The fifth annual Carolina Rebellion festival took place in Concord, North Carolina on May 2nd and 3rd. This was my first time attending the festival and it was more than I ever expected. It included nearly forty bands over a span of two days located at the campgrounds across the street from Charlotte Motor Speedway. For the first time ever the festival found itself 100% sold out. This festival included new bands such as We Are Harlot and Beartooth, bands that have been established for a few years such as Periphery, Motionless in White, and Of Mice & Men, as well as long time classics and bands that satisfied the thirteen-year-old me like Papa Roach, Marilyn Manson, Korn, and so many more.
Day one was definitely the big hitter for the lineup. I was able to photograph Islander, We Are Harlot, Hollywood Undead, Chevelle, Cheap Trick, Beartooth, Periphery, Motionless in White, Papa Roach, Marilyn Manson, and Korn. I had also intended photographing Of Mice & Men, but big surprise when we were told at the photo pit entrance they would not be allowing photos that day with no previous notice. However, Hollywood Undead allowed photographers to stay for the length of five songs during which a member of the group, JDog, proposed to his girlfriend. Photographers also didn’t find out till over halfway through the day that Marilyn Manson would only be allowing the coverage of one song, which proved challenging, but incredibly exciting nonetheless. Cheap Trick put on an incredible show with an intro that included the theme song to That 70’s Show, bringing me back to middle school. Marilyn Manson also came down into the crowd walking the length of the barricade multiple times and interacting with the crowd.
Day two was less jam-packed, but still had me running back and forth from each major stage. I was able to photograph In This Moment, The Pretty Reckless, Halestorm, and Slash. By day two what was once a nice grassy fairground had become a dustbowl. Being even remotely clean was not an option, nor was staying cool or un-sunburned. Being able to photograph Maria Brink of In This Moment, Lizzy Hale of Halestorm, and Taylor Momsen of the Pretty Reckless was an incredible experience. There is no contest that these women are rock goddesses. Only a select few were able to cover Slash, Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators and I am very proud to have been one of them. Their set included songs of their own as well as songs from Guns N’ Roses. This was the insight to 80’s rock that I’d always craved, with a modern twist of course. I was definitely able to cross off multiple things from my bucket list during this festival.
To cover this festival I drove nearly 1,000 miles total, became incredibly sunburned, walked over fifteen miles according to my iPhone, slept in my car, and showered at a near stranger’s hotel. Every photographer I was able to meet at this festival was incredible, friendly, and very talented. I drove down under-planned, with no hotel booked (and none available within fifty miles) and no camping access either. A fellow photographer gave me her camping pass so I was able to sleep in my car, and another allowed me to shower at her hotel. If those aren’t incredibly selfless acts I don’t know what are. We spent the day running from stage to stage with each other, comparing shots, sharing water, complaining about the heat, and most of all, helping each other through the crowd.
The festival as a whole was well organized in the parking, locations of stages, availability of medical care, and many more things. The medical response team was especially great and the crowd was at looking out for each other and always asking for help when needed. The only major downside to the festival was the access of the photographers to the photo pits. We had access to VIP, but not what the festival called “All Access Passes,” which allowed a back route to the stages, which is understandable because that area was for the bands and they do deserve their privacy. However, an alternative could have been to escort photographers to the photo pits. Maybe not all of them, that’s also understandable, but certainly to the headliners such as Marilyn Manson, Korn, Slash, and Slipknot. Because this was not an option photographers had to fight through the crowd of over 100,000 people to reach the photo pit, only to be forced out three songs later. This also seemed to greatly annoy the fans, I experienced lots of aggression and name-calling due to having a camera and trying to weed my way out of the large crowd after I had just weeded my way through to the front. There was also a case when the photographers were exiting the pit of Breaking Benjamin and they were nearly trampled by the crowd, unable to exit because there was not specific route other than through the crowd. The media tent was also incredibly hard to find and of the around six people that I asked, no one could point me in the right direction. Overall, media can be better organized in the future.
Overall the fifth annual Carolina Rebellion was an incredible experience and more than I ever could have asked for. I certainly plan to return in the future and look forward to the future lineups. Seriously, thank you rebels of North Carolina.