The Banana (WWBN 101.5 FM) brought arena rock back to Flint by having Korn play at their 20th anniversary birthday bash.

Korn, Otherwise, and Avatar played the Perani Arena in Flint, Michigan on Oct 03, 2014. This was in celebration of Flint rock radio station The Banana celebrating 20 years on the airwaves.

The Banana debuted in 1994 as an AOR (album-oriented rock) formatted radio station. In 2001, WWBN’s owner, Townsquare Media (formerly Regent Broadcasting) took control of active rock station Radio X (WRXF 103.1 FM) in Lapeer, MI. After a few months, WRXF debuted a new classic hits format while the Banana evolved from its mainstream AOR format into its current active rock sound.

The Banana’s current program director, air personality, and co-host of Loudwire Nights, Tony LaBrie is a veteran of WRXF’s Radio X days who came to the Banana in 2001. A veteran of rock radio with years of on-air experience, Labrie has played an important part in the success of the Banana. In 2011, the Banana was voted Small Market Radio Station of the Year with LaBrie as the recipient of the RadioContraband Rock Radio Award for Small Market Radio Program Director of the Year in both 2011 and 2012.

After 20 years of rocking the Flint airwaves, it was time for the Banana to put on one big party to celebrate. Banana on-air radio personalities Maggie Meadows, Chris Monroe, and Andrea Love were on hand to assist Labrie in welcoming the crowd of roughly 2,000 attendees to one of the largest rock shows Flint has seen in some time.

The night started out with Swedish metal band, Avatar. Avatar was considered the ‘little brothers’ of the famed Gothenburg scene that spawned the celebrated New Wave of Swedish Death Metal, but have since become a driving force in it. Originally playing brutal, technical melodic death metal, the band has progressed their sound by incorporating traditional heavy metal and classic rock ‘n’ roll. They play a darker, more groove-oriented style of death metal which sets them apart from their contemporaries.

The band consists of Johannes Eckerstrom (vocals), Jonas “Kungen” Jarlsby (guitars), Tim Ohrstrom (guitars), Henrik Sandelin (bass), and John Alfredsson (drums). Eckerstrom wears makeup and has been known to dress up in an outfit reminiscent of the main character, Alex, from the movie A Clockwork Orange. As the band likes to call it, “A dark, twisted circus sideshow that’s built around bombastically grooving melodic death ‘n’ roll.”

As the low hum of carnival music played in the background, each member of Avatar individually marched, militant style, onto the stage carrying a set of flags. Jarlsby, Ohrstrom, Sandelin, and Alfredsson wore matching militant gold threaded over blue outfits (reminding me of what Adam Ant wore on the front of the Kings of the Wild Frontier album cover) while Eckerstrom took the stage wearing a red militant style outfit donned with his clown make up, black hat (ala Clockwork Orange), and staff (cane). As the band members finished placing each flag in its place, A V A T A R was spelled across them.

The band broke into “All Hail The Apocalypse.” The audience pumped their fists in the air as the band banged their head in unison to the beat.

Eckerstrom stated “We are Avatar. You are Flint, Michigan. This one is called ‘Vultures Fly’ and on this song we jump.” The audience jumped in unison with Eckerstrom as he yelled out “Go.”

Eckerstrom then said, “All the way from Gothenburg, Sweden, Avatar has finally returned to Flint, Michigan. You people are standing on ice. Are you cold? It’s getting warmer though. We like it hot, don’t we? Let’s start a fire, melt the ice, and let it burn.” The band followed up playing the song “Let It Burn.” Following the song, Eckerstrom took a swig of out of a gas can.

The band slowed things down a bit with a mellow lullaby on the guitar which worked into “Bloody Angel.” This song is a perfect example of Eckerstrom’s dynamic vocal range. He goes from raspy singing, to larynx-shredding screams, to full-throated clean melodies, all of which he pulls off beautifully.

“Horns in the air people. This is a sing-along. We’ve been in this town before people so some of you know the words to this song,” Eckerstrom stated as the band broke into “Paint Me Red.”

“Holy shit, Flint, we are running out of time already but we will be back in a few weeks at the Machine Shop for devil’s night. Book it. Be there or be square,” stated Eckerstrom. “It’s time for some insanity. Scream it,” he continued as the band broke into “Smells Like A Freak Show.”

Avatar ended with Eckerstrom stating “It’s been short and sweet, but Flint, it has truly been an honor. Thank you.” The band bowed before walking off the stage and back into the darkness from which they came.

