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ROCKSTAR Energy Drink Mayhem Festival - Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, Darien, NY- 07/14/2013

Review/photos by The Metal Rev…

Darien, NY - It was an unusual day in Western New York, since it was 92º upon arrival and the only things hotter than the weather were the bands playing that day. This festival is different since all the bands on the list are of a heavier vein where most other festivals are a mix of lighter and heavier genres throughout the day. The ROCKSTAR Energy Drink Mayhem Festival is great for those with a taste for heavier music and it is my preferred type of venue as well.

I should note right off the bat that since there are so many great bands at this festival, we did the best we could getting to as many bands as possible for the interviews and photos that fans would like to see and read about. In order, we covered the first to play- the Butcher Babies, followed by Mastodon, Five Finger Death Punch (5FDP) and then the main show with Rob Zombie.
The first band that I had the great pleasure of photographing was the Butcher Babies on one of the side stages. I will say that if you have never seen them live before you need to get moving and go see them ASAP! Their sound is a cross between Slipknot and Pantera; toss in a bit of Godsmack with the twist of two female lead vocalists; Carla Harvey and Heidi Shepherd. If you think they are going to sing high-pitched vocals think again, they can growl with the best in the scene. This band is more than just two pretty faces in the front. Along with Harvey and Shepard’s talented vocals are very talented musicians. The rest of the band, Henry Flux on lead guitar, Jason Klein on bass and Chris Warner beating the drums, played ripping notes with blazing intensity and furious energy.

How hard do they rock? HARD! They started off with power and played to the crowd the whole time and not just for the first few songs. Several times the security guards had to hold onto and support the sound cabinets in front because everyone in the band seemed to take turns standing on them, rocking on them and trying to get the crowd worked up into a frenzy, which they had no problem doing. I would not hesitate to say that they will be a main stage act very soon.  Hell, they have enough fan interaction and stage presence to do that now. I wish them the best and would see them again when they come back to the area or even close to WNY.

On the main stage was one of the four acts of the night, Mastodon. All things considered I was really ready to rock when they hit the stage and I will give credit where credit is due. Drummer Brann Dailor and Bassist Troy Sanders were full of energy and were the action backbone of the gig. When Troy wasn’t singing he was pure entertainment for the fans from one end of the stage to the other while Brann gave his all on vocals and drumming. Brent Hinds and Bill Kelliher sounded right on and hit the power in the strings however that’s where their night ended, unfortunately. While Hinds and Kelliher played well, they barely moved around the stage, letting Dailor and Sanders ramp up the audience. . I really had hoped for more and it was the music that gave me relief. They sounded really tight and yes, much different than in their past. So if you love to see a group evolve then this is the group to watch for in the future. If you want to hear the same dribble from album to album this is not the band for you and Bill mentioned to us earlier they want to improve, evolve and mature as musicians and as a band. They love their fans and I know the die hard death metal or sludge metal purists are rolling over and screaming about this change but even without much movement from half the band on stage that night, they sounded really good. I wish them the best on this tour and here is to a band wanting more from themselves and offering it to their fans…

Five Finger Death Punch (5FDP to their fans) entered the stage and their fans were packed in and in attendance that hot night thrilled as the band opened with "Under and Over It." The rest of the night they played most of their popular songs such as "Lift Me Up," "Bad Company" (cover) and "The Bleeding" with a few from their new album (late July release).

5FDP rocked the stage and is one band that involves their fans all set long and not just for the photographs in the beginning. At this time I want to mention that 5FDP brought on stage kids who had been diagnosed with cancer. Ivan Moody (Lead Vocalist) talked to a young girl named Val who was diagnosed with leukemia and had her help the band out a bit as 5FDP had the kids stay on stage for the next song, which was nicknamed “Fuck Cancer”. Before and after the song, Ivan made an announcement that all money donated at the back tent for cancer goes all towards charity, every single cent of it! Ivan and crew also paid homage to our troops before playing their cover of “Bad Company”. Holding a set of dog tags, Ivan honored a soldier in the audience and that soldier’s fallen friend, who did not make it back alive from active duty, thanking every person who serves our great country. I mention this because MOST (90%) of the other music review sites I checked out gloss over 5FDP and don’t mention the great fan interaction and recognition that they have developed for their fan base, like the fight against cancer and to honor our fallen soldiers, which is disrespectful and crappy. Back to the good energy…

All the energy you want from a band included a drum solo where Jeremy Spencer wore his skull suit not only for the solo, but for the next five (5) minute song, and yes he did it in the 92º weather and that is what fans pay to come and see! I whole-heartedly believe 5FDP gave it their all, Zoltan Bathory (guitar) was always willing to pose for photos and seemed to have a blast on stage with the fans. Jason Hook shredded the solos on guitar while Chris Kael (bassist) was all over the stage and brought the extra energy that a 5FDP fan could hope for and more. Take note misunderstood review sites, this is exactly what fans want and they get their money’s worth, which makes wanting to see 5FDP a high priority several times over!

Now for what everyone has been waiting for, a great finale at the end of the night on the main stage… Rob Zombie! Rob opened standing on a 12-15ft tall tower with Zombie glowing on it. Piggy (bassist) along with John 5 (guitarist) and on his own tall platform behind Rob, Ginger Fish (drummer), all donned heavy leather outfits, makeup, masks and hats all the while flames and yes the 90º+ heat blazed down on them and it was simply amazing!

Rob continued to rock the house moving all over the place like he was still in his twenties, walking the pit area for fans and later, actually walking and running around the outside area with a light to see and slap hands with the fans in the crowd while John 5 played his guitar solo. How many venues can you say the main act does that every show and not think twice about it (that’s a rhetorical question)? At one point Rob acknowledged two mosh pits going on in the back area of the grass behind the seated area. This was really cool to see in person and seeing it on YouTube pales in comparison. The band played some old favorites, “More Human Than Human” and “Thunder Kiss ’65” from White Zombie and the crowd seemed to love every minute of it; I sure did. Other songs that night included the opener, "Teenage Nosferatu Pussy," "Meet the Creeper," "Living Dead Girl," "House of 1000 Corpses" and so on.

I don’t think anyone puts on a better theatrical show than Rob Zombie and I’ve seen some great shows by other great bands, but Rob puts it all together and the fans benefit from this every show. Props galore, a giant robot and walking devil, Rob’s tower and a giant wheeled contraption that Willy Wonka would have nightmares from made the price of this festival well worth it for many, including yours truly. If you are thinking hey, should I go see a Rob Zombie concert or not, the answer is easy though the wait might bring you some anxiety.

All in all the ROCKSTAR Energy Drink Festival was a great time and the bands that were at the venue were well worth the cost of the tickets. Everyone was well behaved until almost the end, one fight and over quickly with great security. My only gripe in an area that can be controlled would be the cost of drinks and I mean water first then beer for those who wish to have that. Why? Keep people hydrated and they will be more likely to spend more money and do more things while they are there and since it was hot that day I heard a lot of complaints about the high cost of beverages. Water was about $4-5 dollars per bottle and beer prices were in my mind high at $13 a serving.

With that said, I would do it again, with a warning for others, be better prepared in the odd chance there is a heat wave and eat before hand, it helps save some cash for a shirt or two that catches your eye. Many thanks to those who allowed The Metal Rev to attend such a cool event…

Special thanks to the following super cool peeps for all of their help in covering this event - Maria Ferrero, Rikki Namm, Paul Gargano, Kylie Reese, Andrew Ludwick & Todd Nakamine.