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Commentary: Columbus’ Rock on the Range a weekend of ‘controlled chaos’

Kelly Roderick / Lantern photographer

Departing Crew Stadium Sunday at 11 p.m., my back killed, knees were throbbing, head was pounding, ears were ringing, body was covered with bruises and scrapes, and my second shirt of the weekend was both soaked and ripped. The crazy thing is that I loved every bit of it.

Last weekend marked my third trip to Rock on the Range. With 44 bands from end-to-end of the rock ‘n’ roll spectrum performing over the weekend, the festival has grown into one of the nation’s largest weekend music events.  

Estimated total attendance for 2011 was more than 70,000 “Rangers,” the title given to fans who come out to the festival each year from all over the world, according to AMP magazine.

Crew Stadium had to have housed more than that number this year, as every Ranger was packed in tight like a can of sardines (at times it smelled like one too), ready to rock out.  

When I spoke to co-executive producer of Rock on the Range Gary Spivack in February, he described the weekend in two simple words: “controlled chaos.” This weekend didn’t fall short of Spivack’s description in any way.

The temperatures were hot, the sun was blazing and the beer was flowing. These were just the basic ingredients, combined with various other “substances” for an intense, rock-filled weekend.

Rock concerts always draw a wild crowd. Rock on the Range isn’t just any rock concert though. Half of the ticket price is worth the amount of people-watching that goes on throughout the weekend.

No other event draws more tattoos, piercings, crazy-dyed and styled hair you wish you didn’t have to see, sunburns and inadequately clothed women. I saw things I presume not even a 40-year-old virgin would want to lay his eyes on.  

Let’s get started on the condition of those in the attendance. Theory of a Deadman lead singer Tyler Connolly came out and said people were “f—-d up” instead of specifying what was keeping people from being sober.

Never have I attended a concert with such intense moshing and crowd surfing. Caught in a giant mosh pit with everyone pushing and shoving, crowd surfers who were handed around on top of the crowd would surprise you with a kick or a knee to the head if you were not paying attention.

During Five Finger Death Punch’s performance, my friend interrupted my moshing, alerting me to turn around. I looked up, and there was a man in a wheelchair soaring over the crowd.

Yes, he was in a wheelchair, and everyone was cheering like crazy for him as we took part in helping him toward the security guards lining the front of the stage. We could have made someone’s dream come true during that moment, and that was an awesome thought.

Slash eased the chaos when he stepped on stage because everyone wanted to hear him rock out and sing along to “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” “Night Train” and “Paradise City,” among countless other Guns N’ Roses classics.

I saw Slash at Rock on the Range in 2010, and since Guns N’ Roses is my second favorite band of all time, I had to go back for round two.

Madness took over during performances by Five Finger Death Punch Saturday, and Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie on Sunday. These three performances turned out to be by far the most intense of the weekend, as is expected when combining heavy rock music with crowd adrenaline and intoxication. Taking a moment to scan the crowd, people were vomiting, others were escorted out by security or carried out by paramedics, even fights broke out at times. I guess that’s “controlled chaos” for you.

Looking back on the weekend, I got everything I expected out of the sixth Rock on the Range, including the somewhat minor bumps and bruises. The overall lineup was impressive, the crowd was wild and the experience was just as good as my first two visits to Crew Stadium for the event. As crazy as this might sound, I’m proud to call myself a Ranger.

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