Rockfest Kansas City main stage with Staind and Aaron lewis performing live.

Well-known rock band Staind has been going strong for two decades. The group was formed in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1994. Lead singer Aaron Lewis plays rhythm guitar alongside lead guitarist Mike Mushok and bassist Johnny April.

Jon Wysocki was the band’s drummer for 17 years until in 2011 Staind took on drummer Sal Giancarelli. They self-released their first album, Tormented, in ‘96. After Staind garnered the attention of rock artist Fred Durst of the band Limp Bizkit, the famous musician co-produced their label debut album, Dysfunction, which was released in ‘99.

From 2001 to 2011 Staind released five more records, steadily developing their sound and style, pushing themselves as artists. The band then took a hiatus from the music scene from 2012 to 2014, so it was especially gratifying to photograph their live performance at Kansas City’s Rockfest this year.

Aaron Lewis, talented front man of Staind, is one of my favorite live performers given his amazing voice–he is a skillful and dynamic vocal artist. I have taken in several of his live acoustic solo performances, and it is the type of show that I highly recommend seeing. Lewis is one of very few who can spend an hour and a half on stage with just a microphone and an acoustic guitar and keep you in awe the whole set. He has one of the most powerful and versatile voices of any musician I have seen perform live; he enjoys taking requests to cover other bands’ songs and often performs the songs better than the original versions. If you haven’t already, you might check out Staind’s album The Singles: 1996-2006, which includes three rock covers. No doubt it is Lewis’s impeccable vocals that helped make Staind’s covers so popular.

While an Aaron Lewis solo acoustic show is captivating, a Staind live performance adds layers of heavy, hard-hitting musical punches to the experience of Lewis’s voice. Staind’s sound is a mix of grunge era style and Korn/Pantera type metal. Ever since the band’s label debut album Dysfunction hit the airwaves, I’ve been a fan, and I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the group of expert rockers perform many times. As a solo artist, Lewis keeps his performances somewhat low-key; in contrast, every time Staind commands the stage, they are extremely polished. Either performance promises an amazing sound and experience for the audience.

This year at the 2014 Rockfest in Kansas City, Staind had the 6:25pm time slot on the main stage; primetime and prime real estate worthy of such a respected, accomplished group. As always, Staind sounded terrific and immediately had the crowd fired up! About halfway through the acoustic song “When I’m Gone,” Lewis stopped the performance and went on a profanity-laced tirade directed towards the crowd. At first it sounded as if he was yelling at all of the pumped-up Rockfest goers, but it soon became clear he had witnessed several male Rockfest attendees inappropriately grab a young female crowd surfer, and he didn’t like it at all. At one point during his pissed-off rant Lewis stated, “If I see that shit again, I swear to God I will point you out and have every one around you beat your fucking ass.” As a father of three girls, it isn’t hard to understand why Lewis used his position on stage to help publicly right a wrong. Heavy applause followed, and Lewis picked back up where he’d left off in the song.

Year after year Rockfest brings a great music festival to Kansas City. With bands like Staind and other top-notch rock entertainers (The Pretty Reckless, Pop Evil, Adelitas Way, Steel Panther, Five Finger Death Punch, Korn, etc.) Rockfest 2014 was no exception. Once again, Staind put on a solid performance, and with his very public act of human decency, Aaron Lewis gave me yet another reason to be a fan.


Article co wrote by Emi Griess and Casey Drahota

Images © Casey Drahota