“It’s quite chaotic, hence the name, Mayhem. It’s three stages and they start at like two o’clock and there are motorcycles flying through the air and lots of people running around. People moshing in the brutal humidity.” Ray Luzier – Korn (Headliner Mayhem Festival 2010)
Those words were spoken to me by Ray Luzier from Korn just ahead of my arrival at Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival 2010, in Atlanta. But even his words couldn’t prepare me for what I was about to encounter.
Motorcycles flying through the air? Yes. Stunt bikes doing aerials, pits filled with moshers, divers and crowd surfers. Even a heat index over one hundred couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the hardcore metal fans at Mayhem Fest Atlanta on August 1st, 2010. It made me proud of my hometown.
Mayhem Fest is an all day event, with thirteen bands scheduled on three different stages. From 1:50PM until 6:20PM nine bands rotated between the Silver Star Stage and the Jagermeister Stage and at 6:30PM all activity moved to the Main Stage.
My interview schedule was with Korn first, since they were headlining. A pre-concert interview that we did a few days in advance of the show because we planned to cover the production and song writing on their latest album release, Korn III: Remember Who You Are; a long interview that needed a quiet space for focus. That interview is shortly forth-coming.
I followed up that interview on-site at Mayhem Fest with two more bands, Winds of Plague and In this Moment; live interviews held backstage, and very loud. I had Joshua Wood, an Atlanta metal musician and producer, there to share the interview questions.
The first band I interviewed on-site was Winds of Plague. I went to watch them perform beforehand. Winds of Plague is, hands-down, one of the greatest, deathcore, fest bands around for audience participation; when lead singer Jonny “Plague” Cooke called the metal fans to the pit, the ground actually shook in answer to his call. That call to arms echoed throughout Lakewood Amphitheater. In reaction the venue sent additional crowd control staff, strong guys in bright yellow shirts, flying across the blacktop and through the crowds to join the mob on the field of battle.
The crowd control event staff moved in, lining the stage as Cooke began whipping the crowd into a frenzy. But they weren’t there to protect the band, they were there to catch surfers. The crowd had gone crazy and the stage was on blacktop. Moshers, divers and surfers as far as the eye could see. Motorcycles flying through the air in an absolutely hardcore, thrash, death-metal, aerial ballet.
I watched those crowd control guys catch surfers with, literally, no more than an inch between their skulls and the parking lot pavement. I’m positive they saved many a life that day. I watched them snatch people out of a mid-air dive and flip them right side up before pushing them back out into the crowd for another go at it. I was so awed that my mouth hung open and my camera hovered right in front of my face. I never snapped a single shot. That’s a lesson I’ll keep in mind for my coming coverage of American Carnage in October. Get the shot, don’t stand there looking stupid.
I talked to Dave Lombardo from Slayer not long ago for an up-coming interview. I asked who his favorite band was to tour with or who he had the most fun touring with. “Marilyn Manson and Bullet For My Valentine. When we did the recent Mayhem Fest. It was 2009. We had a great time! It was fantastic!” I thought it created an odd musical picture at the time, but it was the most enthused I had ever heard him, so I knew he meant it. I can fully appreciate his enthusiasm now, having experienced it for myself.
After checking out as many of the nine bands rotating between those two stages as was physically possible, my cell phone rang and Mayhem Tour’s organizer called me to meet her so we could go over my interview schedule. Fighting our way through the crowd surges Josh and I headed across the venue to the press area for interviews. I had accepted interview invitations from Winds of Plague (basically for the same reason that I can’t resist scary movies) and In This Moment, because I was one of the many who had become addicted to their cover of Blondie’s “Call Me” on youtube. Also, they were the only metal band at Mayhem Fest featuring a female lead singer. Unfortunately, Lakewood’s event staffing proved themselves to be not up to the task of organizing, or even communicating well, so I missed In This Moment’s live performance.
