This may come as a shock to you who know me as a well-traveled, worldly man of… the world, but prior to not quite a week ago, I had never been to an actual concert before. I mean, I had been to shows before, which is what you call it when there are maybe 60 people and you’re not delusional enough to call it a concert, and there were all the Blues Festival/B.B. King Day festivities as a kid, but those honestly had more of an “arts and crafts fair, usually without any arts or crafts” vibe going on. I can’t count those, because there are no lawn chairs at a concert. Then, my brother pops up and tells that this whole big thing is going down, and he needs people to go with him, because he’s surrounded by normal human beings who would recoil in horror at anything that even looked like Slayer, much less sounded like them. So tickets were bought, days off were requested, and me and Sarah hopped in a giant gold Caprice (For full metal effect, we should have taken the giant red Trans Am, but it had no air conditioning or insurance and runs at about eight gallons per mile, so to hell with that) to our former lands in the North. The actual trip there was uneventful, and I think I passed out at least once, so I won’t tell you about it. Actually I just did. What the hell, man? (Also, unless otherwise noted, the videos posted were filmed by YouTube peoples who go by the internet handles bustedface, shabby1975, and sciomancy6, then straight-up jacked via YouTube embed codes for use here. The photos were all by us, though.)
The doors to the Zoo Ampitheater opened sometime around 12:00 or 12:30, but due to travel time, loading-up-on-burgers time, and general hanging-out time required beforehand, I don’t think we showed up until three-something. Of course, this wasn’t completely unfortunate or unintentional honestly; you see, the first few acts were Hemlock, Whitechapel, Asking Alexandria, and The Devil Wears Prada, who are all fairly modern in their sound, which is perhaps the most diplomatically veiled way of saying that they’re all shitty and horrible bands. A bunch of dudes in way-too-small pants screeching about hurt feelings while thinking that Blink 182 and In Flames are two bands whose sounds work really well together, possibly because of childhood brain injuries. Basically, that False Metal that Manowar tried to warn us about for all those years, BUT WE DIDN’T LISTEN. So, factor in absolutely unenjoyable music with the fact that it would hover around 105 degrees for most of the day, with no possibility of shade and water costing four bucks a bottle, (Which, sadly, is actually pretty reasonable for this sort of thing.) we pretty much missed them on purpose. Hemlock did earn a few points at the end of the night, though, when we saw that their tour bus was actually a heavily-painted, formerly-yellow school bus. That’s how I’d do it, probably. So I imagine that Hemlock are a lot like the guys who know from work or school or whatever are are pretty cool, and then they mention that they’re in a band, so you get all excited, but when you hear them, you just have to lie about what you thought about them, because they’re nice dudes or whatever. Anyway, by the time we got there, all of this bullshit had passed.
Also, right outside the gates was a huge truck selling Monster Energy drinks and Monster Energy paraphernalia, which is kind of awesome to do at a show promoted by a rival energy drink company. If they were really serious about subverting Rockstar, though, they should have dug out another amphitheater across the street and put on their own festival, with tickets costing like a dollar less. Power moves. Judging by the kind of folks I keep seeing with Monster tattoos, (seriously, people do that) it would probably be some sort of unholy combination of a country music/mixed martial arts festival, though. Not my cup of tea. And if Red Bull ever gets into the music festival game, I imagine it’ll be a lot like this one, but smaller, more expensive, and the air itself will taste like pickled ass. Also, I thought it was odd that you could get Aquafina or various brands of beer, but there didn’t seem to be a single can of any Rockstar product for sale anywhere. Judging by the crowd, though, I figured most of the people who were in dire need of chemically-enhanced energy just stuck to crystal meth, like Americans are supposed to. Lotta teeth-grinding going on.
