The Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival
August 3, 2012
By Mick Stingley
THE 2012 ROCKSTAR ENERGY MAYHEM FESTIVAL rolled into Mansfield, Massachusetts on Friday, August 3rd. Now in its’ fourth year, Mayhem, as it casually referred to, is somewhat scaled back from previous years, but still entertaining. The Comcast Center, formerly The Tweeter Center (“The Tweetuh”) and formerly Great Wood Center For The Performing Arts was once again host for the New England stop.
When the festival debuted in 2008, Ozzfest was barely a distant memory. But a daylong package tour featuring the best and latest in metal music was something people would still turn out in droves to see. The festival would usually begin early in a fenced-off parking lot, with two stages side by side so that once one band finished playing, another would begin almost immediately. This would continue through the afternoon until “the second stage headliner” would perform; then people would trek across the lot to a dedicated outdoor “shed” venue where a host of luminaries would perform. Each year featured a different headliner and conclude at 11PM, leaving fans to schlep to the parking lot and wait another hour to get out of the lot to the highway.
Things were slightly different this year, with the one of side stages eliminated. A small stage was set up, away from the parking lot area, in the midst of picnic tables and pine trees, halfway between the primary second stage and the paths to the main shed. Even in 90º heat with no shelter from the sun, standing out on the blacktop waiting for the roadies to change up the band equipment was more preferable than walking away and losing a good spot to see who was playing at the stage in the picnic area. It was disappointing that the fluidity of set changes with two stages was changed as things dragged between bands.
Also conspicuously absent this year and greatly missed was the presence of the motocross team, Metal Mulisha, who appeared every year at every stop on the tour, admirably displaying its’ midair acrobatics and jumping. Watching a band tear up the second stage while a team of expert motorcycle stuntmen effortlessly flew through the air was an absolute highlight of the show. Metal Mulisha did appear at select stops on the tour this year, but Mansfield, Massachusetts was not one of them.
The lineup this year was Slipknot, Slayer, Motorhead and Asking Alexandria on the main stage. Anthrax will be headlining the Jagermeister Stage, along with The Devil Wears Prada, As I Lay Dying, Whitechapel, and the local Jagermeister opener, Dead Season (from Maine).
Usually the local opener is in the unfortunate position of going on first to a crowd that wants to see bigger names. Dead Season, a heavy rock band with shades of Pantera, Black Label Society and Brand New Sin – and a decidedly contemporary active rock radio feel – opened the show as a thick crowd of mostly teenagers filed in and surrounded the stage.
Dead Season’s singer, Ian Truman, who is kind of a big burly guy, fell victim to the tired cliché of trying to incite a circle pit of moshing/slamming by basically ordering people to do so. This happens all the time with bands on the second stage and it grows tiresome – “I want you to make a circle and fucking show me what you’ve got!” or something similar. A lot of kids react to this, of course; but usually it’s people standing around waiting for the band to play songs, as newcomers to a band shouldn’t be yelled at to do anything. In fact, it ought to be the other way around: “Play your fucking songs and let me get a sense of who you are!” That said, Truman and his boys delivered a high-energy set and definitely got the crowd to move on the merit of the songs alone. Heavy, bouncing groove metal, if a bit slick and radio-ready their songs are catchy; Dead Season was a great band to kick off the Mayhem Fest. (Curiously, Dead Season has a slick rock cover of Cutting Crew’s “Died In Your Arms Tonight” and did not play it. Smart move; but then again, it might have entertaining to see the crowd reaction.) Dead Season only played a short set but it was enough to get people over to the band’s tent at the side of venue. Later, during the Anthrax set as tents were being broken down, a member of the band’s group walked through the crowd handing out CDs. Smart boys, Dead Season.
Whitechapel, from Knoxville, Tennesse came on next and brought it hard. The six-piece Metal Blade powerhouse is supporting a self-titled album and is better-than-average deathcore. Growling thrash gets the party started in Massachusetts and Whitechapel came to party. The band favored material from the new album, but heated things up with “Possession” from “This Is Exile” and “The Darkest Day of Man” from “A New Era of Corruption” before testing the waters and asking the crowd if it “wanted to hear some new shit?” Unsurprisingly, the crowd did and Whitechapel made an excellent case for why people should check out the new album. The band is heavy, and exciting live; hopefully next year they’ll move up on the rotation and play a longer set.
Whitechapel set list:
2.The Darkest Day of Man
3.This Is Exile
6.Possibilities of an Impossible Existence
The Devil Wears Prada and As I Lay Dying managed to bring a sense of “this crowd is crazy” to the event, and with temperatures exceeding 95º at midday, that is saying a lot. Mercifully, as with every year, Rockstar Energy Drink sponsors a tent with free – FREE! – Rockstar Energy Drinks. Blueberry Pomegranate Acai was the hit of the day and terribly refreshing after hours in the sun; which is more than can be said for The Devil Wears Prada and As I Lay Dying. Two more embarrassing and terrible bands could not exist in the metal genre unless they were hipster acts trying to be ironic. This reviewer is no fan of a band that would name itself after a terrible document of what passes for literature in the post-9/11 cultural climate; and the band’s music does nothing to inspire so much as an arched eyebrow of curiosity. As I Lay Dying is equally dreadful but at least had the good sense to name itself after a unique book by a respected author. However, both bands inspired the crowd in Mansfield to form circle pits and walls of death, which has to count for something.
Truly, the heroes of the day were the second stage headliners, Anthrax. After countless delays and lead singer issues and changes, the ‘Thrax got it together to release one of the strongest albums of its’ career, “Worship Music.” With noted lead singer Joey Belladonna back in the fold, the band has been touring hard in support of the record and taking the slot on the Mayhem second stage seemed like dress rehearsal for something greater yet to come.
