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Moshing, metal and Rockstar's Mayhem Fest: San Bernadino

Avenged Sevenfold
Avenged Sevenfold
Photo: Lauren Wilson

Until the middle of August, the Mayhem festival will be touring around the country, bringing some of the biggest names in metal to a single place for a day of hardcore, headbanging...well… mayhem. The first stop was the San Manuel Amphitheatre in San Bernadino, CA, where temperatures soared to near triple digits. The venue consisted of the main stage and 3 smaller stages set up in close proximity. Between these two locations were a slew of vendors, lined up with giveaways, raffles, and gear for purchase. Under a large tent, with the best view of the three stages, patrons could get free Rockstar Energy Drinks (The festival’s main sponsor) of varying flavours. In a gated off area, people got to enjoy watching motorcyclists launch through the air performing an array of dangerous, yet exciting stunts.

For this non metal head, much of the music wasn’t too distinct from the next band, however, it were the performances that made the day. While I was unable to see everyone (water and shade was a necessity) many of the artists I did catch were high energy, long haired and incredibly talented.

Veil of Maya was the first band I saw, and paved the way for what to expect throughout the day. Singer Brandon Butler bounced around the stage with a look of elation that made it seem that he would rather be no where else. After the set, Texas Hippie Coalition took to the neighboring stage. This quartet from Denison epitomize what the phrase “Everything is bigger in Texas,” whether it be vocalist’s “Big Dad Ritch’s” extra large stature or just the overall stage presence and command of attention these guys have.

One of my favorite performances came half way through the day with Upon a Burning Body. With most of the members donning their signature suits, they still managed a nonstop performance in the blistering heat. At the beginning of their set, singer Danny Leal dares members of the audience to come give him a high five, a challenge many of which were eager to accept. What happened next, excited and terrified me. A wave of people, much more than security could handle, crowd surfed to the front, avoiding photographers and guards at the rail in attempts to give Leal a high five. (I saw only one touch the hand of the singer).

As the day turned to evening, the crowd migrated to the main stage for the remaining 4 artists who top the festival’s bill. Trivium and Asking Alexandria were both first up. Both displayed incredible energy and used the stage to its maximum. Matt Heafy, when not bound by to the mic by singing would find his way from one side of the stage to the other. Asking Alexandria, had a bit more stage to work with, as there were two platforms each decorated with a large “A.” At this point, there were no real lights that the bands could work with, however, it didn’t at all matter as both pumped up the crowd for the rest of the night.

Maybe too much in fact.

After Asking Alexandria, as the stage was being set up for the next artist, a firework exploded out on the far lawn, in the middle of a crowd. From what I could gather, no one was hurt, but it did create a small fire that seem to burn into the night. No one seemed worried (despite being in a drought affected fire haven), in fact, it looks as if people were moshing around the billowing smoke pillar that lasted for what seemed like an eternity. Despite the flames, Korn took the stage. Legends in their own right, the Grammy Award winning band performed to a crowd of 27,000 screaming fans, through use of a brilliant light show head banging and iconic songs sung through the equally iconic H.R. Giger- designed microphone stand.

Lastly, the bill topping Avenged Sevenfold (A7X for short) opened the main stage curtains and pulled the audience into what I could only describe as “Hell: The Musical.” Large screens from the ceiling to the top of a staircase that descends to the main stage. The staircase and statues billow fire, making it the craziest production I had ever seen for a concert. The heat of the stage brought the already hot night to a boil and A7X performed through it as if it was a cake walk. The screens portrayed skeletons coming out onto the stage before switching to live feed of the band for those not fortunate enough to be close. Like other before, the band played the stage well, managing to get from one end to another without missing a beat, soloed together (with a humorous display of bunny ears by a fellow band mate) and interacted with the audience just enough to keep the connection alive.

The entire day was miserably hot and with music I didn’t know, but it was honestly an incredibly fun day with musicians and music lovers in an environment where they can just let loose. Rockstar and Mayhem Fest have both really outdone themselves, and I can’t wait to see how they will top it next year.

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