By the third day of the Aftershock Festival, a lot of the folks who had attended all weekend resembled tired warriors entering the octagon for a final battle inside Discovery Park in Sacramento. It had been a great adventure so far in the sprawling, dusty confines of the venue as the night’s big finale would feature art metal provocateurs Tool on the very first show of their ‘Fear Inoculum’ tour.
Everyone seemed to be looking forward to that set after a busy three days of sound and spectacle.
Earlier in the weekend, Friday headliners Slipknot had played a pounding, visceral set, while Saturday finishers Blink 182 had brought their catchy punk pop sound. Each day featured blistering sets from the likes of Rob Zombie, Clutch, Fishbone, Lamb of God, Stone Temple Pilots, Bad Religion and many others who have been going strong since the 80s and 90s. There were metal-core sets from newer bands as well. Sunday, the third day of the festival featured crushing sets from The Hu, France’s Gojira and a highly anticipated set from Korn.
But there was one thing missing. Every band was so fixed on bashing out originals during their relatively brief allotted time that it was rare to see a cover. The average set times were 40-55 minutes for earlier sets while the headliners were given 90 minutes. So it was mandatory for bands to use their time efficiently, which they did for the most part.
However, a couple of groups did slip in a cover or two. Fishbone had rocked Curtis Mayfield’s “Freddie’s Dead” on Saturday, making one wonder how many in the audience would actually recognize the tune. While later, Marilyn Manson played Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams” during a set that was surprisingly erratic.
So on Sunday, as I was grousing to a random fan, who was wearing a Black Sabbath t-shirt, about needing to hear a metal classic from Sabbath or someone else, they looked me dead in the eye and replied, “Geezer Butler (Black Sabbath bassist) is playing with Deadland Ritual at 5:25.” Wait What?!?!!
I quickly verified this on the schedule and there he was, scheduled on the venue’s smallest stage in a band where he’d play alongside guitarist Steve Stevens (Billy Idol), drummer Matt Sorum (Guns and Roses) and vocalist Franky Perez (Apocalyptica, Scars on Broadway). Note to self: take a closer look at the schedule in the future!
Hustling to the spot, Fu Manchu was playing a raucous set on the Coors Capital Stage as anticipation began to swell. Sure enough, 45 minutes after they were finished, out walks the band and from the wings, the legendary Butler strolled out. He was looking tan, rested and happy to be there on a stage that was significantly smaller than anywhere Black Sabbath had played on their final world tour in early 2017.
Deadland Ritual immediately launched into “Symptom of the Universe,” a banger from the 1975 Black Sabbath album ‘Sabotage’ and the small crowd went nuts. They sounded fantastic and played some of their new material between killer covers of “Neon Knights,” “Sweet Leaf,” and “War Pigs.” They even squeezed in a ripping version of the Stevens/Billy Idol tune “Rebel Yell.” Good fun, even if it was for a fairly modest sized, but incredibly appreciative crowd. Apparently, many in attendance had not checked their schedules closely either.
Then again, they could have been focused on staking out a spot for one of the closers, such as Korn, who threw down a passionate performance on a bigger stage for a much larger crowd. Korn seemed like they were very aware they had been sandwiched between Deadland Ritual and the final headliner and it was time to prove something. It certainly was one of the Aftershock’s highlights.
Finally, it was time for Tool. The band opened with the title track from their new album and closed with another new track called “Pneuma” — in between many classics.
Lead vocalist Maynard appeared in the light with spiked hair, darkened eye paint and wore red plaid pants and a black leather jacket in the few minutes we could see him in light, before he retreated and became a writhing shadow in the darkness near drummer Danny Carey for the rest of the show.
It was a well received tour debut and the band filled the skies over Discovery Park with powerful lasers, trippy visuals and a thunderous sound. Bassist Justin Chancellor was going particularly hard while lion-maned guitarist Adam Jones made his guitar tween and roar up against Carey’s incredible percussion. All of this seemed to satisfy the immense crowd very much.
Of course, the band was very sharp as they had spent the previous week doing final rehearsals inside the historic Arco Arena, a place they had played a few memorable shows in the past.
Next year, things will rise to another level as Metallica was announced as headliner for two nights of the three day festival. Tickets were going fast before this year’s festival was even over.
And despite transportation challenges for many, especially those trying to use Garden Highway at night, the weekend was quite a smash. As Metallica will undoubtedly bring in record attendance numbers, these issues should be addressed.
All logistics aside, Aftershock has become Sacramento’s largest music festival draw by far and looks to only strengthen its hold on that position in the future. People travel from far and wide to attend this festival and will continue to do so. But many locals were in attendance as a solid reminder that Sacramento has very strong heavy rock roots, which may have sprawled in all directions, but stand firm in the soil like our Oak trees.
For more information on Monster’s Aftershock Festival, visit AftershockFestival.com.