Review of Mayhem Fest at Jiffy Lube Live

On Sunday the 29th of July 2012 the giant touring metal festival known officially as the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, or just Mayhem Fest for short, came to its Washington DC area stop at Jiffy Lube Live. The venue is actually out past Manassas in Bristow, Virginia and some of the bands addressed the audience as Virginia and others as DC. Anyways, it was a hot day under a brutal sun for this year’s Mayhem Fest. I got there early trying to catch the first couple of bands but the line was so long I missed Richmond’s Saint Diablo and didn’t get in until after their set when the next band was setting up. All day the bands started their sets about seven minutes earlier than the program schedule listed them at which meant you had to get there ahead of time to catch the bands you cared about most. Early in the day I was mostly interested in seeing the local bands since High On Fire had dropped off the tour, so I wandered around for a while getting different directions on where exactly the Sumerian Records stage was. It was in the big fenced off section of the parking lot being completely dwarfed by the much larger Jägermeister stage that was right next to it. Bradley Wyatt of Depths Of MarianaI made sure to get up close to get a few pictures of Depths Of Mariana, a Fredericksburg based metalcore band who had won a local battle of the bands competition to get to play at this stop of the Mayhem Fest tour. The stage was small, only raised a few inches, and was completely covered by a double pointed black tent that made it hard to see the band members if you were more than a few people back. I’m sure nobody running the festival really cared much about the two local bands who had won competitions to get to play on that stage. I asked tons of people who the bands actually were leading up to and at the fest but nobody seemed to know or even care. However I knew it would be a big day for those bands so of course I wanted to at least try to get some nice photos of them. Depths Of Mariana was a pretty typical metalcore band. The vocalist and bass player both had good stage presence and the band seemed to be having a lot of fun just playing at Mayhem Fest. I’m not really a fan of metalcore and can’t really give a good assessment of the band’s sound based on that. The same goes for most of the earlier bands playing that day, but I’ll get into that more towards the end of this post.

After they played I spent some time browsing at some of the merch booths that were set up, getting food and beer, refilling the water bottle I was Joey Belladonna of Anthraxallowed to bring in and holding my breath in the men’s rooms turned urine saunas. By the time Anthrax was getting ready to play I was pretty ready to headbang. They were the headlining act on the Jägermeister stage, which featured a bunch of mostly metalcore (and other variations of the genre) bands throughout the day. Anthrax was a bit of a contrast to that, they’re much older than those other bands, probably old enough to be most of their fathers honestly. They’re also one of the big four of thrash metal. They currently have Joey Belladonna as their Scott Ian of Anthraxvocalist, still rocking the mullet, and he was full of energy up there. Scott Ian and the rest of the band still command a considerable amount of on stage charisma. The band made a good choice to play Caught In A Mosh early in the set which got a bunch of the circle pit loving metalcore fans into their performance. The parking lot area that the stage was set up in was really dirty, the moshers kicked up swirling clouds of dirt under the hot sun, and to make matters worse, due to the venue’s ABC license not covering the parking lot area you weren’t allowed to bring or buy any alcohol in that area. That’s right, you couldn’t actually drink Jägermeister at the Jägermeister stage! Regardless, Anthrax put on a fun, if short, performance. It was a good precursor of what was to come later from the bands that old school metal heads like myself were waiting to see on the main stage.

Right after Anthrax closed out the Jägermeister stage the other local battle of the bands winner, Spiral Fracture, started playing on the Sumerian Stage. Unfortunately for them, at the exact same time Asking Alexandria started playing on the main stage which pulled most of the available Jamil of Spiral Fractureaudience away from their small stage. Spiral Fracture is based out of Richmond and their sound was less ‘core than the other contest winner from earlier. I ended up getting frustrated though when the band’s singer kept pouring opened energy drinks onto the audience by holding an open can and swinging his arm. That’s fine when you’re playing some basement somewhere but when people are bringing expensive equipment to photograph you at a big festival don’t spray them with liquids! I walked away angry before I shot all of the band members to quickly clean off that sticky gunk before it go into my camera’s lens permanently.

