Rockstar Energy Mayhem Fest - MOTÖRHEAD And Half The Big 4

August 2, 2012, 2 years ago

By Mark Gromen

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Somehow ANTHRAX was relegated to headline the smaller Jägermeister stage, while ASKING ALEXANDRA opened and SLIPKNOT closed the main stage. Even though I lived through it, never saw Anthrax as "worthy" of being part of that quintessential quartet misnomer. Is it based on sales, OK, but how "un-metal" is that? Precisely which of their albums are THE standout? Old-timers like myself don't like anything past the debut. Spreading The Disease? Among The Living? Certainly neither holds a candle to EXODUS' debut, nor were underground reverential like JAG PANZER's Ample Destruction or EXCITER's first two (Oh that's right, they're Canadian). Guess they needed an East Coast representative, but personally, that was/is/always will be OVERKILL, for me.
So how was the concert, you ask? Ironically, I'd been chaperoning my nephews' first foray into the concert world a week before, taking in the Vans Warped Tour, at the same venue. Like the minor league system in professional sports, some of the Mayhem bands have graduated from that basic level, working their way up the ladder. Didn't bother with anyone prior to WHITECHAPEL, although the disco shit Slipknot DJ Zero was spinning between bands was awful. Even the kids in the front row were saying, "This is a metal concert," and the repeated, profanity laced commands to "put your hands up" or "make some noise" were ridiculous. If you were any kind of entertainer, you wouldn't have to ask, people would oblige spontaneously. Phil Bozeman barked out lyrics to the likes of 'I Dementia' from their recent self-titled album, but the band seemed more intent on making the crowd work (circle pit, wall of death, "let me hear your voices").
Thought $30 for band T-shirt (at a large corporate venue like Camden, New Jersey's Susquehanna Bank Center) was "reasonably priced," until I saw the $50 three-quarter baseball sleeve 70s throwback shirts and the $75 all-over print basketball jersey! About 3pm, the older (and more intoxicated) crowd began to stream into the grounds. The real "tough" ones hung out in the air conditioned atrium of the main hall, trying to avoid the sunlight. Not quite as hot as Hell this July (27th) day, but thanks to the underworld for lending us some of your house bands, for the evening.
Know a bit about THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA from my students at school, so had to see what Christian metalcore looks/sounds like. Industry insider observation, frontman Mike Hranica looks like a bearded and tatted out version of Chipster PR's mainman. Hard to believe there's keyboards involved, but they set up stage right, drums stage left (backwards orientation for the viewing audience), with a riser in middle for Hranica. AS I LAY DYING came next and now curly long-haired vocalist Tim Lambesis has been lifting weights. He's not the same puny kid I saw at Ozzfest '05! He spun the mic chord overhead, as the crowd thrust fists skyward during '94 Hours', 'Confined', 'Condemned' and 'Through Struggle', before ending with 'The Sound Of Truth', as the crowd surfing began in earnest. If it would have helped avoid that incessant between band turntable "talent," I would have climbed over the barricade myself.
While they're headlining the Jäger stage (awarded 40 minutes, total), Anthrax loose some of the people about mid-set, those seeking to get into the covered amphitheater for Asking Alexandra, who are set to begin the minute the old-thrashers are done. Can't be in two places at once (if you're even so inclined). Virtually a greatest hits set, many of the youngsters unfamiliar with the band's back catalog. Scott Ian took command from go, 'Caught In The Mosh' up first, Joey Belladonna working the wings, beyond the confines of the physical stage. 'Got The Time' was next, the band a blur of activity: left-right, up-down, a welcome departure from the rather static bands which had proceeded them. 'Fight Em Till You Can't' was the only concession tot he new millennium, followed in rapid succession (no me for fooling around), by crowd sung 'Antisocial', 'Indians' (made all the more poignant by a gentleman in full tribal regalia parading through the crowd), 'Madhouse' and 'I Am The Law'. Fun short blast before the "main show" began.
