Knotfest U.S. 2014, San Manuel Amphitheater, San Bernardino, CA, October 25-26, 2014
Knotfest… A weekend that was created to awaken your darkest senses; let me tell you, it did much more than that. As you walk in to the festival you are greeted with numerous monstrous looking things on stilts wearing goat heads. Some people stopped to take pictures while others rushed downhill to the stages and the many other attractions Slipknot put together for the show. With four stages downstairs, and all of the main attractions such as the zip-line, all of the vendors, and the Slipknot museum, the fans are sure to be pleased.
ENTERING THE FESTIVAL GROUNDS & SLIPKNOT MUSEUM
I was able to enter the festival about 20 minutes early so bands hadn’t started playing therefore I had time to see some of the attractions without waiting. The first thing I wanted to do, not only for the review, but for my own viewing experience was the Slipknot museum. As you walk down the path to the museum there are 7 or 8 live rotting goat heads. Tongues sticking out, flies and bees chomping away on the dead flesh, the essence of Slipknot as a whole was in the air. As I stepped into the history of Slipknot I was floored. The first thing I saw was a giant Slipknot S, their logo, with the fallen Paul Gray red jumpsuit hanging from the top of it. That definitely brought some strong emotions to my stomach and heart. To my left there was all of Chris Fein and Clowns percussion sets from the previous years as well as their jumpsuits. Also on display, were the infamous Death Masks from the Vol. 3 Subliminal Versus Era. Only ever uses for the Vermillion music video and occasionally live for that song it was cool to see such an important part of Knot history. Walking farther into the museum the masks and outfits dating all the way back to 1999, as well as some of the stage ramps used during the previous tours. Also, what I thought was sort of cool, was next to each of their equipment was the band members personal ice chests with their names and drink preferences on them. Also included was the marching snare Chris and Clown during The Blister Exists and Psychosocial. Going all the way from the early 1999 Self-Titled days, to the All Hope Is Gone Era. As you walk out a man is standing there with a gong saying, “Wake up the Clown! Hit the gong!” so the fans were able to have a little bit of interactivity. The museum gave fans an inside look on the Knot that a fan normally would not be allowed to see, it was surely a special treat.
HEADBANG FOR THE HIGHWAY & OTHER STAGES
By the time I was basically asked to leave the museum for being in there too long, the bands were just starting to play. The first few bands that I watched were the Headbang For the Highway battle of the bands winners. It was cool to see mosh pits and circle pits opening up for bands that are too well known. Some of the bands were all the way from Nevada, which showed the true dedication to the music.
The first band that was on the official bill was a younger band all the way from Japan by the name of One Ok Rock. Those guys sure know how to put on an awesome show. Most people are just waking up on a Saturday at 11:45, but for them, there was already a crowd going past the soundboard. Miss May I came on immediately after. I’ve seen these guys about 6 times now and I promise myself every time that I will not miss there set. They put on such a killer show with crowd participation that will certainly blow minds.
Day two was much different than the first for me. Already getting many of the attractions out of the way I was able to focus more on the music itself. Seeing bands such as Whitechapel, Devildriver, Of Mice & Men and the legendary Killswitch Engage, I was more pumped than ever for night 2 of Slipknot.
THE FESTIVAL AS A WHOLE
On Saturday, I focused more soaking in the festival and what it has to offer. I was lucky enough to go two days so I had the opportunities to really look around every corner. I wanted to see the festival from every viewing point so; I did a lot of walking. The 4 smaller stages were all down a large hill. So down the hill was kind of like a festival of its own. The two bigger stages were united so whenever a band would end, the next would start right up. Of course the music was the main attraction but I wanted to experience what the festival truly was and walking around soaking in the people and the environment was a huge part of it for me. Down the hill there were vendors, the zip-line 4 stages, the freestyle motor-cross demo and much more. The whole festival reminded me a lot of Mayhem Festival in the way it was run. I took some time away from the music and walked up to the top of the lawn, which was up the hill. They had a huge dome the looked like the ones on playgrounds but triple in size. But this isn’t your average playground fun; this is the Thunderdome. Instead, two people are chosen to fight with batons and their own bodies. “Two men go in, and only one comes out”, is their slogan. I’ll let you imagine the rest. Also on the top of the lawn were a few carnival games as well as what seemed to be a huge hit, the Junk Car Drum Circle. These guys had old beat up cars, car batteries and barrels all over the place and yes, they made sweet sweet music with them. I was shocked at how well they kept in sync and how cool it sounded. They allowed the fans watching to interact by having a few car batteries lined up with drums sticks so the onlookers could participate in the fun. Another huge success was the ring of fire carnival ride. The line was huge for that all throughout the day. One giant loop that hangs up side down for about 30 seconds is sure to be a hit. All of the attractions that Slipknot provided were huge successes and there was never a dull moment.
