Rockstar Mayhem Festival Steamrolls into Blossom

August 8th, 2012  |  Published in Stage and Street

By Pete Roche

On July 25th the Blossom Music Center VIP parking lot was transformed into a fairground featuring two makeshift stages, dozens of vendor booths and display tents, and more youngsters with bad tattoos, body piercings, and droopy shorts than anyone over 30 would care to see.

The Sumerian Records and Jagermeister stages hosted a dozen bands that alternated sets throughout the sweltering Wednesday afternoon, commencing at 1:30 pm and continuing into the dinner hour, at which time Blossom’s main grounds were opened for an evening metal show on the pavilion stage.

Taking in an entire bill on any one of the three stages on this humid day required more stamina than your average rock show.  Add ‘em together and you got the 2012 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival.

Joining the title sponsor for the summer’s heaviest traveling roadshow were Roadrunner Records, Revolver Magazine, Zippo, Ibanez, Hot Topic, Century Media, and other music-oriented businesses.  The thousands in attendance had ample time during breaks in the goings-on to sample vendors’ wares, like the “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott licensed SWAG, hemp products, and official band merch.

Complimentary cans of Rockstar Energy Drink were available at a designated tent, where bands like Anthrax appeared at specific times throughout the day for meet-and-greets.  Photos were prohibited, but most bands provided autographs for free.  Only headliners Slipknot charged for the privilege, gouging youngsters $20 a pop for a place in their line—but hundreds were happy to ante up to meet their masked heroes.

Lincoln, Nebraska’s Dirtfedd and San Antonio, Texas’ Upon a Burning Body christened the Sumerian Stage, warming things up for French quintet Betraying the Martyrs.  At the opposite end of the lot, I The Breather rocked the Jager Stage with bludgeoning tunes from the albums These Are My Sins and Truth and Purpose.  Knoxville, Tennessee’s Whitechapel followed up with a triple guitar attack, with frontman Phil Bozeman grunting and growling through a selection of tracks from the band’s self-titled Metal Blade release.

The five-piece then abdicated to Ohio’s own The Devil Wears Prada.  Led by singer Mike Hranica, the Dayton sextet lurched through several serrated songs from from their catalog.  San Diego’s As I Lay Dying bounded onstage at about 4pm, with muscle-bound singer Tim Lambesis encouraging the mostly-male fans up front to move along to the band’s whiplash-inducing riffs.  The vocalist’s black T-shirt read “Modern Rebellion,” but the vocalist’s bulging biceps and delts bespoke a metalhead who spends as much time pumping iron as conducting mosh pits.

Brooklyn bashers Anthrax top-lined the Jager stage shortly after 5:00 pm, bludgeoning the sun-roasted crowd with forty minutes of mostly vintage material.  “Caught in a Mosh” and “Antisocial” had tandem guitarists Scott Ian and Rob Caggiano working overtime on riffs while singer Joey Belladonna prowled the stage with his half-mic stand.

Belladonna—who left the group in the early 90s only to return years later—still has a spring in his step and was in powerful voice on this sultry afternoon, belting out thrash anthems like a guy half his age.  At one point he leapt from the stage atop a stack of speakers, where he knelt to cajole a grumpy security guard until the yellow-shirted staffer cracked a smile.

Frank Bello sang backup along with Ian but had a chance to shine alone during the band’s cover of Joe Jackson tune “Got the Time,” a hit for Anthrax from their Persistence of Time album in 1990.  The bassist—who hosted a clinic at Sam Ash Music in Mayfield earlier that afternoon—thrummed away on his four-string during the song’s stuttering midsection.

“Fight ‘em Till You Can’t” was the only new cut, hailing from the group’s acclaimed Worship Music disc.  There just wasn’t enough time for more, given Mayhem’s abbreviated sets.

Belladonna and Ian stopped only once—to get a war dance going in the mosh pit for “Indians.”

“It’s our job to make sure you have as good a time as possible!” said the goateed guitarist.  “So let’s see some movement down there!”

The fans obliged, keeping up the momentum for “I Am the Law.”

Jason Bittner of Shadows Fall subbed for Anthrax drummer Charlie Benante, who broke his wrist in June.

Blossom’s main grounds opened near the end of the Anthrax set, allowing general admission ticketholders to take their places on the lawn and pavilion people to find seats in time for mod-core English quintet Asking Alexandria.

Hard rock legends Motorhead assumed control shortly after 7:00pm.  Iconic front man / bassist Lemmy Kilmeister exuded heavy metal authority in a black work shirt, civil war hat, custom boots, and matching shades.  Joining Lemmy were long-time guitarist Phil Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee, who double-kicked through classics like “Damage Case” and “Overkill.”

Lemmy doesn’t move around much onstage, his double-duty as bassist and singer keeping him pinned to his microphone front-and-centre.  But Campbell walked the length of the stage, visiting fans on both sides of the pavilion while tickling notes from his dragon-bedazzled guitar.  Perennial metal hit “Ace of Spades” capped the high-volume, maximum velocity set.

Which cleared the stage for San Francisco bay’s bloodiest band.

Slayer greeted the Cuyahoga Valley setting sun with “Disciple.”  Grizzled Chilean-American guitarist paused momentarily after the opener—perhaps to calm himself from the beer an unwise (and likely inebriated) fan flung in his direction.  Araya’s beard is mostly grey these days, and he’s taken to wearing a brace to support the vertebrae he’s been punishing for three decades.  But age didn’t temper Tom’s vocal delivery or picking hand for the hard-charging “War Ensemble” and “Hate Worldwide.”

Heavily-inked guitarist Kerry King presided at stage left, his wrists and fingers frantically working the neck of his B.C. Rich on “Die By the Sword” and “Altar of Sacrifice.”  Bald and brooding, King banged his head nonstop while his digits danced over the frets on “Mandatory Suicide.”  Flames belched from pyrotechnic pots on either side of Dave Lombardo’s drum riser, adding to the unholy, funereal (and at times militant) performance.

Exodus axeman Gary Holt stood in for Jeff Hanneman, who’s been on injured reserve since 2010, when he contracted a flesh-eating illness from a spider bite (seriously).  Fortunately, the current Slayer six-stringers were in a tight lockstep; only the uninitiated or uninformed would’ve noticed anything amiss.

Then headliners Slipknot steamrolled through seventy minutes of agro-metal, its nine members entertaining youngsters with S&M fetish masks and cos-play.

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