AS I LAY DYING – As an old, old dinosaur, these guys were in my “oh, I’ll be just fine if we miss them” pile, but they still had a few songs to go by the time we got there. For some reason, though, my brother – an even older dinosaur than I am – was actually semi-interested in seeing them, (AND actually looking forward to Slipknot at the end) but honestly, this is a dude who has actually simultaneously owned cassettes by both Sepultura and Kenny G at one point, so his musical tastes are pretty much inscrutable. Anyway, this falls fully into the “generic modern heavy metal” category, where dudes play really fast and gurgle like a death metal band, then inexplicably bust out with a high-pitched, poppy chorus that kids with tight pants and comb-overs can dance to, so they’ve been slowly becoming a big deal over the last few years. Honestly though, and it really frightens me to even think this, they really weren’t that bad. Have I had some sort of breakthrough, where my Heavy Metal Grinch heart grew three sizes and I can finally embrace things that didn’t exist later than early 1990s? Or was it just that “oh, you’ll like them if you see them live,” effect that my brother fed me for years to try and get me to tolerate Korn? I dunno, but I can’t rightly say that I hated these guys. Shame too, because the last time I ever bothered with a chat room, all the underground black metal dudes were referring to them as “As I’m Gay Crying,” and I was really looking forward to stealing that joke. On the other hand, when they were almost done and started hyping up the four headlining bands, they completely skipped over any mention of Anthrax, so fuck these guys. They can eat my balls. Still, kind of felt bad for them, because it was obvious that this entire show was less of a full-on festival to most of the crowd than it was just “Slipknot, featuring Slayer, with special guests Asking Alexandria, plus long pauses in-between that might include other bands,” so the crowd was sparse, the mosh pit looked to be about fifteen people, and singer-dude’s attempt to get those fifteen to do that “wall of death” thing didn’t seem to go very well. And yeah, there were more Asking Alexandria t-shirts there than anybody other than Slipknot, which makes me weep for the youth and the future of America. Seriously, guys? Seriously?
ANTHRAX – First of all, let me say a huge, hearty “fuck you” to Oklahoma City and all the surrounding areas for being shockingly uninterested in either Anthrax or Motörhead for the most part, to the point where a lot of people seemed to use Anthrax as their chance to go get water and a funnel cake or whatever after the first five bands (Who were all pretty much disposably generic for these times anyway) had finished. On the other hand, I have to give a huge, hearty “thank you” to all those same people, because it meant that we could get there three hours late and still get right up to the front rail of the non-V.I.P. section with little or no effort. And the V.I.P. section was a strange thing, where it was a mix of old people who probably didn’t know what was going on, but couldn’t jeopardize their status as the guy with his finger on the pulse of local music or whatever by missing the show, plus a few old, old dinosaurs like us, who just happened to not be too broke to pay an extra hundred bucks or however much it was to avoid being touched by the rabble. Of course, the rabble sometimes has disposable income, as I saw at least one dude up there in full Outlaws Motorcycle Club regalia, just like what an episode of Gangland told me about. If I had to guess, that guy was there to see Motorhead. But yeah, we got relatively close, and on the Scott Ian side of the stage to boot, so I was pretty much beyond pumped. I spent the whole time shouting lyrics in Scott and Joey Belladonna’s general directions. with this huge grin that had to look at least a little psychotic after a while, and every so often, I’d have to just throw an arm out and squeeze Sarah real hard, because goddammit, we are seeing them play “Madhouse” and “Antisocial” together, and in my twisted values system, that is a tender moment. Screw you guys. But yeah, as far as a set list goes, they played the standard set you’d expect from a really old band who knew that the crowd generally wasn’t there to see them, where it was all “Greatest Hits” material, with only “Fight ‘Em Till You Can’t” off the new album and absolutely avoiding the bold move of having Joey sing anything from the John Bush years. Would have been nice to see them in their own element, with a set long enough to maybe have a surprise or two, but overall they were pretty goddamn fantastic.
The only problem was that with the temperatures being as high as they were and with it being as much of a Slipknot crowd as it was, the audience was mostly completely dead, save for about a fifty square foot area of a moderately enthusiastic mosh pit, and rarely was there a chance of us accidentally getting caught in a mosh. (See what I did there?) Also, I’m not sure if it was the city or the venue’s deal, (Or is the venue owned by the city? Huh.) but there’s a pretty heavy no-cussing policy in place, with pretty huge fines and what-have-you, and being the closest of the four headlining bands to financial destitution, they were the only ones who actually paid attention to the policy. So during the part of “Indians” where everyone suddenly stops playing and Scott scolds the audience for not going sufficiently crazy during the WAR DANCE, he actually threatened to “call bullcrap” on us, which was just not very metal, even if for once it wasn’t just part of the show, and the crowd was mostly being a bunch of lamers. Aside from that, Sarah realized that with enough facial hair, Frank Bello looks like Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, and Rob Caggiano won the “stupidest band member of the night” award for still insisting on wearing a damn wool-ass winter hat the whole time.
