Aftershock Festival 2016 Concert Review
Discovery Park, Sacramento, CA
October 22 and 23, 2016
By Dan Wall and Ace Collins
California’s biggest rock festival will feature 35 bands on three stages at Discovery Park, conveniently located near downtown Sacramento.
Dan: After five years in Sacramento, it appears that the operations division of the annual Aftershock festival staff has finally figured out how to tackle all the various elements of this massive undertaking and make just about everyone who attended happy.
A return to Discovery Park, a great concert site near lovely downtown Sacramento, seemed to be on everyone’s wish list. Traffic jams and parking problems at Gibson Ranch prompted the return where the festival was initially held from 2012 to 2014. Last year’s move 30 miles out of town did not sit well with those that I talked to who attended then (I did not), and the staff made sure that the problems of 2014 on this same site--heat, dust and elbow room being the main distractions, were handled by moving the event from hellish September to a more accommodating October date, while also expanding the concert site footprint so the sold-out crowd of more than 30,000 each day could move around the site more freely.
The elimination of two stages being used in roughly the same area (an idea that I have never liked) was also solved this year by putting the second stage out in an area that was used as a parking lot the last time the festival was held here. That meant that no bands could be heard playing a 100-decibel set over another band playing a 110-decibel set.
Now if we could just get the talent booking department on the same page.
Sure, if you want to see a bunch of bands for your hard-earned money, nobody could complain that there weren’t a bunch of bands here. How good were those bands? That’s up to debate from all sides.
As a journalist and a longtime member of the concert community, I try to see all sides of the endeavor: booking availability, which band has played here before vs. repeat acts, costs, which band fits well with other bands, etc. before analyzing and / or totally ripping on the list of acts brought in each year.
We also understand that not everyone totally loves every band on the bill, one of the reasons that my cohort attended Saturday while the both of us went on Sunday. I am not enamored with Tool, Primus or Slayer, while Avenged Sevenfold and Disturbed -the two Sunday headliners- are two of my favorite bands. I am all for trying new things, but I’ve seen all those bands before and have never went away rushing to the local record shop (or Amazon) to buy any of their music.
So, here’s our take on the weekend, as told through the eyes and ears of 50 year old men. To us, it looks like everyone had a good time rockin’, moshing, and crowd surfing while taking in a few tasty bites and cool brews…
Ace: After a lovely relaxing morning, and a third cup of coffee I realized, “Dammitt… I better get on the road!”
I am 75 minutes from the festival site, and I arrived to a $30 parking fee and a 20 minute walk to the gates. The will-call line wasn’t moving very fast, and it seemed to take 4-5 minutes per person to process their admittance… and I had 20 people in front of me. So if you arrive at 3 pm hoping to see Anthrax at 3:50 pm and you needed to get thru ‘will-call’, you are out of luck, as I was still in line while the band finished their set.
Also, if you arrived at 3pm like me you can expect to have missed these bands: The Shrine, American Sharks, Big Jesus, Aeges, Whores, letlive, Death Angel, Avatar, Motionless in White, Drakulas, Baroness, and Face to Face.
There are 3 stages, and they all have names / sponsors. I am going to call them: Big, medium and small. The band The Pretty Reckless was up next when I finally strolled in and took over the Big / main stage around 4:45 PM. I was very impressed with The Pretty Reckless, as they had a more rock and roll feel to them rather than the growling head banging sound I was expecting from minor opening acts during the weekend. The Pretty Reckless has sent its first four entries to No. 1 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Songs airplay chart with "Take Me Down" now hitting the airwaves (checkout the VEVO official music video).
Guitarist Ben Phillips was channeling a youthful Jimmy Page look while getting some good chunky tone out of a black vintage Gibson semi-hollow body axe. Mark Damon did a great job holding down the low end with his black Fender Precision, while drummer Jaimie Perkins was solid pounding out the rock. Obviously, the focal point of the band is the svelte blonde female lead singer, Taylor Momsen, dressing in all black with leather pants and a long coat… After 5 seasons as Jenny on TV’s Gossip Girl, I’d say she is right at home belting out rock tunes on stage.
TPR played Follow Me Down / Since You're Gone / Oh My God / Sweet Things / Living in the Storm / Heaven Knows / Going to Hell / Take Me Down.
This would be a great band to see in a club, but I will have to wait as this act is hitting Europe and Asia in support of their third album, the scorching yet soulful Who You Selling For.
After bailing out of the photo pit, I walked by a number of high end food trucks featuring everything from pizza, mega burritos & nachos to barbequed oysters and Maine lobster pasta… wow! In addition there was a 9 hole putt putt course with PGA level golf clubs called ‘Keep Golf Metal’ which also offered apparel that features designs that fuse the rock and golf world together.
