By Joe Nelson
When it comes to music, I love all things hard and heavy.
Sure, like any old fogey, my tastes have matured somewhat over the years, and I have since added John Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme,” Sonny Rollins’ “Saxophone Colossus” and Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” to what is now considered my antiquated CD collection.
They’re tucked right beside my Germs anthology and Iron Maiden and Slayer collections.
Although my tastes have refined over the years, I’ll never, as the clich goes, forget my roots.
Even in these middle-age years, I still find myself popping in a Black Flag, Venom or X CD to “get it all out,” and I still enjoy attending concerts with bands sporting names like “Five Finger Death Punch,” “Rob Zombie,” “Winds of Plague” and “Lamb of God,” as was the case Saturday at the third annual Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival in Devore.
The only difference nowadays is that I tend to tow along my 15-year-old son, who has inherited his old man’s musical tastes and keeps him abreast of all the latest music and trends, like the “core” suffix genres in speed-metal music (deathcore, grindcore, mathcore) and what they all mean. Being an aspiring drummer himself, my son has this vernacular down.
And when such as event features dancing Oompa Loompas, how the heck can you go wrong?
Saturday’s all-day Mayhem Festival lived up to its name – a full afternoon of fast, loud and angry music in sweltering heat and roaring motorcycles as the Metal Mulisha freestyle motocross team dazzled concertgoers with their high-flying aerial acrobatics.
The Inland Empire’s own Winds of Plague and Sangre banged it out on the Silver Stage and Jagermeister Stage, respectively, followed by a slew of some of the hardest bands touring the circuit today: Atreyu, Hatebreed, 3 Inches of Blood, Shadows Fall, Chimaira and In This Moment.
As the sun descended behind the hills and temperatures began to cool, the fireworks began, literally, as the main stage acts – Five Finger Death Punch, Lamb of God, Rob Zombie and Korn – belted it out.
On the lawn, the skyrockets started shooting off and the bonfires started blazing during Lamb of God’s 30-minute set. Plumes of tawny, acrid smoke, likely from burning plastic bottles, poured over the seated concertgoers, so much so that some were forced to pull their shirt collars over their mouths and noses for temporary relief.
The three or four bonfires emitted an orange glow that illuminated throngs of revelers circling about them in their self-formed “pits,” while smoke and ash swirled to the sky and hung over the audience for the duration of the show.
Unfortunately, the smoky disruption was a situation that security and firefighters couldn’t seem to get their arms around. It seemed for every fire that was quelled, another would erupt on the other side of the lawn.
Despite the smokey disruption, the music and sheer energy of the crowd made it all worth it.
Between sets, the crowd was treated to some very politically incorrect stand-up comedy by Big Jay Oakerson. No four-letter word is absent from this man’s vocabulary.
Between Lamb of God’s and Rob Zombie’s sets, the green-haired Oompa Loompas from Beacher’s Madhouse in Los Angeles showed off their dancing prowess during a laugh-a-minute performance. The little ones even took time during the day to pose for pictures with concertgoers.
One of the returning bands to the festival this year was Five Finger Death Punch, who performed on the side stage during the inaugural Mayhem Festival in 2008 and was promoted to the main stage this year. The band’s word-of-mouth rise in popularity and a new, more mature and polished sophomore effort, “War is the Answer,” has established the band as a promising up and comer with staying power.
“It’s definitely a more mature and well-rounded album. Everybody had more input on this one,” said Five Finger Death Punch drummer Jeremy Spencer, who took some time backstage Saturday to discuss the band’s latest album, newest guitarist Jason Hook and touring the Mayhem Festival.
Hook joined the group in 2008, bringing to the band his machine-gun-style chops and flair for melodic solos.
Spencer said he has known Hook about 16 years, and the two often worked on projects together over the years, noting that Hook’s ear for commercial music and mature playing style has filled a gap in the band and taken the band to whole new level.
“I knew what he (Hook) could bring to the table,” Spencer said.
Spencer said he’s surprised by the level of success the band has achieved in just five short years. The band’s 2006 debut album, “The Way of the Fist,” sold 400,000 copies worldwide, yielded three Top 10 radio hits in the U.S., a top five MTV metal video, and a Kerrang Best new band award. It’s sophomore album, “Way of the Fist,” released in September, has sold 150,000 copies in the U.S. alone.
“It has seemed rather fast,” Spencer said of the band’s success. He attributes that success to a very loyal fan base and having the good fortune of having radio on its side.
In a way, Mayhem feels like family to Five Finger Death Punch. The band toured with Korn during Korn’s Family Values tour in 2007, and has also toured with some of the other bands on this year’s Mayhem roster including Lamb of God and In This Moment.
“It’s a great package as far as summer tours. This is the one to be at,” Spencer said.