Aftershock Festival 2014 – Still Shaking

Aftershock Festival
Aug. 13 – 14, 2014
Discovery Park, Sacramento

The Monster Energy Aftershock Festival is much more than a concert–it’s a commitment. An entire weekend of endless musical artists overlap each other on five stages under the sweltering Sacramento sun during the hottest part of the summer. Known for bringing in a diverse range of acts from the alternative and rock/metal sectors, fans make the trek from all over the western states to take part in this monstrous event.

This year was the largest I have attended, with both days selling out . For the most part, the two days are separated by genre, beginning with the alt bands on Saturday and wrapping up with the rock/metal acts on Sunday. However, the savvy promoters who put the show together would rather have fans attend both days, so a “ringer” from the opposing genre is added in about midway through each day to satisfy both musical appetites and encourage fans to buy the weekend package rather than a single day’s admission.

This year, Black Label Society (a.k.a. BLS) was the chosen “ringer” for Saturday. Of the many splinter groups that have been formed by former members of rock mega-star institutions, Zakk Wylde’s (Ozzy Osborne) Black Label Society has been one of the most “wildly” successful. Many have attempted to wean themselves from the mothership and make their own way in the music world, but BLS is one of the few to succeed and thrive. Their success was originally based around Zakk’s fast, furious digits atop the strings, with further support from an inspired merchandise marketing campaign gone viral. BLS merchandise sports patch sets and silk-screened images that emulate those donned by bike clubs have caused a few unassuming wearers to be targeted when caught on a bike by authentic bike club patch holders. So BLS fans, remember: bring a change of clothes whenever you ride your two-wheeler on the U.S. highways so you won’t be “flying your BLS colors” for all to see.

Zakk and friends came out with all fingers fully blazing alongside a thunderous rhythm section taking the place of mortar in the foundation of their intricate arrangements. The 103 degree heat was quickly forgotten by the metal heads who shelled out an extra $64.50 to $124.50 just to see these guys rage.

While the metal infiltrators were about to wrap things up, punkers Bad Religion was firing things up on their stage. Bad Religion is a veteran punk band whose lineage dates back to 1979 when punk rock was in its formative years. Guitarist/founder Brett Gurewitz has been a major player in punk’s evolution since he founded Epitaph Records in the ’80s (a mostly punk label that at one time was home to fellow Aftershockers Pennywise and The Offspring). Bad Religion is old school punk, and their set consisted of songs from their entire catalog, including “21st Century (Digital Boy),” “Punk Rock Song,” and “F**k You.” As far as the crowd was concerned, the heat of the day at that point was Bad Religion.

As for the bands at the top of Saturday’s bill–Limpbizkit, The Offspring, and Weezer–these are highly seasoned pros, acutely aware of what to bring to the stage to give the fans their money’s worth. And that they did. My favorite of the three was The Offspring. These guys are what I consider “polished punk.” Front runners among the new generation of punkers in the ’90s, they replaced the old school political/anti-establishment-based lyrics with a less serious, adolescent-angst, anthemic approach. With so many hits to choose from, I don’t envy the guy put in charge of making the set list! Songs included “Nitro,”  “Something to Believe In,” “So Alone,” “Smash,” and “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy).”
On Day Two, we met with band members Adrian Patrick(vocals) and Corky Gainsford (drums) from the emerging band Otherwise. BAM interviewed Otherwise at last year’s Aftershock Festival, which was so much fun that it demanded a repeat performance. In the following clip, Adrian and Corky talk about their brand-new sophomore album, Peace At All Costs.

Otherwise is one of those deep-thinking bands whose intelligently thought-out arrangements provide a dynamically driven landscape for Adrian to exploit the many gifts in his vocal bag of tricks. Dynamics are the name of the game with these guys, whose influences run the gamut from Nickleback to Marilyn Manson, with tinges of so many others that it is a waste of time to try to isolate them all (and besides, in the end you’ll probably just think: Otherwise). I love these guys–the talent and song writing skills are there, plus they have a “no fear attitude” about stretching out into unfamiliar territory. They know what they’re made of, and they’re not afraid of proving…Otherwise.

Kyng is another emerging band I’ve had the opportunity to see twice already this year. These guys have been impressive every time. Bassist Tony Castaneda talked with us about their upcoming tour with Aftershock tour-mates Anti-Mortem and Lionize, which will take them to Europe for the first time. Amid the hard times and hassles every emerging band endures during their struggle to the top, these are the payoffs that make the difficult journey acceptable and worthwhile. And years from now, these same memories are the bullet-point moments passed on to future generations that live on with the immortality of music–it’s priceless stuff!

It baffles the mind to see how the audience was able to endure this day-long marathon of metal and still be kicking on all cylinders for the final three bands. Five Finger Death Punch came equipped with their signature brand of “woop-ass” locked, loaded, and launched at the crowd in the form of songs like “Burn It Down,” “Bad Company” (cover), “Never Enough,” and “The Bleeding.” But there is a bit more depth and substance to FFDP than one would assume of a metal band. These guys are devoted, card-carrying activists/supporters on behalf of our military veterans and the foundations that support them, as bassist Chris Kael explains in this clip…

Click FFDP guitarist Jason Hook, who shares his memories of BAM at last year’s event…

The crowd shifted stages to see what Rob Zombie had in store for them. Of the top three, these guys were my favorite. Since I last saw them at Mayhem in 2013, the band seems to have bonded at an even deeper level, performing as a cohesive unit rather than as merely “Rob Zombie and friends.” John 5 ripped into his guitar solo as Rob disappeared from the stage, only to reappear seconds later in the photo pit at the front of the stage. Thrilling the crowd no end, he scaled the barricade, holding a high-powered beam to scan the crowd and shake the hands of those within reach. Now that’s something you don’t see every day from Mr. Z! Their set contained all the “biggies”: “Superbeast,” “More Human Than Human,” “Thunder Kiss 65,” “House of 1000 Corpses,” and “Dragula.”

Godsmack is one of my all-time favorite bands, and they were excellent, too. The talent of Sully Erna can’t be denied, from his anguished, emotive vocal style to his perfection as a percussionist. He and drummer Shannon Larkin engaged in a pounding when they went head-to-head for a duo drum solo–well done, guys! Sully is a powerful performer, with an equally powerful band, whose songs paint the picture of the turbulent life he’s led, with songs like “1000hp,” “Voodoo,” “Speak,” and “I Stand Alone.”

For those who enjoy the best that the alt and rock/metal genres have to offer, pick up some tickets for Aftershock 2015!
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