When the 2013 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival rolled through Mansfield, MA on July 16th, it was about 90 degrees out, humid, with no breeze and barely a cloud in the sky. A bright, sunny day doesn't exactly scream "metal" (although I suppose you could equate the heat to the fires of Hell). No matter how you put it, it was oppressively hot - but the climate didn't stop the bands nor the fans from giving their all.
"I don't know what goes on in the other states, but I know you like to fucking party!" exclaimed Mayhem Festival headliner and Massachusetts native Rob Zombie as the thousands of fans before him erupted into a sea of cheers. Despite the day's blistering heat and the surrounding pyro fire, Zombie and his band - guitarist John 5, bassist Piggy D and drummer Ginger Fish - never slowed down throughout the 70-minute set.
The song selection ranged from new material ("Teenage Nosferatu Pussy," "Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown") to old White Zombie hits ("More Human Than Human," "Thunder Kiss '65") and many fan favorites ("Living Dead Girl", "House of 1000 Corpses") in between. John 5 and Ginger Fish each had a solo to showcase their talents individually. The band also played their surprisingly-fitting rendition of Grand Funk Railroad's "We're an American Band," along with partial covers of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" and Alice Cooper's "School's Out."
Speaking of Cooper, the band's grand stage production is comparable to that of Zombie's longtime friend. Many songs incorporated various elaborate props, costumes and gimmicks to make each one exciting and unique - such as giant robots, big balloons, a light-up guitar and several large, varying platforms on which Zombie sang. The songs that didn't utilize props (and even some of those that did) showcased lots of pyrotechnics. It was undeniably entertaining.
Truth be told, I had never listened to Five Finger Death Punch prior to the Mayhem Festival. I'm not a fan, but their hard rock-meets-nu metal sound (think Stone Sour or Disturbed) is something I probably would have eaten up during my angst-ridden middle school years. That said, they put on a solid, hour-long show that included a cover of Bad Company's "Bad Company." Although nothing could compete with Zombie's setup, Five Finger Death Punch's stage included chrome gargoyles, skulls and smoke-breathing dragons.
Vocalist Ivan Moody told the crowd that his favorite part of the show is when he invites kids from the audience to come on stage. Four children who were probably around 10-12 years old had the best view in the house for "White Knuckles." Moody later introduced his daughter, whom he flew out for the show. With the help of the audience singing along, he dedicated the a capalla intro of "Far From Home" to her. The band then closed with "The Bleeding."
Mastodon barely said a word during their performance, instead spending nearly the entirety of their 45-minute set rocking out. They sounded great, with tight musicianship and rotating vocalists. Although many of the audience members seemed unfamiliar with their brand of progressive metal, it didn't stop them from headbanging along. They concluded with "The Sparrow," the colossal closing jam from their most recent offering, The Hunter.
If anyone came close to topping Rob Zombie's stage set up, it was Amon Amarth. The Swedish melodic death metallers brought the viking imagery of their lyrics to life with the bow of a ship, which also doubled as a platform, featuring a smoke-breathing dragon figurehead. The audience was also inspired by the set-up; at one point during the 35-minute set, several members of the crowd sat down in the pit and pantomimed rowing a boat.
Prior to the main stage kicking off, the parking lot hosted several other impressive acts. The Musicians Institute Stage was headlined by Finnish extreme metal group Children of Bodom. Surprisingly, they only played one song - the title track - from their new album, Halo of Blood, with the rest of the material being older favorites ("Hate Me," "Silent Night, Bodom Night," "Hate Crew Deathroll"). Vocalist/guitarist Alexi Laiho's musicianship was impressive, as always; he makes the sweeping, virtuosic solos seem effortless.
Machine Head headlined the Jagermeister Stage with another strong performance. The long-running metal group was recently the subject of some bogus controversy over using dummy amplifiers on stage, but the minor dispute certainly had no effect on their playing. The most memorable moment of their set was the huge wall of death they incited for "Struck a Nerve."
Although I wasn't a fan of the music, Butcher Babies put on an entertaining show. They're essentially a modern version of Kittie, fronted by former Playboy TV personalities Carla Harvey and Heidi Shepherd. (It's worth mentioning that their drummer, Chris Warner, used to be in Scars of Tomorrow.) The provocative ladies may have been seen as little more than eye candy to most of the crowd, but they know how to play to their audience.
Other highlights of the day included Job for a Cowboy, who have come a long way since being a MySpace deathcore band before proving themselves as a legitimate death metal act, and Motionless in White, whose fanbase seemed to have come out in droves just to see them. Also among the performers were Emmure, Born of Osiris, Battlecross, Huntress and more.
The sixth annual Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival was a great success. Although the line up wasn't quite as strong as that of last year, in my opinion, it still delivered an entire day of a diverse metal acts for an affordable price. If you're a fan of heavy music, you're bound to find something you enjoy.