Knotfest night 1, Oct. 25th 2014, San Manuel Amphitheater, San Bernardino, California
on October 21, 2014 3:19 PM in
It is no secret that the United States of America is home to a ridiculously large number of fundamentalists. The ratio fluctuates depending on the State you happen to be in at the time of course, but the number seems to swell more often than it wanes.
It should have come as no surprise then that they were sure to have their numbers present at the entrance to the San Manuel Amphitheater in San Bernardino for the kickoff of the 2nd annual Knotfest.
We weren’t terribly late arriving for day 1 at all. However the lineup had already stretched from the gates, all the way down the substantial hill leading up to it, right to the parking lot. With it clearly visible from the taxi drop off point, the blazing California sun already making its presence felt with a vengeance, and absolutely no libations to tide us over during the wait, we could only hope for as smooth an influx as possible to the park lest we were to become extremely uncomfortable.
Little did we know…
As my new friends and I neared the mammoth line it became painfully apparent that our lack of drinks and the blistering heat would not be the most annoying compliments to a slow moving line.
“Is that…..do I hear scripture?”
Enter: the Jesus clan.
Complete with bullhorns, giant picket signs, and crosses, this crew of religious zealots relentlessly paced up and down the walkway telling all within earshot that we were sinners and needed to be saved by giving our lives to Jesus. ALL OF US! Everyone in line was a sinner.
Also, were you aware that judgement day is coming?
You see, I’m pretty sure it came a long time ago. 1991 to be precise. It starred Arnold Schwarzenegger and was one of the better sequels ever put to film.
Anybody that knows me knows my views on the subject and that I could very easily go off on a quite prolonged tangent about this. Now I have never been a fan of proselytizing to begin with at all, however I am pretty sure your success percentage at a heavy metal festival is going to be all of about zero.
But I digress. This is a music blog, I will stick to music…..for now.
Once past security we were greeted at the gates by a few stilt walkers wearing some sort of horned animal head masks that would alternately pose with/mess with attendees. I should have expected no less at an event put on by the 9. Just one of many unique touches the boys added to their festival.
The venue itself is fantastic. I have heard that Knotfest is to move to a new location every year. A shame as this seemed a perfect venue for the event.
I really can’t say enough good things about this festival. If you are a fan of metal this was not one to miss. With multiple food, merch, & booze vendors scattered about the vast expanse of the San Manuel Amphitheater it was an incredibly well planned event.
Aside from the killer lineup of acts on board for the weekend there were all kinds of activities to keep people entertained at any point in time. Concert goers could get on rides like the Ring of Fire roller coaster and the zipline to boost their adrenaline, or could merely watch as performers flew though the air on dirtbikes as well as stunting & smokeshows at the motorsports park.
The Slipknot museum was also a popular attraction as at any time during the day the lineup stretched from the tent all the way across the lower lawn by stages 002 & 003. Thankfully it moved at a decent pace.
The 1st act we caught was Prong. If this is an act you are not familiar with they are most definitely worth checking out. Their hard rocking set was one that proved worthy of a higher billing than the one they held on stage 005. It also incited one of the more vicious circle pits of the weekend, one that even saw a wheelchair bound man pushed by his buddy circling through throwing elbows. This guy impressed the hell out of me.
That wouldn’t be the last time he made an appearance that left an impression.
From one of the most vicious pits, we then moved over to catch the last half of Miss May I’s set which contained by far the largest pit. As the Ohio quintet raged on stage, their faithful ran what must have equated to at least a half marathon in a circle that reached far out and around the the soundboard and back again to the stage. It was quite a spectacle to behold. Miss May I’s set was top notch as well.
Jose Mangin from Liquid Metal on XM took to the stage next to introduce the Butcher Babies. There are certain bands that incur a lot of shit-talking from fans in the metal community, BB are definitely one of them. Scroll through any message board online that involves this act and you will quickly see what I am referring to. They are most certainly not deserving of this treatment. These 2 girls rock every bit as hard as most anyone out there and the band backing them up can most definitely hold their own. Great live act!
And they’re hot too, so, bonus!
I wasn’t too sure what to expect from In This Moment. What I wasn’t expecting though, was the very diva-like performance from frontwoman Maria Brink. With the costume changes between every song and the head mounted mic it had more of a Britney Spears feel to it as opposed to a rock or metal show. Also her vocals often got muddied up in the mix at certain points during songs and was difficult to hear. I wouldn’t say it was terrible by any means, the ITM faithful were eating it up, it just didn’t sit right with me.
Carcass played an absolutely killer set on stage 002 before thrash legends Testament closed out that same stage with a great set of their own. It was very cool after all these years to finally get to see both these acts at work. They did not disappoint.