Luckily when you’re at a metal festival there’s plenty of good ways to vent your frustration and watching Lemmy Kilmister shred with Motörhead is as good of an opportunity for that as any you’re going to find! The trio was in good form and kept the speed metal going pretty Lemmy Kilmister of Motörheadsolid their entire set. The last time they came through the area they were playing their first show with the ex-Guns N’ Roses drummer Matt Sorum. This time they had Mikkey Dee back and you could tell he had better chemistry with the rest of the band. Even so, they gave him a big drum solo that seemed a bit unnecessary considering they were only given about 45 minutes to play. I realize Motörhead have been around a long time and have put out a lot of material, 21 studio albums worth, and not all of it is going to get played in their set, especially a shortened one, but I was really hoping to hear Orgasmatron or maybe even Don’t Need Religion, which I think would have been perfect since they were playing just before Slayer. They did play many of their standards including Killed By Death and Ace Of Spades though, so it wasn’t exactly a bad set list. They put on a good performance and I’m glad to see Lemmy’s still got it on stage.

The next band to play was the band I wanted to see the most, the infamous Slayer. They are another one of the big four of thrash and certainly the most devilish sounding of them. Slayer is a gateway band for a lot of metal heads. At some point a lot of us started listening to heavier and heavier bands until we came across Slayer’s extremely catchy yet inherently evil sounding riffs which opened the door for us to the world of extreme metal. They might be a thrash band but just try to find a death metal band that can’t cover several of their songs. In other words, they’re gods in the world of metal, but if you’re reading this site you probably already knew that. The stage set up was fairly simple yet pretty awesome. They had two giant upside down crosses on stage that Kerry King of Slayerwere made of (fake) Marshall Amps that shot fireballs out of them. There were walls of fire in front of both of those and in the center above everything was a metal Slayer logo that also lit up in fire. Combined with the red lighting they used for much of their set it basically looked like you were in hell watching a metal concert. In other words, it looked totally demonic which set a mood that certainly fit Slayer’s aggressive sound. At the end of this post there are three Slayer videos from the show that you can see the fiery set up in pretty well, especially the third one. They even had the fire timed with the music which sort of reminded me of that YouTube video of the Christmas lights timed to Slayer that goes around every winter (see it here). However this was much cooler to behold! I’ve seen Slayer many times before Gary Holt of Slayerbut this was the first time I have seen them with Gary Holt of Exodus filling in for Jeff Hanneman on guitar. Gary did a great job playing those classic songs many of us in attendance know so well. Tom Araya is really starting to look older these days but he was still up there screaming and shredding like always, albeit without the headbanging as per doctor’s orders. Kerry King was, well, Kerry King, playing those evil riffs that make moshers go crazy in the pit. Most of their set list was taken from Reign In Blood and Seasons In The Abyss, as one would expect. I’d have rather heard Black Magic instead of Hate Worldwide, the sole song from their last album, but that’s really a minor gripe. After they played Angel Of Death they actually performed an encore of South Of Heaven and Raining Blood, which was kind of odd since they weren’t the headlining act, but I’m certainly not complaining.

Slipknot at Mayhem Fest

The next band up was the headlining act, Slipknot. I’m not going to pretend that I’m some old fan of the band, I’m not, but I hadn’t seen them live before and I’ll usually check out any metal band at least once, especially if I’m already at the concert. For starters, the band has a ridiculous number of people on stage, most of whom are unnecessary except in their roles of pumping up the crowd which I found to be rather distracting for the most part. There were eight members on the stage, plus a bass player who was playing backstage somewhere which was a bit weird. I realize that founding member Paul Gray, aka #2, passed away in May of 2010 from drug use, they had his bass on stage for this show as a tribute to him, but to have someone playing with the band from backstage sort of makes the whole band-playing-together-live thing seem a bit disjointed. In all the whole thing seemed like a convoluted circus, but perhaps that’s the angle they were going for, a sort of metal circus or something. There were also several photographers and/or camera men actually on stage, even stepping into the spotlights from time to time, during Slipknot’s set. That seemed very amateurish for a band this size. The band’s masks were throwbacks to their early days, but that doesn’t mean much to me as I’ve not been following them for years. One thing that I thought was cool was that the keyboard player would stage dive into the audience from time to time. You don’t see many big bands like that actually interact with the audience to the point of touching them. The beer keg drum kit on the raising and spinning platform didn’t really interest me, even when the guy was banging it with an aluminum baseball bat in time with the music. In all their show just came off as a big mish mash of gimmicks that didn’t even seem to relate to each other that much. And why the hell do they have two extra drummers in the first place? Joey Jordison, the guy behind the real drum kit, is probably the most talented member of the band and he certainly doesn’t need help in the percussion department. And as far as their musical sound overall…

