A Tale of Two Festivals! Mayhem vs. All Points West
Royal Flush‘s own Josh Bernstein enters the metal and hipster worlds
and finds out that they’re not as different as you’d think.
This past week two of the biggest music festivals hit the New York area. That’s right, not New York City, where only Bon Jovi can command an outdoor space, but the outskirts of New Jersey and Long Island served as the home to these all-day music festivals.
The first we attended was the Rockstar Energy Drink MAYHEM Festival that touched down in Uniondale, Long Island on Wednesday August 6th. Headlined by Slipknot, Dragonforce, Mastodon and the god-awful Disturbed, the festival boasted three full-stages of bands, that kept the pace fast and tight on a 90-degree day. The Revolver Magazine staff all piled into the van for the quick drive out there. We headed in, got our all-access badges and headed to the outdoor stages. We were able to perch outselved right on the stage, allowing us to see the entire festival. Of the second stage bands, Walls of Jericho, Machinehead and Underoath had the strongest performances, getting most of the crowd banging around the parking lot of the Nassau Coliseum.
We then moved inside as Mastodon took the main stage of the Coliseum. Standing on this sidestage, we heard Mastodon rip into a new song or two. It was unfortunate for them to be the first band, as fans were all filing in as they performed. I think they would have benefitted by an outdoors performance.
Next as Dragonforce hit the stage, we hit the catering area and devoured some great chow. When we re-emerged, festival co-headliners Disturbed had taken the stage. Now I should be clear that I already am biased to this band for their pop-metal radio crap hit songs, but I thought – I should really judge them live. It’s like a jock-metal band tripped and fell into Chess King. But there’s no denying that they might have had the biggest audience of the night. I guess their fans have to stop beating their wives art some point and catch a rock show.
Thankfully Slipknot came on and ended our misery. We were thrown out of our area by security and had to go backstage. Worked out great, as we got to see Slipknot’s pre-show ritual live and in person. I’m still quaking – it was a eerie-assed scene. The 9-part army hit the stage and lights, smoke and booming pyro lit he joint up. Percussionists operated rising hydraulic beer-keg drum kits, guitarists shredded and a broken-legged DJ crawled about the stage. This band is all rhythm, almost tribal, and surprisingly artsy. One has to think in the bigger picture of music, the lines between them and Radiohead aren’t so far apart.
Lead singer Corey Taylor is a bundle of energy, with a powerful, commanding voice and presence. We reconnected with him after the show at the Mastodon Aftershow BBQ. It was here where we got to mingle with all the bands, have a nosh and basically party our asses off. Soon we boarded our van and it was back to NYC!
then on Friday the 8th we took a quick festival break to catch Bullet for my Valentine, Bleeding Through and the Cancer Bats at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Met the staff of Metal Hammer, good times.
Then it was part II of our rock journey.
All Points West had been planned as a 3-day outdoor rock festival in Liberty State Park in New Jersey. Headliners like Radiohead, Ben Harper and Jack Johnson had been announced. We decided to attend on the Saturday show as it had the highest abundance of good bands compared to the other days.
To get to this park, which is in the shadow’s of Lady Liberty’s ass, you had to take a $30 ferry from Pier 11. Pier 11 is a few blocks south of the South St. Seaport, although the line looks horrendous, it actually moves quickly and we get aboard. What follows was a majestic 15 cruise through the NY harbor before finally docking in nearby Jersey City. The walk from the ferry to the actual venue was quite long and filled with what seemed to be most of Brooklyn.
Once inside the grounds, techno blared from a tent nearby, and we quickly moved deeper into the grounds to find the stages. The 2nd stage looked massive and we can see that they were setting up for the Roots in a bit. As we made our way to the main stage we were impressed by the variety of food being served compared to Mayhem. APW definitely wins in this category (handcut Fries, Gyros, Chinese, Smoothies) vs. Nathans, and Nathans…
Kings of Leon were rocking out the main stage, and sounded really good. The place was so crowed. So we decided to get some burgers and secure a good spot for the Roots. We were able to get backstage and situated ourselves at the side of the stage. The Roots came on and played some of their best known jams for a delighted crowd. The balloons and beach balls were abundant. They surprised me with their spot-on cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” which they broke down in half-time and rapped over. Easily the highlight of the night for me.
Then we investigated the VIP area and beer sections. The festival had set up drinking areas in which you had to stand in a giant tent and drink, away from the concert and general population. Not sure who’s idea this was (maybe a Jersey law?) but it successfully deterred me from drinking. (Mucho drinkage at Mayhem) Also your wristband had 5 drink tickets on it. Your drinks were capped a five for the entire day! Quite odd.
On to the reason we were here, Radiohead.
Radiohead has been touted repeatedly as one of the best live bands in the world. Now, a lot of people throw that term around a lot and we had to see for ourselves. The band emerged and went right into it. I was very impressed with the sound quality (edge APW) and the power of Thom Yorke’s vocals. Much like Corey Taylor of Slipknot he really commands the stage and acts as band general on the battlefield. Here’s where it gets crazier. The gigantic lighting rigs being used by Radiohead, where designed by the same team who did Slipknot’s Mayhem lights. The similarities would rear their head many times throughout the night. The most glaring was when Radiohead’s two guitarists each switched to percussion and created a sound very sympatico with Slipknot’s rhythm wall.
I hadn’t followed Radiohead’s work since OK Computer, so most of this set was new to me. So when a song like “Airbag” or “Fake Plastic Trees” was performed, I of course was more into it. Some of these songs where quite good, with great acoustic guitar sounds, dance beats, and xylophones. Thom Yorke always seemed like a sick, brittle boy, but he was a bundle of energy dancing all over the stage, and during one song, rocked out on a little drum-kit. This crowd hung on his every word and they KNEW every word. Felt like the only guy who didn’t know the lyrics. Shit, even the songs I know, I have no idea what’s he’s saying. After two encores, the mighty adventure was over. Or was it??
Imagine 25,000 people all heading down to one ferry at the same time. ROugh I tell ya.
The wait for the ferry lasts a full two and a half hours before we touch back down in NYC. Advantage Mayhem in this respect, I say we saved almost 2.5 hrs in travel time for a concert 20 more miles away.
All in all, they were both adventures, and a great peak at today’s music culture and it’s audience. Hopefully this leads to other concerts coming back here as we’ve lost Ozzfest, Lollapollooza, and a few others over the years. NYC has proven it can definitely handle it.
Below is some cool footage from each concert: