Photos by: Dhruv Kumar
Words by: Kunal Singh
August 28th, 2019. Northwell Health Amphitheater in Wantagh at Jones Beach. This is the 13th year of Knotfest and another year of pushing a band to the limit. This lineup was something out of a childhood dream for many. Combining French Environmentalist Metal with Black Metal, with a touch of Groove Metal from Denmark inspired by the west, with a blast of Midwest Americans seems like a bit of stretch. But it all makes sense. “Metal for everyone!” as I call it is pretty much the only way to describe this show.
Up first on stage was the Poland Black Metal, Satanic Underground masters of mayhem, Behemoth. I’ve seen Behemoth a few times, and have even covered their performance at Best Buy Theater in Times Square. Something here was a little different. Oh yeah, the blaring sun overhead as the sea was sparkling behind the sides of the stage. Aside from that imagery, Behemoth put on a technically impressive and solid performance. Was this the headlining spot they had at the basement of Times Square near midnight? No, of course not. But the Behemoth faithful were in attendance. I absolutely loved their entrance of “Wolves ov Siberia” as it always sets a great tone for the performance. “Bartzabel” and “Conquer All” were notable efforts as well. Though there was some light moshing and friendly circle pit attempts, due to the showtime of just before 6 pm on a Wednesday, most of the audience was still yet to be seated. Overall, Behemoth played quite well, and they put in an effort worthy of being on such a huge tour. Two Satanic thumbs up!
Next on stage was the French Heavy Metal hitters in Gojira. These guys must have a sense of humor because while they’ve opened many shows with “Oroborus” this day they opened with “Toxic Garbage Island” which some say would be a dig at Long Island itself. Far be it for any of us here to get into the whole LI vs NYC envy debate, but let’s carry on. Following up with “Backbone” and “Stranded” Gojira, continued to light the stage up. While the sun was still out and the stage was highly illuminated, the smoke jets they had as their stage show were a nice touch. Gojira was probably the heaviest and purest of upfront metal and unforgiving sonic assault of the night, but they probably would have benefited from a later show, much like Behemoth. Take nothing away from either band, as they both absolutely crushed it, but the stage was just a bit off for bands of this ilk. Still, two radioactive thumbs up!
Coming to the stage after a long set switch were the cowboys from Denmark, Volbeat. Now, this was an interesting performance. Again, the sun playing the part to what I can only say is confusing, the light show on stage was kind of unnecessary for the first half. The stage was already bright! It ironically felt like a waste of electricity especially considering the well-known environmentalists that were on just before them. (Who also inexplicably had a light show.) After opening with “The Devil’s Bleeding Crown,” the band launched into a fan favorite, “Lola Montez” and continued their Metallica inspired groove-heavy set.
Volbeat separates themselves from the Metal and Hard Rock crowd by not the music specifically, but by the very advertised notion that we all need to have some fun. Throughout the night, the band was addressing the audience with love, praise for their fellow bands, and the ideas of having a good time. The sun was beginning to set and the band busted out acoustic guitar love as they played a snippet of “Ring of Fire” by the legendary Johnny Cash.
There’s something to be said for a band to play Cash as a sea of metalheads come into an arena. I thoroughly enjoyed it, as did most of the Long Island crowd. There are a lot of Country fans out here and equally so several Classic Rock and Old-Time guys. Soon after, Volbeat gave yet another head nod to Slayer as they played a little teaser of “South of Heaven” which got the pit and metal faithful amped up. Of course, this was a teaser, so no full-on Slayer for this show. Long Island has some odd hero and cover band worship thing going on because the last three shows I’ve seen and two of which I’ve covered here all had snippets, teasers, and full-on sections and songs of other legendary bands. A couple of weeks ago, KoRn played Metallica’s “One” and Queen’s “We Will Rock You” as part of their set. It seems these tour managers know what they’re doing.
Volbeat continued their set as the night finally began to grow dark. They even teased one of the own songs (one of my favorites) in “Doc Holiday” for a total of 8 bars. I suppose that’s all I’d receive of that. After speaking with many fans and friends, we all were joking about the tease. After “Pelvis on Fire” Volbeat frontman Michael Poulsen noticed a couple of tiny kids getting close to the front of the crowd. He stopped the show for a brief moment, to invite the kids and their father (presumably) to stage! It was amazing. The crowd was incredibly appreciative of the gesture. Who could blame them? A giant stage, thousands of people, and a rock star just told you to come up on stage and “hang out with Volbeat” when you haven’t even reached double digits in age!? That’s amazing. The crowd bled with energy and the band supercharged the rest of the show. Even letting the kids touch and strum a few strings on stage. It was a very cool moment, and just solidified the band’s mantra of having a good time with some loud music. The band finished their set with “Still Counting” and they walked off after a victorious performance.
After a somewhat extensive break and two songs played over the PA as the Slipknot banner was covering the stage, the headliners themselves took to the stage. A giant eruption from the audience welcomed the band. It was almost a role reversal. Right from the very first song, the audience was giving as much as the band. The energy kept up the entire night. Slipknot’s stage setup was impressive. A 3 tiered stage with drums on the top tier was quite the spectacle. Complete with a conveyor belt and hanging barrels, this stage setup was a feast. A future dystopian abandoned warehouse feast, but a feast nonetheless. Pyro throughout the top of the stage and occasionally a burst of smoke from the stage level, and a solitary firework was the additional light show.
Slipknot’s fans are dedicated. They are a hardcore following with a ravenous appetite for percussive releases. This is critical to their show because some of the tracks they played were sleeper hits and some were deep cuts for the maggot corps faithful. Interesting enough, there was a lot, and I mean a lot, of families at this show. It says something because I recall them from the Tattoo the Earth days and the insane beginnings of their rise. Those early days have given a path to fans starting families and bringing their kids along. It was kind of heartwarming, for an extreme metal show. I was never a huge fan, not going to lie, but this show may have turned me into one. It felt like a community in the venue. Lots of grooves, lots of breakdowns and blast beats. It was honestly one of those times when I felt like a stranger in a strange land, but without the stranger part and the land was welcoming. Sort of indoctrination if you will.
I could go on about the audience addressing and the song lists, but it honestly does nothing to improve this article. This is simply a show you have to experience. Be it in person, or at the very least via video. There is a stage show, interactions between band members, or just members walking around the stage the whole time. Yes, there were sing-along moments like “Wait and Bleed” and “Duality” but it is almost par for the course. One of my favorite/least understood parts of the set was when members took baseball bats on fire and started hitting suspended barrels. I loved the visual, but being that the hits were on cue, I was perplexed as to why this action wasn’t mixed. I also loved the moonwalking on the conveyor belt, and the playful interactions, but was somewhat saddened when I noticed the aux percussion was stationary. It took nothing away from the sound, but it was something I was looking forward to.
This show was Slipknot in the finest form I’ve heard them. This show was also a thank you from the audience to the band. The pit was real, the juggernaut of notes was equally real. There wasn’t any crowd killing from what I observed, which is pretty fantastic. It was just a great show, with some amazing energy. See you at Knotfest 2020.