It was a rain day for the 2013 Rock Star Energy Drink Mayhem Festival on July 12 – which is a nice change from last year’s unbearable scorching heat and humidity. This year, the show seemed very tame compared to years past, perhaps due to the cooler weather or possibly the newer and younger acts on this year’s tour. Regardless, it was noticeably different.
Boasting over 15 acts of various rock and metal bands, the festival is a nonstop, action packed day of excitement. The day-long festival kicked off with newcomers, Thrown into Exile and while a newer group – their talent is plentiful. The group is very thankful to perform with such an iconic show and seemed very humbled by the experience. Thrown into Exile is one of the many groups performing as part of the Musician’s Institute Stage – the college of contemporary music. Several members of the group are Musician’s Institute alumni.
“Everything has been an amazing experience,” said Thrown into Exile vocalist, Evan Seidlitz. “We are lucky and blessed to be here. It’s our first tour ever. We try to bring it every time we touch the stage. We’re the opening band for the stage so we have to set the tone.
“We’re in your face, non-stop, progressive metal,” said Thrown into Exile guitarist, Mario Rubio. “We entertain everyone.”
Throughout the day, groups comprised of young and old poured their heart and soul into their extremely short sets, some having only 20 minutes to rock but that didn’t stop the passion. For some groups, it was a chance to be heard and acquire new fans, but for others – it’s about sharing the stage with their inspiration.
“[It’s great] getting to be amongst bands we have been influenced by for so many years,” said Huntress vocalist, Jill Janus. “We’re getting to know people who are inspirational. I’m not one to go to shows so this is a whole new world for me.”
While many of the early acts are newcomers to the scene, newly formed Super group, Attika7, also performed early in the day. Comprised of veteran performers from bands like Biohazard, Nonpoint and “Sons of Anarchy” star Rusty Coones (Quinn), the group already has quite the fan base who came out early to see the show.
“There are great fans in Pittsburgh,” said Croones. “A lot of enthusiasm. They were really into the music and the more they were into it, the more we got into it.”
One of the groups who have been surprising fans and other bands on the tour is Butcher Babies. Fronted by not one, but two female leads, this group commands attention from the moment they take the stage and have caught the attention of many other artists.
“Every band on this tour has a unique thing they do,” said Evan Senfield of Attika7. “Five Finger Death Punch puts on one of the best shows on the tour, but on the second stage – the must see show is Butcher Babies!”
Seinfeld wasn’t the only one that thought the Butcher Babies were a must see act.
“I went to see Butcher Babies the other day and I thought I knew what to expect, but the energy from the band to the crowd was pretty overwhelming,” said Piggy D of Rob Zombie. “I was like … those chicks can throw down. The energy was pretty amazing. That’s what I look for when I watch bands. The crowd even knew the words to the songs!”
For Butcher Babies, the group is enjoying a very successful debut album, “Goliath” which was just released in early July, only days before the Pittsburgh show. While they’ve already participated in several tours with Otep and Marilyn Manson, this is their first chance to get in front of a true metal crowd and not a niche fan base.
“These fans are out there losing their minds no matter whether it’s raining or 113 degrees,” said Carla Coates, lead vocalist for the Butcher Babies.
“Every show gets better and better,” added Chris Warner, drummer for Butcher Babies. “The crowd response today was unbelievable in Pittsburgh. It was just wow! “
For groups like the Butcher Babies and Huntress which are fronted by female leads, it’s tough being in a male dominated genre, but these girls can hold their own.
“I’ve always been part of male dominated industries,” said Coates. “I was a mortician for a while and I’ve always done things boys like to do. We’ve heard some pretty funny comments like ‘you need to get back in the kitchen where you belong.’ Metal is or everyone. We’re all misfits in metal bands. We just kind of ignore the bad comments and do what we do because it’s who we are.”
Continuing with the newcomer theme, Scorpion Child is focused on breaking further into the business while having a great time while enjoying great company.
“This is the first time we’ve been on a festival like this,” said Shaun Avante, Bassist of Scorpion Child. “Everyone has been fantastic. It’s like rock and roll summer camp. The first week everyone’s kind of eyeballing each other and then you start to make friends.”
Opening up the main stage with true style was Swedish metal act, Amon Amarth, who brought a Viking ship to the stage. You simply could not ignore the swirling, blond head bangers or their enormous boat.
Mastadon followed up with a stunning performance of powerful metal. Fueled by pure adrenaline, Mastadon had the crowd in the palm of their hands featuring one of the top drummers in the world, Brann Dailor, as voted by various music publications in recent years. It’s no surprise why when hear the powerful music.
“I don’t even believe it,” said Dailor. “People have their opinions and I’m happy their opinions of me are good ones.”
As the main headliners progressed throughout the night, one thing was very noticeable and that was empty space! For as long as I can remember, by this point in the day the lawn and seats were packed with people with very little empty space but tonight – there was plenty. Also noticeably absent were the plethora of mosh pits in the lawn – which I saw very few.
As Rob Zombie took the stage, though smaller than normal, the crowd went somewhat wild. Keeping to many fan favorites like “Scum of the Earth,” “More Human than Human” and “Meet the Creeper” but also included a few seconds of something “old” which in this case was Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” Though they never completed the song – “If we play one more second of that song, we have to pay royalties,” joked Rob Zombie from the stage.
While the show was visually stunning, it was easily noticed that the crowd wasn’t packed with die hard Zombie fans – which was confirmed by Piggy D. It was strictly a “hits” kind of night.
“David Lee Roth said it best, ‘you’re here today and gone later today,” said Piggy D. “Especially in the business, evolving as fast as it is, there’s a new band every day. Even for the old guys, and I call us the old guys, I feel like a senior citizen on this tour. It’s harder for us to stay relevant – especially on a show like this. It’s not all Rob Zombie fans out there. There are a lot of Five Finger and Mastadon fans who don’t know Rob Zombie from a hole in the ground. We’re not playing and arena tour where we can get away with that weird soundtrack song, here it’s got to be an hour of power.”
Although Rob Zombie released “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor” in April, the show featured only a few new songs. Still, Piggy D. loves the new album, especially with his participation in the song “Lucifer Rising.”
“The inspiration for this was to do something we thought was fun. It’s a lot of different styles and guitar tones,” said Piggy D. “It’s not all the same here’s the same kick snare through the whole record. With ‘Lucifer Rising,’ it’s a song that’s been kicking around since the last record. It finally found a home in the context of this record.”
Overall, the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival has come and gone for another year. While it wasn’t the best year, it was still a great show to discover some new talent. Who knows, the next Slayer, Metallica or Pantera could have emerged right before your eyes! Until then, we will anxiously await the return next year.