MOTÖRHEAD – After a while of sitting down, wondering why the water they’re charging a mint for is too hidden for us to actually find, wondering if all the people buying beer from the vendors roaming the grounds know that it’s not a good idea, and hoping to hell that we’re not all going to die of dehydration, air raid sirens start sounding, and OH SHIT, IT’S MOTORHEAD. And somehow, through the heat, the Mongoloid tendencies of the crowd, being too old to run around and go crazy, and not even bothering with so much as a backdrop as far as stage props, they actually managed to win over the shitty crowd, simply by just being Motorhead. Once again, “old band at a festival headlined by a band kids still like” syndrome is in full effect, so they stuck to the hits, and played right into the “I’m gonna yell ‘Lemmy is God,’ but I’m not gonna buy any of their albums newer than 1916” crowd’s hands, aside from throwing in “I Know How to Die” as the token new song. But the thing is, sticking to stuff when Philthy Animal was still the drummer still gives them nine albums to pull from, and a list of “best of” songs huge enough that you didn’t really know what you were going to get in the end. The only bummer was that they still only had about thirty minutes to cram the last 35 years into, so a lot of stuff I would have liked to have heard, and neither “We Are the Roadcrew” and “Overkill” made the cut. Once again, really need to see them play their own show someday. At one point, Phil Campbell (the guitar dude) stops to ask the audience to make some noise if they want the band to play even louder, and when the crowd goes nuts, rather than say something sufficiently rock star-ish, he just sort of stops, looks disgusted, and goes “oh my God,” because he’s hilarious and awesome. Maybe saying things like that should become Motorhead’s thing, and their next seven live albums could have titles like “We’re Too Old for This Shit – Motorhead Live.” That would be amazing, and I’d buy them all.
Of course, bummers stalk us at every turn, so the Motorhead set still had shitty things in store for us, mainly in the form of dumbasses in the crowd deciding that Sarah didn’t actually want to see the show, so jamming themselves directly in front of someone that’s like 5’3″ was the most proper and polite thing to do. First, there was this sun-baked old guy who had to be some sort of living testament to the crystallized form of methamphetamine, who might not have even been paying attention to the music, but god damn, did that guy want to BOUNCE, BOUNCE, BOUNCE. Seriously, the whole time, he would just bounce up and down, stopping occasionally to clap his hands in this really weird way, where it looked like he was at a special hoedown for special people whose fingers had lost all their function years ago. He ended up bumping into Sarah a couple times, and apparently, after the second time, she gave him the Evil Death Look that kinda shook him up and led him to go bounce somewhere else or die or something. And then, after Bouncy McMeth left, Mopey McBrillohead showed up to stand right goddamn in front of her, and Jesus, that guy. Just this kinda stocky dude in a Slayer t-shirt standing there, absolutely motionless, slouched over and kinda staring sadly downward, as though his entire family had just been killed while showing him a video of all his pets dying, but he had tickets, so he came to the concert anyway. And really, he NEVER MOVED. The crowd actually got fairly lively and there’s all this craziness and all this Motorhead happening, and the dude just kept his slouchy vigil over nothing at all, and I wanted to just give him a hug, until I realized how much I hated him. Because seriously people, if you’re standing within fifty feet of a Motorhead concert and Lemmy Kilmister – the living embodiment of what rock music should have been but never was – is right fucking there, and he says “We are Motorhead, and we play rock and roll” at the instant that they start playing “Ace of Spades,” and that can’t get some sort of reaction out of you, even if it’s something so much as a foot-tap or a head-nod, you should just stop. And I don’t mean stop going to shows or listening to heavy metal, and really, I’m not even saying you should kill yourself, because it’s too late for that; you’re already dead. Just stop existing. Summon whatever forces of the universe are necessary and just retroactively create a reality in which you had never been concieved, because goddammit, the world never needed you. Whoa. “The World Never Needed You” sounds like the title of a Motorhead song, like maybe one of the pissed-off ones Lemmy writes when he’s angry about politicians or whatever as opposed to being happily occupied with thoughts about pushing his penis into things. You know, pissed-off, metal Motorhead, like “Brotherhood of Man,” “God Was Never On Your Side,” or “Orgasmatron.” I should sell that song title to those guys, and it’ll sell a million records. And me and Lemmy can become the best friends ever, and I can hang out on his houseboat and stuff. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Mikkey Dee (the drummer) is number one and the best, and if you didn’t know, (You better call somebody?) you should just fast-forward to the “Killed by Death” half of that there YouTube video up there. Jesus. Also of note was that right in front of us was this kinda sketchy-looking kid, who couldn’t have been much older than 18 or 20 or so who had a Slipknot tattoo on the back of his neck and all, but was clearly singing along with every damn word Lemmy sang, and I must say, it gave me hope for the future. Dude threw up the horns all limp-wristed and girly-like, but that’s a behavior that can be coached out of him with the proper guidance, you know?