DAY 1: Hatebreed. I waited for about a half hour to get in the front of the line in the main-stage, which in the end, paid off tremendously. Remember, Slipknot has been my favorite band since I was about 10 years old. I was extremely excited to see them and I wanted to be as close as possible. The first band to go on the Main Stage was Hatebreed. I had never seen them before, but I’ve been a fan of their music for a long time. I’ve heard about their performances being full of energy and the crowd being absolutely nuts. My favorite part about Hatebreed’s songs/performances is how all of their songs are meant for the crowd. Starting with Everyone Bleeds Now, the “die hard” fans as Hatebreed puts it went completely nuts. Throughout their set, vocalist Jamey Jasta had the biggest smile on his face. He, as well as everyone attending the show lnew that Knotfest is something that will be remembered for a long time.
Anthrax. One of the key elements that make up the legendary big 4. As always, they did not miss a beat. With an extreme amount of crowd interaction they were a huge treat. I’ve noticed that Anthrax tends to not headline the shows. They like the fresh crowds that are before the headliners. Playing a new song of their upcoming album they were a perfect addition to this insane main stage lineup.
I found it a little odd when I heard that Danzig was on right before Slipknot. He’s obviously an older band that isn’t as heavy as some of the others. But now, I wouldn’t change it for anything. Danzig put on one hell of a show. Danzig’s voice did not skip a note. Shockingly heavy with some new stuff as well as old favorites like Mother and Twist of Cain, Danzig’s performance was a perfect opener to the legendary Slipknot.
DAY 2: Hellyeah, a super group that was formed by the renowned Mudvayne vocalist Chad Gray while also including Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell, and Pantera drummer Vinnie Paul, they opened the main-stage for Sundays show. Putting on a hell of a performance. With classic tones from the Mudvayne / Pantera days this super-group brings a lot to the table. Again, for an opening band the amphitheater was packed and ready to party.
TECH N9NE was obviously the odd ones out on the bill. Most people including me were confused as to why a rap group of their nature would be on a metal festival, especially a metal festival of such a high caliber. I’m happy I gave them a chance though because their show was insane! With an extreme amount of energy the crowd was off their feet and jumping for the entire set. They were perfect to get a fans blood flowing for the upcoming acts.
Day 1: Slipknot, my favorite band since I was 10 years old. I remember hearing Wait and Bleed for the first time and losing my mind. It had been two years since I’d seen them last and I couldn’t wait for them to come out. After rushing to the front barricade of the crowd I was dead center, about 8 to 10 feet away from the stage, so close in fact that when Slipknot came on I could see the fold marks in Corey’s pants. After rocking out to all of the opening bands and standing in the front for a good 6 hours waiting. The lights finally dropped.
With Slipknot’s new album coming out .5 The Gray Chapter I was wondering what they would open with. Of course, off of my favorite Slipknot album Iowa, the guttural screams of (515) immerse over the crowd and immediately the curtain drops, fire everywhere, the band goes into 2001 hit, People=Shit. I was off the bat shocked that they would open up with a classic being that they just released the new album but I was too busy head banging to think about it thoroughly. As soon as the first note of the song comes on I feel the crowd push forward and the barricade actually moved forward a good foot and a half. I could see the look in the securities eyes of fear. A few of the security guards were actually singing along and head banging.
