On the second day of Tons of Rock Festival it was still 26 degrees, so I started my day by heading to the Vampire Stage (the only tent stage) to watch Féleth. The band had won a competition to play the festival and did look noticeably younger than the other acts, but they were excellent – very engaging and their energetic performance was a lovely start to the day.
Next up for me were Ukranian metalcore band Jinjer. In early June the band announced that they had been granted permission to tour abroad over the summer to raise funds and awareness about the war still raging back in their home country, so their performance was always going to be an emotional one. I saw lots of people wearing their fundraising tshirts in the crowd, as well as a huge Ukranian flag. The tent stage was absolutely packed and the band got a deservedly fantastic reception to their set. I have been wanting to see Jinjer for years and they certainly lived up to their reputation. I hope to also catch them at Bloodstock Festival in August.
In another last-minute line-up change, Gaahls WYRD replaced Katatonia on the Scream Stage. Black metal bands are always fun to photograph due to their corpse paint, though watching them in the blazing sun always feels a little wrong compared to them being in a dark room. Regardless, they were wonderful as always.
My first band to photograph on the Main Stage were Steel Panther. I have watched and photographed the band enough times now to know what is in store, but this was my first time seeing them play with their new bassist. One of the faces may have changed but the banter and performance remained very similar. Steel Panther are a great festival band, though at the point when they brought a girl on stage for “Asian Hooker” myself and a lot of the other photographers felt a little uneasy and stopped photographing. I am sure she had volunteered for the role and all the grinding was consensual, but it just felt a bit wrong. Of course for “Seventeen Girls In A Row” the band were joined on-stage by a horde of eager volunteers, but that somehow felt less awkward than just one girl up there on her own.
A band I have been keen to see for a while were Dimmu Borgir. There was a slight delay to them starting their set while pyro tests were carried out, and at this point in the day the sun had shifted and was beating down on the left-hand-side of us photographers as we waited in the Main Stage photopit. I could feel myself burning but there was no time to head back to the press tent to re-apply sunscreen. Another band decked out in corpse paint, Dimmu Borgir were great to photograph and I really enjoyed their set of symphonic metal. Unfortunately the pyro we had seen them testing didn’t come in the first three songs (the only ones we are allowed in the photopit for), but I could hear the crowd cheering as it went off later in their set.
Due to the heat I took it a bit easier on the second day of the festival, so after Dimmu Borgir I retreated to the shade of the press tent for a while before heading back to the Main Stage for Bring Me The Horizon. I will be honest – I am not really a fan, but having only seen them perform a brief set at the NME Awards earlier this year (when I was quite drunk on free red wine) I wanted to give them another go, plus they were one of very few UK bands playing the festival. The composition of the crowd had changed dramatically since the last time I was at the Main Stage, and was now largely made up of teenagers (in the front few rows anyway), all eager to be as close to the band they love as possible. BMTH had a pretty cool computer-screen backdrop with stairs as well, which made for some interesting photos. I still don’t really like their music very much, but I can’t deny that they do have a few bangers in their catalog. The kids in the front rows certainly had a wonderful time.
Next I had a quandary – The Darkness and Sepultura were on at the exact same time, but I wanted to photograph them both, so I decided to shoot one song of Sepultura in the Vampire Stage tent, before hastily making my way to the Scream Stage to catch the third song of The Darkness. I was a hot mess but I was really pleased that I put the effort in. Sepultura’s Derrick Green is always a really powerful presence on a stage, and The Darkness were just great fun as I expected them to be. They also seem like lovely boys, as when the photographers were leaving the photopit Justin Hawkins thanked us for coming to photograph them. Later on in their set he apparently mounted the shoulders of one of the security team and walked around the crowd playing guitar, which I am sad to have missed.
As with Iron Maiden the day before, there were rumors in the press tent that there would be last-minute restrictions on shooting the Friday-night headliner Korn. These rumors were unfortunately true, and only around half of the photographers were permitted to photograph the band. Again, I was a bit disappointed not to have made the cut as I had been keen to shoot them, but instead I met up with my friend and watched the first few songs of their set sitting on the grass with a beer, which was lovely.
Photos by Katie Frost Photography.