I meandered over to the smallest stage to check out local San Francisco based Deafheaven that went onstage around the same time as TPR. Not exactly sure if I get Black Metal vocals… I mean, why even have lyrics? Singer George Clarke paced angrily with a deranged look, screeching one note for 40 minutes and the only word I understood was “Die”… I think. The wall of sound was interesting, distorted guitars droning, drums bashing away, feedback, and obscured vocals into an indistinguishable mixture of sound… kinda cool… The people that enjoy that kind of music, you know, the ones that hate their parents, seemed to be enjoying the amplified afternoon downer. But, as an amateur musician, I look at the band and say, “Hell, I could do that…” Deafheaven played Brought to the Water / From the Kettle Onto the Coil / Come Back / Dream House. So, other than the drummer’s stamina, I wasn’t impressed and walked back to The Pretty Reckless on the big stage.
When they were done, I walked over to The Jack Daniel’s Experience, a mobile museum to literally take in the Jack Daniel’s “Taste of Tennessee.” Visitors are invited to come out and tour the nation’s oldest registered distillery from outside the Jack Daniel’s Hollow, bringing a little of the much-loved distillery from Lynchburg to Sacramento. After a shot, I was on my way to the medium sized stage.
The band Meshuggah was next at 5:30 PM. Meshuggah is a Swedish extreme metal band from Umeå, formed in 1987. Meshuggah's line-up consists of founding members vocalist Jens Kidman and lead guitarist Fredrik Thordendal, drummer Tomas Haake, rhythm guitarist Mårten Hagström, and bassist Dick Lövgren.
The guitar work was more articulate, and the 5 sting Zon bass tone was excellent combined with Tomas’ double bass Sonor kit. The tunes were more structured, and the crowd loved the energy. Fredrik was sporting an 8 string Ibanez guitar that was shaped an Iceman / Gibson RD Artist, while Mårten was backing his leads with a black 8 string Ibanez axe. Now, the vocals were still not my cup of tea, but I could see Jens at least mouthing some apparent words while growling and screaming.
They performed Clockworks / Born in Dissonance / Lethargica / Do Not Look Down / Bleed / Demiurge / Future Breed Machine
After whipping the crowd into a frenzy on the medium stage, it was now time for most to indulge in a soon to be legal substance and prep your brain for Primus on the Big stage at 6:20 PM.
San Francisco Bay Area product Primus took the stage amidst intro music of Clown Dream (Danny Elfman song) and a giant inflatable spaceman / astronaut nearby.
The incredibly talented and humorous Les Claypool wearing his derby hat and round spectacles treated the introspective crowd with avant-garde funky bass licks from his custom MSI bass, equipped with a whammy bar for that extra ‘what the hell is he doing ?’ flavor.
With supreme musicianship, the band performed Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweekers / Last Salmon Man / Frizzle Fry / Here Come the Bastards / Mr. Krinkle / Too Many Puppies (with "Master of Puppets" tease) / My Name Is Mud / Jerry Was a Race Car Driver (Dog Will Hunt' sang by Mark Osegueda of Death Angel).
Guitarist Larry Lalonde played a cherry sunburst telecaster in front of a wall of Orange heads and cabs, plugged into some sort of Fractal device giving us the feeling we were listening to a film score, while drummer Tim Alexander accented the bizarre, meandering tunes. I was not partaking in the substances at hand, but I did see a guy crowd surfing… in a wheelchair. I swear.
Maybe you loved it, maybe you didn’t ‘get it’, but it was time to move back to the other stage for a little Slayer at 7:15 PM sharp.
DAN: Slayer is one of the best thrash bands in the world, and these guys can do that type of metal as well as anyone live. But aside from a storming version of “South of Heaven,” there wasn’t anything remotely melodic or hummable found during Slayer’s 60 minutes onstage. That doesn’t mean that the boys in the band can’t play, however, because they can. Lead vocalist Tom Araya doesn’t really sing as much as scream but he holds down the rumble in front of local drummer Paul Bostaph. Guitarists Kerry King and Gary Holt are thrash masters and technically proficient, spitting out riffs and solos in front of stacks of Marshalls, and the whole thing flies by in a loud, massive mess of a set that the kiddies (and many yet-to-grow-up older males) love and the rest of us try to understand.
ACE: What kind of mother gives her kid the middle name F***in ? But, we were all here to see Kerry F****n King thrash on his tribal painted custom B.C. Rich KKV. Local guitarist Gary Holt, armed with a whammy equipped signature ESP and a wah wah contributed some lead work replacing long-time guitarist Jeff Hanneman who passed in May, 2013.