The stage set up was spectacular. A giant goat head on the top center of the stage just above the drum riser, two ramps going up behind the drummer where the band could walk up, as well as Chris Fein and Clowns percussions on either side of the stage. In the far back were huge banners that show the cover of the new album.
All of them still wearing the classic jumpsuits except for the vocalist Corey Taylor who was wearing a bullet proof vest. Also showing on stage was all of their new masks. They were awesome. The only one not wearing his new mask was percussionist Chris Fein who was wearing his red Vol. 3 mask. My personal favorite. Corey’s mask seemed to be giving him issues though because throughout the set he kept adjusting the mouthpiece because it seemed to be affecting his voice being able to project through the mic, but he made it work.
Saturday seemed to be a day of reflection on the old music. Opening up with People=Shit and playing songs they haven’t played in years such as Three Nil and Eeyore. Also playing a few songs off the new album such as The Negative One and one of the heavier songs Custer. Custer was able to get a shocking crowd reaction. With crowd surfers everywhere, Slipknot was truly pushing the crowd and band to its limits. They played the two main classics Wait & Bleed and Spit it Out. I was looking forward to Spit It Out because they do the famous No Bullshit. This is where Corey tells everyone to kneel down, and when he says to “Jump The Fuck UP!” you Jump the fuck UP! Since I was in the very front. I was able to turn around and see an amphitheater full of people kneeled down on the ground. Anticipating the war that was about to erupt.
The live performance of Slipknot on day 1 was astonishing. Playing a mixture of classics and new songs the band truly showed what hell on earth looks like.
Day 2: Day two of Slipknot. This time around I decided to stand towards the back of the pit so I could truly see everything. This show the band focused on some of the new songs. opening up with XIX and Sarcastrophe, which are the opening tracks of the new record and playing some newer songs such as The Devil In I and again Custer. They played two different set lists on either night. Which to me was a good thing because I got to see more songs than people only attending one day got to see.
The new members of the band, whoever they may be, were great additions to the mix. They performed very solidly and didn’t miss a beat. It was actually really fun to watch the new drummer as he fit the part very well. He was putting out a lot of emotion just from behind the drums with his style and movement. The fans were given a few special treats on Sunday when the band played two songs they haven’t played since the early days. The songs were Opium of the People of off Vol 3. and My Plague off of Iowa.
The individual members each shined in their own way. Guitar Player Jim Root was spot on. He probably performed, technically, the best out of anyone in the band. Other guitarist Mick Thomson towered over everyone and seemed to never stop head banging. DJ Sid Wilson was not as active as he normally is because he just had surgery. The fans definitely noticed that Sid was trying everything in his power to move but unfortunately, it seemed like he was in pain. But he was still trying his best to be active on stage and his DJing sounded spectacular. Craig Jones was on fire with his samples and percussionist Chris Fein and Clown were going as hard as ever only not only their percussions, but their backing vocals as well.
I felt bad for Clown’s drum tech. Slipknot’s percussionists use beer kegs as instruments. Which is one of the things that make Slipknot so unique. As the show goes on the percussion tables rise about 15 feet in the air. Clown tends to take the beer kegs and throw them off from that height. What was funny, was whenever he would throw one off, his drum tech would have to go on stage and put it back on. I counted on a few different occasions, right after he would put it on Clown would take it right back off and throw it at his tech. Clown’s whole persona on stage is a huge highlight to the show. The character or “being” he portrays is absolutely terrifying, but adds to the intensity in a way that nobody else could.
All in all, there is no real way to describe a Slipknot show. As Slipknot has said for years, Slipknot is not a band it’s an entity. The fans are what brought this show together. Slipknot is a true band of brothers that will live on for years. With an insane amount of chaos, intensity and passion, Slipknot will go down as one of the craziest bands in history. I have never seen a live show that compares to them and never will. I’ve been to shows of every kind. All genres of music. More so, I’ve experienced what the fans are like. Even the new age of metal music cannot relate to how dedicated and true the fans of Slipknot are. It was truly an amazing experience and I hope Knotfest grows into an annual festival because it truly awoke my darkest senses into something I couldn’t even imagine.
(Review and some photos by Edward Brandon – Live Photos by Jack Lue)
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