The annual Aftershock festival in Sacramento has been the go-to place for metal and rock fans looking to see all of their favorite bands in a festival setting, with this year delivering some stellar performances on the first day of the festival. Now in its 7th year, Aftershock has become known for its diverse lineups and friendly atmosphere.
The day started off with an emotional tribute to the late Pantera/Hellyeah drummer Vinnie Paul Abbott, who tragically passed away earlier this year. A musical tribute curated by SiriusXM’s Jose Mangin featured plenty of musicians from the likes of Korn, Godsmack, GWAR, Kyng, Shinedown and more ripping through some Pantera classics.
One particular standout was when Mangin took to the mic to roar through a spirited rendition of “A New Level” with ex-Megadeth guitarist Chris Broderick guesting on lead guitar. For many though, the highlight of the set came when Jonathan Davis of Korn and Sully Erna of Godsmack dueted on “Walk.” Perhaps the most iconic Pantera song and featuring one of the most recognizable guitar riffs in metal history, the song was electric throughout.
Sevendust brought the fire midway through the day, trashing through a strong set of groove metal, with lead singer Lajon Witherspoon sounding in fine form. The band balanced old favorites with new songs from their recently released record All I See Is War, such as the slamming grooves and soaring vocals of “Dirty.” Guitarists Clint Lowery and John Connolly made for quite the duo, dishing out plenty of heavy riffs and sizzling harmonized leads.
Asking Alexandria turned up the intensity a few notches during their set, with the British quintet ripping through a strong set of burning metal and hardcore. Opening with the stomping anthem “Into the Fire,” the band got a huge rise out of the audience, with plenty of mosh pits breaking out in unison. Vocalist Danny Worsnop sounded great, twisting his way through harsh and clean vocals while riling up the crowd even more.
While there were plenty of snappy guitar riffs from Ben Bruce and Cameron Liddell, one of the more memorable moments came towards the end of the set when Bruce broke out the acoustic guitar for the ballad “Someone Somewhere.” Worsnop dedicated the song to all the servicemen and women across the country and the piece was a moving and poignant reminder of his skills as a singer.
Jonathan Davis brought some dark grooves throughout his set, with the Korn lead singer rolling through many tracks off his latest solo release, Black Labyrinth. With Ray Luzier of Korn supplying some monstrous grooves, the set was electric and entertaining as it saw Davis explore the more melodic side of his range. Many of the songs featured some dark and winding lead guitar lines as well as some snappy jazz-influenced basslines. Davis noted during the set how happy he was to be back on stage performing after the recent personal tragedies he has gone through in recent months, and there was a sense of catharsis for him and for the fans during the set.
Underoath tore through an inspired setlist that blended old classics with plenty of tracks from their comeback record, the awesome Erase Me. While Vocalist Spencer Chamberlain was still recovering from a broken foot and was not able to move around the stage very much, the crowd made sure to pick up the slack for him, slamming and moshing to the music throughout their set.
As usual, the roaring guitars of James Smith and Timothy McTague gave the band plenty of power, but it was really drummer/clean vocalist Aaron Gillespie who stole the show. Singing and drumming at the same time is an arduous task and Gillespie made it look easy, with his forceful beats driving each song and his soaring melodies providing the perfect contrast to the harsh screams of Chamberlain.
Fresh off of a plane from New York, Action Bronson strutted out on stage to roll through some stately hip-hop, with the cooking personality showing that he has a masterful flow on the microphone equal to his talents in the kitchen. Bronson took advantage of California’s new marijuana legalization act, lighting up plenty of blunts on stage during his set.
With The Alchemist supplying some slick samples and beats from the turntables, Bronson rolled through a tight set chocked full of firey rhymes and slick grooves. Bronson was electric on stage, getting the crowd totally dialed into his set, not an easy task for one of the few rap artists on the bill of what is typically a metal/rock festival, but he handled himself quite well.
Monster Magnet threw down some heavy de-tuned grooves, with Dave Wyndorf sounding absolutely ravenous on stage as the group tore through an inspired setlist that leaned heavily on their newest release, Mindfucker. With so many years of experience under his belt, Wyndorf knows how to work the crowd, getting them chanting and moving to each song the band played.
