The chill wind wisps its way through a sea of people—there are almost 80,000 here. Anticipation hangs like a cloud above the heads of the fans waiting to see their favorite band take the stage. And just like that, the bass hits and music thunders through the oversized amps, driving away the anticipation and replacing it with heart-pounding rock. Korn takes the stage, and there isn’t a single person in the massive crowd who won’t be losing their mind to the gods of rock tonight.
This is Carolina Rebellion, held at the sprawling Charlotte Motor Speedway, one of the biggest hard rock and metal festivals in the country. If you consider yourself a rock fan, this festival needs to be at the top of your list to attend next year. And yes, it even rivals Ohio’s Rock on the Range.
Attending a festival of this size is never a walk in the park, though. It’s massive and sprawling and can stress you the hell out if you aren’t prepared. So before we get to some more pictures and videos, let’s go through a few festival survival tips:
- Pick your favorites: You won’t be able to see every band, so pick your must-see bands and don’t try to run from one end of the festival to the other to fit them all in. Resign yourself to the fact that you won’t be able to see everyone, and trust us, it’s for the better. Be in the moment, and enjoy each band from the beginning of their set to the end.
- Arrive early: If you want a good spot in front of the stage, get there at least an hour before a set begins. Otherwise you’ll be a half-mile away, and I’m not joking. If you want to see a band badly enough, the wait is worth it.
- Spring for the VIP tickets: This was the best decision I made. According to some festivalgoers, the wait time for the general admission line to enter the festival grounds was over an hour, sometimes two hours. If you have VIP tickets, you get to skip the line and park close to the entrance. You can also leave the festival and chill in your car whenever you want—and have some of your own booze. General admission can’t come and go as they please. And the best part is the two massive private tents next to the main stages. They have premium liquor, chairs, food stands, shade, and a whole area for watching the bands without being in the cluster of 50,000 people.
- Meet the bands: Take advantage of being able to meet your favorite band. FYE sponsored a bunch of signing tents throughout the weekend, and the lines weren’t bad. All you have to do is buy a moderately priced CD or vinyl and you’re in!
- Watch out for crowd-surfers: This is one of my few annoyances with attending concerts. I realize that crowd-surfing is a rite of passage of sorts, and I’ve done it too, but having to constantly watch your back so you don’t get nailed in the head can really take away from enjoying a show. It got a little out of hand at Carolina Rebellion; I counted more than 30 crowd-surfers at one time during a Papa Roach song.
- You’ll be standing in a lot of lines: If you don’t buy VIP tickets, then you’re resigning yourself to lots of waiting for food, alcohol, merch, and getting in the festival grounds. But just know this is what you’ll have to deal with, and have fun with it by talking to people or listening to a band playing close to your line.
- Write down where you parked your car: This is serious business. I spent 20 minutes wandering the gargantuan parking lot at night looking for a black Jeep. It wasn’t funny.
- Alcohol can break the bank: Enjoy tailgating with friends before going into the festival because alcohol is really expensive. We’re talking $10 for a tiny, plastic cup of Jack Daniels. The cheapest alcohol was PBR for $7, so spend as much time as you can tailgating.
- Bring something warm: You wouldn’t think May in North Carolina would be cold, but I was sorely wrong and very sorry for not preparing properly. By the time the sun went down, it was a chilly 52 degrees with a brisk wind. Bring a blanket; that way you can sit on it during the day and wrap yourself in it at night. You’ll be happy you did.
- Rest! Don’t wear yourself out the first day. Festivals can be tiring, and it’s really easy to go hard on Friday and be sick by Sunday. Take your time, don’t rush, and just enjoy the ride.
*Photos by Sam Shapiro