Continuing on with my Aftershock Festival 2018 experience for day two, we entered the venue on Sunday at around 12:30 PM to catch Amigo the Devil performing on the Monster Stage. With our media credentials already taken care of, the entry process went far smoother than it did on Saturday. Thankfully, were able to simply walk right through the gate.
We got to the VIP area and took a spot right up against the fence to watch Amigo the Devil’s set. The weather was a bit cooler than the day before and there was a slight breeze at this point. Amigo the Devil put on a killer performance that essentially consisted of just him and a guitar. It was a highly entertaining mix of storytelling and performance art that quickly intoxicated the early show-goers in the crowd. Even on the big stage, Amigo was able to impressively bring an intimate, neighborhood coffee house-like feel to the atmosphere. Compared to other acts on the Aftershock bill, Amigo the Devil brought a completely unique energy that made for an immediately memorable experience.
Making our way over to the Discovery Stage, we caught Dance Gavin Dance. They brought an upbeat and youthful energy to the show that seemed to resonate well with their Sacramento, California, hometown fans. Their sound was crisp and punchy. Generally speaking, this year’s Aftershock delivered amazing sound quality on each stage. Hats off to the techs and crew who were able to make that happen for band after band throughout both days.
Sliding back over to the Monster Stage, we checked out Dorothy’s set. Luckily, we found a spot right up close and had an excellent view of the show – I’m pretty sure she even waved at us once. Dorothy put on an amazing performance that was easily one of the highlights of the festival for my wife and I. Dorothy’s vocals were just as amazing as you would hope for. I’d even go so far as to say she sounds even better raw and in-person than she does on record. Overall, she killed it with her Janis Joplin/Ann Wilson-esque bluesy rock sound and equally impressive backing band. By this time the weather was starting to get hotter, prompting the black leather and sequined shawl-clad Dorothy to comment “This is why you don’t wear leather pants,” and then to a random female audience member, “Shout out to your titties.” Needless to say, it was a badass show.
Next up, and back over on the Discovery Stage was Black Veil Brides. Their mix of goth, glam, and metalcore really had the crowd going. At this point, due to my diligent and industrious Metal Nexus editor’s behind-the-scenes work, we were able to secure an interview later in the day with psych/stoner rock band All Them Witches. Due to a few unexpected circumstances, we ended up one photographer short, so my wife and I had to wing it as best we could with just two iPhones and a microphone. While we sat and watched/listened to Black Veil Brides, we quickly transcribed some interview questions and figured out a game plan with our limited equipment on the fly.
By this time the wind had decided to significantly pick up, creating small dust storms all around the park. Several fans and staff began donning dust masks because it had gotten so bad.
Over on the Monster Stage, the next band to perform was Bullet for My Valentine. Full disclosure, their sound was not my particular cup of tea, however, as an avid follower of music I can objectively identify and recognize talent. For their particular style of metalcore, they were able to deliver a powerful set for their fans, much like Black Veil Brides had done just before them. The crowd certainly seemed to enjoy it and the intense energy they brought was undeniable.
Now it was time to head back to the media tent and get set up for my interview. My wife and I headed back and got set up at our table with no problems. We found a great spot next to the always lively and friendly Jose Mangin who was just finishing up a couple interviews and photoshoots right next to us.
After a short wait – while just taking in all the backstage atmosphere – Rob, Parks, and Ben of All Them Witches walked up and greeted us. We all sat down and had a great time during our brief, casual conversation that you can check out here.
After that exciting and memorable first-time experience, it was time for a break to grab some food. After a short wait in line, we got our food and found a spot in some shade and out of the wind. Slash Featuring Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators had already started playing at this point on the Discovery Stage, so we quickly finished up our meal and headed over to check out their set. They put on a respectable performance, but if I’m being perfectly honest, I would loved to have seen Slash really get into some serious shredding like I know he’s capable of. Overall, he and the band did play well, and Kennedy’s vocals sounded strong, but I was a bit let down by not being entirely blown away.
Shifting back over to the Monster Stage again, Incubus was next up to perform. Starting things off, they played some of their more high-energy tunes with “Privledge,” “Anna Molly,” and “Megalomaniac.” We ended up with a great spot, up close to the action as they played through their extensive set comprised of a good blend of radio hits and deep cuts. The highlight, for me, was during the iconic and anthemic “Pardon Me” that had the entire massive crowd singing along to the chorus. Amongst the set were some unexpectedly placed cover tunes of INXS’ “Need You Tonight” and Snoop Dogg’s “Gin and Juice.” They ended with the epic, early 2000’s radio mainstay “Drive,” for a solidly crowd-pleasing performance overall.
Over on the Discovery Stage, and a band I had always wanted to see but never had before, were the veteran Seattle grunge rockers themselves, Alice in Chains. One of the surprising highlights of their set was an awesomely filthy rendition of “Dam That River” from their critically-acclaimed ‘Dirt’ LP. They played a mix of classic Layne Staley-era tunes and new tracks from their recently released ‘Rainier Fog.’ Jerry Cantrell, Sean Kinney, and Mike Inez delivered a razor-sharp performance with some particularly impressive guitarwork from Cantrell. Current vocalist, William DuVall delivered a strong performance, but at the risk of sounding like “that guy” I couldn’t help but miss the absence of Staley’s voice. DuVall is unquestionably an accomplished and amazing-sounding singer in his own right, but the grit and grime Staley was always able to provide vocally lent a very specific quality to AiC’s sound that will forever be irreplaceable in my opinion. Finishing out their set, they ended with the mega-hits “Man in the Box,” “Would?,” and “Rooster” that provided for some amazing crowd sing-along moments.
Last but not least, was the long-awaited Northern California re-emergence of System of a Down on the Monster Stage. Up to this point, throughout the entire day there was a certain buzz that was felt in the crowd, different than the Saturday vibe. It was something you couldn’t quite pinpoint, but bottom line is that you knew the System of a Down fans were here and you could feel their maniacal energy brewing up for the show that was coming. A quick glance around and you could see by the looks of things that people were here tonight to go fucking nuts.
As soon as the lights went dim to start the show, you could feel the energy in the crowd was about to absolutely erupt as the first chug of the opening riff for “Prison Song” rang out across the masses followed by Serj Tankian’s whisper, “They’re trying to build a prison…” It was essentially the sound of an entire sold-out crowd simultaneously getting the chills all at once. As the song played on, the energy intensified and the moshpit didn’t hesitate for a second to start swirling. Song after song, SOAD played a barrage of pummeling, maniacal tunes whose highlights included “B.Y.O.B.,” “Violent Pornography,” “Needles,” “Psycho,” and “Chop Suey!” among several others. Vocally, Tankian sounded as if he hadn’t aged a bit as the frontman of the now 20+ years old band. All band members were on point throughout the night and their sound was as thick and crushing as you could ask for. They ended with the monumental hit, “Toxicity” and “Sugar” to close out the evening.
More than just an amazingly unforgettable, mind-blowing, and emotional performance, there was something else in the air that night. Perhaps in today’s political climate what SOAD provided was what fans had been craving and it was delivered to us at exactly the right time in precisely the right way. There was real meaning in Tankian’s words that night and the primal rage emitted from the sounds of the guitars and drums unleashed an angst in all of us that had been waiting to come out for a long time but couldn’t locate an outlet.
Overall, they came, they destroyed, and gave us a show that was almost worth the ticket price alone. Hopefully, it’s a sign of big things to come in the near future from the band. We need our System of a Down back!