While the casual fan may have had reservations about 311 performing at a festival alongside some of the heaviest bands in metal, they more than held their own, dishing out plenty of heavy grooves of their own and plenty of sizzling raps to boot. One of the early highlights of their set came in the form of an inspired rendition of the rocking dub of “Beautiful Disaster” which featured guitarists Nick Hexum and Tim Mahoney shredding through some impressive dual guitar harmonies.
Hexum did his job as frontman to perfection, pumping the crowd up at all the right times and laying down some sick rhymes with rapper Doug Martinez. Drummer Chad Sexton may have had the biggest standout performance of the group though, as his mid-set drum solo was a thing of beauty. While most rock fans may think of a drum solo as a cliched joke, Sexton utilized some impressive rhythmic skills to keep the audience captivated throughout. This included the use of the classical Indian drum, the tabla. The tabla is one of the most expressive drums in the world, and in the hands of Sexton it took on plenty of musical and harmonic qualities. Eventually, the rest of the band came on stage with some drums of their own and joined in, slamming through a grooving beat with plenty of extra flourishes.
Fans got their money’s worth from GWAR, who delivered one of the most ridiculous sets of the whole day. GWAR is a band of aliens who have come to decimate the planet, and they wasted no time in shocking the audience as they decapitated a version of Pope Francis to start off the set, covering the crowd in blood. GWAR frontman Blothar was in fine form, stomping around the stage as the band tore through some warp-speed metal.
Each song seemed to have its own gimmick, whether it was a fake alien penis shooting fake alien semen on the crowd, or the band doing battle with an enemy alien, GWAR knows how to captivate a crowd. Of course, for many, the highlight came during the performance of the song “El Presidente” wherein a version of Donald Trump appeared on stage to be viciously disemboweled and strangled with his own intestines. The shock tactics worked well with the shredding lead guitar work of Pustulus Maximus and the frantic drumming of Jizmak Da Gusha. And don’t worry people, all the miscellaneous fluids the crowd was covered with just turned out to be water with some food coloring.
After nearly nine straight hours of rocking, fans were understandably tired as they waited for the Deftones to take the stage, but once the band began to rip through their opening song, the blistering trash of “Rat Skates,” the switch got flipped and the crowd erupted in a furious mosh pit. For the Deftones, headlining the festival is an opportunity to play in front of their hometown fans, many of whom have supported the group ever since their inception nearly thirty years ago.
While more recent performances featured plenty of new material, the Deftones brought out plenty of old favorites from their early period, such as the grinding “Around the Fur.” Frontman Chino Moreno was on point throughout, diving into the audience and surfing the crowd during many of the songs. A few songs later Moreno dawned a guitar as the band ripped through the slamming “Swerve City.” The song featured plenty of Stephen Carpenter’s heavy guitar work to complement a swaggering and slick drum groove from Abe Cunningham. After five straight thrashers, the band slowed things down for the dreamy “Rosemary,” with Moreno providing some captivating vocal lines to go with some echo-drenched guitar work.
After that song, Moreno took to the microphone to say a few words, remarking how excited he was to perform in front of so many family members and friends before the band continued to pound through their set. Another remarkable moment came when the Deftones rolled through the slithering “Change (In the House of Flies),” one of the standout tracks from their legendary White Pony record. The song had the entire crowd singing along in unison to the anthemic chorus section, with bassist Sergio Vega dominating the mix with his playing. As their sent started to finish up, the band still had plenty of surprises in store, especially during the rocking “Engine No.9” which saw Moreno throwing in some lines from Ice Cube’s “Wicked” and the chorus of Cypress Hill’s “How Could I Just Kill a Man.”
To close out the night, the Deftones pulled out another old classic, the slamming “Headup.” Driven by a crushing and grooving guitar riff from Carpenter, the song seemed to explode through the PA system as Moreno screamed the song’s blistering verses. Few bands in the metal world can level an audience quite like the Deftones, and its performances like these that show that even thirty years into their career, they are still a force when it comes to performing live.
Photo Credit: Raymond Flotat