ROCKINGHAM — Although heavy rain was originally forecast for Sunday, the skies stayed dry for the final day of the inaugural Epicenter Festival at Rockingham Dragway.
Fans, bands and organizers were thankful for the weather after severe storms cut the previous day’s performances short.
Justin Hildreth, who lives a few miles south of the venue, was nearly voiceless and still stoked after watching Scarlxrd from near the front of the stage.
“I was like, three people back and I got to help lift the sound guy and thrown him back on the stage,” he said. “That was great. My voice is gone, I yelled a lot.
Scarlxrd and Killswitch Engage were the two bands he was most looking forward to seeing. The Richmond Early College student later went crowd surfing for the first time, despite signs around the stages encouraging against it.
County Manager Bryan Land brought his family out to the last of the three-day hard rock and heavy metal festival.
Land said it was a “great event” even though there had been a few “bumps in the road.”
“We’ve already suffered through every trial and tribulation that we could,” he said, referencing the Saturday’s cancellation and traffic issues, both of which garnered complaints on social media. “Hopefully the gods will shine down us and give us about six more good hours … my wife’s ready for the Foo Fighters.”
With more access points and open lanes once the U.S. 1 widening project is complete, Land expects most of the traffic issues to ease up.
The Dragway on Monday also acknowledged the issues in a Facebook post.
“Were there problems? Yes. But there always are, especially in the production of a new event of such spectacular scope at a venue that essentially was brand new,” the post read. “For most, though, the traffic and weather were only minor distractions. Their biggest takeaway from the experience was that the promoters delivered the show they promised and that rockers of all ages attended in even larger numbers than anticipated.”
Later on, in the comment sections, the dragway took a swipe at the negative television news coverage:
“Amused by the WRAL coverage. With over 150 vendor tents only one was blown over, the ZIPPO display, which was not event staked in the ground – any wind gust would have blown it over. You would have thought we had been by Hurricane Katrina. And one bracket on one video screen came loose, causing the screen to flap in the wind. News led you to believe it was flying through the air. We have officially met “Fake News”. And did any of the TV airheads apologize for completely missing Sunday’s weather forecast?”
Each day of the festival, the crowds funneled through the gates at a rate of 3,500 to 4,000 an hour, according to Land. Some stayed for the entire weekend, others just came one day.
David Brooks, who used to live in the Rockingham area, and Hannah Garner made the drive from Wilmington on Sunday to the later bands like 311 and the Foo Fighters.
“I was going to see the Interrupters, but we didn’t quite make it,” Garner said.
She won the tickets from a Wilmington radio station contest.
The first act they saw perform that day was guitarist Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave.
“We just walked over to that stage first and were like, ‘OK, this is where we should be at,” Garner laughed.
During Morello’s set, several fans stomped around and slid into a mud pit formed from previous rains.
Towards the end, the revered guitarist invited about 20 fans up to the stage while they and the crowd sang the RATM anti-authority anthem “Killing in the Name.”
Prior to performing, Morello stopped by the media tent for a few interviews and signed a guitar being auctioned off for charity.
(The RO will have more on that in a later story.)
Headlining act the Foo Fighters ended the night with a collection of hits throughout the band’s nearly 25-year history and a few covers.
Some started leaving before the show was over to get ahead of the mass exodus, which resulted in a shorter wait time to exit.
Dragway owner Steve Earwood isn’t wasting time between events. The Rugged Maniac is scheduled to return to The Rock this weekend.