Concert Review: Journey at Aaron’s Amphitheatre

Journey, live at Aaron's Amphitheater at Lakewood, Atlanta, GA

“Is everybody HAPPY?”

Yes, Ross Valory, bass player from the classic rock band Journey, I think every one of the 12,000+ people that you are standing in front of are happy. Happy that after 42 years together, one of America’s greatest rock bands is still going strong. Touring the US on another of their “San Francisco-fest” tour packages (this time around with The Doobie Brothers), the ageless quintet Journey put on another seemingly effortless show at Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood.

When you have achieved the level of success and have the back catalog that Journey has, you don’t need a new album to build a tour around, you can just tour. Build it and they will come, to quote a phrase. The set list included almost every song off of their Greatest Hits release, an album that has achieved platinum status 15 times over. “Separate Ways (World’s Apart),” “Be Good To Yourself” and “Only The Young” kicked off the night off, sparking many in the crowd to sing along.

Now in his ninth year as lead singer, Arnel Pineda sounded fantastic. He’s added some of his own personality into more well known tracks like “Faithfully” and “Open Arms,” and effortlessly hit the soaring, ethereal vocal flourish during Neil Schon’s guitar break in “Wheel In The Sky.” The guy is just a phenomenal singer.

Journey, live at Aaron's Amphitheatre at Lakewood, Atlanta, GA, June 8, 2016

This tour marks also the return of long-time drummer Steve Smith, who was behind the kit during the band’s most successful period back in the 80s. The novelty of his return must still be fresh in his bandmate’s minds. Keyboardist Jonathan Cain snuck out on stage during Smith’s solo to snap a few pictures.

Despite the popularity of the band’s ballads, they haven’t forgotten that they are a rock band at heart. Led by guitarist and founder Neil Schon, the band steamrolled their way through more rocking tracks like “Line of Fire,” “Any Way You Want It” and the rollicking “La Do Da,” with Schon’s soloing all over it. The bluesy “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’” ended the night, with the entire crowd, hands in air, singing along to the “Naah nah na naaah nah na” section at the end.

If you’re a fan of this band and have never seen them perform live before, my only question would be “why not?” Live rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t get much better than this.

 

Live Review: Disturbed “Unleash Hell” at Aaron’s Amphitheatre at Lakewood

Saint Asonia, live at Aaron's Amphitheater at Lakewood, May 6, 2016

Riding high on their fifth #1 selling album Immortalized, the Chicago-based metal band Disturbed returned to Atlanta’s Aaron’s Amphitheater at Lakewood on Friday, March 6 and unleashed hell. Already a powerful live act, Disturbed brought along the full-blown ‘big rock show” package of staging to match the volume and intensity of their music. Let’s put it this way: there was enough fire on stage to make any local fire chief nervous.

“Ten Thousand Fists” was an appropriate opener as the Atlanta faithful greeted the band with fists raised. Trench-coated lead singer David Draiman’s vocals stood out in the mix, punctuated with his trademark, staccato delivery. The band’s great new song “The Vengeful One” got the fist pumping in unison, and the chorus of “I’m the hand of God, I’m the dark messiah…” is still ringing in my memory.

Legacy radio hits like “Prayer,” “Liberate” and “Stupify” followed, punctuated by a huge stage full of high-intensity flash lighting, strobes, flash-pots, a hydraulic lighting rig, flamethrowers and what I can only describe as bags of fire hanging from the rafters.

Disturbed is a band that, in its history, has covered songs by artists they admire and have typically done a good job in making their version of the song unique. They have covered “Land of Confusion” by Genesis, “Shout” by Tears for Fears and on Immortalized, the band covered Simon & Garfunkel’s classic “The Sound Of Silence” and did an excellent job on record (and live) of making the song their own. Even Paul Simon himself complimented the band on their Conan (Obrien) appearance. The live version of “The Sound of Silence” was really beautiful, accompanied by strings on a candle-lit stage and amongst a sea of lighters and cell phone lights in the the crowd, which is why I’m having trouble figuring out their next move.

Two songs after their S.O.S. performance, the band played a curious medley of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer,” U2’s “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” The Who’s “Baba O’Reilly” and Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of…” My main question would be “why?” If this is a Disturbed show, then I want to hear Disturbed. The covers themselves were lackluster, the medley seemed to drag on and the band didn’t do anything new or interesting with the songs, arrangements or instrumentation to make them special, as they did with “Sounds of Silence.” I would rather have heard three more Disturbed songs to be honest.

