Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mayhem Festival

The verdict is in: I'll never grow too old to attend a kick-ass metal concert. After last year's phenomenal Slayer / Marilyn Manson show, I vowed to try to see at least one rock concert per year. This year, the dubious honour of being the concert o'choice went to the Mayhem Festival. To tell the truth, I wasn't even aware of this terrific day-long event until my nephew Damian mentioned it a few weeks ago -- well done, my young metal apprentice!

Heavy metal crowds get a bad rap, at least in my opinion. Aside from the inexplicable stupidity of the mosh pit, we're a pretty mellow bunch. We scream a lot, and bang our heads along with the music (my neck's still sore from the concert even though it's been two days -- I guess I am too old for some aspects of metal mania), but other than that, we're harmless. Sure, there's always the obligatory stench of booze and weed, as well as a few schmucks that equate puking and/or passing out with having a good time, but that malaise is hardly limited to the heavy metal crowds.

This woman was unconscious for pretty much the entire show.
She should have just stayed home.

This Guido, on the other hand, was doing OK during most of the show (he was sitting two rows ahead of us), but lost it all of a sudden, and had to be dragged out to the lawn by his loyal trooper of a girlfriend.

That having been said, I can't stand the mosh pit. During the early part of the festival, I went to see a couple of the bands that were playing in the secondary stages. One of these bands, Suicide Silence, generated a ton of mosh pit lunacy by repeatedly yelling "Circle pit!" or some other unintelligible exhortation. I tried to stay away from the action, but since the secondary stages didn't have seats, the random chaos of the mosh pit continuously spilled over into the rest of the crowd, and I ended up having to push bare-chested, sweaty, drunk and/or stoned losers away numerous times. I'll live, but it was pretty fucking disgusting. A shame, because Suicide Silence were actually quite good.

The first band to play on the main stage was Mastodon. I had heard good things about these guys, but they were extremely disappointing. They were loud, played fast, and screamed their heads off, but somehow managed to be about as boring as boring can be. I actually almost nodded off during their set, and I wasn't the only one. Right after their set mercifully ended, we ran to one of the secondary stages to catch Machine Head, and they were awesome. Quite frankly, Mastodon should have been relegated to the second-fiddle section of the festival, and Machine Head should have been one of the headlining bands. The fact that this wasn't so sucked doubly because we had to leave right in the middle of Machine Head's terrific set so we could see DragonForce, the second headlining band.

Mastodon -- a huge disappointment.

DragonForce is a throwback to the golden days of metal, when bands played fast, sang without growling, and produced melodic, epic songs with soaring vocal lines, extended guitar solos, and ridiculously cheesy lyrics. It goes without saying that, being an old-school metal-dork, I adore these guys. Unfortunately, because their songs are so long, they were only able to play five numbers (five!!!) because of the short time allotted. Such are the hazards of playing a festival with numerous other acts. Be that as it may, DragonForce were phenomenal.

DragonForce -- a return to the glory days.

Disturbed followed, and they were also great. I have to admit that I had some reservations about their place in this festival, especially considering their enormous popularity and the fact that they were the only participating band that gets consistent radio play. Those stupid fears were proven to be unfounded drivel. I could have done without Disturbed's surprisingly lame remake of Genesis' "Land of confusion," but aside from that faux pas, they really put on a hell of a show.

Disturbed singer David Draiman enters the stage à la Hannibal Lecter.

Slipknot had the privilege of closing out this great event, and they were more than up to the task, displaying a sophisticated level of musicianship even I, a huge fan, had never expected. Something else I'd never expected: their appearance up-close and in person is kind of comical / buffoonish. It's hard to believe that this would be the case, as they look intensely creepy and threatening in photos. But the masks and jumpsuits lose all their macabre caché when you see it's just a group of metal nerds jumping around and acting silly. Still, Slipknot were nothing short of phenomenal. By the time they closed their set with "Duality" and "[SIC]," I had screamed along with Corey Taylor (#8) so much that I had no voice left.

Slipknot tears it up.

All in all, the first-ever Mayhem Festival was a resounding success. According to the official website, the festival is scheduled to be a yearly event. I can only hope the organizers continue to put together shows of this high caliber. I'll close by posting this out-of-focus but clear-sounding video of DragonForce closing their set with their seven-and-a-half minute masterpiece, "Through the fire and the flames."

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