Aftermath Part Three: Beartooth

Wait, what am I doing. I can’t be devoting an entire post to a single, 45 minute set of a band that has at this point only dropped one EP and one studio album can I? You bet your sweet, metal asses I am. I can’t go into the fuzzy details of how I made the decision to dedicate one entire post to this band, but I found myself have far too much to say about them to only dedicate a small section to them. I was already excited to see them going into the festival, but the experience I had was…..changing. So why don’t you guys join me as I recount this primal experience of watching Beartooth perform live.

I got to the Coors Light stage roughly twenty minutes before the band Beartooth was supposed to come on. This band is a stalwart favorite among the Honest Brutality crew. They were on my personal list of bands I definitely needed to see while I was here. As I got to the stage, I noticed two striking differences from the Suicidal Tendencies set I had just witnessed. First, there weren’t a lot of people here. I realized I had shown up fairly early in a festival that has a schedule that is completely back to back from start to finish, but still. Only 20 minutes before their set and there are maybe eighty to one hundred people hanging around. All of them here to see Beartooth, and most of them were enormous fans like myself. One particular fellow even had their symbol shaved into the side of his head. This obviously isn’t the same level of dedication as say, a rabid Slayer fan, however it is obvious that this musical group speaks to people on such a level to evoke similar styles of zeal. The second thing I noticed, was the average age this crowd compared to the one I was in previously. Most of the fans here seemed to be quite a bit younger than even myself, which caught me by surprise. It was at this point that a nice young lady became curious about all the rubber bracelets I was wearing. We struck up a conversation and I handed her a few for her and her friend. As took a glance at my phone and realized it was only 5 minutes until show time. Out of curiosity I stood on my toes to glance around the crowd. As far as I can see, there are people packed into the small field before the stage, and in the same density packed onto the hill. From the crest of that knoll, all the way down to the rails of the stage, there were people eagerly waiting for this band to play. It hit me that maybe this band had been a bit underestimated when it came to the decision of their placement in the festival. From the mass gathering of humanity that had appeared in the span of 5 minutes, I bet these guys could have easily filled the areas that much larger and more renowned bands were playing at this festival. It actually baffles me that Beartooth was placed on the smallest stage out on the edge of the event. My thoughts were interrupted however; as my back was turned I was slapped with double strike of bass drums and a crunching guitar riff. It was time.

I must admit that the majority of this performance is kind of a blur to me. I was caught up in the beatiful fervor that accompanies seeing such and aggressive, talented, and energetic performance. Personally, this set was one of my highlights of the Aftershock 2015. The energy wasn’t just in the band though, the crowd was absolutely insane. Previously I spoke about being shuffled and moved in the Suicidal Tendencies audience, yet that did nothing to prepare me for this experience. Mr. Caleb Shomo may be one of the best front men I have ever seen live. His ability to whip his crowd into a fury and have complete participation from those close to the stage is impressive to say the least. At one point I remember him saying that he didn’t want a single person in this crowd standing still. I’m not sure about all the people towards the back of the field or the hill, but from where I was he got his wish and more. At this point I was simultaneously headbanging, screaming my lungs out, and actively avoiding the unpredictable mosh pits that were opening and closing like wormholes in the void of space. I’m fairly certain I may have taken a crowd surfer to the back of my head as well. Which reminds me of the third striking thing that caught me about this crowd.

Most of the people around me (being noticeably younger than myself, mind you) were not at all experienced enough to be savvy in a metal show crowd with this much chaos and excitement. I saw several crowd surfers fall, as the uncertain people below them wondered how they were supposed to deal with a person going above them. I remember one small guy (I mean small as in half my height and my weight, maybe a bit larger…maybe) who found himself being on the border of a mosh pit. He had his back turned to it and was visibly distressed at being slammed into from behind. I swapped him places and mentioned that it’s normally best to face TOWARDS a pit that opens near you. Now, I mention these points as if they might be a bad thing, but they weren’t. In all of these mishaps and accidents, I did not see a single person that wasn’t beaming and smiling from being a part of this. Amidst the thrashing, crashing, and bashing mayhem, every one had a big smile on their face as we all, and I repeat this, as ALL of us in the crowd shouted along word for word with Mr. Shomo.

The show ended, and I was drenched in sweat, mostly my own, but probably not all of it. I stumbled to the nearest trashcan to have a small funeral for my sunglasses that got shattered and busted about 10 minutes into the show. I found some shade under a tree and lid under it for a minute. All the while still wondering how such a band was put on this particular stage, when they have such a massive, zealous, and furious fan base. Beartooth will definitely be making a big name for itself in the next few years. I will bet anyone money on this.

