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Northern Invasion 2016 – Festival Review

Northern Invasion – Year Two delivered more food, more exhibits, more stages and much more of all things METAL!

Words by Skullgurl Metalchick || Photos by Scott Uchida

Northern InvasionI received the press release about Northern Invasion 2016, I thought to myself, “How can they top the inaugural year”? Well they did, and not just a little bit folks, a whole lot of ALOT! They added another stage, which was pretty ballsy in my opinion, but the risk paid off. Expanding to a two-day festival was also a questionable change, but now I hope they stretch to 3 days next year, and eventually be a 5-day festival like Rockfest in Cadott WI. There were many more food choices, with the food vendor booths spread out a crossed the festival grounds which was uber-convenient. Island Noodles was my go to booth all weekend, oh and I had a Chicken Gyro too, which was to die for! The “Fuck Cancer” exhibit was there again, and after mid-day on Saturday you couldn’t look in any direction without seeing “Fuck Cancer” on a T-shirt, hoodie or bag. Monster Energy offered a cool area with a spectacular viewing area. Zippo expanded their area and had a bigger selection and experience. The VIP experience is by far the way to go, though. I advise every single person that is planning on going next year, get in on VIP. There was shade when it was sunny, heat when it was freezing. Constant live feeds of the ongoing shows. There was a shortage of chairs, but there were benches available inside the structure. The VIP structure sits high on top of the crest of Northern Invasion‘s main stage, perfect to see the main stage and the 3rd stage, and the 2nd stage bands were always shown on the gigantic HD screen in the VIP structure. On a personal note, my assistant Bryan Hofstrand has a wheel chair, and having the VIP area was a godsend for us. It was so easy for us to get to food and beverages, bathrooms, and to see all the bands. All we had to do was decide what band we wanted to see and switch what side of the shelter we needed to be on. We did discover that there was a specific spot at each stage that was elevated for people with wheelchairs. It was elevated and we could see the bands perfectly.

Enough of that stuff, now, on to the bands, Ohhhh lordy, the bands. I heard a fellow ‘Invasioners’ say in awe, “This place is a metalhead’s Utopia.” I was pleasantly surprised the noticeably inebriated man even know what utopia meant, and I heartily agreed. I stated before, that Northern Invasion had expanded to three stages, and at when I initially learned about the addition of a stage I thought ‘overkill.’ I was wrong. Three stages, perfect band scheduling, and superb management kept everything running smoothly. I am almost certain everyone at the festival go to see one of their all-time favorite band due to the wide assortment of bands performing over the two-day festival. I wish I had the word space to talk about every single band, but alas, I do not, so I will touch on the crowd favorites. Saturday opened with first band on the second stage, Vaudeville, my assistant and I were getting settled during this set, but the crowd showed high interest in them. The second band on that stage, Avatar, put on a fantastic show, and is definitely a band to watch with a highly entertaining and theatrical front man, Johannes Eckerström – think Ghost plus Rob Zombie equals Avatar.

Northern InvasionBlack Stone Cherry hit the stage as the second band of the main stage, and nailed their entire set with continuous high energy. The main stage was invaded by SoCal rockers P.O.D., one of the Skullgurl’s favorite groups. There were a few sound issues at first, but the Payable On Death guys ruled the crowd. They sounded better than ever, playing a few songs off each of their albums. Monster Truck hit the third stage, and assistant Bryan confessed the band was killer. Another band to put on your Metal Detector list folks. We stayed focused on the third stage and watched the last two bands performing there that night. Parkway Drive is a relatively newer band to the scene, but show absolutely no greenness during their set. These guys are one of the reasons Metal music continues to thrive and recruit new fans daily.

Northern InvasionClutch closed out the third stage Saturday night. They were AMAZING. I have been a fan of Clutch since their self-titled album, and fell even more in love with them after listening to their newest album, Psychic Warfare. Assistant Bryan and I were Clutch virgins, and were both thrilled to have our Clutch cherries popped at Northern Invasion. The band played a few deep cuts, fan favorites and threw in my favorite off of the new album “A Quick Death in Texas.” If you have not seen Clutch live, you need to. Lead singer Neil Fallon has a certain way about him, how he delivers his lyrics, that will make you walk away from a Clutch show just feeling a whole lot happier about everything. The only down side of our amazing Clutch experience is that Lamb of God was closing out the second stage at the same time. I Interviewed a couple Lamb of God fans, I could tell by the band merch they were sporting, and was told they were Fucking AWESOME.” Stage 1 served up Chevelle, which was a crowd favorite. This band has been dormant for a while, not doing much live performing, so it was a treat to see them again. Lead singer, Pete Loeffler, sounded just as clear and strong as he did over 15 years ago when I first saw Chevelle live. They are appearing at many Summer Festivals, so make sure you plan accordingly to see them.

The second to the last band on the main stage was getting ready to take their places, and a familiar intro riffs flooded the air, and Prince’s iconic voice rose up above the crowd towards the heavens. The stage was lit in a purple hue and Prince’s signature Symbol was positioned center on all of the video screens. Prince’s voice faded away, and the entire festival crowd erupted in a thunderous cheer, and Shinedown took their rightful places on the stage. I won’t waste words describing Brent Smith and the rest of Shinedown’s performance, simply put, it was perfection. Lead singer Brent, is whatever front man of a band should strive to be. Brent is charismatic, charming, entertaining and talented beyond belief. The interaction he had with the crowd was above and beyond what is the norm, making him even more endearing. They played hit after hit. From “State of My Head” off the new album back to “Simple Man” and “45.” I’m not going to lie, the entire set had me in tears 3 or more times. Shinedown is another band that is never the same twice when you see them live. To close the main stage and the first day of the festival, the king of all gory and horror filled charged on to the stage in all of his larger than life glory.

