Monday, July 13, 2009

Mayhem Fest: Blood, Boobs and Noxious Fumes

The Mayhem Festival has become the biggest and baddest summer tour that features heavy metal music. This was only the second year since it has existed and it has already blown the now defunct Ozzfest out of the water. In fact I think it is better than the Warped Tour despite its longevity and loyal fan base. This year the crowd was even bigger, more violent and more in to the music than any festival that I’ve ever been to. The legendary status of last year’s shows must have spread amongst the metal and hardcore scenes and during this deep recession, people find strength and release in music (especially this type). I don’t think I need to mention that most of the people that go to these shows are down to get smelly, dirty and violent (myself included). The line outside the show was a sea of black that included goths, hardcore punks, old school metalheads, metal nerds (like me), metal chicks and of course neo-nazis, rednecks and general scumbags.

Since the lineup included many different styles of metal, fans from these many scenes showed up to support their favorite bands and mosh in the hot sun. There are really only two types of people at these shows: open-minded people and diehard close-minded people. Now don’t get me wrong, I have no problem if someone only came out to the show to see Slayer. I do have a problem when people yell insults at other bands and act like the one band they came to see is the greatest thing on Earth. Slayer was pretty good but after they played these fans proceeded to insult Marilyn Manson and scream obscenities. They should have just left the show with a smile on their face instead of making Slayer look bad by proving how ignorant their fan base is. Diehard Slayer fans are the scum of the Earth and their close-minded, racist and bigoted slurs just supported this stereotype. The sieg heils did not help either nor did burning piles of trash and angrily dancing around it.

Even so, these people did not ruin my experience at Mayhem but they definitely annoyed me. The Mayhem Fest creators need to figure out a safe and effective way to stop people from burning piles of plastic trash. Not only were the fires themselves a danger to the entire crowd and venue but also the noxious fumes made breathing difficult, gave people headaches and burned eyes like acid. I was coughing up shit for several hours after the show and many of the fumes released from burning plastic are known carcinogens. I came to see some really good bands play music, not to increase my chances of getting cancer. I really hope people will complain about this problem because it is a serious hazard to health and nearly ruined the experience for me and my friends.

My other grievance with the Mayhem Festival is the fact that they give out free energy drinks all day but access to free drinking water was very difficult. We finally settled for sketchy tap water from a hidden water fountain since bottled water was ridiculously overpriced. They should both allow and encourage people to bring their own water into the venues or they should sell water at a reasonable price. They can still make tons of money selling bottles for $1 yet they charge $4 and the price of food and beer ($11) is more than enough of a profit margin. The free energy drinks are nice but they really dehydrate you and in the hot summer sun I am certain they caused several people to have heat stroke. Also, they shouldn’t be giving these drinks to younger kids (my friend saw a 3 or 4 year old drinking one). Access to water and shade would greatly add to the comfort and safety of the concertgoers and the costs would be negligible.

Still, I think that this is one of the better festivals because unlike the Warped Tour and Ozzfest, there is no way to miss any band (other than arriving late). The two side stages alternate so people can simply go from one to the other and the main stage bands don’t come out until the other bands finish. My advice is to get to the show early so you can get through the huge line and see all of the bands. My friends and I wound up being about an hour late and so we completely missed Whitechapel and Job for a Cowboy and only saw three songs of God Forbid’s set. The best thing to do is to arrive at the venue at about noon and tailgate with beers, water and food while rocking out to your own music. This way you don’t have to pay the outrageous prices and you can jump in line just before the gates open.

Whenever you go to a festival you want to get your money’s worth and as long as you’re open-minded you might as well go check out bands that you’ve never heard. I was familiar with the music of all the bands at the show so I got more than enough for the 25 bones that I threw down for lawn tickets. Hell, I would pay $50 just to see Marilyn Manson and I was able to see 9 other bands (since I missed 2), although the sets are a bit short at a half an hour for the side stage bands, about 40 minutes for the opening main stage bands (this year Killswitch Engage & Bullet for My Valentine) and an hour each for the two headlining bands (this year Slayer & Marilyn Manson). Festivals are a great way to see a lot of good bands in a short amount of time and the bands themselves are able to get wide exposure to many people that may have never otherwise heard their music.

I think the behavior of the crowd is a good indicator of the times. The crowd was very violent and I witnessed several people become very bloody after taking an elbow or stray fist to the face. All metal shows have a level of violence but it is also complimented by a sense of camaraderie since everyone is there for the music and to have a good time. As soon as a person fell down there would be 10 hands quickly lifting them back to their feet. I think the recession and the more difficult economic times made this show very important to the fans and so they were very passionate in their moshing and in their display of violence (and beer certainly helped). But with violence comes sex and metal chicks like to show their boobs; no show would be complete without seeing at least one pair of breasticles. This was a nice change especially after seeing a bunch of fat, hairy man-boobs jiggling around the mosh pits. Even with this level of intensity, I think the festival was quite a success and I had a great time. I will be discussing the bands performances in my next blog entry so stay tuned!!

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