Still, the band marched on and brought the night to a slamming close with their first big hit and now signature song, “Down With The Sickness.”

Set List
1. 10,000 Fists
2. The Game
3. The Vengeful One
4. Prayer
5. Liberate
6. Stupify
7. The Sound of Silence
8. Inside The Fire
9. The Light
10. Medley (NIN, U2, The Who, Rage Against The Machine)
11. Indestructible
12. Voices
13. Down With The Sickness

Full Image Gallery of Disturbed

Full Image Gallery of Saint Asonia

Concert Review: The 2015 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival

Slayer

Kerry King of Slayer

The 2015 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival arrived in town on Wednesday, July 29, boasting metal veterans Slayer and King Diamond as headliners. Now in its eighth year of existence, the festival-style tour promotes a package of established metal veterans (Slipknot, Korn, Rob Zombie have all acted as past headliners) along with a slew of up-and-coming hard rock & heavy metal acts. The overall size of this year’s tour was scaled down considerably from previous years. Gone were the larger second stage (previously sponsored by Coldcock Whiskey/Jagermeister) and the Metal Mulisha motorcycle performances, but the core purpose of hard rock and heavy metal was most definitely present and accounted for.

Due to the fact that I was photographing the show and was being moved and sequestered to and from a variety of areas, I didn’t get to see the full set from a lot of the bands. So, instead of a proper, full review of the show I hope that this list of highlights (and lowlights) will give a fuller picture as to what exactly went down:

Surprise(s) of the Day: Shattered Sun & Sister Sin. Both bands gave fist-pumping performances that were enhanced by tight musicianship. As for Sister Sin I can only ask: how many kick-ass metal bands have come out of Sweden in the past several years? That country is a hot-bed of talent. Honorable mention: Jungle Rot

Band You Might Have Missed: Burning Fair Verona. Unfortunately, a 1:00 P.M. starting time slot meant a sparse crowd for the unsigned, Florida-based, Coldcock Whiskey contest winners. Regardless, they went for broke and performed like true pros, seemingly having a blast in the process.

Burning Fair Verona

Burning Fair Verona

Musician(s) Who Made Me Say “Wow” – TIE: Guitarist Daniel Trejo of Shattered Sun, and drummer Vinnie Paul of Hellyeah. I’m not sure what it was about Daniel Trejo’s playing that caught my ear, but in a day full of fantastic guitar playing he seemed to stand out from the crowd. As for Vinnie Paul, his double-bass drumming hits you like a locomotive & I think he’s one of the best hard rock/metal drummers in the business. Honorable mention: Paul Bostaph of Slayer and Andy LaRocque of King Diamond. 

Shattered Sun

Marcos Leal and Daniel Trejo of Shattered Sun

Best Local Tie-In: Lariyah Hayes’ (from the Atlanta occult metal band Khaotika) performance with Sister Sin. A very nice “welcome back” to the stage after the band’s horrible car accident this past April.

Most Spontaneous Moment: Thy Art Is Murder vocalist CJ McMahon brought the day’s two best. 1) Totally throwing himself into his performance, AND into the crowd for a bit of crowd surfing and 2.) Helping to form a…as he put it…“twerkle” pit for some of the mosh-shy ladies in the crowd who were looking to get into the action.

Thy Art Is Murder

CJ McMahon of Thy Art Is Murder

Best Perk: Free Rockstar Energy Drinks! On a muggy, 93 plus degree day, having free drinks to stay hydrated was not only convenient, but downright economical compared to the $4.75 bottles of water at the concession stands.

Bummer of the Day: Unfortunate scheduling. Due to the logistical reality of only running two stages this year, the last two bands on the Victory Records Stage (Kissing Candace & Feed Her To The Sharks) were scheduled between The Devil Wears Prada and Hellyeah on the Main Stage. That meant that fans had to run back and forth across the venue grounds to catch the full show from each band. Unfortunately, many people went to the Main Stage for TDWP and just stayed there for the rest of the evening.

Loser of the Day: The Atlanta metal community. I realize that this year’s scaled-down lineup may have been a little lackluster vs the ticket price. I realize that the show was held on a Wednesday afternoon and many people can’t get off from work. I also realize that it was hot as hell, but the paltry turnout to this year’s tour was a downright embarrassment. This was a metal show, and yet in and around the Main Stage there was an air of calm and stillness. It was quiet like a library. I overheard many people saying things like ”this is so sad,” and “where is everybody?” I guess the only good thing about the turnout is that if the tour returns next year, it will definitely be more well attended, because I don’t think it can get much worse.