Next to take the stage was the Las Vegas, Nevada hard rock band Otherwise. The band consists of brothers-in-arms Adrian Patrick (vocals) and Ryan Patrick (guitar, vocals) along with Corky Gainsford (drums, vocals), Vassilios Metropoulos (bass), and Andrew Pugh (guitars, vocals).

The band released the song “Soldiers” on the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2011 attacks. It was initially released independently and became the first song by an unsigned artist to ever have the #1 spot on Sirius XM Octane.

The band’s début album True Love Never Dies has moved upwards of 60,000 copies and spawned close to 300,000 single sales of the hits “Soldiers,” “I Don’t Apologize (1000 Pictures),” and “Die For You.” The album peaked respectfully at #123 on the US Billboard 200 chart.

According to their bio, peace comes through struggle. It’s a reward that’s earned rather than simply given. It’s the product of tireless work and an unbreakable spirit against all odds and opposition. Otherwise are no strangers to that struggle, rising up to become rock ‘n’ roll contenders in the face of a tumultuous musical climate and a series of personal hardships.

Otherwise catalog the next chapter of this journey on their second full-length album, Peace At All Costs. The ride starts with that very title. Singer, Adrian Patrick explains, “Our grandmother used to always say it. ‘Peace At All Costs’ is a double entendre. We interpret the phrase as, ‘Give us peace, or we’ll take it from you.’ The whole point of us being on this musical odyssey is our search for peace. We want to do something impactful in the world, and we’re not going to stop. We’re starting with ourselves first. It’s about finding inner peace and restoring equilibrium within yourself. Music allows us to do that.” The album was released this past September and hit #49 on the US Billboard 200 chart.

Otherwise opened their set with the pounding, riff-driven “Love & War.” This song explodes on impact while teetering between a razorblade sharp guitar and a distinct groove.

“What’s up Michigan? It’s good to be back in the rock ‘n’ roll town of Flint,” Adrian stated before the band played “Lighthouse.”

“So Flint, you guys are here to celebrate the Banana’s birthday. Twenty years of playing bad ass rock ‘n’ roll. If you listen to the Banana then you’ve probably heard this next song as the Banana has given us Las Vegas boys a lot of love” stated Adrian as the band broke out into “Die For You.” Without hesitation, Otherwise segued into “The Other Side Of Truth” then “Silence Reigns.”

“So Flint, you still alive out there? Are you staying ‘Wise’ out there? We want you guys to make some noise for our new friends in Avatar and we want to humbly thank Korn for having us on this bill, so give it up for Korn. We may not be as heavy as these other bands on this bill but we came to rock our hearts out to you Flint. Everyone put your hearts up so we can see them (everyone made a heart shape with their fingers/hands). That’s beautiful people. Never apologize for showing your heart,” stated Adrian then the band broke into “I Don’t Apologize (1000 Pictures).”

“So yeah, we write songs about girls who break our hearts. But here’s a new song about a couple of fellas who broke our hearts. The music industry can be a tough thing sometimes,” Adrian said as the band played “Fate Is Your Enemy.”

“This next song is our new single that is out on the radio. It just broke the top twenty. Thank you Banana for playing it. Happy birthday to you,” stated Adrian then the band played “Darker Side of the Moon.”

“Flint, are you ready for Korn?” Adrian asked. He then stated, “We want to thank you one last time for having us back. We are very far from home and it’s good to know that there are people out there fighting the good fight with us. We know you guys listen to the Banana, God bless them. But, do you guys listen to satellite radio? Maybe Sirius Octane? If so, then you might know that this next song made musical history on Octane. Love your military, people,” said Adrian as they played “Soldiers.”

Adrian jumped down off the stage and sang along with the audience during “Soldiers.” It was clear that this song has deep meaning to Adrian as he sang it with such passion and conviction. He appeared deeply touched while members of the audience sang in unison along with him. “We love you Michigan. Thank you for having us. Get home safe.” Adrian told the crowd as the band exited the stage.

Both Avatar and Otherwise put on electrically charged performances and had the crowd pumped up and ready for Korn. You could feel the heavy anticipation in the crowd as the audience eagerly awaited the band they had come here to see. I overheard several people state they were excited to have the opportunity to see Korn in such a small venue and were thankful that the Banana had brought them here. Another person mentioned this show was a, “dream come true,” as they thought they would never have the chance to see Korn in any size venue smaller than the Palace (of Auburn Hills).

