Concert review: Muddy Mayhem fest lives up its billing

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"I expected MORE from YOU!"

That was Asking Alexandria singer Danny Worsnop, midway through its main stage set at the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival, evaluating the crowd's performance Saturday, which to that point consisted mostly of standing there watching the band.

There's not much Mayhem in that, is there?

That's when he suggested the lawn people at the First Niagara Pavilion split down the middle for a "wall of death" that escalated into free-for-all turning the newly wet sod into a big mudpit.

It was unselfish of Mr. Worsnop because after that most people stopped paying attention to Asking Alexandria and just watched the mud people play hardcore rugby without a ball. When the sod started flying into the pavilion, the mud people expanded in numbers. Mud flew everywhere back and forth during Motorhead's set and didn't stop until they announced that a little girl had been injured by the sod.

As it turned out, after an afternoon spent in the parking lot with the metalcore likes of Whitechapel and As I Lay Dying and the old-school thrash of Anthrax, that main stage was dominated by greybeards, starting with 66-year-old Lemmy Kilmister leading Motorhead in its 37th year. Unlike the metalcore bands, he didn't need any distortion on his mic because he's been doing this so long his voice is a raspy roar anyway.

Motorhead delivered a charming set of British speed metal with old chestnuts like "Damage Case" and "Ace of Spades" right up to the current day's "I Know How to Die." New or old, the songs pretty much sounded the same (except maybe the Chuck Berry-ish "Going to Brazil"), a tribute to Lemmy's single-minded devotion to his original concept.

Slayer, one of the bands that started all this insanity 30 years ago, came on with fire blazing just after 8 p.m. while it was still light out. Dark, fast, sinister, bludgeoning, heart-pounding, wicked tight -- Slayer was all those things, even with Gary Holt subbing for the ailing Jeff Hanneman. It raged through such ungodly songs as "Mandatory Suicide," "Die by the Sword" and "Angel of Death" and also hit a slower gear, sinking into the sludge of "Seasons in the Abyss" and "Dead Skin Mask."

There isn't another band on Earth that can make guitars and drums sound more like war and apocalypse. By the time Slayer closed with "South of Heaven" and "Raining Blood" it was almost dark and the band's fiery, red lit stage was a vision of where you don't want to spend the afterlife.

How do you follow Motorhead and Slayer? Or, maybe the question should be, "Why do you follow Motorhead and Slayer?"

Slipknot, 17 years in, doesn't have the same musical ammunition or intensity, so it was a good thing for the demented clown masks, red jumpsuits, spinning percussion kit, bubbles, fire and other stage gimmicks.

The octet from Iowa wielded a crazy mess of a sound dominated by the thunderous drums and bass, with the guitars either driving or creaking. It's weird to say that Slayer has better hooks, but that was the case as Corey Taylor often just seemed to be venting in over-dramatic fashion on songs ranging from the poppy "Before I Forget" to the pummeling "Psychosocial."

Although it had only about half the crowd of Toby Keith the night before, Mayhem lived up to its name and left a big mess for Live Nation to fix before the civil Chicago.

Doobie Brothers crowd comes in on Thursday. Hope they have a good landscaper.


Scott Mervis:; 412-263-2576.


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