The Thrash Metal guitar attack was relentless with red lights shining down on the group, making me wonder… would this eventually be Hell’s house band?
In an hour, Slayer whipped out Repentless / The Antichrist / Disciple / Mandatory Suicide / Hate Worldwide / War Ensemble / You Against You / Dead Skin Mask / Seasons in the Abyss / South of Heaven / Raining Blood / Hell Awaits / Angel of Death
With a backdrop of religious symbols combined with lasers, video screens and a colorful light show, Slayer had the crowd raising the rock horns and pumping fists.
After Slayer, I hit the Monster Energy Experience which offered free Monster flavor samplings, artist signings, and other fun stuff. Slayer took a lot out of me.
Hours prior to taking the main stage Saturday night at 8:20 PM, TOOL drummer Danny Carey was diagnosed with a serious Staph infection.
Guitarist Adam Jones posted on Instagram writing, “I truly have to respect Mr. Danny Carey who played the entire show with a very serious Staph Infection. At first on Friday morning, he was misdiagnosed with a poisonous spider bite on his upper leg. Then later Friday night the quarter sized wound was cut opened & drained. By Saturday was still aching from head to toe & from what I heard the Local Doctor recommended we skip the show. But Dan with headaches & painful joints played anyway.”
Carey plays drums with a hypnotic tribal beat that is second to none. The Kansas born drummer studied jazz, but his fluent ritualistic style is an incredible sight to witness, and worth the price of admission, along with the visual artistic impressions that Jones and company imagine and put to life on the screens surrounding the band.
Tool completed their 10-song set at Aftershock, which included an extended version of “Opiate” featuring new instrumentals. Third Eye (Extended outro) / The Grudge / Parabola / Opiate (Extended “New” Version) / Ænema/Descending / Jambi / Forty-Six & 2 / Sweat / Stinkfist (No extended bridge)
In a rare festival appearance, Tool looks ready to go after a long multi-million dollar lawsuit that was recently settled in their favor, and they could put out a new recording after a decade of waiting. Their concerts, though, are quite a visual experience and a ‘must see’!
DAN: One of the things that I like about these big festivals is the ability to see a lot of bands, many of whom you would probably not go see on your own. This becomes a problem, however, when hardly any of the bands that play before the biggies hit the stage can hold your attention for more than a song or two. On previous festival bills, the early slots were filled by the likes of Pop Evil, Soil, Otherwise, Buckcherry, Halestorm and many others, meaning that those early slots went to bands that have a history and have a sizeable catalog of popular songs.
On this day, the first half dozen bands that performed were Some Fear None, The Mendenhall Experiment, Whitechapel, The Amity Affliction, Suicide Silence, and Parkway Drive.
Meshuggah, Baroness, Parkway Drive, Suicide Silence-I’ll probably never think about any of them again. Sorry guys, but none of you are pushing the needle and creating a new sound or vibe. Everyone sounds like someone else who came before it, so it’s off to the few bands that made somewhat of a difference on Sunday.
I wish I could tell you that Max and Igor Cavalera’s “Return to Roots” set (they can’t call themselves Sepultura anymore due to a contract dispute) worked the crowd into a lather, but it didn’t. If you like Sepultura, however, you probably dug this trash-fest. Max, resembling more of a homeless Jack Black, sang with a primal feel while wearing camo and playing a camo painted ESP guitar while his brother Igor was in the back bashing on a set of silver sparkle Pearl Masters. The tunes are simple, raw, and played well by two guys that have played together a long time. The small crowd gathered at the smallest stage at the festival appeared to be a loyal group.
It took Ghost, a bunch of satanic Swedes who sound like a mix of Blue Oyster Cult, the Cult and Alice Cooper, to make me sing along to any songs. Be damned if many of the folks in attendance ‘got it’, though, because it’s hard to follow a band dressed in robes and masks playing Gibson guitars in the blazing sun. A trip to the local theater would be a much better proposition for Papa Emeritus and the group of Nameless Ghouls.
ACE: If you missed their act, just Netflix Eyes Wide Shut, mute, and pop on their CD. The band’s tunes were more melodic than most of the early bands… the lyrics were intelligible, the pace of the songs wasn’t breakneck, and the presentation was more theatrical than a shred fest. It sounds as if some of their structure and tonality is borrowed from classic Pink Floyd material.
Ghost performed: Miserere Mei, Deus / Masked Ball / Square Hammer / From the Pinnacle to the Pit / Absolution / Cirice / Mummy Dust / The Host of Seraphim
I can’t help but wonder if the drum and guitar work could get better if the musicians could see what they were doing… Now, off to the big stage to catch Chevelle.
