With not a wink of sleep, I gathered myself and exited my Five Star accommodations (compliments of Coleman’s lol), greeting not only the yellow orb warming us graciously, but Day Two of the 32nd Annual Nikstock 2017, with the exuberance on a child on Christmas morning. On this day it brought a few of yesterday’s artists/bands, some stellar new/fresh acts, as well as certain band members not only bringing their bands and playing multiple instruments, and we certainly cannot forget the unannounced presence of our humble host, Ivonna Cadaver. Your attention is certainly required today, as it may get somewhat confusing, but so worth the journey!
So without hesitation, I bring you Day Two’s opener – Sindicate along with Caleb Gillette (road crew), who I got to briefly meet and snap a few shots of alongside his father and guitarist/vocalist. Similar to the other bands playing today that also took stage yesterday, their set lists were the same, with an occasional treat of some serious jamming between songs, which was greatly appreciated by the crowd making its way from campsites to stage. One song played but not reviewed yesterday was their original hit “Hangman”, and I have to give Bernie Simpson a high five for kicking his kit to the extreme after such a long nite and morning (6 am) at the rave…you rock Bernie! A link to Mr. Simpson is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Speaking of long nights, I’m pretty sure I see ole James Hatter Jr. being carried backstage (again), by band members of Dead The Rising. Such a fitting entrance for a rock star…gotcha Jimmie! Having gently placing the heavier end of said rock star roughly upon the stage, Anthony C. Magari Jr. lifted his instrument of mass destruction with the precision of a surgeon, ready to operate on his six string…like a maniacal genius. Today also brought a present of sorts to this photographer, as Edward Mattiacio allowed me to get some great shots of him as well as the band members, which I’m told by an unnamed source…is rare but graciously accepted. Tony Perolla (drums) and Sid Willie on bass were beating each other nearly senseless, hammering out chest pounding bass beats that reverberated throughout the grounds. Hatter, what else can be said that hasn’t, lol? Joking aside though, Hatter is no stranger to the microphone or as an entertainer, as he and Dead The Rising displayed in Led Zeppelin’s “Communication Breakdown” and “Rocking in the Free World” (Neil Young cover). If you’re in the Syracuse area, look these guys up as they have several upcoming gigs booked and are filling the halls quickly..
Next up and highly anticipated, was Human Extinction, formed by drummer Tony Mergendahl (Krungweld) and accompanied by Zach Coons on lead guitar, Brad Lane on bass with the powerful vocals of Doug Banaz. All I can say is that Tony warned me the night before that his band was going to blow the cones out of the amps with their heavy political hardcore/deathcore performance…and he was right. Originals like their debut song “A Nation In Ruin” off their upcoming EP (with lyrical video from Scott Rudd) brought out some of the deepest growling vocals from Banaz, that even Chad Grey (Hell Yeah) would take notice. Lane was exemplary with his slapping and plucking his axe during another original “God of Blood”, as he kept up with the feverish bearing and poundings of Mergendahl‘s drumming, especially after our after hanging out at the lodge after hours…for hours!
Already set up and anxious to perform, members of Suspended By Chains took their places next to their designated instruments, led by vocalist Dustin ‘Fuzz’ Castle (Canton, PA) and the lovely Deb Shaffer (Sayre, PA) on keyboards. Not knowing about the band and noticing the laid-back attitude and attire, I was expecting a less energized performance that the previous two acts…I could not have been farther from the truth, as guitarist Bud Shaffer (Sayre, PA) began attacking his six string along with the fierce finger hammering of bassist Marty Wilkinson in his black knit cap. Originating from Lockwood, NY (practice gathering) in 2015, founding members Wilkinson (Sayre, PA) and drummer Chris Morse perfected their musical influences of several genres including rock/metal, progressive to deathcore metal. “Darkness Looms” brought not only a beautiful keyboard by Deb Shaffer but the combative six string slaying between Zack Lawrence and Bud Shaffer, that one had to close one’s eyes in order to fully appreciate the sounds emitting from the speakers. Other originals from this unpredictable montage of thrashings included both “Forever they Sleep” and “The Hangman and The Flies In The Mud”, a slower melodic metalcore number. Suspended By Chains is well…off the chain and a must see ensemble! Rochester based alternative band Total Harmony Corruption led by Zakk Thrash on vocals/guitar and accompanied by lead guitarist Timmy Hillen with his Fender guitar was up next with an explosive 11 song setlist, which included one bad-ass drum solo by Ray Miles on his Pearl kit during their number “Blind”/”I Am God”. Miles, decked out in lime green Oakley sunglasses and Motorhead tee, literally dented his Sabian cymbals and high hats while I was on stage shooting him. Bassist Josh Shufelt didn’t move around a whole lot while performing, but certainly made way for some breathtaking pictures just the same as he kep in unison with Thrash‘s mahogany red Gibson. “In Your Face” (with jam into), “Life” and “Would You” were only a few of the participant pleasers cast forth upon the audience, until finally closing with “Paradigm”.
