As a good friend once said to me on the second day of a SXSW visit, while I was laying in a hotel bed in Austin completely hungover and not sure that I would even be able to go out and see more music, it’s a marathon not a sprint. Wise words to keep in mind for those heading into the 4-day Sonic Temple Festival and the old Crew Stadium.

Outdoor festivals are always risky due to weather and it does look like festivalgoers should prepare for rain on Friday (82%) and possibly Saturday (51%). Hopefully the festival’s social media accounts will keep people updated should there be any delays or artist cancelations.

If you’ve got tickets, you’re likely going to see some of the headliners – there’s some big names on the top of the daily lineups that are worthy on their own of being worth the ticket price. If you think of it that way, everything else is just playing with house money – you’re in the door, might as well check some other bands out. Of course, there are probably just as many people more excited about the undercard who consider the headliners to be the cherry on top.

As with any festival, it’s always worth checking out a band you’ve never seen, a band that you probably wouldn’t go see on their own if they were playing a club in Columbus, and/or a band that you’ve never heard of. With that in mind, here are a few recommendations, some that you’ve undoubtedly heard of/seen live, some that might be new to you.

THURSDAY

12:15 – Nita Strauss – Template Stage – Ten years ago, Strauss joined Alice Cooper’s band and instantly became a hero among Cooper’s fans. She remained part of the lineup until 2022 when she took some time off to flex her pop-rock guitar-playing muscles supporting Demi Lovato. Fortunately for hard rock fans, Strauss rejoined Cooper’s band in 2023 and will be out with him this summer as he co-headlines a bill with Rob Zombie. A great start to the festival, make sure you’ve got plenty of air picks to play your air guitar with.

2:00 – Taipei Houston – Cathedral Stage – I happened to catch this duo opening for White Reaper in 2022 and spent the first 15 minutes of their set trying to figure out what they were all about. Lots of energy, cool sound, sort of what you might expect out of a duo – they don’t quite sound like The White Stripes or Royal Blood but just like with those bands, you can tell these guys feel like 2 people can rock just as much as 3 or more. Oh yeah, something I discovered at that White Reaper show while Taipei Houston was performing thanks to a quick Google search is that the band is made up of brothers who just so happen to be the sons of Metallica’s Lars Ulrich.

3:15 – The Chats – Cathedral Stage – Okay, here’s the deal, hopefully you’ve learned that Sonic Temple is a ROCK festival, not a HARD ROCK festival. Yeah, most of the bands tend to lean towards the hard rock side of things but there’s plenty of stuff that probably wouldn’t have made a Rock on the Range lineup in the past. The Chats are a brash and punk-ish Australian band that may be a bit polarizing for fans wanting to headbang. These guys sound more like the kids down the street who you consider calling the cops on at 11:30pm because of all the noisy racket they’re making in their parents garage.

6:05 – Kerry King – Cathedral Stage – Come on, it’s the Columbus debut of Slayer guitarist Kerry King’s new band. You can’t miss this one. The full-length comes out the day after this performance so you’ll get a sneak preview of the very Slayer-like material which you’ll then be able to stream/own on Friday. This is a band I’d pay to see headline a show at The Newport Music Hall so getting them on a bill with so many other bands feels like a bargain.

FRIDAY

12:00 – Gel – Cathedral Stage – Coming out of the gate swinging, this thrashing hardcore punk band from Jersey will wake the dead as they preview material from their upcoming EP, Persona, out in August. I’ve been so wrong with predictions in the past that I hesitate saying this, but Gel seems like the type of band that, with a few more years under their belt, will be moving up the bill in the near future.

1:00 – Scowl – Cathedral Stage – While I’d typically recommend wandering around and trying to find something cool on another stage, if you dig Gel’s set, you’d be wise to stick around for another up-and-coming act, Scowl. Another young hardcore punk band, Scowl’s all about efficiency – most songs come in at 2 minutes or under so you’ll probably get something like 20 songs in the 40 or so minutes they have to own the stage.

2:45 – Dirty Honey – Temple Stage – These guys aren’t new and aren’t much of a secret but my introduction to the band came when they played an early slot on a side stage at Sonic Temple 2019. Bringing the classic rock sound to modern times, Dirty Honey has not only spent time opening for heavyweights like Guns N’ Roses but have co-headlined a tour with Mammoth WVH and done their own headlining gigs. If you’re a fan of bands like GN’R, Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, The Black Crowes, even some Audioslave/Soundgarden, you’ll want to catch this set which, surprisingly, is still early in the day. Having seen Dirty Honey a few times live, they could easily hold their own if given an 8:00 slot on the same stage being the direct support for one of the headliners.

6:40 – Mr. Bungle – Citadel Stage – This is one I wouldn’t miss but, that being said, I’ve never seen Mr. Bungle live and I have no idea what to expect from Mike Patton and his crew. I have a feel this might be one of the most talked about sets of the weekend and I’m just hoping that it’s one of the most talked about set for a good reason rather than for something crazy happening.

SATURDAY

I’m not that familiar with the early bands so my first recommendation comes two hours after music starts.

1:40 – Empire State Bastard – Sanctuary Stage – When you look at who is in the band, it’s hard to reconcile the sound they make. ESB is made up of Simon Neil (Biffy Clyro), Mike Vennart (Oceansize) and Dave Lombardo (Slayer). I was expecting something on the heavier side of alt-rock but this is just straight up punishing metal that doesn’t let up. It’s abrasive, it’s raw, it’s even potentially headache inducing and that’s all stuff I find appealing! You might need a break after this set.

2:50 – Living Colour – Temple Stage – Would love a Living Colour headlining show at The Newport or The King of Clubs but since they’ve been touring with Extreme and there hasn’t been a Columbus date, this might be the only chance to see this legendary band. It’s also a nice break from heavy, heavy music as Living Colour infuses soul and funk into their hard rock sound. I did catch these guys at Rock on the Range a decade ago and it was a blast.

3:30 – Kittie – Cathedral Stage – If you’ve going to do one of those things where you catch the first half of one set and then boogie on over to another stage to catch the last half of another set, this might be the one I’d do (and, yeah, I’d miss “Cult of Personality” most likely). I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that I never thought I’d hear another Kittie album, but there’s a new one coming in June so you’re likely to hear a new song or two during this set.

Only recommending three bands on Saturday because you should be saving your energy for Pantera‘s headlining set that will close out the night.

SUNDAY

12:35 – Dead Poet’s Society – Sanctuary Stage – These guys have been road dogs, touring non-stop for the last few years. DPS has an edge, probably a little more modern alt-rock sounding than hard rock but while the oldies may take a step (or three) back and nurse wounds from Saturday night’s Pantera show, I suspect the kids will be rocking the Sanctuary Stage and a few may even walk away with a new favorite band.

1:55 – Crobot – Citadel Stage – I’ve always considered Crobot to be a stoner band but they infuse some dirty groove rock into the music meaning they’d be fit on a playlist with artists like Wolfmother, Queens of the Stone Age, and Soundgarden.

6:35 – Baroness – Citadel Stage – While I’m trying to steer you towards bands you may not know or whose name you recognize but have never listened to, Baroness is certainly not a secret. Whether it’s a headlining show at Ace of Cups or The King of Clubs or a festival stage, Baroness is not to be missed.