DAN: Chevelle was okay, but it’s hard to find the place where one song stops and another begins. It takes “Send the Pain Below” and “The Red” to finally shake the crowd from its second day stupor.
ACE: C’mon, Danny downer… But, I hear what you are saying. The trio doesn’t have any variety in the sound they put out ‘live’. Tune the Fender H/S/S Strat down a whole step, add an Ibanez bass, and simple drum beats. Voila. Riff-based tunes, open chords that feedback, distortion/ wah-wah leads, growling-screeching-lamenting vocals with Tool-esque cadence. Hey, good looking dudes with some good tunes, but no musical virtuosos.
Chevelle trotted out: The Clincher / Hats Off to the Bull / Take Out the Gunman / Door to Door Cannibals / I Get It / Joyride (Omen) / Face to the Floor / The Red / Forfeit / Send the Pain Below
We took a stroll over the Coors Light Sports Bar, situated in the General Admission area, where fans watched college football all day yesterday and NFL football today while enjoying a cold Coors Light. There were many TV’s, and I was keeping an eye on the Patriots picking on the Steelers, while Dan was watching ‘everything West Coast’. On this day, every team in the AFC West was a winner, and not one team in the NFC West won… and two of them played each other!
After a quick brew, I was pumped up to go check out Zakk Wylde and his group Zakk Sabbath over at the small stage. I jumped in the photo pit and poised myself at his feet. Zakky was rippin’ it up! He looked great in his black BLS vest, combat boots, blond locks and black beard. The lights were colorful, and he put on a shred clinic with a purple bulls-eye custom SG-shaped axe slung from a studded leather strap. He was struggling with the lyric teleprompter, just like Ozzy, which I guess lends more authenticity to the Sabbath stuff when you can’t remember the words. Zakk played a lot of notes for the sake of playing a lot of notes… over and over again. Sometimes a bit of pre-planned melody goes a long way in a guitar solo… but… it’s Zakk! So it is still pretty damn cool, although self-indulgent… pumped through 4 Marshall half stacks.
Songs included: Children of the Grave / Snowblind / Supernaut / War Pigs / Fairies Wear Boots
DAN: Guitarist Zakk Wylde smoked five Sabbath covers, but nothing about it made me wish Sabbath hadn’t just come thru town.
ACE: Hmm… Now that we got our ‘rock on’, it was time to go to the other side of the venue and catch Puscifer on the medium stage. Is there an award for worst band name? What is a Puscifer? Is it Satan with boil to drain? Apparently, the name "Puscifer" was first publicized as a fictional band in the first episode of the HBO series Mr. Show, and is now a real band fronted by TOOL singer Maynard James Keenan, who not coincidentally performed the night before with Tool.
Keenan describes Puscifer as "simply a playground for the various voices in my head, a space with no clear or discernible goals, where my Id, Ego, and Anima all come together to exchange cookie recipes."
The vocals by Keenan and Carina Round were smooth and hypnotic, while half naked men and women donning leather wrestling masks gyrate on stage around a wrestling ring... an interesting band, to say the least. This visually compelling group performed Telling Ghosts / Galileo / Vagina Mine / Horizons / The Arsonist / The Remedy / Grand Canyon / Toma / Conditions of My Parole / Man Overboard
DAN: Korn also played, but it’s probably better that I don’t say much, or else Jonathan Davis will hit me with his chrome ‘topless woman’ mic stand. I’ve never liked Korn and never will.
ACE: Well, someone seems to like these guys… they’ve sold like 40 million copies of whatever they are selling… Korn kicked off their set with the growly ‘Right Now’, and if you brought a date to the festival, you were singing along to:
Right now, Can't find a way to get across the hate when I see you…
Right now, I feel it scratch inside I want to slash and beat you…
Right now, I rip apart the things inside that excite you…
Right now, I can't control myself, I fucking hate you… Shut up, shut up, shut up or I'll Fuck you up.
And they played a few more up tempo numbers like Here to Stay / Rotting in Vain / Somebody Someone / Coming Undone / Insane / Shoots and Ladders / Blind / Twist / Good God / Falling Away From Me / Freak on a Leash
Shaffer and Welch chugged along with down tuned Ibanez axes and Mesa amps / cabs while Fieldy kept the funky groove goin’ on bass. The newest member of the band, drummer Ray Luzier joined in 2007 and, for me, may be the only real talent in the band, although fans do miss ex drummer David Silveria. Ex David Lee Roth drummer and Steel Panther alumni, Ray keeps the rock ‘n’ Korn funk flowing from the back of the stage with visual flair and style.
