So the wife and I hit up the Rockstar Mayhem Festival in Austin on 08-02-2013 at the Austin360 Amphitheater at Circuit of The Americas.
At the outset, no, I was not the oldest person there. There were many people obviously older than me or, as my wife graciously pointed out, looked older than me.
The Austin360 Amphitheater at Circuit of The Americas is an awesome venue. It’s well suited for music festivals.
Also, wow, this festival was truly survival of the fittest. Both Five Finger Death Punch and Rob Zombie pointed out that the Austin festival was the lowest attendance to date, and that does not surprise me. The temperature broke 100F around 1PM and didn’t relent until about 5PM, at which time it began an incredibly slow descent. Festivals in Texas should be held in the April/May or October timeframe. August/September is the “you’re gonna die” timeframe. Still, there was a good sized crowd throughout the day, especially as the sun disappeared and Five Finger Death Punch took the stage. Every single band commented on the immense heat. On this day, the heat was the only thing more brutal than the music.
Following is the line-up by stage:
- Rob Zombie
- Five Finger Death Punch
- Amon Amarth
- Machine Head
- Job for a Cowboy
- Butcher Babies
- Children of Bodom
- Motionless In White
- Born of Osiris
- Attika 7
- Thrown Into Exile
- Scorpion Child
- City In The Sea
- Headbang For The Highway Winner 3
- Headbang For The Highway Winner 2
- Headbang For The Highway Winner 1
Of the Headbang For The Highway Winner category, I only caught one, a band called Texas. They were tight, solid, and heavy as shit. I spoke to their vocalist for a minute after their performance and he gave me their CD. I haven’t ripped it yet, but I’m looking forward to hearing it.
The Musicians Institute stage was next to the Jager stage. As one band played, the road crew would be setting up on the other stage. As one band finished, the crowd would walk about 100 steps to the other stage, and the next band would kick it. I’m sure this is standard operating procedure these days, but I haven’t been to a festival in over a decade, so it was new to me. It’s quite brilliant.
As we were walking from the parking lot to the MI/Jager/Sumerian stage area, around 1:20PM, we could hear Huntress playing. This made me a little sad, because it meant that we’d missed Thrown Into Exile, the only unsigned band on the tour. But Huntress was rocking the hell out of the place. Lori and I laughed at Jill Janus’s stage banter as we hurried our uphill race to the stage area. The heat was already starting to bake, and I made note of the fact that we’d be walking downhill to the car – definitely a good thing.
Other than Thrown Into Exile, City In The Sea, and two of the Headbang bands, we managed to see every band. Not bad for a dude in his late 40’s.
I’m not going to comment on every band. I will say that every band was impressively tight and dead-on. Outside of Rush, I can’t recall being at a show where such complex timing was executed so flawlessly. And every band seemed to be enjoying themselves, having a great time.
I’d be remiss to not hightlight Attika 7. The so-called “supergroup” was great. Comprised of Evan Seinfeld (Biohazard), Rusty Coones, Tommy Holt (UPO), Zach Broderick (Nonpoint), Ira Black (Vicious Rumors, Metal Church, Heathen , Lizzy Borden), they killed it, even playing my favorite, Serial Killer. They also haunted their booth for about 2 hours, engaging fans, taking pictures, and signing autographs. Rusty Coones spent the entire afternoon in the booth, never tiring and never complaining. I never saw him take a drink of water. The dude is inhuman. They were almost fans of their fans. Great guys and their debut album is a strong favorite of mine for Best of 2013.
I bought an Attika 7 t-shirt and they gave me their CD as a freebie. Not a 3 or 4 song version, but the entire frigging CD. If that’s not a statement about the music industry, or at least their attitude toward it, I don’t know what is.
Motionless In White and Born of Osiris made a fan of me.
Each band had at least two members available for signings throughout the day. The line for Amon Amarth was impressive and lasted forever. The Children of Bodom line seriously clogged the walkways for a while.
At some point, as we walked around the dirt lot, gasping for clean air, and hoping to not run out of water, we stumbled upon Thrown Into Exile’s booth. Well, Lori did. I’d walked on and had to come back. She was talking to some dude dressed in shorts and nothing else. Very clean cut. Lori pointed at me and said something like “He’s the music guy.” This statement has never bode well for me in the past, but I smiled at the guy and raise my eyebrows, equal parts “Can I help you?” and “Jesus, I think I’m dying now, you?”
It was Chase, Thrown Into Exile’s drummer. He held a CD in his hand and began to explain how they were the only unsigned band on the tour and they were selling the CD for $5. Sold. First, an unsigned band on the Mayhem tour has got to be good. Second, he’s not playing rock star. He’s trying to meet people and sell CDs. He’s asking questions. He’s curious. He’s genuine. He asks if I want him to sign the CD. Yep. He rips the shrink wrap off and signs it. Then he explains that other members of the band will be at the booth throughout the day and we can come back to get the others’ signatures. We did. Each offered a handshake and was thrilled that we’d purchased their CD. They reminded me of early day Metallica, when fans were more important than fame.
