Aftershock Festival 2017 [Concert Review]

The 2017 Aftershock Music Festival took place last weekend and I attended the show on both Saturday and Sunday with my girlfriend.  This was our second time going to the festival, mostly because I’m kind of a metalhead.  She’s not a fan of metal and mainly just goes along because she’s cool like that, but sometimes she actually does enjoy the performances too. 

Last year was the first year we went and we both had a lot of fun.  My girlfriend is generally into pop and more “happy” music than metal, but I’ve been slowly but surely converting her over to the dark side.  Some of the highlights from 2016 were Slayer, Tool, Ghost, and Korn from the bands we were able to see.  As you know if you’ve been to music festivals before, there are multiple stages with performances often going on simultaneously, so it’s impossible to see every band play.

Since we live a couple hours away from Sacramento, we booked a room at the closest Motel 6 to the venue.  It kinda felt like a little mini-vacation.  Normally, we prefer nicer hotels on a “real” vacation, but for a metal show it seems only appropriate to go hard.

To make it even more “metal” we coincidentally ended up at a Motel 6 in probably one of the worst neighborhoods of Sac.  As soon as you drive up, security guards stop your car to see what you’re doing and make you stick a parking pass on your dashboard.  Apparently, they must have issues with unsavory activities taking place there.  Also, I swear I saw a lot lizard hanging out in the parking lot next door where all the big rigs were parked.  Essentially, it was kind of a shithole.

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But we really didn’t care.  The room’s only purpose was just for us to crash on Saturday night and take a shower the next morning before heading to the Sunday show.  The bed sucked and the people staying above us sounded like a fucking herd of wild buffalo at all hours of the night.  Luckily by the time we laid down that night I already had a pretty good beer buzz going so I was able to pass the fuck out and sleep through most of the obnoxious noise.

So back to the Aftershock Festival…

Getting there on Saturday was easy.  We found a place where you could park for free but had to take about a twenty-minute walk down a path along the river to get to Discovery Park where the venue is located.  We didn’t mind the walk – it was actually kind of nice.  The weather last weekend was perfect.

Once we got past the front gate, we went inside and checked out a few merch stands and then headed over to one of the stages.  We ended up getting there in the afternoon because, honestly, neither of us had ever even heard of most of the opening bands billed for earlier in the daytime.

We ended up getting to the stage around 4:30pm just in time to see Stone Sour perform.  My girlfriend thinks Corey Taylor is hot (for some reason) and liked a couple of their older songs, so we decided to check them out.  I’ve seen Slipknot a couple times back in the Ozzfest days but it’s been years.  That being said, I was pretty surprised to see what Taylor is doing now with this band.  This is quite a difference from Slipknot and not in a good way.  I’ve always found Slipknot gimmicky and was never a big fan, but at least their music was pretty fucking heavy and you could mosh to it.  Stone Sour, on the other hand, just sounded like bro rock.  That’s about the best way I could put it.  It’s like if Nickelback and Slipknot hooked up and gave birth to a douchey, millennial frat boy.  It just wasn’t good.  And what made it worse and more eye-roll inducing was Taylor running around yelling “Get your motherfucking hands up!” over and over the whole time.  It was pretty sad actually.

After that we took a break to get something to eat and drink.  The food choices at Aftershock are actually pretty awesome.  They have several different gourmet food trucks all around the perimeter and then your typical carnival food stands located more in the middle.  As with any of these music festivals, prices are grossly inflated, as to be expected, but at least there are quality choices available.

While we were eating we were close enough to hear Mastodon playing their set from a distance.  As background music, they were decent.

Next, we saw A Perfect Circle.  I’ve been a diehard Tool fan since back in the mid-nineties and am admittedly a pathetic Maynard James Keenan fanboy, so obviously I was excited to see APC.  My girlfriend likes a lot of their music too so this was definitely the highlight of the whole weekend for us.  Billy Howerdel gave a very strong performance.  Having never seen APC live before and not knowing what to expect, I was thoroughly impressed.  Maynard stood on a platform near the back of the stage, shrouded in smoke, and dimly lit.  He was mostly only visible as a vague silhouette and seemed to be donning a pigtailed wig.  His vocals were strong as well and the sound overall was very crisp and bass-heavy.  The highlight of their set was “The Outsider.”

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After APC, we grabbed another drink and bathroom break before making our way over toward the main stage for Nine Inch Nails.  By that time, the crowd had already filled up to the point that we ended up having to watch from quite a distance.  It wasn’t a big deal though since neither of us were dying to see NIN that much anyway.  I was glad to see them perform some of the heavier songs like “Wish” and “March of the Pigs” though.  They sounded good.  We ended up leaving after they played “Closer” because, quite honestly, those were the only songs we were interested in.

