Mayhem Festival At Gexa Energy Pavillion
By Jamie Harvey
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The Mayhem Festival has quickly become the daylong metal celebration that metalheads look forward to every summer. A combination of classic and new metal, Mayhem guarantees a loud, sweaty good time.
On July 10 I drove from Austin, Texas, to the Gexa Energy Pavilion in Dallas for the occasion. The closer I got, the higher the temperature climbed. As we stepped onto the pavement where the second stage bands would play you could almost hear it sizzle as the Texas heat was upward of 100 degrees with high humidity due to impending thunderstorms.
After British screamo band Asking Alexandria wrapped up their set, the first of the night's representatives of metal's "Big Four" began their headlining slot. Somehow (and I have no idea how this happened) this was my first time seeing Anthrax. Watching them literally burst onstage screaming one of metal's better anthems, 1987's "Caught In A Mosh," was one of those intense music moments I will not soon forget. Anthrax may have represented one of the classic bands that night, but at the end of the day they best exemplified what we were all there for: a good time. With lead vocalist Joey Belladonna back at the helm, the band's crowd engagement was magnificent. "Fight 'Em 'Til You Can't" and "I Am The Law" united us against everyone who wasn't there. While the day may have started out rough for me, I was pumped after Anthrax's set, especially when, before walking offstage, Belladonna screamed, "Free Randy Blythe!" — riling up awareness of the current situation in Prague where GRAMMY-nominated Lamb Of God vocalist Randy Blythe is being held in custody by authorities regarding the highly controversial death of a fan at a concert in 2010.
"We're Motörhead, and we're a rock and roll band." Onto the main stage came Motörhead's legendary Lemmy Kilmister. The threesome that has been producing eardrum-rattling rebel music since 1975 played their best set I've ever seen. I love seeing what guitarist Phil Campbell has placed on his amps — on this day there was a selection of random action figures. As the band worked through classics such as "Bomber," "Over The Top," "Killed By Death," and, of course, "Ace Of Spades," I spotted a rather somber crowd of young kids who likely had no idea who Motörhead were. Well, that day they got their lesson. By the end of the band’s set the kids had been schooled on the unclassifiable yet influential style and sound of Motörhead.
The move from Motörhead to Slayer (the other "Big Four" band) was an interesting transition, but one I had been pining for all week. Just before Slayer's set began, the sky burst open and for a few minutes it was "Raining Blood." The rain stopped just in time for the curtain to drop and between the thuds and thumps of guitarists Kerry King and Gary Holt (who is filling in for the ailing Jeff Hanneman) and drummer Dave Lombardo, and sounds of some residual thunder, frontman Tom Araya emerged screaming, "God hates us all!" This was my seventh Slayer show and also my absolute favorite. The band was on fire, the stage was literally on fire and upside down crosses made of Marshall amps were adorned with pyrotechnics. There's something surreal about being drenched in sweat with nearly 6,000 strangers screaming along to "Mandatory Suicide" (my favorite Slayer song) in 100 degree weather as a stage full of fire blazes before you. "Falling down, can you feel the heat burn?" they sang. Sometimes you have to feel closer to death to feel more alive. I howled along with Araya at the beginning of "Angel Of Death." I can only describe my experience as a Slayer exorcism, and I felt better for it at the end.
Slipknot's show will entertain even a casual observer. Their set was a sensory overload. Even with two members down — bassist Paul Gray, who died in 2010, and guitarist Jim Root, who had to stay home due to a burst appendix — there was so much happening onstage. My fear of clowns aside, I wanted to ride on the drum kit that popped up and down and spun around. Everything other bands do, Slipknot does bigger, evidenced by a lineup that included two DJs and three percussionists, with drummer Joey Jordison putting on a show of his own as his entire kit levitated and spun around at the end of the show. Perhaps it is the jumpsuits and masks, but some of the band members were brave enough to come out into the crowd, which ultimately caused chaos.
As the beautiful voice of Corey Taylor rose above the music in the final song of the night, "Duality," I left the pavilion drained but for a moment entertained the idea of driving to Houston to see it all again the next day.
"Caught In A Mosh"
"Got The Time"
"Fight 'Em Til You Can't"
"I Am The Law"
"I Know How To Die"
"Over The Top"
"The Chase Is Better Than The Catch"
"The One To Sing The Blues"
"Going To Brazil"
"Killed By Death"
"Ace Of Spades"
"Die By The Sword"
"Altar Of Sacrifice"
"Seasons In The Abyss"
"Dead Skin Mask"
"Angel Of Death"
"South Of Heaven"
"Wait And Bleed"
"Before I Forget"
"The Heretic Anthem"
"Spit It Out"
"People = S***"
(Jamie Harvey splits her time between California and Texas, and is the rock community blogger for GRAMMY.com. She has been to more than 500 shows since 2007. You can follow her musical adventures and concert recaps at www.hardrockchick.com.)