Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival
If you'd said that direct sunshine and metal were mortal enemies, you'd be right in so many ways. So why was San Manuel Amphitheater's Festival Grounds and Dustbowl covered in black-clad metal kids on the hottest, brightest day of the year like swarming ants on a pile of sugar? Because people are batshit insane, that's why.
Despite the heat and the contradictions, the whole day was a big wonderful mess of greasy, salty and inebriated metal people set to the throbby music that makes them tick. The whole thing was perfectly representative of the giant inclusive tent of magnificent that is heavy metal music. Here's how it all panned out:
After a hellish early afternoon fenderbender (so don't give me your, “But you only talked about the headliners, poseur!” bullshit), I made it, but only after missing sets from bands whose names sound like some middle school poetry. (Motionless in White? Thrown Into Exile? Oof.)
I talked to a few groups in the press tent, including the Butcher Babies — L.A.'s sex-forward shrieking harridans. They know the score. I asked, “What is the most metal-as-fuck city are you guys are going to on this tour? Drummer Chrissy Warner replied, “Edmonton is metal as fuck!”
I also spoke with Huntress — L.A.'s other sex-forward thrashers. Frontwoman and Highland Park-er Jill Janus on how her and her band are bonding like old people,”We're watching a lot of Golden Girls re-runs and eating a lot of Werther's Originals on couches.” Sounds like a recipe for monster-truckloads of sexual energy.
Attika 7, the downtuned and chunky biker swag-metal act from Biohazard's Evan Seinfeld, had just barely survived the swelter. Seinfeld and his guitarist / Sons of Anarchy star Rusty Coones were coping with the heat by shedding much of their leather. “You know how you get that kinda weird feeling before you get dizzy? I was at that point,” Coones said.
After that I went out to brave the hordes. I was wincing down a warm Red Bull (for B vitamins) before I'd realized the severe lapse in decorum: Rockstar Energy drink was sponsoring. Still, I got amped all the same.
It's not hard to appreciate these Swedes. They've embraced the cartoonish so fully that I couldn't help but smile every time they did anything or said anything. Their stage prop was the front end of a Disney-style viking long-ship and they used it like all-too-happy berzerkers marauding through a deathmetal candyland. Musically, however, they were unfucakable. Before furiously charging into “Death In Flames” lead singer Johan Hegg screamed “Let's see those horns!” And the fans didn't put them down for the duration of the perfect example of death and melody. Clean licks of triumphant guitar chugged along by engine-precise drumming and Hegg's raspy growl whipped up a paroxysmal symphony. The kids, they loved it. And who's gonna argue with the kids?
For the thinking set, Mastodon came gimmick-free guns blazing. On my way over to their performance, I talked to some kids from Las Vegas who looked physically deflated. “No Mastodon?” I asked. “Pssht. We're saving up for 5FDP,” they scoffed. That was a mistake. Mastodon, despite the dog's-asshole heat, was in pristine condition. They relied heavily on their newest record The Hunter. Even though this was Mayhem's first date, drummer Brann Dailor's beats felt mid-tour perfect.
Five Finger Death Punch
If you're a parent looking to buy your aspiring shred-head kid a “My First Metal Kit” kit, 5FDP might go into it, if for no other reason than they embrace a broad crowd. In fact, lead singer Ivan Moody brought the youngest kids up onstage for a few songs.
“You kids wanna watch a bunch of grow-ups get really fucking stupid?” he asked. It was far too late for that question. They'd already been sitting in the sun all day with shirtless drunk dudes imbued with metallic fervor.
Meanwhile, I was up in the lawn watching the most metal-as-fuck thing I'd seen all day. As per tradition, dirtbags of all stripes had gathered piles of plastic trash and set it on fire. Right in the middle of the fucking crowd. So as goof-metal theatrics played out on stage, hundreds of yards away were whacked-out kids circling toxic black flames in a post-apocalyptic pagan whitetrash ghost dance. No authority figures stopped them. I got the fuck back down to safety when a giant bag of leaking trash was crowd-surfed in to further fuel the flames.
Closer to the front, tits were out. And two shoulder riding shirtless chicks did the obligatory make out, while the band changed into some devil garb and whatnot. I grinned at the goofiness. Thankfully 5FDP was at least talented enough to have been that fucking cheesy.
With an intro of shooting flames and acid-washed horror YouTube clips, Rob Zombie fully established the fact that he is more performance artist than dyed-in-the-wool music-man anymore. And that's totally cool. He had more costume changes than Lady Gaga, and that's also totally cool — metal needs theatrics sometimes.
See also: Rob Zombie Was a Childhood Carnie
Costume #1 was his deathbilly thing and it fit quite well against he song, “Teenage Nosferatu Pussy” which came out like he'd jumbled the Sweet Valley High, Classic Horror, and Porn Lingo magnetic poetry kits with a Vitamixer. Among songs like “More Human Than Human” and “Superbeast” and “Ging Gang Gong-a-whatever-the-fuck,” he rode around on a giant robot dinosaur locomotive and stood astride a massive cartoon boombox. Neat.
Zombie took some careful time to address the ladies of the crowd in order to get single dudes laid. “Look, they can't fuck that bonfire up there — well, they can…but only once,” he explained. He invited women to get up and get visible. Then came another parade of boobage as they played “Living Dead Girl.”
Oddly out of place was their cover of Grand Funk Railroad's “We're an American Band.” Who is an American? Rob Zombie. And he had the undead Uncle Sam outfit to prove it.
At this point, two ladies started actually fighting. I suspected it was over “some bullshit” and moments later, after the crowd had pacified them, I asked lady number one, “What was that all about?” “Some bullshit,” she confirmed. I'm sure that the heat was also a factor. Either way, I'm getting good at the fisticuffs analysis thing.
At the height of boobs-satan-glam-trash-rock frenzy of “Dragula”, I thought, “This is blowing some 12 yr old's mind right out of his fucking skull right now.” Then that was it: end of show. The pit disappeared and its former residents sweatily departed like they'd been shat out of a coal furnace.
As I walked back to the parking field and as fireworks fired off over a myriad of zombified and shredded-out concertgoers, I heard a deep hillbilly drawl loudly exclaim, “Man, I'ma sleep real good tonight, man.” You said it, man.