I had stood helplessly at Will Call while runners ran tickets, photo and press passes from one entrance to another. I got to listen to them though. They sounded incredible, as did Norma Jean whom I also got to listen to from Will Call. I had agreed to meet Ray Luzier from Korn on the sidestage during Norma Jean’s set. During our interview he said that Norma Jean is one of his favorite bands from the tour and he wanted to make sure I got an interview with them. Which I didn’t. Sorry Ray. But you and I are definitely still on for our follow-up interview, Deconstructing Korn III: Remember Who You Are. Something to look forward to after Mayhem ends on August 14th.
Korn was meeting and greeting fans next to us as we settled in to talk, the sound of the ongoing concerts made for interesting interview audio. You can listen to that audio if you dare, but keep in mind that, even far from the shows and the crowd, Mayhem was under way. Five Finger Death Punch was inciting the crowd to furious levels as we talked, but what you hear is nothing compared to what followed as headliners Rob Zombie, and then Korn, took the Main Stage that night. It went from Mayhem to Insanity–even after the crowd got a thorough drenching from a sudden thunderstorm during Lamb of God’s Main Stage pre-headliner set.
A special thanks definitely goes out to whomever approved my photo passes and then ticketed me on the lawn for the on-coming monsoon. Because nothing says “Hey. I’m a hardcore, death metal fan.” like ruined camera equipment. But the downpour still didn’t dampen the spirit of Atlanta’s hardcore fans; an impromptu mosh pit opened on the lawn as Lamb of God drowned out the storm with a thunderous roar of their own.
I was left on my own to battle the elements when Josh, now finished with our interviews, took off for the pit with his band’s six-foot-something Viking drummer, Neil. And I do mean Viking–his family lineage traces right back to actual Vikings. He had the good grace to stand protectively behind me in the pits and hurl crowd surfers safely over my head.
But even the rain stops for Rob Zombie and Korn; a nearly Biblical, metal moment as the clouds parted for them to take the stage. I tried to move in for pictures when first Rob Zombie and then Korn took to the stage, throwing my photo and press passes ahead of me as I dodged my way from the lawn towards the pit — only to be failed again by Lakewood’s event staff who just shrugged and said “No more press through here.”
I wasn’t pleased, but I was soon lost in the show again. Rob Zombie hit the stage with the kind of veteran, heavy performance it takes to follow a band like Lamb of God. Guitarist John 5 finally gave the crowd what they had been screaming for throughout their performance; sending another perfectly good guitar to an early grave.
As the sun began to descend over Mayhem, Korn lit up the night with a brilliant light show and a dazzling display of pyrotechnics. They wrapped up the show, bringing everyone to their feet with a mix of hardcore fan favorites like “Freak on a Leash” and “Falling Away From Me”.
Korn’s latest video release “Oildale (Leave Me Alone)”
From Korn III: Remember Who You Are
I was lucky enough to salvage a few interview pictures.
From before the deluge.
Photo from left to right: Art Cruz (drums), Jonathon “Plague” Cooke (eardrum shattering lead vocals)
Interview: Winds of Plague: Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival 2010
Photo: Jeff Fabb (drums)
Interview: In This Moment: Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival 2010
A sincere thanks goes out to Mayhem Tour’s Laura Jean, who called my cell phone several times during the show to make sure I had everything I needed for my interviews. But for her diligence at taking care of press, the lack of coordination by the venue staff would have made this fest a nightmare.
Mayhem Fest Band Schedule
Atlanta, GA 8-1-10
Silver Star Stage
In This Moment 1:50-2:20
Norma Jean 2:40-3:10
Winds of Plague 3:40-4:10
3 Inches of Blood 4:40-5:10
Mobile Death Camp 2:20-2:40
Shadows Fall 3:10-3:40
Five Finger Death Punch 6:30-7:05
Lamb of God 7:25-8:05
Rob Zombie 8:30-9:30
Photos © Tricia Weight
Video courtesy of Roadrunner Records