Las Vegas 48 Hours Festival: The Best and Worst of the Debauchery, Bands and Backstage

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48 Hours Festival was insane. Picture this: more than 20 heavy-hitting rock bands, VIP pool cabanas in the middle of a Vegas parking lot, and lounges with such names as Debauchery and the Godfather, moonshine, strippers, and massages, all fenced in at the Luxor Festival Grounds in Las Vegas.

After learning that Tempe-based Eyes Set to Kill was playing the festival--and considering we desert-dwellers are only a mere five hours from Sin City--I decided it was a prime excuse to get some great live backstage views, provide a play-by-play for Up On the Sun readers, and, well, go to Vegas.

Dubbed the world's largest rock 'n' roll party weekend "Live from the Strip," the festival was solid, featuring tight sound, a mix of eclectic "pre" and "after" parties, and an energetic crowd always wanting more even though the sun was blazin' and temperatures were still in the mid-90s. Sets were kept fairly simple and classic: no video screens, backdrops were minimal, and Avenged Sevenfold was the only band that used pyro.

[Note: the festival started on Friday night at 11 pm with a pre-party at the House of Blues, featuring the Butcher Babies and Steel Panther. The schedule shown here technically started when we cruised into Vegas at noon Saturday.]

Hour 1

Arrival into Las Vegas. Shots of Sailor Jerrys and Jack Daniels commence.

Hour 3

We make it to the festival's back entrance, after somehow wandering through Excalibur and the Luxor, trying to find the easiest way to get to the fairgrounds. Obviously took some unnecessary turns, but ran into some amusing Jimmy Buffet concert-goers.

Hour 6

Black Tide, although energetic, delivers a somewhat unremarkable set with their old and new songs coming off as flat and generic. I must say it is intriguing that the band was formed when the frontman Gabriel Garcia was just 11-years-old, and signed to Interscope three years later. And the crazy little metal progidies definitely have a solid following with fans ranging from emo pre-teens to middle-aged couples.

Hatebreed causes some of the craziest mosh pits of the weekend hands-down, with no frills or hooks like the other acts. Note to self: Unless constantly checking over shoulder, you will be doomed to spend a set at the bottom of a crowd surfer doggie-pile.

Rap-rock sextet Hollywood Undead take over the main stage, supplying lots of content from their newest album American Tragedy. Perfect for those who miss the glory days of early nu-metal. Not so perfect for anyone who attended for actual rock music.

Sucks for Bullet For My Valentine fans; the band canceled.

Hour 7

Recent Revolver cover boys Five Finger Death Punch offer up their usual intensity and awareness of the crowd's needs, stomping around, pouring water over everything possible and head-banging.

On the song "Never Enough" Ivan asks every singer in the crowd to join in; mosh pits break out with lots of angry boys. Ivan shouts out to turn on the lights because he wants to see his family, and brings up any children with their parents onto the stage that he sees within the first couple rows, calling them sweetheart and announcing, "Give it up for the next generation of heavy fucking metal!"

During one of the last songs, Ivan tells everyone to crowd surf to the front of the stage to shake his hand, resulting in waves of fans surfing up, tumbling over and actually getting to shake Ivan's hand as he ran back and forth along the front of the stage while singing.

They also have a taste for theatrics. Singer Ivan Moody stalks the stage, declaring that they had been asked to cut their set short because of crowd violence. He perches on a speaker and defiantly insists that they will play one more song anyways. From my angle it doesn't seem that the crowd was excessively rowdy, and a quick web search later on reveals an almost identical scene played out at last year's Download Festival.

Hour 10

Discover that cocktail prices are lower than we thought while the food prices were higher. Sip on some drinks in the Godfather VIP Lounge, where massages are given for $2 a minute, strippers dance on two poles in the center with a long catwalk in between, and girls strut around in lingerie. A double Johnny Walker for $12? Yes, please.

Hour 12

Avenged Sevenfold announce early on that they canceled their show in San Fran the day prior so that Shadows would have a solid voice for 48 Hours Festival, showing that this upstart fest is valued by bands and fans alike. They play classics that work ("Bat country," "Beast and the Harlot") and some that don't ("Buried Alive" and "A Little Piece of Heaven"), and new drummer Arin Iljay rocks--and works--his ass off underneath a huge batwing skull stocked with constant pyrotechnics.

The band dedicated "Walking into a Dream" to the Rev and M Shadows stood in front of Iljay while performing while The Rev's screaming samples echoed in the background. They also performed "I Wanna See You Tonight" because it was the last song Rev's mom heard before she passed away. The woman standing behind me backstage cries and mentions that she thinks they've never performed the song.

Hour 15

After party at the House of Blues, where a lot of the festival bands mix and mingle, Fozzie plays, Maria Brink from In This Moment commits to a photo with me because I have a huge school-girl crush on her, and the chicks from Eyes Set To Kill pound a beer with us. Oh yeah, and the shots of whisky were waaaay too big.

Hour 18-21

Delicious burgers at Mandalay Bay's burger bar; venture over to new nightclub Vanity for the motocross after party and supreme people watching. Such moto stars as Twitch mix and mingle with breakdancers going at it on the dance floor, 48 Hour Fest attendees and members from bands like Escape The Fate among a very chill and social vibe.

