Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival 2013
San Bernardino, California
June 29, 2013
Review and band photos by Metalette
Crowd photos courtesy of Adrenaline PR
The San Manuel Amphitheatre is situated in a classic California desert-mountain valley. It was in this harsh, desolate, and port-a-potty-covered wasteland that the first day of Mayhem Festival 2013 took place. There was literally nothing else around the festival; just tall, brown, shrub-covered mountains and lots and lots of dust. The day itself was so hellishly hot – peaking at a scorching 107 F – it was almost as if Satan himself had a hand with the weather (maybe he was even at the festival; he’s kind of into the metal scene, isn’t he?). I’m sure the Mayhem people made a fortune on the ice cold $3 waters and $6 lemonades they were peddling all day long, and I witnessed at least one girl pass out from the heat. But with a name like Mayhem, what else would you expect?
Most of the day was spent alternating between the Jӓgermeister stage and the Musicians Institute stage, which were conveniently located right next to each other. The rotation of bands on these two stages made for amazingly quick turn-around times – when one finished their set, the other stage was all ready to go and the next band would jump right in! As a regular concert-goer who is very used to dilly-dally between sets, I was pretty tickled by the timeliness. Even the main-stage bands – who played in the evening, after the Jӓgermeister and the Musicians Institute stage bands were done – were quick to change sets. There was a fourth stage, the Sumerian Records stage, but I didn’t get to see any of the bands on it because they played throughout the day during other sets. I heard there were some great acts on it, though, and wild mosh pits.
When Thrown into Exile started things off with a set just after 1 pm, I was glad to see there was already a gathering of fest-goers supporting them despite the mid-day heat. After their set, I had the pleasure of seeing the mighty Huntress. Wow, what a great way to kick off my Mayhem experience! Huntress vocalist Jill Janus instantly became my hero. Her stage presence combined just the right amounts of evil, mystery, and flowing blonde hair, and she was gifted with an incredible voice. Jill could wail, scream, and power-shriek as well as any guy out there, but she added a flair which set her apart from being just another heavy metal vocalist. Huntress had a commanding and wild stage performance, with great interaction between band members, and an album-quality sound. They had a large number of die-hard fans, and those who didn’t know their music were thoroughly entertained. Huntress will be moving higher up in the billing next tour, as they are a formidable metal act.
Next was Battlecross, hailing from Detroit, Michigan. This group of dudes knew how to play some heavy metal. Vocalist Kyle “Gumby” Gunthers brought a whopping amount of energy and facial hair to the party, as well as brutal vocals. Battlecross guitarist Tony Asta turned the art of smiling into a metal activity. Who doesn’t like seeing musicians who absolutely love what they do? Battlecross was clearly stoked to play for us at Mayhem. It was exciting to see a rough-and-raw American heavy metal band at the festival, and to see them be so well received by the fest-goers. It really goes to show that good metal will never go away.
The delightfully campy Butcher Babies were next to play. All the dudes in this band wore skeletal makeup, and the female vocalist duo looked lovely in their wild makeup and metal-vixen attire. You could easily imagine Heidi Shepherd with a machine gun and motorcycle in a post-apocalyptic thriller, and Carla Harvey’s gothic-beauty looks reminded me of Repo! The Genetic Opera. They were lively and powerful frontwomen, and I was thoroughly impressed by the heaviness of their vocals and their pure, raw aggression. I was seriously feeling the girl-power at Mayhem with these ladies, and I’m proud to say that they’re an LA band.
I’ve seen Motionless in White now four times, and they always put on a great show. I love their gothy, industrial stage look. Their new music sounds good live, and it was during their set the audience really started to lose their marbles. Crowd-surfing, insane moshing, passing out in the pit, you know, the stuff that makes a killer show. They’re one of the very few “core-ish” bands that have a place on my iPod. Their sound is unique and they cross over into various genres. If you like horror in the lyrics and in the stage presence, you’ll dig this band.
The next band I saw was Machine Head, who have a raucous following. Their stage set-up was one of the best at the festival. They had an enormous back-drop, lots of props, and an army of sigil-like banners that are exactly what you would see if Machine Head were a house in Game of Thrones. Before they came onstage, Theo Rossi “Juice” and Kim Coates “Tig” from Sons of Anarchy rallied the crowd with a few jokes and lots of praise for Machine Head. Machine Head arrived, looking and sounding metal-as-f …well, you know. The festival grounds were packed by this time of the day, so the California band had a huge audience to which they delivered a kickass set.
The final band to play before the mainstage acts was Children of Bodom. This was the band that I was the most excited to see, and not just because of Alexi Laiho. He’s been one of my favorite guitarists for many years, and well hey, he’s awfully nice to look at. When they sound-checked his guitar my hands started shaking a bit. Children of Bodom opened with a bang and I had that exhilarating, stomach-twisting, “I-can’t-believe-it” feeling that you get when you know you’re in for an amazing show! The Finnish metal gods sounded incredible live, and had the attention of every person on the festival grounds. During an epic set, beach balls were flying, the crowd was singing, beer was chugged, and sunburns were entirely forgotten. Children of Bodom treated us to songs from their new album and of course many classics. Between Alexi’s live solos, and his call-and-response riffs with keyboardist Janne Wirman, some legendary musicianship was on display. All the sweat, sun, dust, and general discomfort of the festival were worth it just for that alone.
I raced to the main-stage before Amon Amarth started, and was awed by their stage set-up. A gargantuan Viking ship held the drum kit, and the backdrop made me feel like I was facing an oncoming Viking fleet. It was like Amon Amarth had sailed into Mayhem from a Scandinavian fjord. They blasted into their set at once, with vocalist Johan Hegg aboard the helm. Long hair flying like war-banners and guitars wielded like battle-axes, Amon Amarth looked akin to demi-gods. Their energy onstage certainly proved that they were no mere mortals; their show was non-stop action as they scaled the Viking ship and ran the length of the massive main-stage throughout the whole set! The audience roared when Johan Hegg took a mighty swig from a carved drinking horn, and many a drink was raised in response. Amon Amarth enjoyed playing for us as much as we enjoyed seeing them, and having “Pursuit of Vikings” blasted in my face was one of the highest points of my metal-fan life. If Amon Amarth hasn’t earned a spot in the halls of Odin, then I don’t who has.
It had been a great day, but also an exhausting one. Unfortunately due to the set-up and time constraints I was unable to see everyone. Every moment I did see, though, made for an unforgettable good time. As I left the San Manuel Amphitheatre, the sun was setting below the mountains, the festival lights were burning in the desert night… and the guy in front of me was vomiting a chunky brown cascade of slop.