Live Gig Photos

Live Highlights and Lowlights of Epicenter 2019, Day 2.


Words: David Locklear

Photos: Chris Shoemaker and Steve Thrasher

The second day started without incident. Both automobile and foot traffic was considerably less, but it was still a chore navigating through the mass of flesh and metal as we trekked across the large festival grounds and over to the Quarry stage, feeling recharged and ready for a second day of pummeling music.

We first took in the great set by Alien Weaponry, who took the stage and rattled the bones of attendees who were starting to bake in the lunchtime sunlight. These guys are pretty new to the scene and have skyrocketed into the privileged upper echelon of the rock scene. As they performed, it was obvious that they are ready to prove they have the chops to earn a place in the hallowed halls of rock and metal. The New Zealand thrash three piece ran off the rails with their songs, peeling tune after tune mainly off of their album, Tu, including “Holding My Breath” and closing out with their hit, “Tai Kangata”. Alien Weaponry were a fresh cup of musical coffee to salve those in the audience still wounded by a hangover.

We then caught a few minutes of Dead Girls Academy as they gothed around the stage, preening in posed pain, and followed them up by checking out Memphis May Fire, who were far more enjoyable on stage than I expected.

Unlike almost every act we saw up to that point, MMF played simply played a steady rock show: they didn’t spew every ounce of energy all over the crowd; they didn’t act like they were phoning in their performance or that their pain was such a heavy weight to carry under all of their tattoos. They just enjoyed what they were doing and they hoped you wanted to come along for the ride. It was a fun set, watching these guys play a rock show that wanted to do only that. Rock.

Now I am going to catch hell for this unpopular opinion, but Motionless In White get on my damn nerves. Their spectacle of pain and face paint and gothic, bloody lips while sporting perfectly gelled hair is so calculated that their accountant may as well be in the band. However, they do put on a spectacle when they perform, even if it’s a shitty impression of Marilyn Manson, and rock god, Alice Cooper.

As they performed a mixture of tunes from all of their albums, such as “Rats”, “Abigail” and “Devil’s Night”, they kept the vibe appropriately flashy and grim. They glared at the audience and repeatedly shook fists at the sky, looking as if they were praying to a sensitive, make-up smeared and teary-eyed god to bring swift judgment on the people who have been mean to them.

As I’ve said before, I will always be open to a band that can deliver onstage, but when so many pose the same way, have the same tattoos and lyrics about the pain they’ve endured, maaaan, you begin to roll your eyes. MIW feel like any one of a million bands that have come before sporting this image, but they have somehow been lucky enough to rise to the top. So I guess they have done something right. Although taking in the empty calories of MIW drained my soul a bit, I can always take comfort in the weirdness of a festival crowd. It’s always fun watching and interacting with people who let their inner freak out like it is Halloween.

There was a fiery, red-headed stilt walker pouring liquor shots into patrons mouths while slapping and pinching the men who were happy to be the abused bottoms to her literal top. Toddlers dressed in wild metal regalia, friends who share matching tattoos, and talking with single serving friends at the bar, discussing with each other which Judas Priest albums were vital and which were shit and only for completists. Everyone there was sharing in the bond of music.

After we spent about an hour of walking and talking with the folks in the crowd, the clouds began to form overhead again, acting like the dicks they were yesterday. We didn’t give it much thought, as expectations for crummy weather were quite low since the weather never followed through with it’s previously threatening demeanor.

Black Label Society were up, and their set would begin the evenings stellar lineup of old school acts who would usher us through the heart of the night.

The Cult, who were going to perform their classic album, “Sonic Temple”, in it’s entirety; Judas Priest, who were doing songs from their recent head crusher, “Firepower” along with their many classic staples, “Livin’ After Midnight” and “Breakin’ The Law”; and Tool, who were most likely going to perform some of the new music from their upcoming album. Cue the fucking music boner. I was going to get my wife pregnant at the end of this weekend.

Black Label Society began their set with “Genocide Junkies”, with Zakk Wylde stalking the stage with his Hell’s Angel aggression, as they plowed seamlessly into “Funeral Bell” from the record, ‘The Blessed Hellride’, which I feel is their best album. And as they began revving up the third tune, with Wylde bending the guitar strings into his signature stoner-ambulance-siren sound, the massive monitors on each side of the stage lit up with damning white words smeared across a black digital background:

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN

There is severe weather approaching

Please immediately exit the venue and seek shelter

Once outside the gates please return to your vehicle

Please do not run, push or shove

And one by one, the band stopped playing and the awkward sound of feedback spilled from the speakers, summoning the dread we all felt-the show may be over.

“They’re telling us we have to stop the show. Sorry, guys,” Wylde said into the mic and then he and the band disappeared backstage.

Many of us who live in this area hoped that it could be one of the explosively brief thunderstorms that occur regularly in the summer. So we will miss Bush and Live perform, but no real loss. The headliners sets shouldn’t be affected by a quick thunderstorm.

As the wind kicked up, the sky darkened and the mass of annoyed bodies trudged slowly back to the campground, but the party atmosphere still hung optimistically in the air. The rain began with a gentle patter, but quickly escalated into a thousand tiny fists pounding everything mercilessly. The wind continued to get stronger, whipping fluidly across the horizon, ripping up tents, pop up shelters and anything unfortunate enough to be in its crosshairs. It became apparent that this was more than just a thunderstorm, and that real danger may be looming.

We sat in the car, drinking beer and listening to the rain as it smacked the windshield like little pebbles. We had to be careful to watch our alcohol consumption, since we didn’t know when the shows would resume and it would be bad form to be drunk and suddenly have to go back to work.

And since we couldn’t watch bands perform, we decided the best way to pass the time was to watch the casual destruction of the campground around us: Whoops! There goes someone’s umbrella. There goes someone’s pop up shelter. There goes someone. Mary Poppins, y’all!

It was about 6:30 pm when the Epicenter app went off like an Amber Alert:

“Due to continuing extreme weather conditions, all Epicenter events are cancelled for Saturday night. Please continue to check the Epicenter app for updates.”

And just like that, the second day of Epicenter was fucked.

No Judas Priest.

No Cult.

No fuckin’ Tool.

It was over.

I had never seen Tool perform, so knowing that they had been sneaking new tunes into their recent sets had me amped beyond measure to see them play. Now, I felt like a deflated condom. All that was left was rain, angry drunk patrons and bad attitudes.

On the plus side, we didn’t have to worry about what the adverse affects of getting drunk would have on our work responsibilities. I guess you could call that a silver lining…

Ah, no it isn’t. Fuck you, Mother Nature. Drown in a pool of dicks.

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