1999 metal or folk chaos: Your jams of choice

Not so metal: Dexter Holland expressed his gratitude to the sea of sweaty bodies: “It’s fucking a million degrees here, with fucking a million dust pits, and you’re all still here.”

Last weekend’s Aftershock festival apparently impressed the Offspring frontman. But guitarist Kevin “Noodles” Wasserman took it one step further: “I’m gonna go on record and say this is the best festival California has probably ever had.”

Well, if your preferred jams are strictly metal and hard rock, then Wasserman is probably right. California Metalfest in Anaheim called it quits in 2012. Warped Tour books poppy punk bands for a largely teenage audience. For what it is, Aftershock is a big deal.

That said, I was immediately repulsed upon entering Discovery Park. It was mostly the offensive heat—triple digits on Saturday. The air was thick with dust. One could not avoid stepping on trash. The festival reeked of cheap beer, cigarettes and sweat, with 37,000 mostly-tattooed attendees dressed in black. Sunday saw a sold-out mass of 19,000.

Unlike most big festivals, Aftershock featured few diversions. There were food trucks, and that’s about it. Metalheads apparently only care about the music, and with more than 40 bands across four stages, there was plenty.

And unlike past years, Aftershock offered a whole lot beyond metal. The Offspring, for example, blasted through hit after hit and played Smash in its entirety, celebrating the album’s 20th anniversary. Electronic rock band AWOLNATION also played Saturday—but the reception was mixed, particularly when Aaron Bruno told everyone to feel the love and put their arms around each other. Yikes.

And Weezer headlined that night. Nothing was more bizarre and heartwarming than seeing people previously rocking out to metal pumping their fists to “Beverly Hills.” The guy next to me played perfect air guitar to “Hash Pipe” before whipping out his own smoking vessel. In all seriousness, the nerd-rock band put on an excellent, career-spanning set, and I couldn’t believe I still remembered the words to nearly every song.

Sunday was more heavy on metal. I started my day with Unlocking the Truth, a trio of eighth-graders from Brooklyn, NY. Singer Malcolm Brickhouse’s voice cracked. And being teenagers, they wore apathetic faces. Energy was low. Their manager kept nudging them—literally—throughout the set. But what the hell were you doing in eighth grade? Definitely not signing a $1.8 million record deal. Appropriately, children were at the front of the crowd, and Brickhouse was a hero.

Inappropriately, children were on top of Rise Against’s mosh pit. Seriously, parents? Tiny 6-year-olds perched on shoulders, insanely close to being dethroned by crowdsurfers. I winced at two close calls.

I also couldn’t believe people took selfies while crowdsurfing. In flip-flops.

Anyway, Rise Against’s set was solid. Mastodon sounded tight. Pennywise was wonderfully irreverent.

And I hate to say it, but the real shock all weekend? The band no one could stop talking about? And truly, the name I wanted to avoid acknowledging altogether?

Limp Bizkit.

Aftershock goers worshipped Fred Durst the moment he stepped on stage. A woman sent up her panties and he inhaled—deeply—before using them as a microphone accessory. Guitarist Wes Borland painted himself black, head to toe. The nu metal, rap-rock act engaged more than any other. And at the end, the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” filled the air while Durst silently grooved on stage. Clearly, Sacramento never forgot 1999.

Genre-defying strings: Two Sundays ago, I witnessed a very different stunned crowd. A few handfuls of people at Witch Room, taking in a San Jose-based band’s first Sacramento visit. Still, stunned all the same.

To call Brother Grand “a folk duo” would be a huge disservice to the project’s remarkably huge sound. Sure, folk is certainly present, especially when Ben Henderson and Endika grab their acoustic guitar and upright bass and nothing else.

But with Ben’s dynamic, haunting voice, the result winds toward the psychedelic. It feels old-timey, heartfelt, but then the tempo changes and it becomes a sad, soulful blues.

A floor tom gets pounded, cymbals brushed, a keyboard looped. Endika literally slaps his bass then strikes his bow, hairs permanently shredded apart. Ben works his fingers across a banjo, his foot on a tambourine, his breath into a harmonica all at once. Usher in the thundering chaos.