The second day of the Aftershock festival was packed with another set of incredible performances throughout the day, with another diverse group of artists from around the metal/rock world closing out the weekend in impressive fashion.
Dorothy got the day started on the main stage, rolling through a set of grooving rock that was the perfect showcase for lead singer Dorothy Martin’s incredible range. The band ripped through a short set mainly comprised of new material from their recent release 28 Days in the Valley, including the anthemic single “Flawless.”
Black Veil Brides kicked up the intensity during their set, as the metal band dished out plenty of heavy songs filled to the brim with sizzling guitar solos and the powerful vocals of Andy Biersack. One particular highlight came in the form of the mid-set anthem, “Rebel Love Song” which blended catchy choruses with a blistering dual guitar harmony from Jinxx and Jake Pitts. It was hard to not be impressed by Pitts, whose jaw-dropping lead guitar work dominated most of the songs.
Bullet for My Valentine brought some sonic fireworks to their set, balancing old favorites with some new material of their latest record, Gravity. Driving by the raging guitar tag-team of Michael Paget and Matthew Tuck, the band was clearly firing on all cylinders, particularly during a mid-set rendition of the classic “4 Words (To Choke on).” Paget got the song started with a nifty lead guitar riff as the rest of the band entered, with bassist Jaime Mathias and drummer Jason Bowld locking in to provide a slamming groove. Another amazing moment came in the form of the edgy ballad, “Tears Don’t Fall.” Tuck delivered some impressive and impassioned vocal lines while Mathias handled the song’s harsh vocals, creating an interesting musical contrast.
Plague Vendor delivered one of the most energetic and captivating sets of the whole weekend, with the four-piece tearing through a tight collection of songs that recalled old school punk and surf rock. The key to the group’s sound was the walloping guitar playing of Jay Rogers, who gave each song a hefty dose of attitude with his furious guitar riffs. This set the stage for frontman Brandon Blaine to thrash around the stage, jumping off of the drum kit and some of the floor monitors. The band was simply infectious to watch and their energy kept increasing the longer they played.
One of the most anticipated performances of the entire festival was At the Drive-In, with fans staking out a spot well in advance of their set. With the legendary hardcore group fresh off opening a massive show the previous day with System of a Down in San Bernadino, fans were excited at the prospect of the band delivering another high-energy performance, and they were not disappointed. The band wasted no time in cutting straight into the ferocious “Arcarsnal,” the blistering opener from the group’s genre-defining album Relationship of Command.
Frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala was a force of nature on stage, jumping off of amps and encouraging the crowd to start moving. Right before the next song, he had a few choice words for the crowd, stating that “San Bernadino sucked, you guys have to do better,” before the band launched into “Governed by Contagions.” A new song from their comeback record Interalia, the song was driven by a slithering drum groove from Tony Hajjar and another wild vocal performance from Bixler-Zavala. After another new song in the form of “Hostage Stamps,” At the Drive-In blew through an old favorite, “Enfilade.” The track relied on a grooving bassline from Paul Hinojos and some tasty lead guitar work from Omar Rodríguez-López, along with some interesting melodic playing from Bixler-Zavala.
At the Drive-In then finished out the set with a blazing performance of their most well-known track, “One Armed Scissor.” Punctuated by wild start-stop dynamics, the band thrashed out on stage, with guitarist Keeley Davis providing some harsh call-and-response vocals to Bixler-Zavala’s wail. And just like that, the band walked off and that was it. At the Drive-In certainly showed that they are back at the top of their game when it comes to live performances and that the years have not dulled the edge of Bixler-Zalava and his wild stage moves.
Slash along with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators ripped through a solid set of material culled from the three albums that they have recorded together, with a big part of the set coming from their newest release, Living the Dream. As you would expect, the band can rock with the best of them, and Kennedy and Slash have some undeniable chemistry together. A particular standout moment came from the breezy rock of “Ghost,” a song Slash originally recorded with Ian Astbury of The Cult. Kennedy more than made the song his own as Slash threw out plenty of tasty guitar licks while bassist Todd Kerns and drummer Brent Fitz kept a driving groove.
While Slash has expressed satisfaction in recent interviews about how he no longer has to play Guns N’ Roses material while out on tour with his solo band, he could not resist throwing in one GNR tune in the form of “Nightrain.” One of the most underrated songs from the legendary Appetite for Destruction album, “Nightrain” was pure rock ‘n roll power, with Kennedy effortlessly matching the piercing howls of the original vocal line. Of course, the song also contained one of Slash’s best guitar solos, closing out the song with a fury.
Incubus brought plenty of danceable grooves and catchy songs, with the band really getting the crowd going during their set. They started things off with a rollicking “Privilege,” a song that was driven by the slamming guitar of Mike Einziger to complement Brandon Boyd’s soulful vocal line. What makes Incubus such a captivating live band is the fact that they let the rhythms breathe and expand their songs into some tuneful jams. Of course its easy with a rhythm section consisting of bassist Ben Kennedy and Jose Pasillas, who had no trouble switching between slithering funk and uptempo rock.
