Backstage at the Opening Date of the Rockstar Mayhem Festival 2011
Since 2008, the Rockstar Mayhem Festival tour has delivered both premier and up-and-coming metal bands around the United States and Canada each summer. Co-created by Vans Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman, the festival features three separate stages: the Main Stage, the Jägermeister Stage, and this year the Revolver Stage.
It's similar to Warped in that there are plenty of band meet-and-greets and a small city of related merch tents. But Mayhem's audience is more focused: this is about metal - head-banging, face-melting metal. And as the opening date in San Bernardino, California, proved, Mayhem is once again delivering the goods.
This year the headlining acts on the Main Stage include Disturbed, Godsmack and Megadeth. But before evening falls and the veterans hit the stage, fans ping-pong back and forth between the two smaller stages, moshing and thrashing up front to bands both obscure and well known - including Suicide Silence, Testament, All Shall perish, Unearth and a corral others.
At the San Bernardino stop, several bands featured on the two outer stages spoke with Noisecreep about the tour.
Testament lead singer Chuck Billy said that although the band is only playing two shows on the tour, it was a nice diversion from the studio, where Testament is working on their new record.
"The first show of a tour are always fun," he said. "We've kicked off so many tours. In the old days we'd worry about having a good time first, then think about the shows. Today, it's reversed."
As for the next record, Billy said "We just finished all the drums, we start the vocals next week, and then we're also tracking the guitars in Europe next week. It will be the true Testament sound and style - some straight thrash, and some new stuff too. New chords and notes to freshen the sound, but still real heavy. Then in October and November we'll tour the U.S. with Anthrax, Overkill and Death Angel."
Billy added that while certain tours come to find when he thinks of his fondest [the 'Metal Masters' run with Motorhead and Judas Priest], the show that probably changed his life was an Oakland outdoor show in 1977. "It was one of the Day on the Green shows. Judas Priest opening for Led Zeppelin. I'd never heard anything that massive. It grabbed me. Made me look at things differently."
Kingdom of Sorrow's Kirk Windstein (who also plays guitar for Crowbar and Down) told Noisecreep that even though he's played and toured in bands for most of his 46 years, that Mayhem is a chance for him to get in touch with some of the newer bands. "I've done some huge tours over the years with really famous bands and that's a blast. But when you go on the road with a festival like this, you really seem some of the up-and-comers. It's cool. They ask advice of the older guys like me, and I get a chance to tell some stories from the old days."
Red Fang drummer John Sherman told Noisecreep that this is the biggest tour they've done to date. "We pulled up this morning in our pathetic little van. Then we met up with the bus we'll be traveling on, sharing it with Unearth. They're supposed to be good guys. I hope we don't get too sick of each other by mid-August."
Unearth bassist John "Slo" Maggard laughed that they'll "Try and keep an eye out" for Red Fang and also offered that he likes getting out to see some of the other bands while on the road. "Trivium, Megadeth, Godsmack- there's a bunch of bands I want to watch play this tour."
Watch Unearth at Mayhem Festival
All Shall Perish's Francesco Artusato spoke to Noisecreep from within their very un-rockstar bus - a large converted camper that felt like an apartment on wheels.
"We had a contest among our fans to name the bus and the winning entry was the 'Perish Hilton.'" The Oakland-based deathcore band was one of the first on the Revolver stage in the blazing San Bernardino heat, kicking things of in rue Mayhem fashion - before a sea of black-clad headbangers.
Mayhem was underway.
7/15 -- Desert Sky Pavilion -- Phoenix, AZ
7/16 -- Hard Rock Casino Albuquerque Presents The Pavilion -- Albuquerque, NM
7/17 -- Comfort Dental Amphitheater -- Englewood, CO
7/19 -- Verizon Wireless Amphitheater -- Maryland Heights, MO
7/20 -- Riverbend Music Center -- Cincinnati, OH
7/22 -- Comcast Center -- Mansfield, MA
7/23 -- Parc Jean-Drapeau -- (Heavy MTL) -- Montreal, QC /www.heavymtl.com
7/24 -- Comcast Theater -- Hartford, CT
7/27 -- PNC Bank Arts Center -- Holmdel, NJ
7/29 -- First Niagara Pavilion -- Burgettstown, PA
7/30 -- Jiffy Lube Live -- Bristow, VA
7/31 -- Susquehanna Bank Center -- Camden, NJ
8/2 -- Virginia Beach Amphitheater -- Virginia Beach, VA
8/3 -- Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek -- Raleigh, NC
8/5 -- First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre -- Tinley Park, IL
8/6 -- DTE Energy Music Theatre -- Clarkston, MI
8/7 -- Verizon Wireless Music Center -- Noblesville, IN
8/9 -- Zoo Amphitheatre -- Oklahoma City, OK
8/10 – Gexa Energy Pavilion -- Dallas, TX
8/12 -- Aaron's Amphitheatre at Lakewood -- Atlanta, GA
8/13 -- 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre -- Tampa, FL
8/14 -- Cruzan Amphitheatre -- West Palm Beach, FL