Slipknot With KoRn Gexa Energy Pavilion, Dallas Friday, October 31, 2014
Music is weird. It has a way of sticking around in your life, or coming back when you thought you'd left if behind. I first heard KoRn when I was nine years old when my little brother got a copy of Life Is Peachy. My first show ever was KoRn at the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim in March 2000. By then I'd also been introduced to Slipknot, who were everything a socially maladjusted teenage kid could ever want in a band: They were vulgar, abrasive, heavy on the theatrics and masochistic like no other bands. I watched Slipknot's Welcome To Our Neighborhood VHS hundreds of times, taking in every detail about the band. I even went so far as answering fan mail on fansite Slipknotweb.com.
So the prospect of attending the Prepare For Hell tour with both KoRn and Slipknot (on Halloween, no less) was an especially intriguing prospect for me. I hadn't listened to either band in over a decade. Going to Gexa Energy Pavilion last Saturday was like heading out in search of my youth.
Perhaps it's just that time is a flat circle. A little perspective: In 1999, when Slipknot were just beginning to get national exposure, KoRn's Follow The Leader was the No. 1 album in the world. "Freak On A Leash" was the #1 video on TRL. KoRn was headlining global events like Woodstock 99. And yet here, 15 years later, was KoRn opening for Slipknot.
In the spirit of Halloween, KoRn hit the stage in costume and opened their set with "Twist", a song off the Life Is Peachy album that is famous for Jonathan Davis' use of scat vocals. I have to admit, I got excited hearing the song again. I'd heard it a thousand times between my copy of Life Is Peachy and a bootleg of their Woodstock 99 set.
The band then jumped into a couple of newer songs, notably "Twisted Transistor" which was probably the band's last mainstream single. After that, hearing "Falling Away from Me" live again was surreal. This was the first song I'd ever heard live. And I'd be lying if I said I didn't sing along to it. Then came a blitzkrieg of fan favorites, like "Got The Life" and "Chutes and Ladders." They even busted into a rendition of Metallica's "One."
And damn if KoRn didn't still have it. But then that's the thing: I didn't stop listening to them because they'd ceased to be what I once loved; it was because they didn't change. It went right down to the show itself: Davis' banter and stage movements were still the same: Munky, Fieldy and Head all still did the same things. The only notable change was that drummer David Silveria was no longer with the band. Otherwise, it could have been 2000 in Anaheim all over again.
The same, not surprisingly, held true for Slipknot, who have outwardly experienced far more change over the years -- be it through lineup changes, different masks or side projects. Corey Taylor's voice was the same as it had ever been. Mick Thomson still hulked in the middle of the stage dwarfing his guitar while guitar player Jim Root, now with a beard that would make any lumberjack envious, still looked the same.
It's true that original bass player Paul Gray has passed away and that drummer Joey Jordison left the band. But even her Slipknot has tried to maintain the appearance of sameness: Rather than replace them outright, the band has used masked scabs and left them unidentified.
But those changes were of considerably less importance than the one I saw in DJ Sid Wilson. Wilson was arguably the reason Slipknot got as big as they did in the first place, known for stage diving into audiences, jumping off 10-foot-plus monitors, lighting himself on fire and starting epic onstage battles with Crahan that resulted in a fair share of broken bones and concussions. Yet the Wilson who played at Gexa on Friday looked bored, listless and uninterested, rarely ever leaving his DJ booth.
The rest of the band tore through the set just like the good old days: Songs like "Sarcastrophe", "The Heretic Anthem" and "The Devil in I" were all delivered without any let up and followed by a medley of hits from their debut. By the time they closed out the last set with "Left Behind", "Spit It Out" and "Custer", the crowd was frenzied. The lights went out and a roar erupted. At first, I thought it was a train running by somewhere, but it was the crowd slapping the seats at Gexa.
When the band returned to stage, it was like deja vu for me as well. It might have been 12 years since I last saw them but I knew their encore like the back of my hand. The sample with the looped phrase, "The whole thing I think is sick;" the drums kicking in to start "(sic);" Taylor instructing the crowd to "put your middle fingers in the air for your new national fucking anthem;" it all came back. And was right there with everyone else, middle finger proudly in the air.
They say that on Halloween you can be anyone else you want to be for that one night. I decided to be my 13-year-old self one more time, and even if I'm no longer anywhere near the same person I was then it felt right in the moment. They also say you can never really bring back the past, but that doesn't mean your past isn't still inside of you somewhere. My past had a good time on Halloween.