Riverfest 2020 – 9th
Planet Out, Royal Bliss, and Fozzy
Ft. Madison, IA – August 6th, 2020
By Kate Klaus
While the summer of 2020 has been a sparse festival season due to the COVID19 pandemic, Riverfest 2020 was able to institute multiple safety measures, including masking, a large area for adequate social distancing, temperature checks for all attendees, and extra sanitizer stations and cleaning, to allow for a safe environment for a long weekend of outdoor music under a perfect summer sky.
The second night of the festival opened up with 9th Planet Out, a rock group out of Rochester, MN. Named by UltimateGuitar.com as one of the top 10 upcoming opening acts for major tours, 9th Planet Out’s performance warranted that accolade, as their stage presence was captivating, with special effects including fog machines, CO2 cannons, lights, and lasers, and their vocals and musical talent were mind-blowing. Lead singer James Robinson effortlessly shifted between beautiful melodic tones with an extensive vocal range to the deep screams that define a quality heavy rock band. Lead guitarist Josh Kulack established himself as a rising superstar on the music scene, with shredding solos showcasing his raw talent on their new singles “Trapped” and “Kids” (a cover of the original song by MGMT) and his ability to mesmerize the crowd with his natural charisma. The rhythm section of brothers Cole, on bass (and backing vocals), and Clay Ebertowski, on drums, were solid and their energy was intense and contagious, and guitarist Dylan Benett completed the hard rock ambience with his powerful presence, crazy hair flips, and intense shredding. Despite a pandemic related EP release party delay, they have recently released 3 new singles “Trapped” and “Kids”, and the aptly pandemic-named “Infected” which recently released on September 18th (look for them on all streaming platforms!). These guys are definitely a band to watch as they rise on the hard rock scene.
Up next was Royal Bliss, a Salt Lake City based rock band with a dynamic and energetic show. Their emotion filled performance engaged the crowd, as lead singer Neal Middleton’s powerfully deep and raspy voice reached across the festival field as the sun was setting. They delivered some of their crowd favorites, including “Crazy”, with a deep bass line delivered by bassist Brian Hennesy (who’s bass of the fish variety bass guitar made the evening), hauntingly beautiful “Devil with Angel Eyes”, and their recent release and emotive hit “Pain”. Guitarist Taylor Richards animated solos complemented the band well, and drummer Jake Smith provided a vigorous and solid rhythm and intense energy. Their new single “Medication” was released shortly after this show, and is also available on all streaming platforms.
Closing out the night on the main stage, headliner Fozzy delivered an intense performance under a backdrop of stars and mayflies, befitting of a river festival (and which lead singer Chris Jericho hilariously coined “fish flies” when one flew in his mouth as he belted out his deep vocals). Opening their set with “Sin and Bones”, the crowd was instantly invigorated with the energy that only live music can deliver and has been so deeply missed this summer. They followed it up with favorites, including “Burn Me Out”, “Painless”, and “Nowhere to Run”. Lead singer Jericho is an entertainer in every sense of the word, but his stage presence was matched by solid vocals. You can clearly see how much fun they’re having on stage, as bassist Paul di Leo and guitarists Rich Ward and Billy Grey darted around on stage, playing to the crowd as drummer Frank Fontsere powerfully drove the rhythm and energy. They closed out the night with their hit “Judas” to finish off and evening of amazing music and fun that we all have been so deeply missing. It was definitely a reminder of the synergy, happiness, and collective joy that live music delivers and that we hope to return to in the near future.