October 24-26, 2014
San Manuel Amphitheater
Thank the Dark Lord the temperature in San Bernardino was only in the 80s on Saturday, as an estimated 50,000 metalheads, campers and revelers flocked to the San Manuel Amphitheater in Devore for Knotfest — three days of camping and a dark carnival/heavy-metal music festival curated by Slipknot (who were inspired by European metal festivals) to bring a musical and cultural event of this magnitude to San Bernardino. For three days, fans explored dark art, fire, carnival rides, roller coasters music, and more.
The party got started Friday evening with Suicide Silence and The Black Dahlia Murder opening a nighttime show. Combined, Saturday and Sunday featured over 20 bands on a total of five stages per day. Saturday included bands such as Carcass, Testament, Fear Factory, Prong, Butcher Babies and In This Moment. Sunday offered bands like Napalm Death, Devildriver, Miss May I, Of Mice and Men, Killswitch Engage and Whitechapel.
Both nights were headlined by Slipknot, and night one featured main stage acts Black Label Society, Hatebreed, Black Label Society, Anthrax and Danzig. Night two also featured main stage acts Hellyeah, Atreyu, Tech N9NE, Volbeat, and Five Finger Death Punch.
Everywhere you looked throughout the festival, there were flames, skulls and demons. From the giant flame shooters at night, to the various costumed ghoulish, goat-like monster chicks walking around, the night's motif was fire, skulls, goats and demons. Slipknot put the time and effort into making this much more than a multi stage concert. A Slipknot museum tent allowed fans a unique and intimate chance to view some of the band's prized, historic collection of artifacts.
Highlights of day one's daytime sets included a band that toured with Fear Factory heavily back in the day, L.A.'s own Fear Factory and very early (too early), Prong and Amen. Also, Bay Area thrash metal veterans Testament, and UK Death metal giants Carcass tore it up side stages and had massive circle pits flaring, but unfortunately fans had to chose who they preferred more they played at virtually the same time, as was the case with most side stage bands. Fans also loved the female energy of metal's extreme side with Otep, Butcher Babies and the very popular band In this Moment.
On the main stage, Hatebreed took over the pit and caused havoc, and fun times for the swarm of slam dancers, who kept things going for later bands Anthrax, Danzig and of course Slipknot.
Anthrax ripped through a killer sped-up set, with singer Joey Belladonna and Scott Ian keeping the crowd on their feet for around an hour of amped thrash metal. Danzig played hits off of various solo albums, and was on fire with a freshly rejuvenated voice. But it was Slipknot, who the masses came to see.
Donning new masks and a sound that has been pent up and boiling for years, Slipknot are back and this nine-piece has returned from its sleep — with a vengeance. With a new bass player, in place of fallen brother Paul Gray, and a new drummer replacing Joey Jordisson (rumored to be Max Weinberg's son), both musicians did a phenomenal job of handling their roles in the band. And it's not an easy job to fill with such a chaotic band full of percussion.
Lead singer Corey Taylor's voice projected all the way out so far it was all encompassing and spread into the night's air. His new open-ended mask was creepy and gave off a look that was part Texas Chainsaw Massacre, part Freddy Krueger without a hat. Slipknot's set was a raw, intense, 90-minute mix of brutal and beautiful metal music, with melodic and menacing songs that sent the band and fans into catharsis.
The band performed new hit, 'The Negative One,' as well as songs like 'Duality,' 'Disasterpieces,' 'Purity,''Eyeless' and 'Sulfur.'
Turn the page for Day Two:
Slipknot had originally planned to permeate the entire festival grounds with burning Camel dung, but San Bernardino County officials put a stop to that. Yet, the smell of acrid plastic, cardboard and trash on fire was still in the air Sunday night, as bonfire mosh pits raged in the lawns for bands like Volbeat, Five Finger Death Punch and headliners, Slipknot. The main stage bands were more commercial and radio-friendly Sunday night.
During the day, there was a zipline that allowed fans to fly across the entire festival grounds, flaming carnival games, an unlimited drum circle with junk cars, the Megaloop "Ring of Fire" roller coaster, and the Thunderdome, where two strangers could get down in a real, supervised MMA Style fight in a giant cage. During the mild, beautiful partly cloudy afternoon, fans on the side stages witnessed bands like Veil of Maya, Upon a Burning Body, and others.
Heavy hitters Napalm Death, Whitechappel, Killswitch Engage, and Devildriver all produced some decent sized circle pits full of slam dancers, which served as a perfect warm up for Slipknot's closing set at the end of the evening.
Opening the main stage was Hellyeah, featuring vocalist Chad Gray of Mudvayne and drummer Vinnie Paul from Pantera. With a brand of groove ridden hard rock/metal music the band's party vibe got things going strong early on, and opened up the pit for the ensuing chaos that Slipknot would bring. OC's own metalcore heroes Atreyu were up next and gave fans a swinging set of melodic hardcore that the moshers in the pit seemed to appreciate. After 45 minutes of screeching, pummeling metalcore, Atreyu ended with a heavy cover of Bon Jovi's "You Give Love a Bad Name."
The only artist on the bill, not heavy metal, Tech N9NE, an underground rapper from Kansas City took the stage and proved to be worthy of the madness and mayhem that engulfs heavy metal music. With an erratic live band backing him the rapper sliced through a set of hardcore rap songs that were performed like metal songs, because of the percussion bass and guitars of a live band. Tech N9NE might not have been "metal" but heads were banging, bodies were bobbing and fans were throwing the horns at the end of his set.
Fans really seemed to love the Danish rockers Volbeat as well, who are like something between a mix of Metallica, Johnny Cash and Social Distortion. The pit again swirled up during songs, but the vibe was positive, as greasers, rockers, and metal heads joined in unison to the rocking sounds of Volbeat's songs.
From Las Vegas, Five Finger Death Punch took the stage during the night, and fans went apeshit. Pits were flaring as the band took their time going through a tough guy filled set, with tons of modern day hard rock ballads, and thousands of people holding up cell phones to capture them. Lead singer Ivan Moody did come off as a cocky Rock star with an attitude when just after 9:30 p.m., he announced that even though the band was scheduled to be done, he didn't give a fuck and would leave the stage when he wanted. The only redeeming song from the band's set was a cover of LL Cool J's "I'm Gonna Knock you Out" featuring Tech N9NE. One song later the band was done and it was a countdown to Slipknot.
Once again, the band everyone came to see, the masked madmen in Slipknot. The crowd was much more dense for the band's performance Sunday night, especially in the pit and in the lawn sections, and the fires up there were more intense than Saturday.
Slipknot's stage show, featured a giant horned demon in the center just above the drum set, and tons of flashing laser lights, visuals with the camera footage and of course Pyrotechnics. Some of the time, fans actually felt the heat from flashes of flames. The pit was raging the entire time. Sunday night's circle pit was more akin to Slayer or Pantera, as fans moshed through songs like "The Devil In I," "My Plague," "Left Behind," "Liberate," "Vermillion," "Surfacing" and many more.