This is my recap of the events of Sunday, October 25th 2015, the final day of Slipknot‘s massive Knotfest music festival. You can check out my coverage of the previous day right here.
When I left off last, my 12-year-old son Jesse and I were exhausted, but still reeling from having just experienced a long day of killer metal in the California desert. We had witnessed a ton of great bands and the day had culminated in the awesomeness that is Judas Priest live. We had barely 12 hours to recover and recharge for the second and final day.
To be perfectly honest with you, I wasn’t looking as forward to this day due to the fact that there weren’t really that many bands that I had not seen previously or had any real desire to see for the first time.
After checking out of the one-star San Bernardino Days Inn and grabbing some lunch at the sketchiest Taco Bell I’ve ever seen, we headed back to San Manuel Amphitheater at Glen Helen Regional Park, and made the lengthy trek up the hill from the parking lot. We spent a couple of hours walking around, talking to friends, eyeing the merch booths, and checking out a few bands that we had not heard. Sadly, we did not witness anything that bares any mention here. I had sincerely hoped that many of the bands that had released jaw-dropping records this year would be included on the bill. I mean come on… they could’ve gotten Trials, Cattle Decapitation, Tribulation, Black Fast, Sylosis, Gorgoroth, Marduk, Venom, Paradise Lost, High On Fire, Melechese, Lamb of God, Krisiun, Between the Buried and Me, Periphery, Motorhead, Nile, Deafheaven, W.A.S.P., Baroness, or countless others. Instead, we got a whole day where the smallest two stages had almost nothing of interest and two rap groups on the main stage.
We were basically killing time until Helmet took to the second stage just before 3pm. These math rock veterans never disappoint and today would be no exception. Their set was pummeling and relentless. Many a neck (ours included) were put in jeopardy due to the intense headbanging. The band delivered no-frills, scorching renditions of material spanning their 25-year career.
The next act to take to the second stage was Massachusetts metalcore mainstays All That Remains. This is another band that inspires mixed emotions in me. Much like my criticism of Trivium from part one of this article, All That Remains started out as a very solid metal band, releasing some of the most seminal metalcore albums of the previous decade before suddenly doing an about face, deciding to tailor their output to mainstream rock radio. Unlike Trivium though, ATR’s most recent album, this year’s The Order of Things, holds evidence of them moving back toward a slightly heavier approach. Also unlike Trivium’s lackluster set the previous night on the main stage, ATR played a tight, high energy set that drew heavily from their back catalog. All told, these guys were as good live as they were when I saw them years ago.
The next time slot held the only real dilemma of this day whereas the previous day had been plagued by them. Dying Fetus, a band that I’ve not had the occasion to see, were playing over on stage 4. Problem was that at that exact same time Cannibal Corpse, who I have seen but not for many years, were also playing on stage 2. This was a tough call that I hadn’t even completely made up my mind on until the time was at hand. After consulting Jesse, the choice was clear: the lure of seeing Cannibal Corpse perform in broad daylight was just too enticing to pass up. And so it was that we stayed right where we had been all day up to this point. It dawned on me later that we never even made it to stages 4 or 5 today. Cannibal Corpse, for their part, was amazing as always. They tore through a brutal set that touched on all of the high points of their three decades as a band. New material such as “Kill or Become” from this year’s excellent A Skeletal Domain meshed seamlessly with classics like “I Cum Blood” and “Hammer Smashed Face.” The mosh pit was frenzied throughout and may have been the biggest of the entire weekend.
The moshers barely had time to pick up their teeth and find their shoes before Suicidal Tendencies came on to close out the side stages for the festival. Now, I’m not sure how the rest of the country views Suicidal, but here in Southern California they enjoy a mythical, nearly deified status. Their fans, who were out in legion, were treated to a set consisting of nearly all of the band’s biggest hits. Singer Mike Muir is a dynamic force of nature that just lay waste to many of the performers half his age that we saw this weekend. And to think… all he wanted was a Pepsi!
The sun was stating to creep down behind the main stage as we made our way up to the pavilion to grab some food while Ghostface Killer and Mobb Deep kicked off the main event. Again, neither Jesse nor I are in any way, shape or form fans of hip hop, so I’m not exactly qualified to judge their performances other than to tell you that Ghostface Killer annoyed the hell out of me, rapping over things like Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and contributing nothing original as far as I could tell. Mobb Deep at least put on a passionate set of what I assume was largely original material. I still hate hip hop and still don’t understand the need to include non-metal acts on a metal festival, but whatever… props to Mobb Deep for bringing it with a high energy performance. Also, a big “fuck you” to the drunk who fell over dumping the molten cheese from his nachos all down the back of my brand new Belphegor shirt and Jesse’s new (white!) Knotfest shirt. After berating that asshat and a trip to the restroom to scrap off what cheese we could, we headed back into the amphitheater and found our seats.
The next act to take to the big stage was the pride of Maryland, Clutch. I had never seen Clutch live and after this night I found myself lamenting all the lost years and shows! Neil Fallon may be one of the best frontmen that I’ve ever witnessed. He commanded the stage and the sea of metalheads effortlessly as the band just steamrolled through a breathtaking tour through their 25-year deep catalog. Next to Judas Priest’s headlining set the night before, this was the highlight of the festival for me. I could go on for an entire article about how completely blown away I was at the end of Clutch’s set. Instead I’ll just implore you to go see them for yourself. I know that the next time they’re in L.A. I will be there!
Bring Me The Horizon is a band that I wasn’t super familiar with before this night. They’ve always sort of occupied an unexplored corner of my awareness and honestly I had sort of subliminally lumped them in with all of the other “Hot Topic, teeny-bopper, mall metal” bands like Pierce The Veil, Black Veil Brides, and other such pseudo metal. In retrospect, this assessment was probably based more on image than anything. I discovered that this band actually has some chops, arena-ready bombastic anthems and a bonafide superstar front man in the form of Oli Sykes. The only actual bad thing that I can say about them is that they performed in front of a massive L.E.D. wall with little to no front lighting throughout the show and it was very difficult to see them and even harder to get any usable photos. They’re still a bit too far on the pop metal spectrum for my tastes, but I can see why the kids love them so much.
Alas dear reader, all good things must come to an end. Slipknot made sure that their headlining set would close out the festivities with a bang. Taking into consideration that they headlined both nights last year and have released no new material in between, they decided to change up the set to include some seldom performed rarities, including “Metabolic” from their masterpiece second album Iowa. Their set was, as always, top notch so it was with great trepidation that we left while they were still performing the final encores “People=Shit” and “Surfacing.”
As with the night before, we applied the lessons of last year’s 2-hour struggle to exit the parking lot and got out of Dodge without a hitch. After all, we still had an hour drive home and Jesse had school the next day. Yes, that’s still top priority, even in a heavy metal household.
All in all, another fantastic weekend of metal, and father son bonding went off with minimal hitches and only faint nacho cheese stains to scrub out (a success… fortunately!). Hopefully Knotfest will return to San Manuel for a third year next October. I know two people that will be there for sure if it does.