then it happened, Sully spoke. And when I say he spoke, I mean he MOTHER FUCKING SPOKE!
“I just wanna say,” he yelled into the mic, “I just wanna say how MUCH we LOVE coming to Detroit!!!” The crowd was sent into a deafening rumble of praise.
“EVERYTIME we come to the Detroit area, we are greeted with so much fucking love!!! Everywhere I go man, everywhere I go I tell people how HARD DETROIT CAN ROCK!” Sully went on to tell us to never die, never give up, and always to keep on rockin’ on. It was truly a highlight of the entire night; a night about music, brotherhood, and determination. He gained more respect from Detroit than he even had before and I will always remember his words. After that, they played right into “Voodoo” and it ended on the most killer note.
Godsmack played “Cryin’ like a,” “I stand alone,” and other favorites, and had (nothing less) than a perfect set!
Next up was Shinedown. Godsmack was a tough act to follow, but Detroit loves Shinedown just as much as Godsmack and Staind, and something happened during their set that was more magical than can be explained. During the first part of their set it started to sprinkle just enough more than during Godsmack’s set that we noticed the difference. The rain started to come down a little heavier and when I realized I was getting wetter and wetter I looked around to see everyone fixated on the stage. Not one person leaving, not one person frowning in the cold dark; just fans rocking out and enjoying the moment.
Then Shinedown’s lead singer Brent Smith started talking to us. Like the others he thanked us for our support and told us to give up a round for the 3 acts that were prior to them. He told us he had a song that we might recognize and then broke into “45.” Just as they did, you’d think I would say the rain suddenly stopped, but it didn’t; IT POURED! It rained so hard during “45” that I was drenched through and through; all the contents of my purse were soaked. But in the freezing cold rain I banged my head and embraced my husband as I listened live to a song I had heard in my car about a million times before.
The energy after a few heavy rock songs was so thick you didn’t even notice the rain. Then Brent asked us, despite the downpour, to get out our lighters. He was going to serenade us with “Unity” and asked that we go back to old school and light the place up. Even through the steady shower, all smokers suddenly reached for their lighters and soon, the entire hill was lit with thousands of tiny flames. As I swayed back and forth with my hands up but empty, a shirtless stranger came up and held out his lighter to me. He placed it in my hand and let me hold it during the song, during the rain, during the moment I was having.
“Put your hands in the air
If you hear me out there
I've been looking for you day and night
Shine a light in the dark
Let me see where you are
'Cause I'm not gonna leave you behind
If I told you that you're not alone
And I show you this is where you belong
Put your hands in the air
One more time”
And somehow, through the weather, the lighters survived. The song ended and there was a sense of peace and admiration in the air that I cannot explain. When Shinedown sang their new song, “I’ll Follow You,” I have to say, I was in love. I have had this song in my head for a week now and cannot seem to shake it. Of course, they ended the night with their version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” and, still raining, everyone waited. A small fraction broke off and headed to their cars to beat the rush but I’ve never, in all my times at DTE, seen so many people stay until the last note.
I would like to personally thank Uproar and all the bands involved for a night that will truly remain: One of the Best of My Life.