The ROCKSTAR ENERGY DRINK MAYHEM FESTIVAL held the title for being the heaviest summer festival in North America for eight years, having dozens of bands performing at different stages, hosting more than 200 shows and establishing itself as the most anticipated musical event of every summer. Since its inception, the MAYHEM FEST was known for carrying the torch of its predecessor in metal festivals until August 2015 in Dallas, TX. Sadly, this festival has now come to a definitive end after being involved in much controversy from different parties.
With its conclusion,the MAYHEM FEST is leaving an open path for a successor that will have the responsibility of giving upcoming young and talented bands a shot to play for dozens of people to thousands, to set the stage where the future artists from our most beloved musical genre will be known by the world and change metal history forever.
I remember walking through the gates of the San Manuel Amphitheater back in 2008 at San Bernardino, CA to witness the birth of this monstrous festival, and I feel honored to have witnessed its conclusion in my new home, along with very special friends and a very special event. I’ve been building memories over and over every year with festivals like this, and I trust that the next big touring monster will have the strength to give us one day on our calendars where we can get together and have a hell of a time.
Before I start sharing the incredible performances I witnessed during the last day of the MAYHEM FEST, I must say that I had complete faith in this year’s lineup, even though many people didn’t seem to support them.
I must admit I was a bit skeptical at first, but after taking a short breath and listening to the artists from that lineup again, I knew that the diversity of bands would bring me exactly what I needed to mark this year’s show as a memorable one.
One very important aspect that I kept in mind for the entire day was to stick to “the lesser of evils”. When I arrived to the venue, I instantly noticed that the space allotted to the second stage was much smaller than other years, taking away the room to move freely around the Gexa Energy Pavilion. But, I realized that this was also an advantage to get in line for meet and greets and to check out merch while listening and seeing the opening acts play.
The very first band I could see was SHATTERED SUN, who were basically playing their hometown show, and gave every single drop of sweat that they had during their set. The interesting fact about this band is that they’re promoting their debut album Hope Within Hatred (Victory Records), which has killer tracks along the way. I must give props to the band’s members for achieving what not many bands can do: start the year touring along thrash metal legends TESTAMENT and EXODUS, quickly announce a following tour with the legendary SOULFLY and Helsingborg’s very own SOILWORK, and conclude their schedule with the opening spot of the biggest touring festival in North America. I give my recognition to SHATTERED SUN’s members, and definitely recommend the band if you like other groups like UNEARTH and GOD FORBID.
Continuing the very hot afternoon, SWORN IN was the performance that I was not particularly interested in checking out, but willing to give it a shot. After all, I had to make my ticket worth every penny.
SWORN IN plays music that I have been a lot of trouble in identifying with, but I must admit their live show was OK to continue the madness and to keep things going on for the bigger bands. I actually had the opportunity of meeting two bands during their set, and didn’t miss a thing. The lesser of evils.
After this point, everything that I was looking for was about to happen. I first knew about SISTER SIN when a random guy handed me one of Victory Records’ summer samplers back at another show. I really recommend these albums because there’s always at least one band that will blow your brains out, and guess what band I got into after listening to that one. SISTER SIN is the kind of rock that will make you rise to confront that person that doesn’t let you live the way you want to live for your own good.
Their latest album Black Lotus (Victory Records) is out now, and it contains one of my favorite tracks “Chaos Royale”. I definitely recommend this band to check out every single time that you can, considering the fact that Liv Jagrell takes my breath away every single time with her gorgeous body language.
At this moment, the crowd was absolutely ready for brutality. This year’s festival couldn’t miss its killer dose of death metal, and JUNGLE ROT are truly one band that can kick everyone’s ass when they perform live. The huge circle pits broke out right after the first riff and everything was pure violence after that. At that point, I could tell that the people didn’t care about how tight the venue was set up because they found a way to open up some space to behave like wild animals for 25 minutes.
JUNGLE ROT promoted their most recent album Order Shall Prevail (Victory Records), which contains my personal favorite “Doomsday”. Luckily I was able to catch my breath in time for the next act.