Nu metal band Korn released their debut album in 1994. This was a dual birthday celebration of sorts as the Banana turns 20 and Korn’s debut album turns 20. Coincidence? Probably not.

The band consists of Jonathan Davis (vocals), James “Munky” Shaffer (guitar), Brian “Head” Welch (guitar), Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu (bass), and Ray Luzier (drums).

According to Wikipedia, This pioneering heavy metal band has sold upwards of 35 million albums worldwide. Twelve of the band’s official releases have peaked in the top ten of the Billboard 200, eight of which have peaked in the top five. Eight official releases are certified Platinum or Multi-Platinum by the Recording Industry of America (RIAA), and one is certified Gold. The band has released forty-one singles, twenty-eight of which have charted. Korn has earned two Grammy Awards out of seven nominations and two MTV Video Awards out of eleven nominations.

In an interview drummer Ray Luzier did with Flint news ABC12: WJRT-TV, Luzier says he’s excited to help The Banana begin its third decade of bringing rock to the airwaves of Mid-Michigan. “It means a lot that they’re supporting so highly, ‘cause radio has changed a lot and the music business has changed a lot. One thing that’ll never die is the live entertainment aspect. And people like them that are still spinning rock and keeping it alive, you know every year people say rock’s gonna die. It’s not gonna die, it just goes through changes and weaves and turns and you know, even the internet, they thought that would stop us because people weren’t buying rock records as much. But it’s people like them that are keepin’ it way alive and in everyone’s faces and providing events like this so we appreciate it totally,” stated Luzier.

The lights went out and the venue was pitch black. You could hear singer Jonathan Davis say “Flint, Michigan, you ready for this shit?” over the keyboard intro to “Falling Away From Me.” The lights turned on approximately eighteen seconds into the song, right when the guitars kicked in, and we found the entire band on the stage with Davis standing in front of his silver metallic microphone stand, which he calls ‘The Bitch’. Created by Swiss artist H.R. Giger, ‘The Bitch’ is a microphone stand and piece of art.

The audience screamed with the thrill of met expectations as the song came to an end. “Flint, Michigan, I know you can do better than that. Let me hear you one more time,” stated Davis then the band broke into “Twist” which segued into “Got The Life.” As I looked around, I could see everyone in the general admission section pogoing up and down.

Without much of a break in-between songs, the band played “Love & Meth,” “Hater,” “Did My Time,” “Spike In My Veins,” and “Get Up!” before taking a short break.

Davis walked back out to the stage with bagpipe in hand playing the beginning of “Shoots and Ladders.” As the guitar kicked in, you could see the crowd of people swaying back ‘n forth to its rhythm. The song ended with a short snippet from “Somebody Someone.”

“What the fuck is up Flint? Davis said, continuing with “It feels damn good to be back with our Korn family here in Flint, Michigan. I got one question for ya’. Flint mother fucking Michigan, are you ready to get this mother fucking party started? Then, everybody get your hands in the air. I want to see those fists pumping” as the band broke into “Coming Undone.”

Without hesitation, they segued into “Here To Stay,” then “Never Never” and “Freak on a Leash.” For the encore, they came back out to play “Blind.” The band congratulated The Banana then thanked the crowd for coming.

Although attendance was slightly weak, The Banana was successful in bringing arena rock back to Flint. Back in the day, Perani Arena (previously known as the IMA) hosted major rock acts such as Rush, Motley Crue, and Van Halen to name a few. Korn is the first major rock band to play Flint in decades. It appears that Perani Arena was able to withstand the subs that Korn brought in as the building is still standing. Let’s hope this is a sign of more big things to come.

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About The Author

Erik's interest in music began at an early age. In high school, he was the co-host of the underground metal show the Social Mutilation Hour, on 89.5 WAHS, under the name of Neurotik Erik. During this period of his life, he independently promoted shows under the name of Ding Dong Ditch Productions. Erik would rent out local VFW Halls, use space at Oakland Community College Auburn Hills Campus, or simply throw basement parties around the Detroit area. While at college at Ferris State University, he became head of the student run organization, Entertainment Unlimited, and continued to promote shows, but on a larger scale. He also helped start an underground magazine, 'Outpunk', where he interviewed bands and wrote music reviews. Additionally, Erik joined the staff at the Ferris State University Torch and wrote on a larger scale.

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