Slipknot at Mayhem Fest

Well, I could take this time to rant about the kind of metal Slipknot plays but I’m not going to do that. I don’t like their music but then I don’t really like the style of metal they play in the first place so it wouldn’t be fair for me to criticize them for that. They’re still a huge metal band, even without a new album for this tour cycle they’re headlining Mayhem Fest. I heard a lot of trash talk from old school metal heads who were upset, offended even, that Slipknot was headlining over bands like Slayer, Motörhead and Anthrax, but personally I didn’t have a problem with it. Same goes for all the metalcore bands that were playing on the other two stages earlier in the day. It might not be my thing but everyone is at a different place on their musical path. Music means something different to everyone. How we listen, why we listen, how much we listen, what we do while we listen, when and where, there are so many different ways people interpret music and ways we become attached to it. I don’t expect everyone to like the same bands or styles of music or metal that I do, in fact expecting them to would be inviting in conformity. I’d be a liar if I told you there was never a time when I liked some questionable bands, especially when I was younger and first getting my passion for music. Anyone who tells you that they have never liked a band they would now find embarrassing to admit is certainly not being truthful. I remember listening to Def Leppard and other similar acts when I was in elementary school and loving that 80’s pop rock garbage but I also got a copy of Metallica’s Ride The Lightning and that totally changed how I listened to music. We all start somewhere and we move forward, and when Slipknot headlined over Slayer on Sunday it wasn’t a travesty, it was a bunch of people who already like some heavy music getting exposed to Slayer while they waited for their favorite band of the day to play. Maybe most of them hated it, I don’t know, but I’m sure that out of the 20,000 or so people there that at least some of them left wanting to know more about that evil sounding band with all the fire on stage. And like I said earlier, Slayer is something of a gateway band. I guess what I’m saying is, instead of telling someone their taste in music sucks and they don’t belong, expose them to a great band instead. Help them along their path, don’t criticize them for not being where you are. They might never get to where you are and instead forge their own path which takes them on a totally different musical journey in their life. I’m sure some of the people at Mayhem Fest only go to a few concerts every year, and for some this was their first concert ever. There’s no reason to be elitist and tell other people they don’t like metal the right way or that they’re not the right kind of people to like metal. That goes for the hipsters that are “invading” metal right now too. Let’s get more people listening to metal and going to more metal shows! I guess that’s the point of this site in the end anyways. A tour like Mayhem Fest that brings out a lot of younger people to a big metal show and also exposes them to some of the bands us old farts like isn’t a bad thing, it’s great!

In the end I’m really glad I went to Mayhem Fest this year, it was the first time I’ve been to this annual touring metal festival if you can believe that. It was also the first time I was given a press photo pass (except for Slipknot) at a venue this size and while I was a bit nervous I had a hell of a lot of fun shooting bands on such a big stage. It was great experience and I learned a hell of a lot. If you like my photos in this post you can see the rest of my shots from Mayhem Fest here. I guess people liked them because Mayhem Fest posted the link to them on their Facebook page (here) as well. Of course you can check out the three videos of Slayer playing below and I’ve also embedded a video that Mayhem Fest posted with footage of the Bristow date below those. Thanks for getting through my rant and reading to the end of all this, you rule. Stay brutal and remember to support the scene you’re a part of!