SLAYER – After Motorhead, we were pretty much drained, not so much in the sense of energy or whatever, but in the sense that there was no moisture left in our bodies. So we had to leave our awesome (as long as weirdos weren’t blocking the view) spot to hunt down some water, and by the time we got it, enough people had moved down from the upper part of the amphitheater that there was no chance in hell of getting back down that close. And really, with two of us being old, old dinosaurs and Slayer somehow staying pretty relevant to the kind of people who go nuts and hurt each other at concerts, finding a nice, comfortable spot up high was good enough for us, so there’s wasn’t quite so much of a detailed, up-close experience for them as the previous two bands. So honestly, if Kerry King did something wacky that was worth reporting to you people, I didn’t see it. I will say that Gary Holt won the Smartest Band Member of the Night Award, because there were these misting machines at each side of the stage to keep the musicians from dying of heat stroke, and I swear, that dude never was more than like eighteen inches from the one on his side. After a while, though, I had to wonder if too much water had hit his electronics, because while Kerry King’s solos were the loudest part of the show to that point, any time Holt would start a solo, it would be barely audible to the point where you had to wonder if he was even plugged in to anything. Aside from that, I have to say that their set made me feel pretty False in terms of how metal I am, because honestly – and this is probably a bad thing to admit to the seven people who will read this – I’ve never really been that much into Slayer. Honestly, I haven’t paid attention to a single thing they’ve done since I was like ten years old, and the stuff before that just sounds so much alike that I’ve often said that there’s no real good reason to own more than two or three Slayer albums. Fortunately, Reign in Blood and Seasons in the Abyss (the two that I own) figured heavily into the set, and “South of Heaven” is probably the easiest song for me to identify that’s not from those two albums, so I could keep up and occasionally get pretty excited. But since Slayer never had the giant dip in popularity that Anthrax or Motorhead had, there was also a lot of newer stuff, that I just could not recognize in the slightest, so I was lost and confused like one of the Hawaiian shirt-wearing dudes from the V.I.P. section probably was for the entire day.
“It’s Wednesday, and I just gotta dance, dance DANCE.”
And man, speaking of lost and confused, not being as heavily bombarded by the band playing as we were when we were up close gave plenty of opportunity to observe the creatures around us. Sweet Jesus. Never before has there ever been such a concentrated mass of trying-too-hard witnessed on this scale. Everywhere you looked there was some manner of mutant creature, ranging from high school screamo kids with bleached combovers and day-glo skinny jeans to withered, surgically enhanced old women that looked to have walked this Earth for at least ten thousand years, hoping that maybe this will be the time Lemmy finally notices their leathery, fish-lipped asses. There were at least a thousand girls of various ages who never got the memo that simply not being hugely fat is not the sole requirement for running around in a bikini in public, and another thousand who didn’t even get that “not hugely fat” itself was a requirement in the first place. Doughy dudes in sleeveless shirts, spreading their many odors far and wide, and otherwise well-scrubbed white people in dreadlocks, which either means they’re a narc and it’s a wig, or they spend way too much time at the Apple Store, and the dreads will be gone as soon as their degree is finished. Bikers, whores, tooth-grinding meth-heads, Juggalos, punks, posers, out-of-place preppies, people who dance to “Angel of Death” as though a jam band is playing it, and one fat old guy who was wearing a tie-dyed shirt that said “Rasta Spirit” on the front. An outdoor heavy metal festival is amazing place to observe the dregs of humanity, just so long as you have weapons handy. Oh, also, it should be required that Slayer can only play at night in outdoor venues, because watching an egret soar overhead in the cloudless sky just sort of ruins the mood of Satanic speed metal.