Unsung Hero(s) of the Day: The bands. Credit needs to be given to each and every band that performed, because what I saw was 100 percent effort. They did everything they could to get and keep the crowd revved up, involved and entertained. Even this little guy got into the action:

Thy Art Is Murder

Horns up!

Overall Winner of the Day – King Diamond. His theatrical stage show, falsetto vocal range and talented band were a perfect choice for the Main Stage. I’m a late convert to King Diamond’s music, but after his performance I’ve found myself digging back through his catalog to find out what I’ve been missing all of these years. A top notch performance and presentation from a metal legend.

King Diamond

King Diamond

 

Main Stage Gallery

 

Victory Records Stage Gallery

Train’s ‘Picasso at the Wheel’ Tour in Atlanta on June 5

Photos by Danielle Boise

Train hit the road once again in support of their latest album, Bulletproof Picasso with special guests The Fray and Matt Nathanson for the ‘Picasso at the Wheel’ Summertime 2015 Tour. The talented trio of acts made a stop in Atlanta at Aaron’s Amphitheatre on Lakewood on Friday, June 6, for a perfect night filled with some amazing music.

 

Full Photo Gallery of Train

Full Photo Gallery of The Fray

Picasso at the Wheel Summertime 2015 Tour Dates

June 6  – Tampa @ MIDFLORIDA Credit Union Amphitheatre @ FL State Fairgrounds
June 7 – West Palm Beach, FL @ Cruzan Amphitheater
June 9 – Charlotte @ PNC Music Pavilion Charlotte
June 10 – Raleigh @ Walnut Creek Amphitheatre
June 11 – Hershey, PA @ Hershey Park Pavilion/Stadium
June 13 – Virginia Beach, @ Farm Bureau Live at Virginia Beach
June 14 – Camden @ Susquehanna Bank Cente
June 16 – Wantagh, NY @ Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
June 18 – Bangor, ME @ Darling’s Waterfront Pavilion
June 19 – Saratoga Springs, NY @ Saratoga Performing Arts Center
June 20 – Mansfield, MA @ Xfinity Center
June 21 – Uncasville, CT @ Mohegan Sun Arena
June 23 – Toronto, ON @ Molson Canadian Amphitheatre
June 24 – Darien Center, NY @ Darien Lake Performing Arts Center
June 26 – Bethel, NY @ Bethel Woods Center for the Arts
June 27 – Holmdel, NJ @ PNC Bank Arts Center
June 28 – Bristow, VA @ Jiffy Lube Live
June 30 – Burgettstown, PA @ First Niagara Pavillion
July 1 – Clarkston, MI @ DTE Energy Music Theatre
July 2 – Cincinnati @ Riverbend Music Center
July 3 – Tinley Park, IL @ First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
July 10 – Nashville @ Bridgestone Arena
July 11 – Maryland Heights, MO @ Hollywood Casino Amphitheater
July 12 – Noblesville, IN @ Klipsch Music Center
July 14 -London, ON @ Rock the Park Festival
July 15 – Cuyahoga Falls, OH @ Blossom Music Center
July 17 – Kansas City, Mo @ Starlight Theatre
July 18 – Englewood, CO @ Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre
July 19 – Salt Lake City @ USANA Amphitheatre –
July 21 – Stateline, NV @ Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harvey’s
July 22 – Boise  @ Taco Bell Arena
July 24 – Ridgefield, WA @ Amphitheater Northwest
July 25 – Quincy, WA @ The Gorge Amphitheatre
Sept. 19 – Pomona, CA @ Los Angeles County Fair

Full review and photos of 2014 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival

By Alex Moore, with photos by Michael Bradley

Click image for full gallery of Erimha photos by Michael Bradley

Click image for full gallery of Erimha photos by Michael Bradley

Aaron’s Amphitheater at Lakewood hosted a day of sweltering heat and searing metal as the seventh annual Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival rolled into Atlanta, bringing what was undoubtedly the most diverse Mayhem Fest lineup yet. Veteran acts such as Cannibal Corpse shared the stage with up-and-coming acts such as Miss May I and King 810, and it was the sheer diversity that made this year’s Mayhem Festival shine.