Sunday, Day 2 Hour 30

Tempe's own Eyes Set To Kill kill it on the second stage to a small crowd. Alexia and Aneesa's energy feed each other and the crowd, performing songs off their newest album White Lotus. If you haven't seen this band perform yet in Phoenix, get your ass to a show.

Hour 33

Of particularly note in the opening acts was Taking Dawn, a Vegas-based old-school metal band, entertaining and talented even though it sounds like they are named after a Twilight movie, as noted by my two-day debauchery ally, Brittany. The band jump out on stage to the tune of "Eye of the Tiger", and the skeptical glance between my friend and I, before launching into a heavy metal serenade reminiscent of Dragonforce.

Donning long 80's hair, cutoff jean jackets and well, no shirt at all, the band members are theatrical while insanely energetic, and the singer has a penchant for fucking with the crowd. From telling a girl wearing a hot pink cast that she better put her arms up, to running out through the entire crowd and jamming out on his guitar in front of people's faces, to singling out audience members to declare that they had big dicks, the singer has boundless humor and animation.

Hour 36

Old hippie in a tie-dyed shirt runs by me smoking a joint and busts out a cartwheel in anticipation of Seether.

Miller Light tall-boy from mosh-pit beer peddler: $ 10. Sweet potato tots: $4. Foot long corn dog: $7. PB&J on French bread, topped with bananas: $4. Mind you, we were also traveling with a very large, mohawked guy named Chief.

Hour 38

Onto the main stage where the Sick Puppies attracted a decent crowd. Never been a big fan of the band, but the hot bass player rocked it with a striking stage presence and a blinging chrome bass.

Hour 40

Sevendust headlines the second stage, drawing a huge crowd while the sun set over the Vegas skyline. The singer, Lajon Witherspoon, has his usual intensity with a striking stage presence, and they sang a mixture of old and new songs. Still on tour to promote 2010's album, the performance is pretty bass heavy, nearly drowning out the guitars and vocals, but Sevendust can always be counted up on for a great live show.

Hour 42

Three Days Grace plays their usual collection of slow radio jams like "Home" and "Animal I Have Become" that most likely were the cause of the emo demographic in the crowd. Singer attempts rapping a verse of Eminem's "Lose Yourself;" a little embarrassing. That aside, the crowd is enthusiastic and sings along tremendously.

Hour 44

Godsmack performs with their usual smoke and mirrors and compact riff-rockers, and it still amazes me every time how wild people go for "Voodoo." To my amusement, a cowboy hat-clad woman who seems like she raided the backstage bar tent decided to dance absurdly for the first half of the set, venturing further and further out on to the stage, and in the end was kicked not only out of backstage, but stripped of her wristbands for access to anything. She must have pissed off the wrong person--or groupie. The second half of the set singer Sully Erna and drummer Shannon Larkin duel from rotating drum sets at the front of the stage for 20 minutes, trading beats and inserting familiar bits from "Back in Black, "War Pigs," and "Creeping Death" that the crowd sings along with.

Hour 45

The Festival grounds are packed from fence-to-fence at this point for the main headliners, but everyone is kept cool by the nice breeze flowing through that carries the scent of weed, fried food, sweat, and beer.

Hour 46

The band that most people came to see, Korn, was definitely one of the best performances of the weekend--although their performance was shorter than I would expect. Davis dons his Kilt, Munky runs around, whipping his dreads everywhere, and the crowd hangs onto every word.

It's hard to believe that Korn has been touring for decades, which I hadn't really thought about until Chief told me about the first time he saw the unknown band, back in Arizona around '91 when they opened for a local act.

The set consists of Korn's old and new tunes, packed with fan favorites. Their new single "Get Up!" already received enthusiastically by fans and praised by critics, closes the set and I personally am anticipating the December release of their 10th studio album that fuses old and new Korn, The Path of Totality.

Hour 48

As Korn's set fades out, we book it to our car for our ride home. While we plan on cruising back into Phoenix around 3 AM, those who stick it out for the last of the 48 Hours Festival will be cruising into the after party at OG Gentlemen's Club.

Critics Notebook:

This Weekend: The 48 Hours Festival in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Luxor Festival Grounds.

The Crowd: A typical Vegas rock concert crowd. Groupies in lingerie lingering backstage, tatted-up middle-aged couples, pre-teen emo girls and boys with faded blue and pink hair, sweaty rockers from opener bands running around with beer bongs, hippies in tie-dyed shirts smoking joints.

Overhead in the Crowd: "Wait, there's strippers in that tent?" "Yea, but you gotta be backstage." "Screw that then, I'll just go to the strip club afterwards; with your ticket stub you get a free lap dance." "Wait, can't we just find the hot chicks from Butcher Babies and Eyes Set to Kill and be groupies?" "It's worth a shot, man."

Random Notebook Dump: I gotta say one of the best things about being backstage in the above bleachers is being able to see the crowd, their reaction and mosh pits spread out over the entire festival grounds. No matter what the show, it provides a sense of togetherness to see everyone moving as one.

Personal Bias: Half the bands were worth seeing, the other half a little monotonous. If the festival had more high-energy, hardcore bands such as Five Finger Death Punch and Hatebreed, it would have been a little more exciting.

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