I expect to write more about Thrown Into Exile. I’ve only heard the CD once. There are 4 songs on it. And I like what I can recall hearing, but understand that this was as we were driving away from Death by Sun Stadium around 11:30PM. So it’s either very good or it was delirium. Thus the decision to write more later.
It seemed that Machine Head was on stage for 7 hours. I know they weren’t, and I enjoyed their show. I’ve owned their albums for years now and was looking forward to seeing them. But at this point, we could see the light at the end of the heat tunnel. We only had to get through Machine Head, then we’d finally get to see Children of Bodom. And once that was done, the main stage would open and we could fucking sit down, hopefully in something close to shade.
Did I mention that it was hot as fuck? At no point, from the time we arrived, until we landed back in the truck, was there a dry spot on my body. Soaking fucking wet from the relentless and undying heat.
In the summer of 2009, my parents took us to New York City for three days. I booked three days to see the Yankees. The first and third days were evening games. The second day, which the entire family was attending, was during the afternoon. It was a hot day. You could count the clouds and number the breezes. My dad refused to take his seat, preferring the shade of the ketchup dispenser. The rest of us bravely/foolishly moved forward and took our seats. I can remember staring at the flags, willing them to move. They did not move. I tracked the sun, calculating the point at which it might finally bring us shade. My mother, after ordering water from the water-bringing-dude, actually passed out from the heat. I urged her to join Dad in the shade, but she was resolved to die among the greatest number of family. It was that bad. It was never ending.
The heat Lori and I faced was no less fierce and no less deadly.
Machine Head and Children of Bodom did not disappoint. I was more impressed with Children of Bodom, probably because I’ve been such a fan for so many years. I don’t know how to explain it, but Children of Bodom was a high point for both of us. Hell, Lori even bought one of their shirts.
We made the trek to the main stage.
Amon Amarth took the stage around 6:30, maybe? Time is meaningless when you’re so close to death. Their stage was impressive, as was their music. Prior to this, I don’t think I’ve heard one of their songs from start to finish, but they were impressive. Tight and very enthusiastic. We stayed and watched the stage crew break down the stage because I wanted to see how the front of the Viking ship was put together. A: Piecemeal.
Mastodon was next, and they were solid. We had to cut out early because the sun was literally baking us in our seats. We found shade outside the amphitheater, drank more water, and shared a pizza. We could easily hear but not see the band. It was one of the highlights of the day. They were impressive, as was the company. My wife is awesome.
Five Finger Death Punch easily entered my list of Top 20 Live Shows. Ivan Moody came off as somewhat overreaching during the show, belittling the people in the expensive seats as “oilfield workers.” (We were not in these seats.) As someone who grew up in the oil fields, I can tell you that no oil field workers were sitting in the expensive seats. He meant to rage against Exxon and, instead, turned it against the people who work the fields and live in trailer houses. Oil field workers are not oil field companies. They’re people who work long and hard, trying desperately to feed their families. I know these people. I’ve worked among them for years and years. Even the Austin crowd seemed somewhat confused.
At one point between songs, Ivan had younger kids come out of the audience and line up in front of the drums. These kids, and parents if the kids were too young, ranged from 3 to probably 15. He introduced them as “tomorrow’s metal fans,” then the band proceeded to play 2-3 songs while these kids stood in line, head banging. It was awesome.
Unfortunately, I was seated directly behind Five Finger Death Punch’s Number One Fan in The Austin Area, and he stood and danced and made what has to be one of the shittiest and shakiest videos ever recorded. Once they left the stage, he disappeared. God speed, super fan.
I was ready for him, but was completely unprepared for Rob Zombie. I’ve seen my share of impressive stage shows, but Zombie put them all to shame, and that includes seeing the KISS reunion show on three different occasions. The multitude of screens flashing cuts from movies and lyrics and fans, props that consumed 1/3 of the stage, costume changes (including John 5 and Piggy D), balloons, and finally confetti, was overwhelming. At one point, Zombie grabbed a flashlight, left the stage, and walked throughout the audience, from one side and crossing to the other, then climbing back up on stage in time to finish the song. At another, he crowd surfed.
Zombie’s show was one hit after another. For over an hour, he played one hit after another, with very little down time. Impressive considering the costume and stage props.
I’ve never seen anything like it. He’s easily in my Top 2 live shows. It was breath-taking. Lori and I agreed that all we’d suffered during the day, near heat stroke, huddled in tents if only for the shade, eating untold amounts of dirt and dust, nudging the other to make sure we were still conscious, all of it was worth seeing Zombie’s show. It’s just that damned good.
The show ended about 11:00PM. We made our way to the car, downhill, thank all that’s holy. Lori popped Thrown Into Exile’s CD into the player, and we started our hour trek home. All in all, it was a great day. We beat the heat, survived the elements, and pulled off almost 10 hours of great metal music. We arrived home beaten but unbowed. We’d survived and were better and happier for it.
There was a metal music festival in San Antonio the next day. We did not go.
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