Heavy metal is my lifeblood. It is the one thing all lovers of this music share universally. It is a code as much as it is a lifestyle, one with its own colors, dress and symbols. It is ‘the society’ within society.
Music festivals are a way of celebrating music, but to a metal fan, a festival means so much more. It’s a way of reinforcing your lifestyle unto others, seeing for yourself the music you love is NOT dead, it’s growing and when you get together with other metalheads, you feel the purity of following something REAL and from the heart. Metal has always been about dedication. The monetary accolades have always been secondary to the TRUE artists that fuel this genre, their staying power has always been with the music; flash is just a dressing.
The metal gods haven’t exactly been kind to me this year but I always felt there was some greater purpose behind all my treks, was I being punished or taught a lesson? The answer became clear the night before the festival.
I was up late doing some final research on the bands I was going to interview when I accidentally came across a derogatory article written about Mayhem Festival citing a promoter of the festival itself! I have to admit I was shocked. Although, I realize the article was mostly bullshit, taken out of context, I was curious about some of the comments made, calling metal ‘fat, old and ugly’. Those types of stereotypes make me angry, the greater purpose of my trek was finally before me. I needed to refute this article!
I arrived at Mayhem Fest and found a metal scene filled with men, women, even children, of all ages! I also noticed people of all races and nationalities, metalheads universally accept ANYONE who loves our music.
My point is… dudes twenty and younger with their girlfriends definitely outweighed the number of 40 year old fat bald men in attendance. Heavy metal isn’t reserved for a certain age, there’s no stereotype making it the outdated love of a fat, bald, jackass having a midlife crisis!
The scene was just what I expected, a giant celebration of the music. It was a blending of old and new. A place where dads could jam out to Shattered Sun and kids could discover King Diamond. The music was awesome and the atmosphere promoted unity, it seemed like everyone around me was having the best time!
But apparently there was a problem, ticket sales weren’t as expected. I noticed first hand at Mayhem Fest in Tinley Park, IL – the lawn seating wasn’t opened. Although, rumors circulated claiming the venue was afraid of lawsuits pending from rabid fans pushing each other down the inclined grass of the Amphitheatre during Slayer, I felt there just wasn’t enough extra bodies around to warrant opening that part of the park.
So what was the problem? The problem isn’t about metal growing in America, the autograph lines and live attendance for the smaller acts proves the scene is expanding, but the singular draw of those bands isn’t big enough (YET) to pack a venue of that size.
Which leaves the headliners – I’ve read Slayer has played this event 3 times which is really surprising, I love Slayer but I can only hear “Chemical Warfare” so many times.
In addition, I read the asinine comments made by Kerry King in regards to the rest of the acts on the bill being fourth rate, I sure hope he was taken out of context because those bands he dismissed ARE THE FUTURE! Not to mention a hell of a lot more exciting than seeing HALF of Slayer fumble their way through a tired setlist.
Even the most loyal fan base would agree that rotating certain acts such as Slayer, Korn or even Slipknot can only be done so many times before a particular market becomes saturated. All of the aforementioned acts have toured the US with some regularity.
To be honest, I don’t think Mayhem Fest was overbooked, I think people running this event are clueless when it comes to comprehending metal. America is not the rest of the world when it comes to music.
There was a time when MTV and Heavy Metal ruled America, before Grunge music killed it for EVERYONE. The only metal that survived was the underground and some mainstream nu-metal juggernauts. There was nothing else for years until the ‘titans of old’ which I would consider the best of each past genre, decided to tour America again.
The reason Mayhem Fest failed is because it is too concentrated on the extreme. Metal is a HUGE genre, with tons of sub-genres – why limit yourself? Do you want to sell this event out daily? Open the gates to all metal! The diversity we find in metal is a cause for triumph!
I suggest making this festival a celebration of the words Heavy Metal, make it about ‘the sign’ Ronnie James Dio left us, make it about the great music and artists who have unified the music we’ve celebrated for generations!
If you stop and think, you’ll realize there are tons of metal bands out there that could top this show or add enough bodies to make it a sellout. Open your eyes but more importantly your ears to ALL OF METAL!