DAN: Amazingly, the reason I came to this show turned out to be the reason to show up. Both Avenged Sevenfold and Disturbed totally stormed the place. I’ve seen Disturbed three times this year, and each time, no matter if the group was in a theater, an amphitheater or a massive festival setting, the boys were just fabulous. Loud, powerful songs, huge anthems with massive choruses and a backbeat to die for-that’s always been the Disturbed recipe and it remains to this day. And if you have the new live album, then you have a copy of the exact set played on this day.
ACE: I always look forward to Disturbed! ENERGY! Great vocals by David Draiman, very good guitar work by D.D.… did I ever tell you the story about having a Heineken with Dan Donegan at a topless bar in Anaheim? Talk to me later… anyway, these guys just tear it up and the crowd went insane! 20,000 fists in the air!
Donegan was shredding on his signature Schecter, John Moyer with a Spector bass or two, and Mike Wengren was pounding out the tunes on a custom painted Pearl double bass kit. From: Ten Thousand Fists / The Game / The Vengeful One / Prayer / Liberate / Stupify / The Sound of Silence / The Animal / Inside the Fire / The Light / Stricken / Indestructible / Voices and finishing with the ever popular Down With the Sickness!
With a few minutes to kill afterward, we walked over to The Music Experience. California's biggest rock festival features a tent housing The Music Experience- a free, interactive "rock star" exhibit where fans can get hands-on interaction with tons of musical equipment—much of which is used by the artists performing on stage here. Participating brands include ESP, LTD, Fender, Jackson, EVH, Gretsch, Charvel and others… but me? I was jammin’ on a PRS CU24… nice! They also have meet and greets with members of various AFTERSHOCK artists. Nice touch!
DAN: Ace, put the guitar back… off to the main stage. Even though Avenged Sevenfold’s new album turned out to be a head scratcher, the set played reminded one and all in attendance just how good the band is live. Lead vocalist M Shadows is back looking like he did in the band’s earlier days, and his vocals and stage presence were a highlight. The twin lead guitar magic of Synyster Gates and Zacky Vengeance was also a highlight, as both guitarists played solos on their signature Schecters individually and in tandem that few in the modern metal genre can pull off. Bassist Johnny Christ is a rock, but is was new drummer Brooks Wackerman (ex-Bad Religion) who turned out to be the real star onstage. Searching for a permanent fixture behind the kit since the departure of Arin Ilejay and the untimely death of The Rev, Wackerman played all the intricate beats and fills with ease. The group played a greatest hits set that opened with “Nightmare” and included my favorite A7X song ever, “Gunslinger.”
ACE: Brooks is the younger brother of Chad Wackerman, one of the best drummers on the planet, so we know he borrowed a few chops here and there from big bro’. Avenged’s set list was a good one! Nightmare / Afterlife / Shepherd of Fire / Hail to the King / Buried Alive / Bat Country / To End the Rapture / Gunslinger / Planets / Acid Rain and 2 Encores: The Stage / Unholy Confessions
DAN: With Aftershock 2016 now in the books, I can say with confidence that this is the festival to attend if you live in the Bay Area and surrounding Northern California. The problems with logistics have been solved; in my opinion, we are still waiting for the perfect bill that could make this show the concert of the year.
ACE: I agree that this is a ‘must-do’ gig, no matter where you live. Thousands of people rented the entire inventory of nearby hotel / motel rooms, and made it a nice long weekend.
There is truly no way you can book 35 top bill bands, and with some of the acts starting before noon, it wouldn’t make sense. Local bands get a chance to be seen and heard, bands that normally wouldn’t be in this area get paired up with other higher profile travelling acts, and if you want your weekend ticket to stay around 200.00, you don’t want to spend half a mil on KISS for lunchtime.
It is fun to spend a leisurely day and check out random acts of growling. If there were only 4 evening bands per day, just the traffic and influx of people would be a daunting task to try to make everything work together smoothly.
The food, drink and activities are top notch. The prices aren’t as high as a Dodger game, and I have to tip my hat to the Security team. There are plenty of mosh pit people and crowd surfers acting crazy and having good-spirited fun, but when these concert goers get passed to the front of the stage by ten thousand hands, these big burly dudes pluck the pink Mohawk folks from the crowd, set them down nicely, and usher them to safety on the side of the stage. I have seen other concerts where the rowdies aren’t treated with much respect at all.
These Aftershock pros running this festival are doing things right and this festival will just get better every year as folks come together for a little Alternative Nu heavy metal hardcore experimental progressive funk deathcore thrash weekend fellowship. Amen.