Mayhem Festival Gexa Energy Pavilion Tuesday, July 10
See also: The fans of Mayhem Festival
As I parked next to the Amsterdam and walked through Fair Park's Esplanade yesterday, I took in the neo-modernist sculptures and murals that adorn the Art Deco buildings. The closer I got to the Gexa Energy Pavilion, the more I started to question my own sanity. You see, what passes for modern metal on the radio turns me into Alex Ross. I hear the guitars - it is impossible not to - but the rest is noise. The guttural screams and angst-ridden musicianship does little but make me change the station.
However, that is reason enough to take in Rockstar Energy Drink's Mayhem Festival, Yes, I know Anthrax from their rather fantastic output, the guys in Slayer are legends, and "Lemmy is God." Nevertheless, I knew little about the other bands playing. To me, Slipknot was the band the guy with absurdly long hair and a ratty beard on the football team listened to. Devil Wears Prada is nothing more than a middling Anne Hathaway film, and bands like Asking Alexandria, Upon A Burning Body and I the Breather seem like candidates for the AV Club's annual "Worst Band Names" list.
I arrived at the gates to find hordes of sweaty, pail-skinned people clad in black waiting patiently in line, and a gentlemen in a camo hat took a second to deride my clothing as "norms" as I pass.There is actually much more camo than I would have expected. Scattered amongst the crowd are numerous tweens accompanied by out of place parents who seem desperate for a connection. These parents all seem to be wearing the same grim smile as their child takes a spot in the autograph line next to concertgoers who have decided a shirt is not needed and tribal tattoos are there for the world to see.
While making my way around the venue, I come across a young man named Jacob Smith, who is there with his grandmother, Ms. Pat Staggs. She quickly hands me a business card, which proclaims that "Jesus is Lord!," and lets me know she brought Jacob as a graduation present. The duo drove four hours to get here from the panhandle town of Paducah, and Ms. Staggs made sure to visit her brother in Ft. Worth. Her mother, all of 93, still drives. Jacob sheepishly says he's here to see Whitechapel and Slipknot and that he's starting at Vernon College in Wichita Falls soon. I smile and thank them for their time, amazed at what you can see at these gatherings.
While making my way to Anthrax, I actually come across my own stepbrother, a young man I have not seen in three years. He asks me to pose for a picture and makes me promise to find him for "Slayer!" I walk away slightly stunned, wondering what's next. On stage, Anthrax front man Joey Belladonna thanks Dallas for "30 years of support," and I let that statement sink in. Guitarist Scott Ian's trademark goatee is no longer at its raccoon peak, and is now more a willowy gray. At one point Belladonna calls for all the patrons to "mosh, throw up the horns, and move." The band is performing the WARDANCE and demand that everyone move, "even the motherfuckers in the wheelchairs."
While making my way to the main stage to catch Motörhead, I'm impressed by the finely-tuned consumerism. For $7.50, you can buy a piece of lukewarm pizza; for $4.50, a water. For a domestic beer, it's $12.50, and it's even more if you want a mixed drink from one of the many "lounges" that are hidden away from the action. Each band has their own merch tent and each makes it a point to take time to sign autographs. For just $35, you can have shirt, and $30 gets you a hardback coffee table book of tour photos (this is a steal). Almost anything can be purchased here, from branded thongs to used drumheads. The bands and labels have taken to merchandising with gusto; if you want it, they have it. There is even a line of clothing for potential parents to dress their progeny in. Nothing says metal like an onesie that reads, "I drink till I pass out."
More than 7,000 tickets were pre-sold for the event, and judging by the crowd amassed to see Motörhead, at least a few thousand more walk-ups were sold. As I position for the show, I see a young man sporting a Dwight Schrute leg tattoo.
Motörhead take the stage and Lemmy sports the most beautiful Rickenbacker bass guitar I have ever seen in person. He also offers up the funniest moment of the night, as a moment of clarity arrives: "In case you didn't know, I'm Lemmy. I play guitar." Right on cue, torrential rain pours down during "Ace of Spades," and the crowd rushes from the lawn into the safety of the stands.
Slayer introduces themselves with a thunderous guitar strike and a curtain drops. The sound is ear-shattering and violent mosh circles break out across the lawn, some perilously close to the rather dramatic slant that makes up the edge of the Pavilion's lawn. As Slayer singer Tom Araya screams into the microphone, "GOD HATES US ALL," I lower my head and wonder what Ms. Staggs must think, and make my way back through Fair Park.