SLIPKNOT – And then, there’s these guys. This was the part of the show I had been dreading, as anyone who knows me should know that I’ve spent more than a decade completely not being able to stand this band. From their stupid fans to their stupid music to their stupid five members you can’t tell are even in the band to their stupid, “no really, the masks are deep and meaningful, and we don’t just think it looks scary,” there are pretty much endless reasons for it, and damned if I didn’t end up having to be there for their pointless clanging for like an hour and a half. Really though, to be fair, their music is still pretty much terrible to me, but they do put on a pretty good show, (Fortunately for Slipknot, they got to go on in the dark, so unlike Slayer, you could actually see their light show, and the explosions worked way better) their songs are all formulated from the ground up to be shouted by large numbers of people in unison, and despite what his saddest-ever attempts at doing the Henry Rollins spoken word thing would indicate, Corey Taylor actually is a pretty good front man. He had the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand the entire time, especially when he engaged in the gigantic no-no of calling bullshit on the no-cursing rule, saying that they could just bill him for it, and at one point, getting the entire crowd to yell “fuck” in unison, followed by commenting that “they can’t fine us all.” I guess when you sell a zillion records, you get the financial freedom to drop F-bombs in ways that Anthrax can’t, in addition to being able to pay two D.J.s that you can’t hear and two “percussionists” that mostly just bounced around, acting “wacky” all night.
And man, on one hand, the two extra drummers are pretty much useless musically. Whenever they’re actually doing anything, you can’t even hear them, until it comes time to bash on a keg with a baseball bat, which, fuck, they can just get some random audience member to do if they have to. Maybe he’ll even provide the keg for them. And during the few times that it really does sound like three drummers are going crazy, you look out there and the two extra guys are just bouncing around, ten feet from their “instruments,” and it’s just Joey Jordison by himself, being an insane monster who deserved to be in a much better band. But on the other hand, if you’re someone who doesn’t actually like Slipknot that’s trapped at one of their shows, those two guys are the highlight of the show. It’s like while all these other dudes are out there trying their damnedest to look scary and psychotic in that contrived late-90s nu-metal way, they’re just zooming around, engaging in zany hijinks. And man, the one guy kept running around to various parts of the venue, taking dives into the crowd, and for the love of Lemmy, I hope they pay that guy well, because his life is one giant hazard. The second time he went off the stage, it took multiple attempts for the burly bouncer/event security guy to wrestle him free from the clutches of the audience, and when he somehow magically teleported to the nosebleed section we were in to take a dive, all hell broke loose. Holmes had to use fists, feet, and elbows to get out of there, and this must have been a regular occurrence, because his regular Slipknot mask had to be augmented with a damn motorcycle crash helmet before he made the leap. And oh hey, Sarah got the EXCLUSIVE FOOTAGE~!
(watch real close toward the end)
So if nothing else, I developed respect for that guy. And between him risking life and limb and the crazy-ass thing they did at the end where the drum set went up in this crazy spinning contraption, and the dude had to keep doing his insane monster drumming while being spun around sideways, there was plenty to keep me entertained, I suppose. Shit was cray. So you know what? Fuck you, Slipknot, I still can’t stand you, but you put on a helluva show. And had I been thirteen years old instead of nineteen when I first heard them, who knows? I guess to all the people there who were going crazy for them who were coming of age around ’99, Slipknot was their Anthrax, (Or probably their Slayer, but it doesn’t work in the context of this blog post, you see) so maybe I would have thought that too, you know? So maybe it’s been me this whole time. Like I said, who knows. Also, it has come to my attention that if you take TNA Wrestling superstar “The Monster” Abyss, remove his knockoff WWF Mankind mask with the one from Quiet Riot’s Metal Health album, you get Slipknot guitar player Mick Thompson.
COMING IN AUGUST, UNLESS SOMETHING STUPID AND SHITTY HAPPENS: IRON MAIDEN IN SAN ANTONIO YEEEAAHHHHHHHHHHH