Rockstar Mayhem Fest Turns Up The Heat

DSC_3740Festival Review
Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival
Darien Lake PAC
Darien Center, NY

Sunday July 14, 2013
Review: Robert Winans
Photos: Joseph Suto
Main Stage:
Rob Zombie
Five Finger Death Punch
Mastodon
Amon Amarth

This past Sunday, I had the honor of being invited to come out and check out the now legendary 2013 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. For those readers unaware, the Mayhem Festival is one of the largest Rock and Metal touring festivals in the Continental U.S. offering a slew of various types of rock music ranging from hard rock to the upper echelon of metal.

They always offer up numerous ends of the spectrum, but I must say that this year may have been their most diverse year. Of course you must consider that anything that gets that much widespread attention inevitably the metal heads will say, ” Oh sure throw three metal bands up there to open and the rest will be radio rock.” Normally this would be the case. Mayhem often strives to get quite a few good metal bands to play, but undoubtedly this year was by far the most complete showing of different ends of the spectrum.

This year Machine Head, Children Of Bodom, Job For A Cowboy, Born of Osiris, Battlecross, Motionless in White, Butcher Babies, and so many more opened up the side stages. To be completely honest, if we had just had the two side stages, we certainly would have had a great festival all its own. Machine Head got to headline a stage and if there was any doubt these guys were worthy of a main stage set, try surviving the mosh pit through even their opener “Davidian” which turned the entirety of the outside crowd into a complete chaotic war zone.

The bands continued with getting the crowd completely thrashed moving from side stage back to side stage like an unfettered machine cogs turning in the background making the looming stages more monolithic of a church than a make shift stage. Not to mention that the sun was out pushing 90 degrees with zero cover throughout the day. A lesser crowd to lesser bands would have just quit to crash in the shade, but these people kept coming back for more.

Normally I would say that there are top honors to be handed out, but the list of bands was so long that its easier to just discuss who really wasn’t doing it for me. Personally I am aware of all the hype surrounding up comers Butcher Babies who before Mayhem, had just been out on tour opening for Marilyn Manson, but I have to say I did not particularly get this band. Understandably, the band brings a lot of high energy, and two gorgeous females to the vocal front, but despite their look and strong drive to connect to the crowd, they were just not pushing me to like them musically. It felt like more gimmick than musicianship. I’m sure they will get there in time, but I just wasn’t as engaged by them and honestly at that point in the day it was blistering hot and every other band before them brought so much energy that maybe I was just out of it by then, but I’m still grasping at straws to understand that band.

There were lots and I mean lots of promotion everywhere in out and around the festival. Each band had their own tent set up taking perhaps a page from Warped Tour, and there was a multitude of stuff being given away from posters to t shirts and autograph signings. Mastadon did a free signing along with free posters and Rockstar drinks at a cool down tent followed by Motionless In White doing a signing. Usually bands nowadays have you come buy something from them and then they sign whatever you buy which kind of takes some of the realism out of the meet and greet experience and turns it into more of a carnival show. Come buy your ticket and meet these guys we propped up in a corner. Battlecross however came out and took pictures, signed people, money, shoes, anything you would ask of them. Their attitude and their set puts Battlecross up there as one of my new bands to go see if you can. They are setting up to do a fall Tour with Shadows Fall and Hatebreed which they told me they were eager to get going on.

Machine Head and Children of Bodom both put on long, well rounded and blistering metal sets. Alexi Laiho played probably best guitar wise, and after getting beat up in pits after all that concluded it finally dawns on you. “Dear God, we haven’t even seen the main stage yet.”

On to the main stage opened by legendary Viking metal act Amon Amarth. They came out to their stage set up of an old mysterious Viking ship and continued to destroy the already beaten crowd. It was at this point I began to notice that the crowd was just beyond exhausted. Why wouldn’t you be? Out raging seven hours straight only to get to the headliners and have virtually nothing left. A few fights broke out, probably more so than usual in the transition between Mastadon and Five Finger Death Punch.

Five Finger Death Punch came out and for the short period of time they had (or at least it seemed not long enough) put on a great set getting a good mix between “The Bleeding” and “White Knuckles” jumping back and forth between old and new music. They did a fantastic tribute piece during “Bad Company” for the troops serving in the Armed Forces. Somewhere the crowd found the energy to continue thrashing even though the day seemed infinite and the field was covered in hay to help the ground solidify from the rain the night before. People were throwing the hay into the hair somehow pushing past exhausted and somewhere into insanity. They finished out and turned the stage over to their stage headliner Rob Zombie.

Zombie came out and to much of his notorious theatricality. I’ve seen Rob Zombie a few times, and the expectation is always ridiculous, but this time he may have outdone even the Sci-fi Network in absurdity. It included Rob riding a skeleton train with anamatronic hands turning the wheels of the locomotive from hell. He never disappoints a crowd no matter if he is headlining or playing a side stage, but that man needs to be main staging. The stage was something out of a deranged Ed Wood horror film if it had been fused with driving beats and a slight err of pornography. Be that as it may, Zombie brought it like always getting strong crowd reaction and connection, and hitting all his marks with a scathe tactical precision. They covered the song “American Band” and it sounded good with Zombie playing up the Americana theme to a tee. John 5 on lead guitar offered up a Godlike guitar solo that left the crowd speechless at a point, and they departed the stage seemingly done. Of course, they had to come out riding atop a moving stage to finish out with fan favorite “Dragula” to a backdrop of “The Munsters” which adds a scattered offbeat humor to his show.

The entirety of Mayhem Festival was overall the best Mayhem Fest I have ever been to featuring some of the best names in metal at different ends of the genre all of which brought their A game amidst a sweltering heat and a long day. Nobody left that festival not completely blown away, sunburned, or tired to the point of laughing at any given thing. There was even a fire in the parking lot after Rob Zombie’s set which should encapsulate the idea of Mayhem in its entirety with fire trucks and police jamming up the exit. Mayhem Fest is a beautiful monster, who better than Rob Zombie to headline it as Mary Shelly’s venerable Frankenstein?


more pics to come check back

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About Joseph Suto

Location: Buffalo, NY
Photographer/Reviewer

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