After an exhausting session of human dynamics, the action wasn’t done just yet. Directly from Australia, THY ART IS MURDER was about to take the stage to melt faces with deathcore acid. This is another band that I was highly excited to see, and especially since the release of their controversial album Holy War (Nuclear Blast Records). This band is becoming one of my favorites in the deathcore genre, mostly because their music can reach to the point in which some little kids and brats can run away fearing for their lives.
The highlight of the afternoon was definitely when vocalist Chris “CJ” McMahon explained what we already knew: it was a freakin’ hot day, but a few crew members didn’t let it stop them from getting 150 water balloons ready and throwing them at the crowd while doing a huge circle pit around the sound tent. I had a couple of balloons hit me right in the face, but that was refreshing as hell… they need to come up with something even better next time I see them live. Awesome set.
Now it was time for the moment that every single MAYHEM FEST has my recognition for: the side stage headliner. This year, we had the pleasure of listening to WHITECHAPEL. The Tennessee deathcore group is one of the bands that have strengthened their career and music through this iconic festival, and that has happened because they’ve earned it.
It was very special to me to see them headlining at last since I remember back in 2009 when I thought they were “pretty cool.” Then in 2012 I had my face knocked out during their set. I absolutely loved their music this year, and can tell pretty much that the vast majority of the attendees of the festival had a blast during their 40-minute performance, in which they included songs from their latest album Our Endless War and their self-titled Whitechapel (Metal Blade Records). A wall of death happened as usual, and no casualties were reported, only horns up high in the sky.
After the side stage was done, it was time to continue the headbanging over at the main stage. THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA was doing their second round on MAYHEM FEST, and they performed the best opening set that I’ve seen yet.
THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA played with unbeatable energy during 35 minutes, picking songs from their first to latest albums. They ended their Zombie 5 Tour earlier in the year and currently have another EP in the making Space (Rise Records). I was definitely impressed by the incredible passion that all the members of the band put through each song and I have to admit that THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA doesn’t play my favorite metal genre, but I do accept that I can’t miss any of their tours from now on, as they kick ass when it comes to live shows.
I had to take a break and cool off before the second to last band started playing. Before the MAYHEM FEST started, I heard MANY times that KING DIAMOND really gives a lot to talk about, with all the legacy that him and his previous band MERCYFUL FATE have been carrying,
I tried to find the best spot to enjoy the entire performance. I loved the presentation, the environment is full of such suspense that people just want to keep it going until centuries pass and all of us become part of the King’s victims. The show was spectacular coming from someone who had never seen KING DIAMOND before. Legendary and honorable.
Finally, I don’t have enough words to describe what an essential metal band is all about. I’ve seen SLAYER five times now, and even if they’ve played the same songs over and over pretty much, they are not really a band that anybody wants to skip. After a kickass afternoon full of excitement, a glorious 14-song set was well deserved for all the fans that decided to spend their money to have fun and to enjoy some good music, regardless of the situation.
Among SLAYER’s classic hits like “Angel of Death” (my personal favorite), “Raining Blood”, “South of Heaven”, “Hell Awaits”, “Dead Skin Mask” and “War Ensemble”, other songs from their highly anticipated release Repentless (Nuclear Blast) like “When the Stillness Comes” and “Implode” didn’t stop the people from going absolutely crazy. Other songs that the legendary quartet introduced in their set to complete the puzzle were “Hate Worldwide”, “Jihad”, “Disciple” and “God Send Death”. If you’ve been a die-hard SLAYER fan even for one year, you only need to take a look at the setlist to make your own conclusions, and add some fire right in your face while you listen to these songs. This was the best conclusion for one of the best ongoing tours that I’ve ever seen and lived.
I want to thank everyone that made the MAYHEM FEST happen, for giving us unique shows to enjoy every year. I want to thank A&GS for giving me this space to write this wonderful experience, and I want to thank all the people that I bumped into at this year’s festival: Zane, David and all my new and not so new friends for sharing this experience with me. See you down the road.
LIVE WORDS: THE ALCALDE
LIVE PHOTOS: RYAN JAVIER PHOTOGRAPHY/AJ MIRAGLIOTTA PHOTOGRAPHY