Table 9 was next on tap with their amalgamation of metal-thrash and stoner-metal, as Pat Allyn (vox) dressed in low brimmed black hat and gold facemask, and lead guitarist Clayton Williams came out and conquered with “Intro-Bluffed” brought the band to “The Table” along with back-up guitarist Adam Mezzarone on his orange/red Less Paul Epiphone six string, one member that’s great to photograph is drummer Christian Fisher. His intensity and compassion for his gifted talent exceeds most who follow the same road he does musically, in which he exemplified his talent in “Medra Blitz” as well as “Lights” and “Bodies” (Drowning Pool cover) no finer a bass player fit for this Elmira, NY band than the somewhat reserved yet intense thumping of bassist Felix Williams on his jet black Fender Squire axe, as they rounded out their set with “Sudo Tribal Tendencies”. This young man has what it takes to continue moving forward and upward. Table 9 can be reached at email@example.com, Table 9 Metal (FB), and on Sound Cloud: Table 9. With a storm heading our way, Clayton Williams kicked it into high gear switching from his guitar (Table 9) to an elaborate array of Sabian cymbals and black pearl 9 piece Granstar kit/Zyldjan cymbals, and topped off with Gibraltar hardware/cage, as Ratman and The 8-ball Shifters were being introduced by Miss Ivonna (Natalie). I shortly found out that Ratman was one of her favorite artists, hence the intro. Pat Allyn (Table 9) also did vocals as well as play his natural finish custom bass guitar while the intense shreddings of John Daniels on his grey/blue ESP guitar. Starting out their improv set with tidbits of “Stairway To Heaven” (Led Zeppelin cover), “Mojo Rising”/”Backdoor Man” (Doors cover), along with Tool’s “Stinkfest” and “Eulogy”, it wasn’t long before the heaven’s opened up and all hell broke free as we were brutally assaulted by Mother Nature and her destructive hail storm. But…the show must go on…and it did after using an array of methods used to push water off the stage canopy. Ratman picked up where they left off, but this time enticing us with some originals which included “Ratman Cometh” (epic number!), “Growing Eyes” and “Designer Drugs” before closing out with “Faxanadu” in which these talented artists gave it their ultimate best. Kudos Ratman!
Finally the rain and wind subsided for the night and with god reason, as Nanci Marie and the boys of Majesty X hit the stage after just releasing their latest hit “Double ‘Oh’ Seven” featured on the latest disc Majesty X, which also includes their track “Rock Star”…with a passion fit for royalty. Filling in for Marlon Pearson was the equally talented Jeff Swidowski on his Les Paul Studio model six string, while not as eager to move about the stage as Pearson Swidowski channelled his energy into totally being one with his instruments and could be witnessed by a limitless number of intense facial expressions. Besides playing their two top hits, bassist David S. Rice nearly brought us to our knees as Majesty X began “Beautiful People” (Marilyn Manson cover), “Rooster” (Alice In Chains cover) in which drummer Chad Seeber wailed away effortlessly on his Yamaha Stage Custom kit/Sabian HHX cymbals, as I gladly got some outstanding digital images of…thanks Chad. Last but certainly not the least, was the soul-soothing vocals of Nanci Marie. Dressed in matching blue/red attire and bringing with her the stage presence of majestic proportions, Nanci gave her best performance to date (in my opinion). Majesty X is hot on the trail of success, and is booking shows as we speak…as no moss grows under their feet in their quest for musical domination!
Taking a well deserved break, it was not time for the bikini contest, which is a Nikstock tradition. As girlfriends/wives and a handful of female fans lined up and were judged by the howlings of the crowd, each one was eliminated, including one of the acoustical guitarists from Trippin, dressed in an American flag speedo, cowboy boots and hat lol, and no, he didn’t win…Jackie did – again!
With that debauchery out of the way, Bill Krungeld once again ascended the read stage ramp with band members Mergendahl and Kolowski and like yesterday, they came, they conquered, and left us in ruins…again. Tony Mergendahl (drums) truly outdid himself on this night, with a fierce and furious pounding fueled b none other than his ever present Pabst Blue Ribbon beer, as Bill Krungeld (bassist) led the charge with bellowing vocals that echoed through the hills. To say that it was my pleasure to cover these Kingston, NY boys is an understatement, and I’m looking forward to doing so again in the near future.
Fresh new faces and music was next on the agenda, and the Los Angeles band Heavy The World fit that bill nicely. With Bad Knox on vocals/guitar accompanied by Mike Harris on lead guitar, this west coast trio (formed in 1981) began their short but intense set with “Tarkus” and “Except”, weaving mysticism/Nordic myths into their heavy/progressive sounds. Drummer Scott Green had his hands full keeping both Harris and Knox in check, but in the end did an exemplary job as Heavy The World wrapped up their set with “Never Say Die” and closer “Johnny Blade”.
