Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival 2014 Recap
By Alyce Hayes
Thousands of people mill about me, covered in sweat, pounding beer, water and energy drinks as they hurry to catch their favorite band on one of the three stages set up right next to each other. Booths for food, booze, music, clothing and charities are stationed in rows, the attendants trying to get the attention of anyone they can. Music is coming at me from seemingly every direction, blending into a cacophony of head-banging melodies “enhanced” by fans shouting out the lyrics to every single song. 95% of the attendees are dressed in black, be it jeans and a t-shirt, or, well…bikini bottoms and crop tops (one day the scantily clad girls ~ and yes, I’m happy to report that I spotted the aforementioned outfit on females ONLY ~ will look back on pics of themselves from Mayhem and likely other summer festivals and laugh…or remember the summer that launched their careers as pole dancers). Only twenty minutes in, I witness someone on a stretcher, most likely due to heat exhaustion, and another kid holding his nose (whether to stop some bleeding or to keep it attached to his face, I don’t know) while rapidly escaping a raging mosh pit. In other words, Mayhem Festival was just what it should and always has been ~ loud, raucous, unruly, and a metal-head’s (never mind an obsessive people-watcher’s) dream of music, madness, and moshing come true.
More on the set-up: the production crews had set up 3 stages in an open area where bands alternated during the sets. It was like metal roulette; catch Ill Niño on the Victory Records stage, then step about ten feet to your right to see Miss May I tear it up, and so on. Thankfully, many sets allowed for a 30 minute break in between bands, so the diehards were able to pull themselves away from all the action to hydrate and keep the party going in every corner of the site.
The first band we were able to catch were deathcore San Antonio natives Upon a Burning Body ~ and can I just say, that I am so glad we made it to their set. It was early in the day, 1:50pm (doors were opened at 1:00), but that didn’t prevent a massive crowd from gathering in front of the stage. And these guys (Danny Leal on vocals, Ruben Alvarez and Sal Dominguez on guitars, Ray Martinez on bass and Tito Feliz on drums) showed no mercy: the set was tight, and high-energy from the moment they stepped out on the stage, and the audience matched their energy from first to last note. Seeing Danny in person, I honestly wouldn’t have put his face to the vocals, but the man is a powerhouse. He commanded the sweaty throngs with panache, be it by crowd surfing or joining in the circle pit. And when the band performed their hit “Texas Blood Money,” every single person in that crowd was screaming lyrics right along with them. The band has a new album, The World is my Enemy Now, coming out on August 12. Do yourselves a favor and pick it up. Based on their live show, it’s going to be killer.
We then had the opportunity to catch Wretched’s set. Hailing from Charlotte, NC, this metal band (Adam Cody on vocals, Steven Funderburk and Joel Moore on guitars, Andrew Grevey on bass, and Marshall Wieczorek on drums) has been a favorite of mine for a while. Their style is a perfect mix of technical and melodic metal, and they’re not afraid to dip into a little bit of classical. Adam’s vocals are absolutely brutal, so his speaking voice in between songs was rather…startling. As I watched them play, I also noticed many people who were clearly on their way to another stage or to concessions stop cold in their tracks to watch Wretched. I can confidently say that Wretched gained another few hundred fans during their 25 minute set. They released a new album on June 10, titled Cannibal, and it’s pretty glorious.
Of course, we couldn’t miss out on our boys Mushroomhead’s set. We recently covered the one of the band’s headlining shows and have done additional interviews and articles since, but it was really cool to see them in the Mayhem environment (and to know that after their set, we’d be getting to sit down with J-Mann and Waylon for a face to face interview/chat). Because it’s so [wonderfully and originally] theatrical, I wondered how the show would translate when confined to a smaller stage and a shorter-than-usual time frame. Pros that they are, Mushroomhead knew exactly what adjustments they needed to make to put on as amazing a show as ever ~ they did more than not disappoint, they blew us all away. The audience was so large that it flowed into the space of the next stage over, and there was so much super-enthusiastic crowd surfing that I found myself helping to carry people to the front…and (shhh) actually enjoying it! Their set was wilder than any of the others we caught that day, but you couldn’t have paid me to miss it even a second of it. If you didn’t read about it or didn’t get the info from another source, consider yourself now in the know: they also released a new album back in May, The Righteous and the Butterfly, which not only thrilled those of us who already loved their music but also was the first to attract some serious attention from “Mushroomhead virgins.”
By 6:30, it was time for all of us to pile into the pavilion for the main stage shows. As Trivium and Asking Alexandria played their sets, I watched the sea of bobbing heads and pumping arms increase in size, giving me a little bit of a warm, fuzzy feeling. Maybe it’s just me, but when I see large numbers of people gathering together in the name of music, I tend to feel like anything is possible. I was only able to catch a portion of Trivium’s set, but they had the audience going crazy from the get-go and the pit was enormous.
Asking Alexandria’s show was pretty damn stellar, too. Danny Worsnop’s vocals were flawless, and when the band performed one of their early hits, “The Final Episode,” it was larger than life ~ and also, as you’ve now gathered, accompanied by the entire crowd screaming (how I wish I could say that they were singing, but…not so much) the lyrics.
Have to say, seeing Korn perform on the huge main stage was a major Mayhem highlight for me. It had been about 13 years since I last saw them live, and they still put on an amazing show, bagpipes and all. The band played all the fan favorites, including “Twist,” “Blind,” and “Shoots and Ladders” ~ and they sounded amazing. The crowd, myself included, was going absolutely wild ~ I guarantee it’s not a performance any of us will soon forget!
Then Avenged Sevenfold ended the night with pyrotechnics and their outstanding signature dueling guitar solos. Truth be told, the sound quality wasn’t as great as Korn’s, but it didn’t take away from their terrific performance. M. Shadows took a few minutes out to pay homage to their previous drummer Rev and had the whole pavilion whipping out their lighters (or phone lights). The scene was like something out of an 80s rock show ~ at least what I’ve seen on television and heard about 80s rock show (note that my editor just gave me the dirtiest look since she was already in high school and college in the 80s!). Avenged ended the show with an encore performance of their symphonic Danny Elfman/Tim Burton-esque song “A Little piece of Heaven;” it was pretty amusing to hear everyone singing along to it, considering the nature of Mayhem Fest. But it just goes to show that metal can’t be easily defined; people are always creating new ways to express themselves through music.
Although I went home with a terrible sun rash and a case of whiplash that lasted for a good number of days (and really, I got off easy with just the rash and only being able to look straight ahead for a while ~ I’m still curious as to what happened to the poor kid who may or may not have been keeping his nose from falling off his face!), I can honestly say it was worth it…in spades. Mayhem Fest will not be denied your total attention, and while you’re there, in that music-fueled state of mind, nothing else matters…and when promoters and producers consistently put together a tour that offers such an incredible variety and number of bands that your forget the rest of the world, they’re doing something very, very right.
Once you’ve had about 24 hours to recover from the marvelous mayhem of Mayhem, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to hear more from bands you caught for the first time or from those who were never your favorite but whose performances won you over ~ and you’ll wind up sharing stories and battle scars with other Mayhem attendees and chuckling to yourself about something completely trivial but amusing to you (remember those bikini bottoms…yeah). But most of all, and for a long time to come, you’ll remember the music and the experience of getting to see all those bands live. So if you’re on the fence about heading to Mayhem next year (and there are still some dates left on the 2014 tour ~ see a list here), don’t be ~ just do it. You’ll be glad you did (and you can thank me later).
Very special thanks from all of us at FlashWounds to Maria, Natalie, and the rest of the gang at Adrenaline PR!