Aftershock levels Sacto
The annual hard rock and heavy metal fest brings Deftones, System of a Down to town
Leather corsets, faded band T-shirts and none of the above: last weekend, people of all stripes (and some in Tim Burton-approved striped socks) packed Discovery Park for the seventh Monster Energy Aftershock, Sacramento’s rock and heavy metal festival for people who aren’t snobs. Sorry. That sounds defensive. You’re not a snob if you didn’t go.
But you missed out, unlike apparently a lot of people, from the greater Sacramento area, up and down California, even Nebraska. Sixty-thousand, according to organizers. This year, the park capacity was upped from 25,000 to 30,000 per day, and both days sold out, in part for the two headliners: Sactown’s Deftones, playing a 30-year anniversary hometown show, and System of a Down, on tour these past few years after a four-year hiatus and sporadic touring since 2011.
But not only. Alice in Chains, Slash, Godsmack, Incubus, At The Drive-In, Dance Gavin Dance and 30 other bands made for an intersection of tastes that ranged from heady to broey to glammy to emo, which meant that the music mostly kicked ass each day. And if it didn’t, what were you doing there? Snob.
Some Saturday highlights: A medley of bands played a tribute to Vinnie Paul, the famous Pantera drummer who died this year. Particularly sappy was the final moment of the set, where members of GWAR, Korn, Godsmack and others played “Walk,” Pantera’s radio beatdown tune, or in those few minutes of violent moshing, a warm anthem for a heavy metal family reunion. Korn’s Jonathan Davis delivered his own set of mellow nu-metal on the Monster Energy mainstage, balanced later with 311’s full-throttle reggae pop rock.
Let’s face it, Saturday night was mostly about Deftones, playing what was likely their biggest hometown crowd to date. The band entered to raucous applause, busting out mostly mellow material, and looking as gods would projected on hundred-foot high screens flanking the stage. Sacramento deities born out of South Sac and old dives like the Cattle and Press clubs in the ’90s, now here in front of thousands of their peeps.
To drummer Abe Cunningham, being a part of the festival meant resurrecting old Sacramento.
“Sacramento was always a rock town,” Cunningham said. “Just having that back and having a major festival … People come from around the world, so it’s really cool.”
On Sunday, Dance Gavin Gance, the other Sactown band, blended pop, prog-rock and screamo gloriously to the midday crowd. Dorothy, a rock goddess in the vein of Joan Jett, turned heads as she carried her voice across a human sea. At Drive-In’s Cedric Bixler-Zavala, the frontman who wins the award for most random and entertaining histrionics, pleaded the crowd to believe women’s stories of sexual assault and gender inequality.
Aside from the usual Dippin’ Dots and beer booths, there was a makeshift Guitar Center in the Music Experience tent, where folks tinkered with amps and guitars for sale. More disturbing: a pinup dominatrix in stilts walked the park offering alcohol and body blows for cash. Seriously, it was weird. She’d pour down the hatchet, then punch the customer in the cheek before they could swallow, or leave a hand print on their bare belly.
Unity through music was a common takeaway at the festival. Just ask Robbie Gibbs, who traveled from Fairfield with his family. We did.
“The color of each other doesn’t matter. What we believe doesn’t matter. It’s about the music and having a good time. I fucking love that,” Gibbs said.
Gibbs said he came for System of a Down, and so did I. The Armenian troupe’s set didn’t feel like a cheap nostalgia trip. One after another, these hyperpolitical, brash and uncanny songs rattled the crowd with lyrical tongue-twisters and world music married to hardcore punk.
Before the festival started, our photographer and I were coy (read: snobby) about who we were excited to see. Many of these bands were some we’d been jazzed about in middle and high school.
By the time System got onstage, it didn’t matter. We were singing off-key to “Cigaro” and “Chop Suey” like nobody was listening.