West Valley City • Labor Day is the unofficial end of the summer,
Traditionally, it is a sad day where most of us gloomily chow down on barbecued hot dogs and burgers at holiday picnics, mourning the loss of summer in anticipation of hibernating all winter long.
But after a scorched-earth summer in the Salt Lake Valley, where it was the hottest June, July and August on record, most of us were ready for a (hopefully) milder September.
So it was with joy that temperatures in the pleasant 80s greeted music fans Monday who substituted an entire day of hard-rock music for barbecues this Labor Day.
With doors opening at 2 p.m., the verbosely titled Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival packed more than a dozen bands inside the expansive grounds of Usana Amphitheatre, with no fewer than three stages offering up one of the last chances of the summer to rupture your eardrums.
The two headliners, Alice in Chains and Jane's Addiction, kicked off their sets after press time, but earlier in the day, the bands that warmed up the crowd on the smaller stages (dubbed the Coldcock Herbal Whiskey Showcase Stage and the Zippo Encore Stage, respectively) featured an embarrassment of riches.
In a traveling festival like this, a healthy competition exists, with each band having between 20 minutes and an hour to show their stuff. Each act tries to out-do the act that immediately preceded, so in these small sets you get to see kinetic bursts of energy and intensity from each act.
And, in a testament to tour organizers, the day's schedule ran like clockwork. Because the two smaller stages were right next to one another, as one band's feedback faded away at the end of its set, the next stage's act kicked off its set. Our ears never enjoyed a moment of silence, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Definite highlights included seeing rockers who had gained fame in other bands perform with their new bands or side projects. Duff McKagan, the former bassist for Guns N' Roses and Velvet Revolver, joined former Screaming Trees and Mad Season drummer Barrett Martin in the new band Walking Papers to create one of the best rhythm sections of the day. And current Guns N' Roses members Richard Fortus and Dizzy Reed played with new band The Dead Daisies, which closed its barn-burning set with a spirited cover of The Beatles' "Helter Skelter."
One of the most fan-friendly aspects of the festival was that each band had its own tent, and band members graciously showed up in the tents to meet fans.
If all of that rock and roll wasn't enough, Tuesday there is another rock festival, sponsored by a competing brand of energy drink, at the Maverik Center, with Volbeat and HIM headlining. We assume that some rock fans who were at Usana will go to the Maverik Center Tuesday night if their eardrums are still in working condition.