Amon Amarth
Amon Amarth
Alex Distefano

Rockstar Mayhem Festival - San Manuel Amphitheater - June 29, 2013

Rockstar Mayhem Festival San Manuel Amphitheater June 29, 2013 The annual Rockstar Mayhem Festival began its five-week trek across the country, with the first show in San Bernardino over the weekend at San Manuel Amphitheater. With temperatures rising in the triple digits, fans hunkered down for a sweltering day in the IE, full of sunburns, moshpits, loud music, energy drinks and beer.

With the venue opening at 1 p.m., things got off early, so those with wisdom prepared in advance by hydrating and not overdoing it with alcohol in the heat, which could be dangerous. Unfortunately, many people chose to do the exact opposite and indulge in alcohol before, during and after the show in the massive parking lots/dirt fields of Glen Helen, which resulted in a busy first aid station with most suffering from heat exhaustion or dehydration.

From 8 a.m. until around midnight, there were thousands, drinking, eating and blasting metal from their cars at any given time, even during Rob Zombie, the tour's headlining artist.

For many, the heat was just too much for the early bands to attract tons of people. But despite that, at least some fans were there for every band. But, from Born of Osiris, Huntress and Battlecross, to Job For a Cowboy, Emmure, and the Butcher Babies fans dealt with the heat and moshed away, and enjoyed the short sets, which were limited to 20-25 minutes in most cases.

The best action came from Jagermeister stage headliners Machine Head, who turned the dirt field into a dust bowl, as moshers raged in the pit for five songs, in a set that lasted just over half an hour. Thrashy, yet melodic and slow and groovy at times, the musicianship seemed tight, as guitarist/vocalist Rob Flynn along with guitarist Phil Demmel, drummer Dave Mclain, and new bassist Jared MacEachern, shredded through songs such as 'Old,' 'Imperium,' and the set closer 'Halo.

Just a short time after Machine Head were finished, fans got to experience a short set from Finland's Children of Bodom who also got some good action going for the rabid fans.

Children of Bodom
Children of Bodom
Alex Distefano

Fortunately, for old school Bodom fans, the band played a set full of old songs, which pleased the metal gods, bringing forth the eruption of a circle pit a few hundred heads deep at least. Fan favorites included 'Silent Night Bodom Night,' 'Hate Me,' and 'Hate Crew Deathroll. But after just under half an hour, the band's set was done, leaving many fans thirsty for more, chanting for three more songs, but the powers that be went ahead with the schedule, and up next was the main stage bands.

During the halfway point of the entire festival around 5 p.m., the temperature was a painfully blazing 109 degrees.

Amon Amarth opened the main stage and had a very intense, epic stage set up, of massive proportion. Think Ancient Vikings and huge dragons, literally. The band played a heavy, fast, valiant, and fierce set of Scandinavian death metal, oriented towards themes of Viking mythology and Ancient Norse culture. The band sonically played a solid performance of brutal, yet thunderous death metal that fans enjoyed. Several pits also broke out during the onslaught of songs, including 'Death in Fire, ' 'Deceiver of the Gods,' and 'The Pursuit of Vikings.'

Heavy hitting prog metal band Mastodon were up next, but unfortunately, failed to connect with most of the audience due to technical problems with guitars and vocals. Sadly, the band was unable to resolve them before the allotted time was up. Die-hard fans in the front rocked out, and several were even head banging but most people could not get into this band, which is a shame.

Just as the sun set, massively popular hard rock/heavy metal band and Five Finger Death Punch came out with a huge stage production including many wicked looking Gargoyles, big screens and lights flashing all over. Fans all chanted along to the songs, while some meat heads, bros and jocks in the pit in the lawn made several bonfires to mosh around. The band alternated between a loud, ultra-polished sound and heavy, chugging parts that kinda sounded like a bad Pantera cover band spliced with the sounds of Creed.

Rob Zombie came out (backed by a live band including John 5 on guitar, Piggy D on bass and drummer Ginger Fish)

Overall the diehards loved it and the stage production was off the hook. Backed by new school guitar whiz John 5, Zombie's set included favorites such as 'Living Dead Girl,' and White Zombie tunes 'More Human Than Human,' ' Never Gonna Stop,' and the encore 'Dragula.' Zombie diehards were pleased at the set, which lasted over an hour to conclude the evening.

The Crowd: A huge audience, many obviously metal heads, but too many more too diverse to categorize. We even saw three generations of metal heads grilling meet and chugging beers in the parking lot, hanging alongside bikers, and old 'dead heads' just happy to tailgate the night and day away. As far as fans, at least one person with the shirt of every single band playing was in the venue. There were tons of tattoos, people wearing all black, despite the blistering sun, and a swarm of kids into many of the bands playing. Also a sea of shirtless (or wife beater) bros, jocks and of meat heads into setting fires and moshing around them, and so many diehard Zombie fanatics, and a lot of HOT (we mean that literally and figuratively) ladies.

Overheard: Just after Mastastdon had finished, in line at a Thai-Chinese BBQ tent. A belligerent man was telling everyone how he felt about the main stage. "Fuck all this shit man, I'm just here to drink beers from this point, the best bands were on the side stages, all these bands suck!" he said, holding a beer, to his group of friends, to which a bunch of people laughed, and waited for egg rolls and fried rice, just as the temperature was cooling down.

Random Notebook Dump: Machine Head's Rob Flynn. Had a recent health scare several months back when he had to have stomach surgery for a. severe hernia. Ironically, the Polish death metal band Behemoth were supposed to play the Mayhem Fest, but had to cancel when but were forced to cancel when drummer 'Inferno' had to undergo emergency surgery for his appendix.

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