Aftermath Part 2: High Expectations

I awoke Saturday morning with mixed expectations for what lied ahead of me at Aftershock 2015, Day 1. Giddyness, excitement, apprehension, all of these mixed into me as I munched on a muffin and sipped cold espresso at the campground before the truly amazing and wonderful experiences I had on the first day. I had so much fun, I actually have to make two different articles about the first day alone. So here’s my first post about seeing the real meat and potatoes of Aftershock 2015, the live bands. Take a little trip with me through Gibson Ranch:

Raveneye was the first band of the day. I have to admit, I had no idea what to expect from this little power trio. First of all, their sound quality live was brilliant and clean. They were tight, well mixed, and acted like they had done this a million times before. Being the first act of the festival, there wasn’t really an enormous crowd, yet these guys played out their heart and souls for the people who were there. Second, the showmanship these guys had and the energy they put off was gargantuan. I had a difficult time keeping track of them jumping around that stage. On top of that, the guitarist leaped off the bass drum to the bassists shoulders. They strutted the stage like that for a solid 30-45 seconds even, maybe a bit longer. With knowing almost nothing about this band to begin with, I was thoroughly impressed with their stage play and musicianship. Right out of the gate, they had set a high bar my thoughts at the end of their set was that they would be a tough act to follow up. However, the day was just getting started.

Following a killer performance by Raveneye, I moved to the North Stage to see Snot. I have to preface my thoughts on this set with an admission that I have only really heard Snot’s first album. That album though, was something far ahead of it’s time. Being released in the midst of the Grunge era, it was certainly something ahead of it’s time. A beginning foray into a style of metal that would later become known as  “Nu-Metal”. I may be a grunge baby, but that particular style is the reason I became such a fervent and rabid metalhead. You would also be hard pressed to find a metalhead who looks back on this album and band with any ill will or bad thoughts. Anyway, I digress. As I got into the crowd for Snot, I was full of excitement and apprehension. Although Snot hasn’t had the original vocalist for almost 2 decades, what would seeing them live be like? Can they replicate that kind of energy on stage? Will standing here watching this band even be worth my time? After the first few bars of their set, all of those questions were answered. Respectively as, “Amazing”, “Fuck yes they can”, and “I can’t believe you even asked yourself that third question, stupid.” For the second time that day (and this certainly wasn’t the last) I was blown away by a fantastically tight band, coupled with more outstanding energy. As a guy who loves to dabble in mosh pits, I must say I had a difficult time resisting to urge to jump into that insane circle pit that opened towards the rear of the crowd. Knowing that I had to focus and pay attention for the sake of these blogs, as well as save my energy for the next two days, I was a good boy and watched with fervent glee through the set.

Following two phenomenal bands, I found myself in need of a small break to recuperate and hydrate. At this point I had found myself with my best friend and roommate, who had just made his way into the festival. By the time we got ourselves situated and ready to see a new band, the Art of Dying was doing their sound check. I will probably get some flak for this part. I’m not going to shy away from this fact though, as we’re the Honest Brutality podcast for a reason. Personally, I was not impressed with the music itself. It doesn’t seem to resonate with me in any way on an emotional level and to be completely honest I was over the set about halfway through. Now, with my personal opinion off my chest and out of the way I can move on with saying that these guys are heartfelt and passionate musicians. Despite me not being big on their product, there were plenty of people in front of that stage who would disagree with me, and those guys were all about the fans who came to see them. On top of that, the singer was obviously completely emotionally invested in his craft. One of their songs (I apologize as I cannot remember what the name of this song is) was prefaced with a story of how the front man’s father battled, and subsequently succumbed too, a long stint with cancer. On top of that, the day they performed Aftershock was the anniversary of his father’s passing. In memorial, the singer was wearing a red sash around his neck for his father, who I’m sure was looking down on you and beaming with pride from wherever he may be. You certainly poured your soul into that show,; though I may not have really liked any of it, I couldn’t help but be moved by the passion in your performance. In all, you guys definitely have a good thing going.I have been disappointed with musical acts that have come from Canada in the past (*cough* Nickelback and Bieber *cough*), but I am really excited to see this group grow and see what kind of an impact they have on the world of music. I may not be a fan at the moment, but I am always open to learning the errors of my ways.

