June 30 marked the kick-off of the fifth annual Rockstar Mayhem Fest at San Manuel Ampitheater in San Bernadino, California. Over 25,000 metal fans attended, making this the biggest Mayhem Fest in its half-decade history. The show featured Mayhem alumni Slayer, Slipknot and Whitechapel, along with first-timers Anthrax, Motorhead, As I Lay Dying, and more playing across multiple stages.
Anthrax performed while it was still light out, thrashing out some classics like the superbly relevant ‘Caught In A Mosh’ as well as more current tracks like ‘Fight ‘Em’ Till You Can’t’ off their 2011 album Worship Music. Their set was solid even without drummer Charlie Benante who is off the first few dates of Mayhem Festival due to a minor hand injury. Shadows Fall drummer Jason Bittner filled in like a pro – and that he is having stepped in for Benante before earlier this year for a couple of shows in Argentina, and also back in 2006 while Benante had to leave the tour to be with his wife who was giving birth to their first child.
Motorhead ripped up the main stage with their quintessential tracks ‘Ace of Spades’ and ‘Overkill' while later, Slayer killed it as only Slayer can do, with a show that featured fiery bursts of flames, upside down crosses, lighting that left the band bathed in an eerie and evil blue glow at times, and of course uncompromising heaviness. The setlist included songs to satiate every Slayer fan, such as ‘Seasons in the Abyss’, ‘South of Heaven’, ‘Angel of Death’, ‘Disciple’, ‘War Ensemble’ and of course ‘Raining Blood’. In a common theme of the day, Slayer also had a band member replaced – Gary Holt from Exodus filling in still for Jeff Hanneman who has been off gat-duty for multiple tours now due to contracting the flesh-eating disease necrotizing fasciitis in early 2011.
After Slayer, it was time for Slipknot in their first U.S. performance since the passing of bass player Paul Gray in May 2010. They are also missing guitarist Jim Root (for now) due to a burst appendix. Still the band proved 110% why they were the main event at Mayhem Fest. The temporarily seven-piece band (apparently with a member of another Mayehm band filling in for Jim and Donnie Steel on bass in the back) performed seventeen songs. They started with ‘Sic’ and ‘Eyeless’ after the intro which saw DJ Sid Wilson, drummer Joey Jordison, and sampler Craig Jones getting down to business, followed by ‘Sulfur’, ‘The Blister exists’, the Slipknot classic ‘Wait and Bleed’, ‘Before I Forget’, ‘Disasterpiece’ and then ‘Gently’. Contrary to the pyrotechnics of most of Slipknot’s set, during 'Gently' the audience saw snow come down from the heavens and fall upon the band (on a hot summer’s night in Southern California no less). Lead vocalist Corey Taylor alternately whispered and screamed to us about escaping life with that sinister signature sound that is all him and all Slipknot .Next up was ‘Vermillion’ followed by ‘Pulse of the Maggots’, ‘Everything Ends’ ‘Heretic’, ‘Pyschosocial’ and ‘Duality’ which got the huge crowd singing along from the very first line, and ‘Spit it Out’ where in customary Slipknot concert fashion, Corey Taylor asked the crowd to all crouch down and ‘Jump the F**k Up’ on cue. This resulted in thousands on Slipknot fans all jumping in unison in San Manuel amphitheater. The band finished with ‘People = S**t’ and ‘Surfacing’ to a crowd that was still wanting more.
Some highlights from the performance included Shawn ‘Clown’ Crahan switching from his ‘Iowa’ Clown mask to his ‘Self-titled’ mask halfway through the set as well as venturing out into the crowd for a song. DJ Sid Wilson, known for his crazy stage-diving antics lived up to his reputation by jumping into the crowd to ride the wave of twenty thousand human hands ready to carry him away. Sid also performed earlier in the day, unmasked in several solo DJ sets including one from the back of his bus (pictured), recognizable by the ‘Killa’ logo for his clothing label ‘Killa Clothing’ emblazoned on its side. Sid will also be DJ-ing solo sets, performing his solo act ‘SID’, and DJ-ing multiple after-parties for the whole tour.
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