There’s been an unwritten code concert promoters have followed for years – decades really – that goes something like this. If your show isn’t selling very well, don’t air your complaints in public. And whatever you do, don’t start pointing fingers.
That lesson was apparently lost on one of the promoters of the Mayhem Festival before the event had ever reached Aaron’s Amphitheater in Atlanta. For some unexplained reason, co-founder Kevin Lyman decided to unleash his own ‘mayhem’ when questioned by a reporter about the event’s poor attendance in cities across the country. Big mistake!
Instead of owning up to the errors and offering possible future solutions, Lyman decided to play the blame game with a roundhouse left that fell pathetically short. He later tried to walk back his ‘heat of the moment’ comments, but the damage was done. I don’t care how good your public relations firm is – and Mayhem had one of the nation’s best in Adrenaline P.R. – not even they could undo the damage the festival co-founder’s momentary lapse of reason had unleashed.
The Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival is a heavy metal gathering meant to expose the up and coming hard rock acts; expose thrashers on the verge of breaking out and reintroduce yesterday’s classic hard rock bands to a new generation of head bangers. Unfortunately, the 8th Edition of this traveling metal show fell woefully short in every department. The general public reacted in kind by staying away in droves.
In the past, Mayhem had become one of the more entertaining summer destination tours to hit the road. When it came to people watching, this tour couldn’t be beat. You would show up early just to marvel at the spectacle of humanity on parade throughout the day. Unfortunately at Aaron’s Amphitheatre, there just wasn’t’ that much to gawk at.
I’m not here to rag on this festival, but since the door was opened by the promoter himself, I might as well step in. First off, the talent level needed to pull off a ten-hour festival wasn’t there. The turnout in Lakewood was so underwhelming, the lawn was actually shut down. The G.A. tickets were given access to the reserved seat sections, including the pit up front, that caused further confusion and yes, mayhem. At least no one would complain they couldn’t see Grandma make her cameo.
This year’s event had devolved from three side stages to one. The key attractions to this stage were death core pioneers Whitechapel and Thy Art is Murder. Sister Sin and Jungle Rot would also briefly appear for 20 minutes due to time restraints. All told, another five acts – Kissing Candice, Code Orange, Feed Her to the Sharks, Shattered Sun and Sworn In – would toil throughout the hot afternoon before the main stage opened.
The Devil Wears Prada kicked off events on the main stage. This metal core band from Dayton, Ohio delivered a serious nine-song set before leaving the stage to enthusiastic applause. They were followed by the veteran rock group Hellyeah that also put on a blistering ten-song display. When Hellyeah played the final notes to their hit single, “You Wouldn’t Know,” and walked off stage, the packed-like-sardines folks up front gave the band a rousing ovation.
From the moment the lights went down, it was evident this crowd was ready for King Diamond. He didn’t disappoint. The King took the audience on an uplifting journey through his vaunted past and even managed to play a couple of Mercyful Fate gems to remind them of his former life. Mid-set, Slayer guitarist Kerry King walked out on stage to jam on the Mercyful Fate classic, “Evil”. He then bid the excited crowd adieu and the band immediately launched into another epic Fate song, “Come to the Sabbath.”
If you weren’t fully converted into the King Diamond camp before that song, you certainly were afterwards. The band finished its set with a flurry that included “The Family Ghost”, “The 7th Day of July 1777” and “Black Horsemen”. The King walked off with the audience wanting more. They got Slayer instead.
One of the most consistently solid bands over the past 30 years, Slayer did not disappoint the diehard metal heads that had come to pay their respects. Kerry King and company kicked off the proceedings with the title cut from their much anticipated new studio album in six years, Repentless, which will be released in September. Two other songs from the band’s first recording since the death of guitarist Jeff Hanneman – “Implode” and “When Stillness Comes”, also made their way on stage.
Slayer’s 16-song set list literally spanned two centuries. The first eight songs (with the exception of “Mandatory Suicide”), were recorded on albums released this millennium. Then Slayer reached back in time to their brilliant four-album stretch of the 1980’s to perform songs that transformed them into metal gods. By the time King, Tom Araya, Paul Bostaph and guitarist Gary Holt finished the encore, “Angel of Death”, this audience was worn out mentally and literally numb physically.
This performance was highlighted by one of the biggest stage performances Slayer has put on in years, maybe even decades. Relentless bursts of flame, burning upside down crosses and an enormous LED screen as a backdrop helped highlight the various songs with graphic images and thought provoking visuals. It was typical Slayer ratcheted up a few notches. The Mayhem Festival may have ended with a whimper, but Slayer made sure they went out with a bang. Come on baby light my fire!
– Chris Eason
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