I’ll conclude this part of my story of Aftershock 2015 with my experience with a little band that goes by Suicidal Tendencies. Now, I was frothing at the mouth for this show all the way up to when I found my place in the quickly expanding crowd. I certainly wasn’t the only one. I was completely surrounded with rabid fans of this band, and they guys up on that stage knew exactly how to bring that excitement up to a critical level. Before anyone even picked up an instrument, or sat behind the drum kit, or said a single word into the microphone, various members of the band were walking onto the stage. In a style similar to Tommy Lee’s infamous “Titty Cam”, the band members were out there with phones and recorders preserving the fervency of the crowd. There must have been at least five different instances where a member of this band, well before their time to play mind you, came out and shot small videos of the fans that were ready to go completely ape shit for this group of musicians. The crowd was restless, and I probably had to move spots at least twice before the first note was played simply due to the powerful motions of the audience. Then the set started, and I was shifted and tossed from one position to another, horns in the air with the rest, as pit after pit opened up to wild and aggressive music that is Suicidal Tendencies.  I did not mind this, although I quickly found myself separated and alone from those I had taken position with at the start. It was obvious that this awesome group of men were veterans at crowd play. Normally, bands put the job of rousing the crowd to the front man. This was not the case with this set, as the drummer, bassist, and all members took active part in keeping the excitement in the audience at it’s peak. That was the first and only time (so far, anyway) I heard drummer of a band continuously call for a circle pit in his audience, who were more than willing to oblige him. To be honest, I wandered out of that crowd in a daze. Not just from the complete kick ass performance I had just witnessed, but from being engrossed in such a wild and rowdy crowd. I was alone, a bit lost, and had no idea what to do with myself. I was loving every moment of that, and once again I found myself in search of water and shade, as I knew that I was in for equally insane experience after this, and I needed to steel myself.

This all comes in the next post though, Disciples, as I have way to many thoughts about the rest of the first day of Aftershock to cram into one single article. It’s coming soon, though. \m/

The Aftermath Part One: Camping

I have to begin my story of the immersive experience of Aftershock 2015 with a small overview of our arrival and accommodations. I don’t wish to bore anyone with the menial details of the “hurry up and wait” of getting in. Nor did I wish to go into the particulars of setting up and breaking down. If you’ve been camping before, you know all that.

Let’s start by saying there was palpable apprehension amongst our crew as we got into the campsite. Between the search, finding out we would not be able to leave, the hitch with getting Camera Rebel into the campground, we were all pretty tight wound by 12:30pm Friday afternoon. In addition to this, I had never been to an event of this magnitude before, and my excitement and nerves had bundled into a perfect storm of ‘WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON?!”. In addition to this, Evilerk was a veteran of Aftershock, and he was uncertain as to how the new venue and the new camping upgrade would turn out.

That being said, the camping turned to be exactly what I had expected and wanted. A tent city of the glorious metal community packed like sardines in a can in a field. Tent poles and shade covers crossing the tight borders of campsites as everyone established themselves; no one minding the proverbial bumping of elbows as we invaded the personal space of one another in necessity. One might expect that packing so many “aggressive” metalheads into one place may spell out in disaster or rioting as our excitement to see the powerful music we all know and love boils over. This was not at all the case, however.

Out of every major public gathering I have been too (this being the largest by far) I have never experienced such a spirit of community. We had gathered here from all across the west side of the United States, some from even farther, many of us having never met any of the people around us before. Yet immediately it was as if were all family in a way. The first night there became a festival of loud music being played all around. Folks sharing spirits and food and good humour with all around. I have never felt so comfortable to be around so many complete strangers in my life, but mainly because we didn’t feel like strangers.

Of course, the Honest Brutality crew was graced with exceptional neighbors as well, and I must take a moment to thank them personally. From Crow, Porno Paul, and their friends and family. To the adorable couples that were adjacent to us. To the “real world” neighbors (you know who you are) of Evilerk who traveled with us. To Deathmetal Dave and his rambunctious gaggle of friends and family. You were all truly wonderful people to meet and share space with for those three days. I certainly hope I cross paths with all of you again in our future journeys.

All good things come to an end, sadly. We were faced with the terrifying prospect of leaving this packed field at some point. Yet, that was probably the most painless experience of it all. Unlike those who did not decide to camp and had to leave the final night of Aftershock in the mad rush that accompanies every major festival or event; us campers had the option to trickle out as we pleased. After a cup of coffee, and few bummed cigarettes, and dazed wandering as we packed from our experiences of the previous 48 hours, we were able to slowly drive out of the campground with almost no traffic and continue on our way home.

In conclusion, I am wildly impressed with how well Gibson Ranch and the Aftershock Organization handled this year’s event. The mind boggling logistics of it must have been daunting to say the least. It was not without it hitches, wrinkles, and hiccups of course. Those did little to nothing to take away from the truly wonderful experience the entire thing was. If available in the future, I will certainly be taking any camping upgrade and planning accordingly.

All that being said, I have plenty of more material about this truly massive and all encompassing experience that was Aftershock 2015. Stay tuned for more, Disciples of Brutality \m/