All in all, the few bands we saw on Saturday were entertaining with APC being the favorite.  We left the venue and got back to the room pretty early.

The next morning, we got up and decided to try a breakfast place nearby that we found on Yelp.  It turned out to be a great find because the food was amazing.  After that we did some exploring around Sacramento before getting back to the festival around 2:00pm.

We got there just in time to see Suicidal Tendencies perform.  They put on a raw, high-energy show that had the crowd going apeshit.  Highlights were “Institutionalized” and “I Shot the Devil.”  Unlike some other front men who can tend to babble too much onstage, Mike Muir’s in-between-songs banter was actually entertaining and added to the buildup of the next song they were about to play.  Overall, ST put on a badass show.

Knowing how my girlfriend was not a big metal fan, I wanted to have her see Steel Panther because I thought she’d at least find their theatrics entertaining if nothing else.  We ended up getting there early enough to catch some of Fozzy, who was playing right before Steel Panther on the same stage so we could make sure we could get a good spot when they came out next.  Apparently, Fozzy is the pro wrestler Chris Jericho’s band.  That’s about all I know about them.  I won’t shit on them too badly since we only saw their show because we were trying to get a good spot for Steel Panther, but their music just wasn’t my cup of tea.

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We ended up getting an awesome spot for Steel Panther, right up close to the stage.  They put on a great show, albeit it more theater than actual music.  It was highly entertaining nonetheless.  The whole thing is very scripted and rehearsed but it’s funny and they’re actually legitimately talented musicians.  There was also plenty of tits and ass in the audience and up on the stage during the show so that’s always a plus.  Overall, Steel Panther does what they do well but it’s something that has to be experienced live.  I’d never be inclined to add their songs to my playlist outside of that.

Up until going to this year’s Aftershock Festival, I had heard a lot of hype about Halestorm, but never really heard their music.  On some of the music Podcasts I listen to, there’s been quite a bit of talk about Lizzy Hale and how amazing (and hot) she is.  So naturally, I was curious to see what all the buzz was about.

Again, we were able to make our way close to the stage to get a good spot.  First off, we were blown away immediately by Lizzy Hale’s vocals.  She has a badass female rock voice with great range.  She can sing melodic and sultry one minute, then shift to blood-curdling screams the next and it all sounds amazing.  Her singing style reminded me of Tia Carrere in Wayne’s World combined with a little bit of Joan Jett’s attitude and a splash of Pat Benatar.  The rest of the band sounded great as well.  Her brother, the drummer, was a little douchey during his solo but he has skills.  Halestorm’s show definitely inspired me to check out more of their music.

Last but not least we saw the motherfuckin’ Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne, and Zakk Wylde.  We made sure to get right up front this time as close as humanly possible.  We got to the stage over an hour early and had to wait in order to earn that spot, but it was well worth it.  Ozzy sounded great and so did Zakk.  The whole band was top-notch and the setlist was a perfect mix of Black Sabbath tunes and Ozzy’s solo work.  “War Pigs” blew the fucking roof off the place and the crowd went insane.

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We were getting swept side-to-side in the undertow of bodies as the moshpit behind us went nuts and crowd surfers went one after another.  The energy of the audience was easily the best of the whole festival and everyone seemed to be loving every second of it.  Other highlights were “Iron Man” (that epic intro always gives goosebumps) and “Paranoid.”  Ozzy closed out the show with “Mama, I’m Coming Home” and sang it surprisingly well for a 68-year-old dude.

The one complaint I have is that during “Crazy Train” it sounded like Zakk Wylde was way out of key during the verses.  I don’t know if he couldn’t hear what he was playing in his monitor or what, but Ozzy seemed to be singing the right notes while the guitar melody was completely off.  It wasn’t enough to totally ruin the song, but it was disappointing that they weren’t able to nail it properly.  Over the years, I’ve seen Ozzy play live a few times solo and also as Black Sabbath, and this was one of his strongest performances.

Overall, Aftershock was an enjoyable experience just like it was for us last year.  This year the lineup was not as strong as last year’s but Ozzy, A Perfect Circle, Suicidal Tendencies, Halestorm, and Steel Panther made the experience worth the ticket price.  As for next year, unless the lineup is truly amazing I might go ahead and pass and try to catch a different festival for a change.  Not that Aftershock wasn’t fun, but after the second time around most of the mystique has already worn off.  The good news is that it seems like metal is still going strong in 2017.

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