Starset, Live, and others play Rock on the Range

By Justin Kreitzer

Photo: (l-r) Chad Taylor and Ed Kowalczyk of Live hit Rock on the Range May 19; photo: Eric Forberger

Rock on the Range (ROTR) celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, and continues to get bigger and better with age. The hard rock music festival’s 11th year will be held in Columbus at MAPFRE Stadium, as it is every year. 2017’s lineup, set to perform May 19-21, is a testament to the fest’s longevity and popularity. Representing over 30 years of hard rock history, this year’s headliners include thrash metal pioneers Metallica, grunge rock gods Soundgarden, and nu-metal survivors Korn. In total, there are 60 bands on the eclectic lineup that brilliantly showcases all facets of the genre, including freak-funkers Primus, black metal bandits Deafheaven, prog-rockers Coheed and Cambria, ’90s alt-rockers Bush, and a reunited Sum 41.

Of local interest, Columbus-based progressive rock cosmonauts Starset are scheduled to perform Saturday, May 20. The Dayton City Paper spoke with Starset vocalist Dustin Bates about playing to the hometown crowd, their upcoming comic book, and more.

How cool is it to play Rock on the Range to a hometown crowd?

Dustin Bates: Most of the big festivals are a good experience, but ROTR is certainly that much more fun because of the friends, family, and longtime fans that are there.

Do you have to strip down some of your theatrical live show for the festival stage or are you still able to do what you normally do?

DB: We mostly do what we normally do. Although a certain portion of these things are more effective indoors or at night when we can control atmosphere and lighting better, we still do our best to bring an effective demonstration.

Your cinematic sophomore album, VESSELS—released earlier this year via Razor & Tie Records—captures your atmospheric yet driving sound, especially on the dynamic standout single, ‘Frequency.’ What is your favorite song to play live and why?   

DB: My favorites tend to change.  Currently, I would say it is “Ricochet” because it is a vocal challenge and because people really react to it, and that is fun to watch.

Later this year Marvel Comics is issuing a graphic novel about your band. Can you tell us more about that?  

DB: Marvel is releasing a comic that tells the inception story of The Starset Society—a science-minded group which we are a part of.

I know many people are excited to see you perform at Rock on the Range. Which bands are you excited to see this weekend?

DB: Unfortunately, we have other festivals to play on the other days of ROTR. I’m looking forward to seeing Korn and Coheed on our day, but if I could attend every day, I would be excited to see Thrice and Biffy Clyro.

Additionally, newly reformed ’90s alt-rock favorites Live will perform on Friday, May 19. The Dayton City Paper spoke with Ed Kowalczyk of Live about their recent reformation and the possibility of new music.

Live reformed late last year with original vocalist Ed Kowalczyk rejoining the original lineup for the first time since 2009. What was the impetus for the reformation, and has all of the bad blood been forgiven?

Ed Kowalczyk: I believe the old cliché of “time heals all wounds” applies here for sure. The space that the break created between us allowed the reemergence of all of the amazing history we shared together to come to the surface. I can definitely say that the current “spark” we feel together on-stage and off wouldn’t be as strong had we not taken the break that we did. We are chomping at the bit to get back out and do what we do!

What song are you most excited about to play live again and why?

EK: All of them! Come back to me after a few dozen shows and I will try to whittle it down…but seriously, there is such a level of excitement about doing this again, that I am really looking forward to all of it.

I know it’s early, but are there plans to record any new music and if so, where are you in that process? 

EK: We started writing music and experimenting in the studio almost immediately following the first reconnect that we had as a band. We are keeping it really fun and not putting any deadlines on ourselves for an album, etc. That said, we probably have five or six songs that we are excited about. Some sound like classic Live, if you would; some are pushing the boundaries a bit.

Many people are excited to see the Rock on the Range lineup Friday, which is loaded with other great bands from your era, including Soundgarden and Bush. What bands are you most excited to check out?  

EK: I am personally really excited to see Soundgarden. I’ve seen Chris’s acoustic set a few times, as well as Audioslave, but have yet to experience Soundgarden in concert. Chris [Cornell] is one of my favorite lyricists and songwriters from the ’90s era and beyond.

Rock on the Range takes place Friday, May 19 through Sunday, May 21 at MAPFRE Stadium, 1 Black and Gold Blvd. in Columbus. For more information, please visit


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