Live: Mayhem Festival at Cruzan Amphitheatre, August 15
Cruzan Amphitheatre, West Palm Beach
Sunday, August 14, 2011
For a slide show from the event, click here.
Better than: Something sponsored by Snapple.
Upon arrival, the first noticeable characteristic of the crowd at this year's Rockstar Mayhem Festival was not necessarily the mall-goth style of clothing that most wore or the excess of body piercings (which had more nipple piercings than previously anticipated) but the sweat. Passing through the parking lot in the early afternoon of Sunday, people huddled around cars with stereos cranked to their favorite anthems of metal. They sat on tailgates of pickup trucks and drank beers. Some had grills and barbecued hamburgers and hot dogs, reminiscent of a ball game rather than a metal festival. Each T-shirt was already soaked with perspiration. It was brutally hot, and the first half of the day was sequestered to the paved section of the lot, where the side-stage bands were slated to play.
Under the sun and with hot concrete baking beneath their feet, concertgoers threw modesty to the wind and went shirtless, displaying chubby tummies and bony hips alike without batting an eyelash. And who could blame them? Ungodly temperatures and jostling crowds made for an atmosphere not unlike a food drop in sub-Saharan Africa. They hungered for moody, angsty metal, and they got the lion's share.
Those who did keep their shirts on wore what was expected of a gathering like this one: T-shirts of other bands of the genre, T-shirts with misanthropic slogans, and so on. One large portion, however, displayed that they had never seen the '90s college comedy PCU, embracing the role of that guy by wearing shirts of bands slated to play later in the day. Standing in the sun, conversations could not help but be overheard, vivacious ones about drugs, alcohol, and music through a sheen of drugs, alcohol, and loud music. The entire experience resembled a scene from heavy metal parking lot but as grim caricature from the year 2011.
It might have been the excess of caffeine from consumption of promotional cans of Rockstar energy drink as showgoers readily imbibed whichever kind of free cold liquid was available, but they were an emphatic bunch. They surged between the two stages, pushing, shoving, and breaking into full sprints so as to catch every second of each band's set.
As mentioned, Portland's Red Fang were newcomers to the tour. From the looks of the crowd, it became clear that most had not heard them before, but were willing to give them a try. They stood and watched pensively, testing the waters for a few songs before breaking out into horn-thrusting fistpumps. Red Fang played music that differed greatly from what the crowd had perhaps expected, but it was refreshing to see the crowd embrace it in the way it did. As Red Fang played "Wires," a full pit activation occurred. They shoved and bounced, catching handfuls of sweaty man-boob regularly as they clashed with one another. Red Fang was grateful for the positive response, visibly pleased as showgoers rhythmically clapped during their extended guitar solos. They expressed their gratitude vocally between songs and were rewarded with a final jovial circle pit as they closed their set.
As the day went on, a break from the sun was provided by ominous black clouds that formed above Cruzan Amphitheater. As Massachusetts metalers Unearth began, a thin sheen of rain began to fall. It was a gift for the beleaguered attendees, accepting it as if it were manna from heaven. As the adage goes, all good things must come to an end, and they did. Further adding to the metallic atmosphere, bolts of lightning cracked the skies. Thunder clapped loudly, and people rushed to whatever cover could be found. They huddled under tree-capped medians and under the various product tents that lined the side stage area, which was absolutely, effervescently, insanely stupid. Each tent was sequestered off by thick metal barricades. The tents themselves hung on metal frames. Everything present was made of metal and stuffed full of wires and electronics. Some walked casually through the sheets of rain, not bothered at all by it. Others (like myself) darted out of the lightning-rods-in-waiting and went for the cover of the amphitheater's awning.
The show went on, unfettered by the ugly turn of weather. As the main stage productions were under way, attendees finally caught a break. Just as Floridian locals Trivium began, the rain ceased. The crowds dispersed from cover and took to the lawn, throwing more horns than a goat farm.
The first appearance of festival mastermind John L. Reese was made as he played hype man to Megadeth. He stoked the enthusiasm of the crowd with a speech about the history of the festival. Even after all that had transpired in the day -- insufferable heat, rain, lightning, and the cancellation of a highly anticipated appearance by In Flames -- the crowd remained in high spirits, perhaps relating to Megadeth guitarist Dave Mustaine, who went on to play a full set despite a previous injury.
The rest of the concert went on without any hiccups. Festivalgoers shouted and bounced along to the rest of the headliners all through the night. As they filed out into the parking lot, it became apparent that this year's festival had been, to them, a great success and that a great time had been had by all, looking forward for what is in store for next year's Mayhem Festival.
The crowd: Mainly composed of teenaged kids and 20-somethings, it proved to be more diverse than anticipated. Clusters of gray-haired heavy-metal lifers filed through the stands nonchalantly, feeling right at home.
Best of overheard banter: From the cover of the Jägermeister tent, a confused-looking attendee looked out at passers-by in search of heavy-metal hotties, saying, "Hot girls exist in metal. I swear to God." As he finished his sentence, a young woman with an enlarged posterior walked by, which prompted a group of young men to shout, "Look at that ass! You could bake a pizza on that thing!"
Tattoo of the day: As most went shirtless in the afternoon, one could not help but notice the abundance of faded, barely distinguishable tattoos that coated the torsos of the concert attendees. The best of the bunch belonged to a sunburned man with a full backpiece depicting the cover of Iron Maiden's "Killers." Fuck yes!
Follow County Grind on Facebook and Twitter: @CountyGrind.