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Rockstar Mayhem Festival, Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion, 7/6/12

Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead. See more photos in our Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival slideshow.
Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead. See more photos in our Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival slideshow.
Melanie Mathieu

Motörhead, Slayer, Slipknot, and more Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion Friday, July 6

See also: Why Isn't Corey Taylor of Slipknot Listening to Metal? See also: What Mayhem Band Has the Craziest Fans (According to Tom Araya of Slayer)? See also: Motorhead, Slipknot, Anthrax, and Slayer Unite for Mayhem Fest See also: Anthrax's Scott Ian Discusses "Ramones-Style" Sets at Mayhem See also: The full Mayhem Fest Slideshow Lemmy Kilmister isn't supposed to exist during waking hours.

Call it a rock 'n' roll fantasy, but I've always imagined Motörhead, fronted by the 66-year-old, perma-sore-throated Kilmister, to be the sort of band that just wouldn't work with the midday sun beaming overhead.

Phil Campbell of Motörhead
Phil Campbell of Motörhead
Melanie Mathieu

But that's just the deal with the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival: Like it or not, someone is going to have to play during the day. For the most part, it meant that the (relatively) newer kids on the block, like Asking Alexandria, As I Lay Dying, Whitechapel, and The Devil Wears Prada (ironic that at the metal fest, the only band with "devil" in its name is, you know, a Christian band) had to play afternoon sets, but it also meant that a few legends, like Anthrax and Motörhead, took the stage fully illuminated by the sun.

Once the "woah, that's Lemmy" feeling wore off, it was down to business. The power trio plowed through tunes like "I Know How to Die," from their newest record, The World Is Yours, and the recent selections felt as powerful as tracks from their classic records, like "Over the Top," "Bomber," "Stay Clean," and "Ace of Spades."

"Fuckin' warm, innit?" Kilmister declared, and the crowd cheered half-heartedly. Not because they didn't agree, but because it was kind of difficult to understand the guy.

Drummer Mikkey Dee rolled out a drum solo during "The One to Sing the Blues" and while his dexterity was certainly demonstrated (Kilmister referred to him as "the best drummer in the world"), drum solos are the sort of thing it's hard to stay excited about. I found myself wishing there were a few more songs crammed in (how about "Leaving Here," the debut Stiff single?) instead of a thunder-bucket show and tell.

The no-bullshit footing was quickly regained with "Going to Brazil," the most decidedly rock 'n' roll moment of evening, with Campbell busting out Chuck Berry-on-speed riffs and Lemmy clearly enjoying the rockabilly boogie.

The band closed out with "Overkill" just as the sun was starting to set. I'm not going to complain about getting to see Motörhead -- ever -- but I'm hoping that next time the indestructible Lemmy and Co. go on sometime around midnight, when I've had too many beers and there isn't some dude bellowing "Slipknot!" behind me.

 

Slayer's Tom Araya
Slayer's Tom Araya
Melanie Mathieu

Thankfully, it was dark in time for Slayer. The long-running thrash metal kings took the stage, backed up with pyrotechnics and walls of Marshall speaker cabinets (classic cross pattern, thank you very much).

Slayer's Kerry King
Slayer's Kerry King
Melanie Mathieu

Opening with "God Hates Us All," it was an hour-long barrage, with Exodus guitarist Gary Holt (filling in for the spider-bite-addled Jeff Hanneman) and Kerry King dive-bombed and shredded melodic and dizzying solos; Araya screamed and plodded the bass, alternating between a pick and his fingers (also, he sounds so sweet in between songs, but morphs into a terrifying force at the mic); and drummer Dave Lombardo was unrelenting, stomping at two bass drums and crashing cymbals.

"We just celebrated the Fourth of July," Araya grinned. "I hope you enjoyed celebrating the freedoms you enjoy."

"Mandatory Suicide," from the band's 1988 classic South of Heaven stormed with the intensity that defines the band, which the melodic, knotty "Angel of Death" and "Raining Blood" showed off the band's technical skill and accuracy.

It's not just that Holt and King are fast; they are, impossibly so, but that the band maintains an aggressive propulsion that keeps things exciting and forceful. I've seen guys shred and been bored as hell, but there's something about the way Slayer does it -- the histrionics actually advance the lyrical themes and the songs -- that makes it thrilling.

"Thank you, until we meet again," Araya smiled, as the pyrotechnics dimmed and the crowd roared.

 

Slipknot
Slipknot
Melanie Mathieu

The chief contrast of Mayhem Festival was played out in the men's restroom following Slayer's set:

Two lines of men stood at the urinals, and on one end of the line a gentleman shouted "Slayer!"

A guy on the opposite side, next to me, shouted "Slipknot!"

Then the other dude responded. "Slayer." He said it with considerable resolve.

My neighbor lowered his voice. "Fuck Slayer. Slipknot."

Yes, a literal pissing contest. I've always considered Slipknot to be gimmicky, and their live set hardly dissuaded me. Masked and in red jumpsuits, the band's stage setup has as much in common with a post-apocalyptic B-movie as it does a rock show, but that's part of the appeal.

It's a gimmick that has worked very,very well for the band. Though a good chunk of older metalheads evacuated following Slayer's triumphant set, Slipknot's fans were vocal and stoked to see the band.

"Put your motherfucking hands in the air," commanded vocalist Corey Taylor, and the crowd responded in kind. The band plowed through its set, blending theatrics with downtuned nu-metal and glitchy blasts of electronica. It was resolutely not my thing, but the crowd was loving it, especially those who brought their own Slipknot-style masks.

Taylor stood at attention on the stage, soaking up the applause. I took it as my cue to head to the parking lot. If you would have asked me a decade ago if Slipknot would still be around in 2012, I would have laughed. I would have been wrong, and that's the primary appeal of metal music: It's for the outsiders, and it doesn't give a damn about those who don't understand.

Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival The Crowd: Tribal tats, all-black-everything. Critical Bias: I'm listening to a lot of Dead bootlegs these days, so Slipknot just sorta makes me wanna listen to "Slipknot." Overheard: "I was in the pit for Slayer. There were a lot of girls around me." I Wonder How Many Calories Kerry King Burns During a Slayer Set: Because holy crap that dude moves around. Is It Just Me Or: Do the Yeah Yeah Yeahs make for awkward pre-Motörhead music? I Wanted to Catch Anthrax: But I had to settle for hearing them as I figured out my press credentials. Listening for the Drive Home: The excellent reissue of Donny Hathaway's Live + In Performance, because sometimes you need to wind down.

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