concert review

The anticipation was both palpable and unspoken.  The collective combination of hope and grief was evident on the faces on the gathered throng.  Still, it was undeniable that less human fodder had assembled to stand in front of GWAR.  Whether that was the product of a cold, snowy night when people are Christmas poor or whether it was the manifestation of doubt about GWAR’s ability to continue in the wake of their founder’s death was uncertain, but the brave masses rolled into the venue hoping for the best.

The very idea that Slayer, Suicidal Tendencies and Exodus were hitting the road together was enough to make fans check their calendar – had time somehow reverted to 1987 and nobody noticed?  The night to come was certain to be a gleeful revival of Cold War vitriol…with the exception of the fact that Slayer would be watched with eagle-eyed sharpness by all in attendance.

 

The fundamental question of every Reverend Horton Heat show isn’t “how are you?” or even “where are you from?” Simply stated, walking through the doors into the rockabilly show beyond asks only “what year do you want it to be?” The only indication that any time has passed since 1959 is that the Reverend comes armed with new songs every so often.

In metal circles, Volbeat has become a household name. The band is loaded with metal chops and yet concurrently appeals to genres outside just their home base. The crowds that gather to see the band perform their art range in age and fandom, covering a wide spectrum of musical taste and appreciation. A Volbeat show has practically become an affirming event – patrons are there to see great music and have a great time, in a shockingly well-behaved fashion, which isn’t unwelcome.

There was a time when sludgy, fuzzy metal reigned supreme. It doesn’t seem possible, but it was almost fifteen years ago that we were satiated by the overdriven, detuned glory of pinnacle acts like White Zombie, Pantera and Powerman 5000. All of those acts did something a little different, to be certain, but they all subscribed to one basic core principle; that metal needed to be loud, rhythmic and easily accessible above all other qualities.

After so many years of constant tours, going to a GWAR show is now like visiting an old friend. There will be some new stories to be sure, but you know when you arrive, it’s going to be a jovial retelling of some of the same old classics.

It was a strange night to be in Worcester, Massachusetts. Stranger than usual, that is. At the Palladium, the city’s cardinal music showcase, two very different forces were converging on the city. Finntroll was in town with Blackguard in tow, a powerful double bill of folky heavy metal. On the same night, in another part of the same venue, was a foam party. As one can imagine, this made for excellent people watching, as there were booty shorts, furry footwear and studded belts as far as the eye could see.

…And so we come to the main stage. Mayhem Fest, in a credit to its organizers, did a much better job this year of spacing the last second stage set (Children of Bodom) and the first main stage set. The crowd was settling in but present when Amon Amarth was revealed. For all that the Swedish band eschews the dramatic musical flair of their contemporaries, they swing a very large hammer when it comes to set design.

We discussed this last year, but the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival remains the preeminent mobile showcase of alternative music of any type. It has been so successful in six years that it has not only overshadowed the Warp Tour, but has spawned a second, smaller circuit, the Uproar Festival. Mayhem Fest is one of those special times of year when all the major and minor metal labels, from Universal and Atlantic to Century Media, Metal Blade and Nuclear Blast and including Victory and Sumerian, join forces to show off their product and give the fans the best possible experience.