In any discussion of who was/is the more extreme act, between Slayer and Slipknot, don't be too hasty to overlook MOTÖRHEAD. Sure Lem's toned things down a bit since the decadent '80s, but never heard either of the aforementioned having to stop a concert because the venue was loosing its structural integrity! Was in (Cleveland's) Variety Theater, in '85 when the ceiling started to crumpled and the 1920s era movie house's plaster peeled away from balcony railings (exposing the wrought iron underneath), all due to the volume coming from Motorhead onstage! Damage case (which was aired second tonight) indeed. 3x3 stacks of Marshalls either side of Mikkey Dee, the drummer was perched at a dizzying height equal to the cabinets. 'Bomber' opened and while they were only afforded 50 minutes, no one played more songs than Lemmy and co. "A cheerful little number off the new album," was how the bassist introduced 'I Know How To Die'. After 'Stay Clean', Phil Campbell (Lord Axesmith emblazoned on his guitar strap) attempted to get the crowd to "make more noise than since you were a kid." Displeased with the results, Lem stepped in, offering "That's not very good. We've played New Jersey a lot. Do you want to try it again, boost my flagging confidence in New Jersey?" Mission accomplished, it was on to 'Over The Top' which segued seamlessly into 'The Chase Is Better Than The Catch'. After a group drink, it was one "we don't play often, but thought we'd try to learn it," namely 'One To Sing The Blues' (off 1916), during which Campbell made a rare appearance on the bassist's side of the stage, and ultimately led to a Dee solo. As smoke poured down from above, the blond drummer was highlighted in blue. As the solo ended, a flood of fog cascaded on the returning pair of musicians. 'Going To Brazil' was followed by 'Killed By Death', the ubiquitous 'Ace Of Spades' and a concluding 'Overkill'. Still a treat!
SLAYER brought the hellfire, literally. On par with European festivals, there was no shortage of flame throwers, beginning with the second song, 'War Ensemble', during which Kerry King played a guitar with a miniature digi-cam connected to it, getting extreme close-up from the strings' point-of-view. The amp cabinets were arranged in the shape of inverted crosses, on both sides of drummer Dave Lombardo. They began the night in all blue, for 'Disciple', and the lights throughout the set remained predominately primary colors: green, red, blue. 'Die By The Sword' had the now stationary Tom Araya bathed in green light, as 'Hate Worldwide' remained (fittingly) red throughout. But the emphasis was really on pyrotechnics, even the eagle and crossed swords logo, over Lombardo's head, remained ablaze for the evening. 'Mandatory Suicide' saw flames repeatedly shot horizontally, from out of the Marshall stacks and the song gave substitute guitarist Gary Holt (EXODUS) a brief solo. More green and plenty of fire for 'Jesus Saves', before the fog shrouded stage and yellow lights of 'Seasons In The Abyss', the two guitarists finally side-by-side. For 'Hell Awaits', the entire backline was set alight, like something out of MÖTLEY CRÜE's 'Livewire' firebug video. Plumes burst vertically, to augment the pyre, and as the lights returned to red, the biggest fireballs yet exploded. Blue/aqua lights set the tone for 'Dead Skin Mask', which gave way to 'Angel Of Death', the finale of the proper set. A quick encore of 'South Of Heaven' and 'Raining Blood' sent everyone (including That Metal Show's Don Jamieson and Jim Florentine, who were in the house) away happy. And quite a few did actually leave, not interested in what came next.
Have seen Slipknot before. Don't really get it, but there's certainly visual spectacle enough for a photographer to feast on. It's heavy, it's loud and a little goofy, the Clown's elevating and twirling drum set-up, occasionally hung onto, or jumped from, by one of the other jumpsuited henchman, but the kids love it. Just hope they got something out of the "other" bands too.
By the near sell-out attendance, seems the good folks at Rockstar Energy (who give away their product for free, as much as you can drink, throughout the afternoon) constructed a winning bill that brought together divergent eras. Here's hoping 2013 does so as well. Check out more photos at this location.
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