Warming up the main stage on night #1 was Hatebreed, Black Label Society, Anthrax, and Danzig respectively. While the 1st 3 acts all hit the stage with ferocity, the prevailing feeling around the amphitheater was that, although they ended strong, Danzig sort of arrived with a wimper.
It didn’t matter, next up was why we were all here to begin with.
With a giant blue curtain obscuring the stage from view, tension steadily built throughout the crowd as everyone waited to hear what the masked masters would open with on this historic night. As the familiar distorted tones accompanied by Sid’s tortured & anguished screams from the intro track “(515)” from Iowa began playing over the PA, the faithful’s question was instantaneously answered. And what a track to open with after such a long absence.
We’re going old school with this shit.
As the curtain raised to the rafters the Knot exploded into “People = Shit” and mayhem ensued. If any sort of seismic activity was registered around the LA/San Bernardino area that night it was no doubt propagated by the 50,000 maggots in attendance at the San Manuel Amphitheater simultaneously losing their minds.
2 curved ramps ascended up to stairs on either side of the new drummer which led to a higher platform crowned with a massive demon ram head with glowing eyes.
Oh yeah, and fire. Lots of fire.
“Is that the one you fuckin wanted out there?!” Taylor yelled to the crowd at the culmination of the 1st song of the evening.
Holy shit they turned it up again and it’s only the 2nd song! As they broke into the classic hidden track from their seminal debut album, Taylor sprinted at top speed back and forth on the stage between Mick and Jim before again assuming his perch at the front to batter the audience with the expeditious verses of this brutally heavy track. We were more than happy to accept the battery let me tell you.
After only 2 songs it was already blatantly clear that the 2 new members of this incredible powerhouse unit are more than capable of holding down the fort on their end of things. The new bassist, Alessandro Venturella, more or less stayed put between the risers in the area in front and below the drum kit and expertly nailed down his part.
The band’s original plan was to keep the identities of both new members hush hush for the time being. However the bassist was outed by the distinctive hand tattoos he sports that could be seen in the video for “The Devil In I”. There is wide spread speculation as to the identity of the new drummer, but since it is merely speculation at this point with nothing being confirmed in any way, for the sake of argument I will simply refer to him as, oh I don’t know……JW.
Former drummer Joey Jordison left some pretty big shows to fill. When his departure from the band was announced in 2013 I was more than a little concerned for the future of the 9. Not only is he an incredible drummer but also one of the founding members & major contributing songwriter, as was the late bassist Paul Gray. Now, having run through their latest release “.5: The Gray Chapter” MULTIPLE times and also seeing them live, any concern I had harbored has been completely decimated.
The Knot are back. The Knot are back and in FINE fucking form!
These 9 maniacs absolutely ripped through tracks spanning their entire career including debuting 2 brand new ones of The Gray Chapter.
“Califuckinfornia!” Taylor yelled to rile up the crowd at the end of the 2nd verse of “The Negative One” 5 songs in. This phenomenal new track is brutally heavy and very Iowa-esque in its delivery.
Later, upon finishing “Purity”, with the lights dim Corey asked the crowd how many people had the new record and if we wanted to hear another new track off it. Upon the raucous cheer of approval dying down Corey lifted the mic to his mouth and said ” Well how about this one…..”
“Da-da da, da-da da, da-da da da da”
With that, “Custer” made its live world debut and the place came un-fucking-glued! The entire new album is beyond incredible, maybe one of their best ever, but this song especially is one of the most anthemic songs ever put to tape. It is hard to put into words how completely insane this songs translates into the live forum. As the bright lights strobe on the crowd during the chorus, illuminating the utter chaos while they shout back every word while pumping their fists in the air, it is very easy to find oneself completely awestruck.
“Some motherfucker said that Rock was dead.” Taylor announced at one point in a clear reference to comments Gene Simmons recently made. “I’m telling you right now I look out here and rock and metal feel pretty fuckin alive to me goddammit”
As it felt to us as well.
During the penultimate “Spit It Out”, as per usual, Corey has everyone get down on the ground during the song’s breakdown ready to jump up on his command. Where he turns to the kit & usually would cue Joey, he turns to JW and says;
“Hey Mothafucka, let’s take these mothafuckas home man”
I guess I could have dubbed our mystery drummer MF as opposed to JW.
Oh well. What’s in a name anyway right?
Upon completing the final song of the evening Slipknot thanked all those in attendance & left that stage with the promise of seeing us again tomorrow night. A truly triumphant return from the brink of what surely could have been the band’s total demise.
With “Til We Die” playing over the PA as we funneled out of the Amphitheater, the buzz and adrenaline flowing through the crowd was salient. Tomorrow couldn’t come soon enough.