Well boys and girls, it’s now time to kick it up a few notches while Nick Fouco and the members of Nightmare take the stage…loaded with numerous ghoulish props and plenty of gasoline. Based out of Los Angeles, California, Fouco has perfected this stage act and occasionally brings in CNY musicians to fill in. Wasting no time and loaded with 13 class Alice Cooper covers including opening song “Nightmare”, where James Hatter Jr comes out as Frankenstein with his large black fishing net. As Fouco and members Al (guitar) and Jamie Arney (bass) battled it out during “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “Billion Dollar Babies”, Fouco‘s ‘nurse’ and Frankenstein entered the stage and with some resistance, they succeed in buckling a straightjacket around the frontman…but wait, Fouco isn’t done in yet! During their rendition of “Ballad of Dwight Frey”, Fouco escapes, kills the nurse and Hatter is left to carry her lifeless body off stage. With several other Alice Cooper covers to include both “Poison” and “18” it wasn’t long before our ‘nurse’ turned dominatrix along with her assistant, strapped the stunned Fouco into the electric chair and flipped the switch, killing poor old Nick. As the band rolled into “Go To Hell”, Fouco was not so gently placed into the black wooden coffin as bassist Arney hopped up on it and danced around while slapping this thunderous axe as they concluded one of my classic favorites “I Love The Dead”. No Nightmare set is complete until their closing number “School’s Out” begins, as Fouco invites all to join Nightmare on stage in unison as they played to dance and sing along.
Hitting the stage next, promptly at 9:45, the dynamically charged Spider Rockets led by none other than vocalist Helena Cos. It only took a matter of a minute for me to realize that I made the right decision to put away my camera gear and stand up front with David S. Rice and Nanci Marie along with Jeff Swidowski (Majesty X), as this was one show not to be witnessed through the viewfinder. With opening numbers such as “I Love It When”, “Nothing to Me” and “Hey Hey”, drummer Dale Whitaker totally got into the ‘zone’ as he laid down hard and heavy beats, keeping guitar madman Johnny Nap in line…which is no easy task. We have the original bassist Lance Gray gracing our presence this time, and I have got to tell you – I have never in my lifetime witnessed anyone who can slap, slam, strum and become one with his instrument as Gray brought forth. Rice and myself were in total awe at what we witnessed, especially his bass intro to “Losing Me”. This guy is insane, and never broke a sweat! Both Nap and Whitaker traded musical ‘blows’ as they tore into “Moby Dick” (Led Zeppelin cover), in which both displayed that they were and still are the masters of their musical mania. Closing with “Rip Your Heart Out”, Helena cos belted out vocals so intensely that it distracted me away from the other three members and made the hairs on my arms stand up! Originating in New Jersey and booking gigs constantly, I’d advise you, whether you’ve seen Spider Rockets before or unfortunately haven’t, go to their website spiderrockets.com for latest info. Also, they have a new single coming out this fall plus a new cd dropping in January 2018. For those who simple can’t wait until then, get up and get out there and get their latest cd ‘Bitten’…you won’t be disappointed!
As the night and festivities came to an unwanted end, Nick Fouco and the crew of Tempter took the stage similar to Nordic Vikings take to war…and in hindsight, Tempter took no prisoners! Playing the setlist from the previous evening, but with several unexpected quick solo riffs in between numbers by the masterful guitarist Al, which I wrote about elaborately in yesterday’s review. A few songs that I didn’t mention earlier and need to be inserted today is Danzig’s “Mother” in which if one closed their eyes and listened, one could not tell the difference between Fouco and Danzig. When Tempter tore into Metallica’s “Creeping Death”, I about lost it head-banging and bobbing up and down as Nick leaned over the stage, belting out vocals. Closing with the crowds favorite “Rock and Roll All Night” (KISS cover) the stage became packed with fans, as they sang in unison. One could barely distinguish between the band members and fans, as heavy fog rolled over the stage, creating prismatic effects mingled with all the great people.
Looking back on both of Nikstock 2017 festivals (June, Aug. 2017) and talking to many artists, fans and friends, it became crystal clear that the whole concepts (32+ years and going strong) behind Fouco’s festivals goes far beyond the music. It’s the unity of family and friends – some musicians, the rest fans. No matter if it’s the supportive fans, family members of those performing, the vendors or even Nick Fouco himself – everyone is treated equally and with much respect. Everyone pitches in and does whatever is necessary in order to make each and every Nikstock the ultimate in success, regardless of how menial or messy the task may be.
Much thanks go out to both Nick Fouco and Ivonna Cadaver from this humbled photo-journalist, as I can say without any reservation that I would have been consumed in constant chaos, without the tranquility and peace of mind these festivals bestow upon us eager followers. It’s been my pleasure and eagerly await the 33rd Annual Nikstock 2018!!
Craig A. Stebbins
Day Two Nicstock Part Two Gallery
Photos courtesy of © 2017 Craig A. Stebbins.