Thousands of rock and metal fans swarmed Champions Park on Saturday (Sept. 30) for the first day of this year’s Louder Than Life Festival in Louisville, Kentucky.

The New Jersey boys of Palisades and California rock band New Years Day kicked off the day on the Loudmouth Stage at a little past noon. Cinematic rock act Starset took fans on an intergalactic experience with their set as they donned spacesuits in the hot festival sun.

The mood changed when Eagles of Death Metal hit the stage for a funk-tastic time. Mastodon guitarist Brent Hinds served as a special guest as he played the first song of the set with the band. A Rob Zombie shirt with red suspenders never made more sense than on frontman Jesse Hughes. Whether it’s his mic slinging skills, shaky legged moves onstage or that soup strainer of a mustache, Hughes is charismatic and animated onstage.

French metal band Gojira took the stage afterward for hands down the heaviest set of the weekend. Singer Joe Duplantier told the crowd that is might be the first time the band has ever played Kentucky, fans replied with a very warm welcome…and lots of crowdsurfing. Five Finger Death Punch bassist Chris Kael was side stage watching the band and playing air drums. Anyone who has to take the stage after Gojira better make sure they put on their best and heaviest performance.

Mastodon, hailing from Atlanta, Georgia, were up next and seemed right at home playing for the Southern crowd. The band’s swirling guitar riffs and gritty vocals were a perfect match for the aptly named Loudmouth Stage.

The Loudmouth stage was headlined by Five Finger Death Punch, as frontman Ivan Moody and crew delivered a blistering set. You really don’t understand the power of Five Finger Death Punch until you see them live. A woman in a wheelchair raised her fists while singing “Lift Me Up,” two older guys with beers in their hands sang “Never Enough” at the top of their lungs, and thousands sang other notable anthems like “Bad Company” and “Burn MF.” The Kentucky fans showed up in full force as everyone belted out “The Bleeding.”

And that was just one stage. The festival grounds were filled with delicious grub, bourbon, bbq, burgers, a variety of mac and cheese, even gelato -- this was not the normal festival food. If you managed to walk pass all of it, there was the Zorn Stage. North Carolina rock band He Is Legend and buzzworthy acts Ded and Through Fire also performed. Fire From the Gods delivered and intense set while Steel Panther, who headlined the stage, kept things much more lighthearted and inappropriately carnal.

The Monster Stage began with For We Are Many and Sleeping With Sirens. Next up were Of Mice & Men, whose performance was chilling even under the hot Kentucky sun, as their ferociousness caused goosebumps to anyone who paid attention to their passion. With Austin Carlile's exit from the band, bassist Aaron Pauley has stepped up as frontman and is doing a stellar job keeping Of Mice & Men's legacy going.

The South got a little taste of West Coast swagger as Hollywood Undead took the stage, and they were ready to party. One of the best parts of the day was the Undead crew inviting 10-year-old Dylan to the stage. He wore a tie-dyed Ozzy Osbourne t-shirt and Hollywood Undead bandana, and had his middle finger in the air during of “Comin’ in Hot.” Not everyone can be as cool as Dylan at 10 years old.

There’s no better way to experience a sunset than with Halestorm. Whether it’s with long locks or the short pixie hairdo that she’s rocking now, Lzzy Hale will always ooze apocalyptic bad-assery. There’s no comparing her to anyone else male or female, as she continues to “gently violate” our minds with her wicked lyrics, annihilating screams, and soulful melodies, which anyone can hear echoing through Champions Park.

The party continued with Rob Zombie complete with his cowboy hat and shiny, metallic flared pants. At 52-years-old, he high jumped, high kicked and proved to be more nimble than performers half his age. He dedicated his song “Living Dead Girl” to all of the lovely Kentucky ladies and cranked out “More Human Than Human” and “Thunder Kiss ‘65” from his White Zombie days. What’s a party without a cover of “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones and Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out.”

As night fell, Ozzy Osbourne, the Prince of Darkness himself, graced the Monster Stage and he wanted everyone to “Bark at the Moon.” He then visited an old friend “Mr. Crowley” with his bearded buddy Zakk Wylde, whom Ozzy reunited with this summer.

Wylde unleashed dizzying guitar riffs to Black Sabbath tunes “Fairies Wear Boots,” “War Pigs” and “Iron Man.”  Kentucky fans, especially beer-filled at this point in the night, hopped on board the “Crazy Train.” The dust-filled night ended with an encore of “Mama, I’m Coming Home” and Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid.”

All of this was only the first day of Louder than Life, stay tuned for our coverage of Day 2!

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