Mayhem Fest ticket give away

Mayhem Festival is coming around again this summer to Jiffy Lube Live (formerly known as Nissan Pavilion) on Sunday July 29th and they’ve got a killer line up this year. Slipknot, Slayer and Motörhead will headlining the main stage while the second stage will be manned by Anthrax, The Devil Wears Prada, As I Lay Dying, Asking Alexandria, Whitechapel, High On Fire, Upon A Burning Body, I, The Breather and Dirtfedd. Told ya it’s a killer line up! DCHeavyMetal.com is giving away a free pair of seated tickets (not lawn) to one of you lucky readers and all you have to do to enter is post a Mayhem Festivalcomment below telling me which band you’re most excited to see play live! Be sure to use a valid email address that you check regularly when you enter so I can email you when you win. Don’t worry, I won’t put you on any email lists or sell your info, I hate spam just as much as you do. I’ll pick the lucky winners at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries at 5pm EST on Friday 20 April 2012. If you don’t want to risk losing out on good seats by waiting for this contest to end, you can get tickets now here from $34 – $84, depending on their location. This concert is on Sunday 29 July 2012 and doors open at 1:30 pm (and remember, Jiffy Lube Live has gotten rid of its no tailgating rule). But wait, there’s more…

Usually I don’t have any runner up prizes on my contests but this time Heavy Metal PicnicI’m also going to be giving away five copies of Jeff Krulik’s latest metal related documentary film, Heavy Metal Picnic. Shot in the 80s at a metal party in a field in Maryland that was headlined by the local doom metal band Asylum, the director of the classic Heavy Metal Parking Lot film just released its follow up on DVD this past winter. The winner of the pair of tickets will get a copy of Heavy Metal Picnic on DVD and I’ll also pick four more of you at 5pm EST on Friday 20 April 2012 to win. If you don’t win you can pick up a copy of the DVD for $15 here. If you want more info I recommend checking it out on IMDB (here) and of course by watching the trailer below.

Review of Slayer and Megadeth gig at 1st Mariner Arena

What a great show! I’m usually rather weary of concerts at larger venues like this, but I’m really glad I went. I didn’t get there in time to catch Anthrax, but I’m not a huge fan of theirs anyways so I wasn’t too upset about it. I was there for Megadeth and most of all Slayer. I hadn’t seen either of them play in several years. This tour, originally called Leg 2 of the American Carnage Tour was renamed the Jagermeister Music Tour and there were some random college girls walking around giving out Jagermeister merch, and Kerry King even did a shot of Jager on the stage between songs at one point. It was weird seeing product placement in the middle of a Slayer gig like that. The main draw to this tour though was that Megadeth was playing their classic 1990 album Rust In Peace from start to finish and Slayer would be playing their album Seasons In The Abyss, also from 1990, straight through also. It was in Baltimore, and I’d never been to the 1st Mariner Arena before, but I couldn’t miss that.

I was coming to the show after work, where a friend had met me. I had called the venue ahead of time and they told me Megadeth would be hitting the stage around 8pm and Slayer at 9:30 so I had a frame of reference on how to get there. There was a bit of traffic when I left around 6:45 and we were sweating making the gig on time. When we got to Baltimore we parked in a garage directly across from the venue and booked it inside. Just by sheer luck we had parked on the side that was general admittance tickets only, which is what we had. So we quickly got down there, realized Megadeth wasn’t playing yet and got beers. As soon as we walked back out onto the main floor the lights dimmed and the show started, you can’t plan timing that good! Megadeth started with the Rust In Peace album right out of the gate. Holy Wars… The Punishment Due was the first song but people weren’t getting into the show right away. A lot of heads kinda bobbing and fist pumping but I don’t think I even saw a mosh pit until half way through their set. Megadeth’s main man Dave Mustaine switched out guitars several times through the night, even pulling out some double neck flying V (does that make it a flying W?) guitar at one point. He also mentioned the problems with their last concert in Baltimore, the one where someone poured a drink on the mixing board three songs into their set so the show was canceled. More info on that fiasco here. He also called that venue, Rams Head Live, a piece of shit, which got people laughing a bit. They had the Rust In Peace album cover backdrop up while playing the songs from that album, but switched it to an image with Megadeth’s mascot Vic doing a sort of fist bump thing with background artwork from their latest album, Endgame. They also had a guy wearing a suit and a Vic mask with skeleton gloves come out on stage during Dawn Patrol, I suppose to distract people from the weakest song on Rust In Peace. One thing that sucked was Dave’s vocals during Megadeth’s entire set were shitty! They weren’t consistent at all and just sounded awful, which you can hear in the videos I posted below. I don’t think it was his voice as much as the PA not working correctly or something. The band seemed to be having a lot of fun up there and even did an encore. I always think it’s kind of odd when a band does that who isn’t the headliner. Especially since Slayer did not do the encore gimmick this show. Regardless, it was fun seeing Megadeth play some of those killer though less played songs on Rust In Peace like Five Magics and Poison Was The Cure. I didn’t see them last March when they came to the 9:30 Club playing the same album, so this was great. After they had played the album they played Head Crusher from their latest album in a mix of Megadeth classics like Peace Sells… But Who’s Buying? People were really into the show by the time they finished and everyone knew the intensity was about to go up once Slayer hit the stage. Another odd thing, Dave said “God bless you” to the audience as he left the stage, which wouldn’t be that weird (we all know he’s become a born again Christian) except for the fact that fucking Slayer was up next.

