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Rockstar Mayhem Festival reigns in the rain at Bristow

M. Shadows and Synyster Gates pose together during Avenged Sevenfold's set.
M. Shadows and Synyster Gates pose together during Avenged Sevenfold's set.
Lizzy Davis Photography

Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival has come to be one of summer's most anticipated annual festival tours, and as it blew through Bristow, Virginia, this past Sunday, we were reminded once again of why it's such a standout show.

M. Shadows during Avenged Sevenfold's set at  Rockstar Mayhem Festival.
M. Shadows during Avenged Sevenfold's set at Rockstar Mayhem Festival.
Lizzy Davis Photography

The doors at Jiffy Lube Live opened at 1:00 P.M. and while the temperature was slightly hot, the sun was shining and it looked like it was going to be a perfect day. The crowd slowly filtered in and dispersed themselves in front of a three stage set up. A local winner of Mayhem's sponsor Headbang For The Highway battle opened up on the Sumerian Stage while Montreal native death metal band Erimha kicked off the Victory Records Stage. Erimha seemed to grab more onlookers, as they were covered in white makeup with black battle scars painted on. A stage sponsored by Coldcock American Herbal Whiskey was positioned between the two side stages, which allowed the crowd to easily move between stages and catch every band they wanted to see.

King 810 opened up the Coldcock stage with a rather mystifying stage presence. The opening of their set featured various masked people wielding guns positioned across the stage. A couple songs later, a person covered entirely in black body paint came out wearing a white bandanna with eyes printed on it. Amid the random appearances, the stage was so loaded with fog through their set, that the singer was barely visible at times.

The crowd split back up again, half feeding their attention to the eye-catching orange drums and microphone used during Islander's set and the other half headbanging with Upon A Burning Body. Everyone converged again at the Coldcock stage for Texas Hippie Coalition. Vocalist "Big Dad Ritch" was a highlight of entertainment and gave everyone a taste of their patented "Red Dirt Metal" sound.

One of North Carolina's own bands, Wretched, and Chicago natives Veil of Maya powered through their side stage sets... and then there was no way to avoid focusing on the stage filled with Mushroomhead's wildly masked members. Even if their mesh of alternative, metal and electro music hadn't been captivating, they put on one hell of a stage presence. Two large, clear drum sets loaded with water sat at the front of each side of the stage. Water sprayed every which way; a refreshing temporary relief from the mid-day sun beating down. Topping their set off, they sent a large blow up whale into the audience and went crowd-surfing on it.

The Victory Records stage closed out with Ill Nino and headlined Emmure right around 4:30. Meanwhile, Darkest Hour and Body Count (featuring the one and only "Ice Mother F---ing T, B-tch!") were the last to play on the Sumerian stage. Suicide Silence and Cannibal Corpse headlined the Coldcock stage, and were arguably the hardest two metal bands on the entire tour lineup. Crowd-surfing and headbanging galore went on and a mosh pit spawned in the crowd and spanned out over the entire area in front of all three stages.

At 6:30, everyone migrated over to the main stage for Trivium. In the past year, they've played the main stage at a number of the larger festivals, including Carolina Rebellion and Rock on the Range, and they seem to just get better and better every time. Matt Heafy is a guitar and vocal powerhouse and his expressions make him fun to watch. When English band Asking Alexandria's vocalist Danny Worsnop took stage, unfamiliar crowd members probably wouldn't have expected quite the surge of metal they received from someone wearing a long-sleeved white coat and scarf. Needless to say, Asking Alexandria followed Trivium up with an equally energetic set.

The day was quickly coming to an end, as Korn took stage at 8:15 and put on one of the most stand out performances of the day. Though the band added a twist of dubstep to their music in recent years, they did a great job balancing out the newer style with older and harder classics. Korn has one of the most easily recognizable sounds in today's mainstream rock and metal music, and with vocalist Jonathan Davis breaking out a set of bagpipes for the intro of "Shoots & Ladders," how could they not? Jonathan's vocal effects ("Boom na da mm dum na ema...") during "Freak on a Leash" are also impressive to hear live, seeing as they're spot on with the record version of the song. Guitarists James "Munky" Shaffer and Brian "Head" Welch aren't to be missed either, rocking out with dreadlocks flailing everywhere. Bassist Reginald "Fieldy" Arvizu sported exotic neon feather extensions in his hair, but remained largely positioned in the back next to Ray Luzier, who energetically pounded away at his impressively large and moderately creepy drum set.

Korn added a memorable close to their set when Jonathan's and Fieldy's sons joined the band on stage. They had just as much energy as the rest of the members, jumping around and headbanging in all their glory while singing along to "Blind." Once the song concluded and everyone vanished backstage, the audience noticeably dispersed - whether it was to go grab refreshments, because the band they were there for was over, or to escape the storm that was quickly rolling in could be debated.

As usual for Avenged Sevenfold (A7X), the stage was concealed by a black curtain as they set up. Cheers erupted throughout the pavilion from obviously stoked fans when the lights dimmed and AC/DC's "Back in Black" signified the oncoming onslaught. The curtain dropped to reveal Arin Illjay and his giant drum kit against a massive skeleton. Guitarist Zacky Vengeance and bassist Johnny Christ sauntered on stage as the dungeon-esque backdrop laced with flames moved in sync to the opening of "Shepherd of Fire." Guitarist Synyster Gates was a crowd favorite from the moment he stepped on stage, thanks to his unrivaled skill and entertaining expressions.

M. Shadows flawlessly ripped through the vocals of "Nightmare," "Bat Country," and "Hail to the King." At every Avenged Sevenfold show, the band always pays their respect to former and founding drummer Jimmy "The Rev" Sullivan. Tonight was no exception, and before Shadows even mentioned The Rev's name, lighters and cell phones were up in the air. As "So Far Away" was played in dedication, it began raining so hard that you could feel and see it under the cover of the pavilion. When the song ended, Shadows mentioned that The Rev must've come to join. "This Means War" was played as a strong set closer, but after an unstoppable applause, Shadows reappeared and thanked everyone for staying to rock out in the rain. A7X went on to perform "A Little Piece of Heaven" and "Unholy Confessions" as a worthy encore.

After making over 25 stops around the country, Rockstar Mayhem Festival will come to a close tomorrow in Texas.