TVD Live: Mayhem Festival at Jiffy Lube Live, 8/3

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | The heat of the summer brings another edition of the sweat and sugar-fueled metal circus known as the Mayhem Festival back to Bristow, Virginia. Jiffy Lube Live has been the DC area’s destination for the Mayhem Fest since its inception in 2008.

Without sounding like Rip Van Curmudgeon, the majority of the crowd at Mayhem has been getting younger and younger every year, with many of the current bands being marketed to the younger set. Flashy contact lenses, half face decorative leather masks, and other assorted fashion eccentricities were the order of the day.

I headed through the gates and up the hill, following the masses to the side stage area. Texas’ Upon a Burning Body was already in full shred mode at the Sumerian Records stage. These guys made a huge impression two years ago when Sumerian’s stage was a tent. Vocalist Danny Leal gave the crowd its marching orders for the mosh pit, then led off the singalong of “The stars at night, are big and bright…deep in the heart of Texas,” and when “Texas Blood Money” began, an enormous circle pit opened up in the gravel. A funnel cloud of dirt was kicked up, covering the whole area in a brown haze.

Living up to the festival’s name, the mayhem of Mushroomhead began the second that Upon a Burning Body was done. Playing on the Coldcock Whiskey stage, the crowd grew even bigger as the masked musicians put on an animated set that included band members riding an inflatable orca atop the crowd. The music was blaring, the crowd was frenetic, and in the background, above it all, the motocross riders of the Metal Mulisha flew through the air, showing off insane tricks and stunts.

Now and then, you would have to dodge a young, panicked fan, sprinting as if their life depended on it. It turns out, the majority of the time, they were just trying to get to one of the three different outdoor pits before their beloved song had ended without the proper offering of headbanging and moshing. DC’s hometown metal heroes Darkest Hour were up next on the Sumerian stage. Darkest Hour exploded onto the stage, and let loose with the energy of a hellfire missile. Mixing older tracks with newer ones from their latest self-titled album, vocalist John Henry was absolutely primal, and the twin guitar assault of Mike Schleibaum and Mike Carrigan was unrelenting.

The final two acts of the side stages were by far the best of the day. First was the return of Body Count. The crowd cheered before their set began as Ice’s infamous wife Coco Austin made her way to the side of the stage. Supporting their first new album since 2006, Ice-T and his crew set out once again to prove that they still give zero fucks about what anyone thinks, and do things by their own book. Opening with their 1992 single “There Goes the Neighborhood,” Body Count pulled no punches, and Ice performed with a youthful spirit that belied his 56-year-old mortal form.

Closing the set with their notorious single “Cop Killer,” Ice directed everyone’s attention to the Coldcock stage, where Cannibal Corpse unleashed the most brutal set of the entire day. Songs like “Evisceration Plague” and “Make Them Suffer” were piledriven into the crowd, let by the growls and furious headbanging of George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher. Some of the younger set looked a bit stunned at first, and the old-school metalhead in me couldn’t help but think that class was in session, and Death Metal 101 was today’s lecture series.

As the Cannibal Corpse set wound down, I joined the throng and made my way over to the main pavilion, where Trivium‘s set had already begun. I have never listened to much of their stuff, but I was curious to see them live.

Unfortunately, coming down off of the energy of Body Count, and the sheer brutality of Cannibal Corpse, Trivium’s melodic brand of metal was almost akin to getting the appetizer after the steak. Their set really just couldn’t match the punch of the bands on the side stages. Singer/guitarist Matt Heafy jabbed the crowd a little for not being as animated and lively as he hoped. I couldn’t help but think that some in attendance were in their fifth hour here, and probably in need of a respite from the sun and dirt.

Up next were England’s Asking Alexandria. Their backdrop was the album cover of “From Death to Destiny,” which prominently features a naked woman inside of a vending machine, and there were vending machines across the stage. I honestly have no idea what they were aiming for creatively, but whatever was I am pretty sure they missed the mark.

Singer Danny Worsnop, a doppleganger of Bam Margera, strutted out in his white jacket, boots and scarf, aviator glasses, and the whole set just sort of cried out, “Look at me and how rock I am.” Worsnop led the band through 35 minutes of soulless, manufactured schlock that couldn’t decide if it was metalcore, screamo, or vanilla bean modern rock. Some songs were actually all of the above within the same song. I was actually hoping for Ice-T and Corpsegrinder to come out and rectify the situation, but no such luck.

After a beverage and a breather, I returned to the pavilion where nu-metal veterans Korn took the stage. The lineup has resolidified with four of the five original members, with guitarist Brian “Head” Welch officially rejoining the band last year. The set started off a little weird, with “Falling Away From Me.” The pacing of the song just didn’t seem to work as an opener. The band picked up steam as they went on, with singer Jonathan Davis and the rest looking older, yet healthy and vibrant. Head, playing guitar bent over with his long dreads flopping around, appeared as if he was a marionette being manned by a sugar-bombed 5 year-old.

Davis left, then returned to the stage playing the bagpipe intro to “Shoots and Ladders,” while his long-haired young son threw guitar picks into the audience. When he reached the latter part of the song, Davis screamed the nursery rhyme from hell, “Knick knack, paddy-whack, give a dog a bone…,” and the entire pit floor went insane. Drummer Ray Luzier was a standout, deftly handling the complex drum parts with poise. Korn closed their set out with “Blind,” and were joined by all of their young children onstage, both kids and band members thrashing about.

Avenged Sevenfold, a mainstay of the Mayhem Fest, closed out the night with a set that seems to grow exponentially every time they play Mayhem. With a stage set that was a huge stone castle, a row of flames behind the drums preceded their stage entrance. Going from “Shepherd of Fire” right into “Nightmare,” the band was firing on all cylinders from the start. Bassist Johnny Christ and guitarist Synyster Gates took time between songs to sip on some red wine from ornate goblets—not your usual onstage refreshments.

Vocalist M. Shadows, as always, was in command of both the stage and the audience. Preceding “Hail to the King,” a huge skeletal king burst through the gate of the castle. Shadows introduced “So Far Away” with their customary dedication to deceased drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, and added a dedication to Charlie, a stagehand at Jiffy Lube Live who had passed on. After a day of sunshine, rain began to fall during “So Far Away” prompting Shadows to observe that “We sing for The Rev, and the sky starts crying.” Unfortunately, the sky sobbed for quite a while, turning into a torrential downpour by the time the set closer, “This Means War” came around. After the encore, the rain had not ceased, turning the entire grounds into a bog.

Another year’s Mayhem Fest in the books, and the lesson to take away is to never discount the bands on the side stages. The stage may be smaller, the production values not quite as elaborate, but what happens out in the dirt lot can reflect a drive and passion that a light show and a huge stage can’t measure up to.








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