Scott Ian may have gray in his beard but he was every bit as youthful as he was twenty years ago when the band was opening for Iron Maiden and wearing surf-jams. Charlie Benante, Frank Bello (who have been with the band forever) held the rhythm section and played fast and tight (especially on the Joe Jackson cover “Got The Time”), while guitarist Rob Caggiano blazed along with Ian. Joey Belladonna, the “classic line-up” singer who returned two years ago (after having returned and left a few years prior), was in strong voice; though some of his goofy stage banter might have been lost on the crowd – as he encouraged the audience to “spark it up” a lot of people in the back just stared blankly.
The set list was too short, but showcased the energy of the band; though two covers was one too much. While the Trust song “Antisocial” is something of an Anthrax classic, it was a curious choice for them considering they only played one song from the new album (“Fight ‘em ‘til You Can’t”). Still, the band delivers live; and for many in attendance that Friday afternoon, it was their first time seeing Anthrax so it was an excellent way to be introduced to the band.
Anthrax set list:
Caught In a Mosh
Got The Time
Fight ‘em ‘til You Can’t
I Am The Law
Asking Alexandria had the unfortunate opening slot on the main stage under the shed. Anyone who stayed to see Anthrax missed them in the long walk from the second stage area; although the word is the band is popular with teenage girls.
With the sun starting to lower in the sky, the legendary Motorhead assembled on stage. Dispensing with the usual opening line, “We are Motorhead, and we play rock and roll!” the band (Phil Campbell, guitar; Mickey Dee, drums; Lemmy Kilmister, bass/vocals) went straight into “Bomber” and continued on without much ado. At some point Campbell addressed the crowd to mention that they almost didn’t make it on time, the tour bus having gotten stuck in traffic on the way. The band blazed through the classics and included one new song, “I Know How to Die,” from the recently released, “The World Is Yours.” Lemmy sounded a bit rough here and there, but was largely his usual gruff self. At 68 years of age, Lemmy has over 37 years playing in Motorhead and can hardly be criticized for having an off day; and certainly, as the elder statesman of the tour, whose band was the precursor to every other band on the package, he was, as always, a genuine treat to see. It does seem odd for the band to appear on a big package tour, but the exposure was clearly too good to pass up. Of the popular tee shirts of the day, Motorhead was doing extremely well. One highlight of the evening: a performance of the never performed in the U.S., “The One to Sing the Blues” from “1916.” The band has been playing it on the entire tour, along with a fantastic version of The Chase Is Better Than the Catch.” Motorhead, as always, was terrific.
Motorhead set list:
I Know How to Die
Over the Top
The Chase Is Better Than the Catch
The One to Sing the Blues
Going to Brazil
Killed by Death
Ace of Spades
Slayer, the titanic four-piece thrash machine, has been featured on Mayhem before, only three years ago (along with Marilyn Manson). At the time the band was promoting the forthcoming “World Painted Blood” and played one new song from the album, “Psychopathy Red” on the tour. This year, the band was showcasing some of the best songs in its’ catalogue, as no new album has been recorded since the illness of guitarist Jeff Hanneman. With Hanneman still recovering, Exodus’ Gary Holt has been playing with the band; and while Hanneman was clearly missed, this rare guest appearance (especially for fans of early thrash) was a highlight (especially considering the set list was “Greatest Hits”). Holt played well soloing with King and by himself, though no mention was made of Jeff’s situation (perhaps it was meant to be understood). Slayer was Slayer and rocked, bringing fans to their feet, cheering and chanting along with one chorus after the next. The Slayer “Slaytanic” logo burned above drummer Dave Lombardo for much of the show, and as usual (on recent tours), the guitar cabinets were arranged as upside-down crosses. The band opened with “Disciple” from “God Hates Us All” (which features a chorus that inspired the title) and kept the evil going for 75 minutes.
Slayer set list:
Die by the Sword
Altar of Sacrifice
Season in the Abyss
Dead Skin Mask
Angel of Death
South of Heaven
Lastly, Slipknot appeared to close the show. The band has been dormant since 2009 when the group went on hiatus following a year-long world tour. In May of 2010, bassist Paul Gray died of an accidental drug overdose. The remaining eight members decided to tour, with no album plans announced, perhaps as a tribute to Gray, perhaps for the fans. Record label RoadRunner released a Greatest Hits album (“Antennas To Hell”) in July and the set reflected this. With so many members on stage, Slipknot can be a very exciting band to watch and the band did not disappoint on August 3rd. With a drummer, two percussionists, keyboardist, DJ, two guitarists scattered around the stage, singer Corey Taylor barely had to move, though he raced about frequently. Clad in orange union suits/prison jumpsuits, and masks from various albums, the wonder of Slipknot was in full effect. As percussionists were raised up by hydraulic lifts, and lights flashed and changed color every second, the group whirled through one favorite after the next. A dedication to Paul Gray was made toward the end of the show during “Duality.” They followed this with the “get down and jump up” anthem, “Spit It Out” which cemented the band’s headlining status on the tour as pretty much the entire crowd in attendance got down and jumped up. They moved into the crowd-pleasing “People = Shit” before cranking up “Surfacing” and a Joey Jordison spinning drum solo (his drum set moved up vertically and then spun around during this break). The band closed it out with the final notes of “’Til We Die.”
Slipknot set list:
Wait and Bleed
Before I Forget
The Heretic Anthem
Spit It Out
People = Shit
‘Til We Die