A white curtain was dropped to hide the stage while Slayer set up. The crowd was in a state of anticipation when they started projecting the Slayer logo onto the curtain. I worked my way to the front as close to the center as I could get, ended up about 3 or 4 people back the entire show. I saw Slayer play Reign In Blood in 2003 at the now razed Nation so I figured I’d see them play Seasons In The Abyss too, since that album is also awesome. Maybe they’ll play Show No Mercy straight through for the next tour! I had assumed that Slayer would start their set with War Ensemble, the first song on Seasons In The Abyss, but they surprised me and played a couple songs off their latest album, World Painted Blood. The title track and Hate Worldwide are decent songs I guess, but that’s not what people were here for. Just as the crowd’s enthusiasm started to wane Slayer burst into War Ensemble and got the show really going. The audience instantly came to life and the pushing and shoving up front started and didn’t stop until the end of the show. I’d say War Ensemble is one of Slayer’s more “mosh friendly” songs, but really how many Slayer songs aren’t great for moshing to? For those who have not seen Slayer before, their mosh pits are intense! They have one of the most rabid fan bases in all of metal, which is really saying something. And let me tell you it’s not easy taking pictures or shooting video in the middle of all that! Hell, just keeping yourself relatively still while Slayer is 10 feet in front of you playing Raining Blood or Angel Of Death is not an easy task even if nobody else was there. But I’m no rookie to mosh pits, I love this shit. I did see a few kids getting pissed about all the pushing and elbows they were getting, but I mean it’s Slayer, what were you expecting people to be standing around staring blankly like it’s a fucking Fugazi concert? They actually had the security pull them out of the crowd to leave the front and avoid having to go back through the mosh pit. Those kids could not handle the Slayer! This was the first time I’d seen Slayer since Tom Araya had his neck surgery, after which he no longer head bangs. Kind of weird but not a huge deal, it did mean I could get more good pics of him throughout the show though. They played Seasons In The Abyss as advertised and again it was great hearing them play some of those awesome songs that never get played live from that album. Temptation really got people going crazy too, which I wasn’t really expecting. The sound seemed better for their set than the Megadeth show, though you can judge that for yourself with the videos below. They finished the set with just a few of their classics, South Of Heaven and the like. The only odd thing was after playing Raining Blood they immediately went into Aggressive Perfector, which is a bonus track from the Reign In Blood album. They didn’t do an encore and you could tell when the show rather abruptly ended after Angel Of Death the audience still wanted more. Some people started chanting Slayer for them to come back but really that wasn’t going to happen. I was covered in sweat and bruises but damn if that wasn’t a fun show. I really liked this venue too, they had an open setup and the fact they let me shoot video the entire time was great too. After the show someone told me that somebody had broken a leg or something in the pit, apparently toward stage left. I’m definitely glad I got the floor tickets instead of seats, the intensity of being up front at a Slayer show is second to none, though I’m glad I wasn’t the one with anything broken! Now check out the two Megadeth and six Slayer videos I shot last night that are posted below. Enjoy!