The band had some surprises in store for fans, including a sweet cover of the INXS classic “Need You Tonight” at the tail end of “Calgone.” Boyd effortlessly matched the power and swagger of the original vocal line, with the rest of the band locking into the song’s tight groove. During the next song, “Are You in?” Incubus managed to throw in part of the Snoop Dogg classic “Gin and Juice,” getting the whole crowd singing along to the song’s classic chorus. Towards the end of their set, during the song “Wish You Were Here,” the band broke into a cover of the Pink Floyd song of the same name, which elicited quite the loud response from the audience. Finally, Incubus closed out their set with a blistering version of “Drive,” which got the entire crowd singing along to the song’s classic chorus.
As the sun began to set and the temperature began to drop, Alice in Chains cranked up the intensity and brought the fire during an inspired 13-song set. The band began with the heavy groove of “Check My Brain” a song that relied on Jerry Cantrell’s sludgy guitar riffs and William DuVall’s soaring vocals. Cantrell is really the band’s secret weapon, with his backing vocals helping give each song plenty of color and power. Next up was a deep cut from their self-titled album, the bracing sludge of “Again.” Driven by a slithering tom-tom groove from Sean Kinney, and some interesting vocal/guitar work from Cantrell, the song really got the crowd going.
DuVall addressed the audience, thanking them for coming out and supporting the band before introducing the next song, “Never Fade,” a new track off of their recently-released album Rainier Fog. The song had an upbeat rock vibe, with Mike Inez dominating the mix with some superb basslines and saw another great set of vocals from DuVall.
At this point in the set, Alice in Chains rolled through some classic material, starting with the crushing “Them Bones.” One of the group’s most iconic songs, “Them Bones” rode another heavy riff from Cantrell, who also boosted the song with some great backing vocals. The band kept the intensity going for the next song, “Dam That River,” another crushing blend of sludgy riffs and another great vocal line from DuVall, who had no trouble giving the old songs the necessary grit they needed.
A few songs later Alice in Chains slowed it down for the gorgeous ballad “Down in a Hole.” With DuVall supplying some excellent acoustic guitar playing and Cantrell delivering an emotional lead guitar line, the song was one of the standout moments of the entire day. Once again the Cantrell/DuVall vocal combination was incredible, giving the song plenty of touching, poignant moments.
The band kicked it into high gear for the rest of the set, which included a scorching rendition of the classic “Man in the Box” and the emotional power ballad “Rooster.”
While the preceding acts were all fantastic, there was a sense of building anticipation during the mid-afternoon and early evening, as more and more fans wearing System of a Down shirts began to crowd Discovery Park. Seeing as System of a Down had not played a concert in the US in more than three years since this short run of tour dates was announced, fans were understandably excited at the prospect of seeing one of the biggest metal bands in the world.
There was no fancy intro music or anything like that. Instead, the four members of System of a Down casually strode onto the stage before launching into the caustic thrash of “Prison Song,” one of the iconic tracks off of their legendary Toxicity album. Between the thunderous drums of John Dolmayan and the thrashing guitar of Daron Malakian, the band simply pummeled the audience into submission as the crowd swayed back and forth, with mosh pits breaking out en masse.
System of a Down was intent on cramming as much ferocious metal into their allotted set time as possible, with few breaks in between songs. After a crushing rendition of “I-E-A-I-A-I-O,” the band launched into the intro to the crazed thrash of “B.Y.O.B.” Making use of a giant LED screen behind them, the song featured plenty of wild images to complement the fierce guitar riffs and the over-the-top vocals of Serj Tankian. There was something liberating about the 25,000 fans in the audience singing along to the song’s classic refrain “Why don’t presidents fight the war? / Why do they always send the poor?” which feels even more relevant now than when the song originally came out in 2005.
System of a Down continued to roll through their classic back catalog, wasting very little time in between songs, instead the band was focused on packing in as many tunes as possible, such as the epic metal of “Aerials” and the bouncing grooves of “Radio/Video.” Tankian sounded in great form throughout the night, nailing all of his complicated vocal acrobatics with ease.
With so many amazing songs throughout their 22-song set it was hard to pick out a single standout moment, but if one were to be pressed in picking one, it would have to be the powerful version of “Chop Suey!,” one of the band’s iconic songs. Tankian managed the arduous task of replicating the song’s wild vocals while Malakian and bassist Shavo Odadjian threw down some rhythmically complex guitar and bass riffs.
The band closed out the night with the one-two punch of “Toxicity” and “Sugar,” two more iconic tracks that caused the crowd to explode one last time. What makes System of a Down one of the top metal bands in the world is their incredible ability to combine tuneful, melodic melodies with pummeling de-tuned metal. The combination of extremes works so well in a live setting, as the breakneck tempos get extreme fan interaction while the soaring vocal lines make it easy for one to sing along.
Fans who waited three (or more) years to see this type of show were treated to one epic performance from System of a Down, closing out a wild and fun Aftershock festival. Whether or not the band ever decides to release new material, System of a Down still deliver the goods when it comes to performing live.
Photo Credit: Mauricio Alavardo