Rockstar Energy Drink’s Mayhem Festival is one of the biggest touring summer music festivals. It hit Auburn, WA on July 3rd and was up and running by 1PM when gates were opened to attendees. The main stage housed Motörhead, Slayer, and Slipknot every night whileThe Devil Wears Prada, As I Lay Dying, and Anthrax were bands that took part in a rotating schedule playing the main stage as well.
As we entered the venue, not long after the gates were opened, we wandered around for a few minutes before stumbling upon a huge crowd. These fans were already locked and loaded to rock, despite it being the middle of the day. Whitechapel soon appeared onstage and launched into a half-hour set of pure energy. It was a pleasant surprise to see so many people energetically participating in mosh pits, crowd surfing, and fist pumping in unison even with it being a Wednesday afternoon. The crowd’s boisterous enthusiasm only continued to grow throughout the day with every band that played. Next up, As I Lay Dying was greeted by eager fans as well as a sudden downpour of rain, neither of which let up. Eventually the rain stopped towards the end of their set, but there was virtually no displacement in the way the crowd rocked out. Next on the bill was Asking Alexandria, followed by thrash metal legends Anthrax.
About halfway through Anthrax’s show, they asked how many of those in the crowd were seeing the band for the first time. In response, hundreds of hands shot into the air, that’s when I realized that most of the bands playing that stage were playing for primarily new listeners who have never heard them before. Most of those attending the festival were in support of the headlining main stage bands, but it was impressive to see them show up early and support new music in the name of metal.
Around 5PM the main stage area was opened to fans and those with general admission pit tickets ran into the area, for their chance to be on the barrier and closest to the stage. On this date, The Devil Wears Prada started off the main stage with an explosive set. Having seen The Devil Wears Prada play several times prior, in both club and festival settings, it was strange at first seeing them perform on such a huge stage. After about 30 seconds the “strange” feeling was gone and I was in awe at the way they so well commanded this massive amphitheater. People filtered into the theater area and it was clear that TDWP was definitely new to most of them. The band’s performance was flawless even though I could only imagine the nerves that they must have been battling, knowing that the bands playing after them were some of the hugest names in metal. It would be naive of me to say that the opening bands on this tour didn’t have something to prove, because they most definitely did. Each band that played smaller stages on the Mayhem Festival tour were literally pouring themselves out, giving 110% to these metal fans, fighting for their respect.
Overall, this sense of “entitlement” that often surfaces in festival settings, was not present in the least. There was no arrogant or cocky undertones coming from the stages, and that could be in part why the fans were so responsive. Give respect, get respect. At least that’s how it seemed to me. The theater population continued to grow as latecomers filled-in their seats. First to play of the headlining bands was Motörhead, warming up the crowd only as you’d expect from Lemmy Kilmister. Following a beyond impressive drum solo, the band welcomed a special guest guitarist to the stage; Duff McKagan, formerly of Guns N’ Roses. Duff was decked in rock star leather and aviator sunglasses as he accompanied Motörhead for a song. The fans ate it up and were loving every second of it.
The one and only metal band known as Slayer was up next and the fans were born ready for the show that was about to take place. Before they took the stage, a large white curtain was hoisted above the crowd, blocking the entire audience from seeing the stage. When the guitars finally roared over the speakers, the curtain dropped revealing the band….and of course, fire. Pyrotechnics were mixed in throughout the bands set, as flames exploded from 2 upside down crosses built from Marshall stacks that hung on each side of the stage. It was evident that Slayer fans were on the verge of losing their minds in paradise as the anthemic guitar solos and choruses filled the air. As the sun set over the venue, Slayer finished their set and left the crowd wanting more..more Slayer….but even more metal!
Heavy-hitter of the genre, Slipknot, has been in the game for over 17 years and has accumulated success, popularity, and even fame. This was the band that the majority of the crowd had come to see; the main event. Slipknot took the stage by storm in full costume and persona. The stage production was incredible with a changing backdrop, pyrotechnics, and a completely themed set up. Frontman Corey Taylor owned the stage to it’s maximum potential and had every person in the palm of his hand. Not a soul in the house was caught sitting down at any point during the entire set. If Corey asked fans to pump their fists, they violently fist pumped to no end. If Corey asked fans to scream, they roared. If Corey asked them to sing, they sang every word. I’m now certain that Slipknot has one of the most faithful fan bases in all of metal music. The band played 14 songs, including 2 encores, which featured material spanning their career.
Corey wasn’t the only one commanding the crowd though. The entire band fed off the energy and worked the stage from side-to-side, front-to-back, top-to-bottom….literally. There was a drum station on stage that was on a lift, enabling it to go up and down, as well as spin. Sid Wilson aka DJ Starscream, on a couple of different occasions, climbed onto the elevated drums and would hang off the side of it by one arm as the set rotated. Also, Sid dove off of the stage and into the crowd, resulting in an increase in volume from the cheering fans. Witnessing Slipknot’s performance was a little bit surreal for me. The power of the band was so tangible and the excitement was contagious. It was so evident that this band is a force to be reckoned with and is justly qualified to rule the metal genre, as so many people already deem true. So many bands on the Mayhem Festival would credit Slipknot and Slayer as to a huge reason they started playing guitar or listening to heavy metal music. These bands have helped shape the way rock music is defined and have connected with a large group of individuals that consider themselves fans. Mayhem was an experience to remember, not only in memory, but in the constant ringing in your ears that would ensue for days to come. Long live metal.
Words by Kasey Eldred.
Photos by Kimberly Lawson. More can be found on Flickr.