Northern InvasionThere are very few bands that can top the theatrics of Rob Zombie and his crew, and for good reason. There was smoke, and lights, and fire, psychedelic images during the entire set but my favorite was the giant metal dude phantom air humping during “Well, Everybody’s Fucking in a UFO.” Rob was uncharacteristically chatty with the crowd, which fed their hunger for everything Zombie. Piggy D and John 5 played their blackened hearts out, despite the chilly 50-degree weather. Zombie gave the crowd what they wanted that night, loud, raunchy, powerfully good music.


Day 2 greeted us with much warmer weather, which was apparent by the overall mood of the crowd. Stage 3 opened at noon with Minneapolis’ City of the Weak. Stef with an F grabbed the sleepy crowd’s attention with the shear strength and clarity of her voice. I mean, this girl can sing! Stef’s appearance may be deceiving, being she is model thin, and has the face of an angel, so people underestimate the punch her vocals can pack. Stef with an F, handpicked her band mates, and she did a superb job creating a perfect combination a creativity and talent. City of the Weak is another band you need to pay attention to, they have a new album coming out this year, and are appearing at a few festivals coming up soon. Sevendust opened up the main stage with such power and prowess it definitely reminded festival goers why the band was nominated for a Grammy this past year.

Northern InvasionRed Sun Rising kicked all kinds of ass on the 2rd stage as the 3rd act on Sunday. I estimate almost half of the bodies at the fest at the time were crowded over at the 2rd stage area to witness the awesomeness that is Red Sun Rising. Lacey Sturm‘s set unfortunately ran concurrently with Red Sun Rising, much to fest goers chagrin. Lacey didn’t let that dampen her spirit at all though, she took the stage like the little tornado of vocal perfection she is. I will never stop being blown away by her stage presence and the complete and utter beauty and strength of her voice. Lacey’s new band is phenomenal, which includes the love of her life and father of her two adorable children. Main stage served up Pop Evil followed by Sixx AM. Both bands ruled their sets and proved why they were chosen for the main. Saint Asonia‘s set had fest goers saying “Three Days Grace who?” Lead singer Adam Gontier attacked each song with such ferocious tenacity he very well may have erased every doubt that fans had about if he could be successful after leaving his last band. The main stage welcomed the always amazing Australian band Seether.  A man a few words, lead singer Shaun Morgan barely addressed the crowd the entire set, which left more time for him to give the crowd the music they were there for. Playing hit after hit, Seether did not disappoint. “Broken” brought forth moist eyes as fans sang along, and song like “Fake It” and “Same Damn Life” had the entire crowd singing in unison showing solidarity through great music. Second stage offered up Hell yeah, which sadly had their set cut short by technical issues. Ghost closed out the 2nd stage in all their spooky glory.

Butcher Babies wrapped up the action on stage 3 in monumental proportions. Lead sirens, Carla Coates and Heidi Shepherd proved once and for all that women belong in Metal music and that they kick as much musical ass as their male counterparts. Butcher Babies is a band that is notorious for their grueling tour schedule, so they for surely will get to your area, so get your body to a show! All eyes were on the main stage as the always entertaining, always amazing Korn took the stage. Metal bands come and go, few find the magic elixir that keeps them relevant and on top of the music world, Korn is one of the very few band that have done this. Jonathan Davis, Fieldy and the rest of the bunch put on a power packed show with as much energy and fervent bliss as they did back in the mid-1990s. Back to back, they played hit after hit after hit. “Adidas,” “Freak on A Leash,” “Hater,” you name it, they played it. Korn never ever disappoints the crowd, they are consistently dynamically amazing.

Northern InvasionThe lights dimmed, roadies, stage hands and the like hustled and scurried in the quickest set change I have ever witnessed and shortly after Korn bid the crowd farewell, Disturbed crashed on to the stage like a tidal wave of Metal musical mayhem. Say what you will about David Draiman, but that man can sing! The band’s entire set was energy charged and filled with new hits and the songs that started it all. It was almost impossible to see one person not singing along with Mr. Draiman, and by person, I mean all ages. I witnessed men and women well in their upper 50s mouthing every word to “Stupify” and barely teenage males and females not miss a beat while singing along to “The Light.” The true feeling of unity through music washed over me when the lights all when out in the venue and the intro to “Sound of Silence” started to seep into the night air. Every phone, every light, every lighter, every anything that light up, was lit and held high as the song unfolded. “Sound of Silence” is a musical masterpiece, the entire composition is what all songwriters dream of creating, add Draiman’s haunting vocals and a cool May night, and something magical happens. The feeling that swept over me as I watched the 25 thousand plus fans sway in unison as the song reached high to the clear night sky above us, was surely the same feeling that every person in that venue felt. The best word I came up with was awestruck, the performance Disturbed gave that night left me with a deeper appreciation of the band and more importantly, I left Northern Invasion that night with a new found feeling of admiration for front man, David Draiman

Plain and simple folks, Northern Invasion is the festival to catch. I don’t think Wisconsin and Minnesota residents realize what an amazing musical gift they have been given by having Northern Invasion held where it is. For years, in order to go to a big music fest, fans had Ozzfest and Rockfest, then we lost Ozzfest, and Rockfest changed format. A metalhead had to trek to Rock On The Range in Ohio to get a good dose of Metal Music. In 2015, that all changed. The gods of Heavy Metal looked down upon the Apple River Area and said “Let’s have us a kick ass Metal Music festival,” and it came to be. The dates for next year’s Invasion have not been announced yet, but if you watch their website and like them on Facebook, you will be one of the first in the know. I have included the links you may need to keep informed on next year’s Northern Invasion. Please make sure you check out the amazing photos of the weekend, courtesy of Northern Invasion.

Northern Invasion


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