Erimha starts the show

The day kicked off with Canadian black metal group Erimha tearing up the Victory Records Stage. Though they were the only black metal band on the tour, Erimha didn’t let pre-conceived notions hinder them from putting on a great performance. Fans of Behemoth and Nile are sure to enjoy the band’s sound and imagery, with most of the group’s artistic focus coming from a deep love of ancient Sumerian culture. The corpse-paint-clad quintet did the best it could with the short amount of stage time they were given, as the performance began immediately as venue gates were opened.

 

Click for full gallery of Islander photos by Michael Bradley

Click for full gallery of Islander photos by Michael Bradley

Islander emphasizes nu metal sound

Islander was perhaps the most shockingly contrasting band on the lineup. Forced to compete with Upon a Burning Body on the Sumerian Records Stage, Islander offered something completely different from other bands, emphasizing a distinct nu metal sound. Catchy bass lines and an emphasis on groove over heaviness set Islander apart. Islander’s throwback sound hearkened back to the late 1990s, as the rap-rock group takes a tremendous influence from nu metal idols such as Deftones and Rage Against the Machine, combining rap, hip-hop and metal.

 

Click for full gallery of Texas Hippie Coalition photos by Michael Bradley

Click for full gallery of Texas Hippie Coalition photos by Michael Bradley

 

Texas Hippie Coalition offers twangy alternative

On the adjacent Coldcock Whiskey Stage, self-professed red dirt metal outfit Texas Hippie Coalition offered a slower, twangier alternative to the breakdown-laden music of their Mayhem Fest cohorts. Seemingly taking inspiration from sludge legends Down, the quartet kept the energy level high, and everything about the group represented the Mayhem Fest attitude. Throughout the set, for instance, frontman Big Dad Ritch periodically took swigs from a bottle of whiskey firmly located next to his shotgun-modeled microphone stand. Deeper vocals and an emphasis on groove made Texas Hippie Coalition a treat to listen to as they blazed through a mostly Peacemaker heavy set, which included “Turn It Up,” “Pissed Off (And Mad About It)” and “Hands Up.”

 

Click for full gallery of Veil of Maya photos by Michael Bradley

Click for full gallery of Veil of Maya photos by Michael Bradley

 

Most chaotic pit during Veil of Maya

Veil of Maya opened its set with what was perhaps the most chaotic mosh pit of the day. From the opening notes of “Subject Zero,” the crowd split in two, with several brave souls opting to police the outskirts of the pit. Giving a soundtrack to the insanity, Veil of Maya spent much of its time encouraging zealous fans attempting to make their way to the rail. One memorable instance saw an individual urging others to use his back as a springboard. The polyrhythmic “Unbreakable” meshed perfectly with the energy of the crowd, as audience members leapt from the aforementioned man’s back and onto the front of the stage.

 

Click for full gallery of Mushroomhead photos by Michael Bradley

Click for full gallery of Mushroomhead photos by Michael Bradley

 

Mushroomhead has trouble finding its members on stage

Fans got little time to rest as Mushroomhead took the stage while Veil of Maya finished its set. Between the return of vocalist J Mann and landing a spot on the Billboard Top 200 charts, the Ohio based outfit has had an extraordinary year thus far. While Mushroomhead had a bit of trouble fitting all of its band members on stage, stage limitations didn’t keep the industrial act from putting on a spectacular performance, complete with the group’s signature water drum sets. As cool water from the drums splashed the audience, each of Mushroomhead’s three vocalists took turns leaping into the crowd. The set itself was filled with fan favorites such as “Sun Doesn’t Rise,” “Solitaire/Unraveling” and even a cover of Pink Floyd’s classic “Empty Spaces.”

 

Click for full gallery of Body Count photos by Michael Bradley

Click for full gallery of Body Count photos by Michael Bradley

 

Body Count: “highlight of Mayhem Fest”

Perhaps the highlight of the afternoon, however, was the triumphant return of Ice-T’s iconic metal band Body Count. While it’s been two decades since the group first burst onto the scene with its controversial hit “Cop Killer,” the spectacle put on by Ice-T and the group illustrated that little changed over the past 20 years. Fresh from the release of this year’s Manslaughter, Body Count put on a performance that was nothing short of glorious fan service, mending the schism of the audience’s musical preferences once they took the stage.

“I’m dedicating the rest of the show to Devin,” Ice-T said when he discovered a particularly young audience member. “You could be anywhere — you could be at a Justin Bieber show, but here you are front row at a Body Count show at 12!”

With a blend of rap and metal, Body Count featured something for every type of audience member. Even second stage headliners Cannibal Corpse could be seen from the Coldcock Whiskey Stage watching and nodding their heads along with the audience.

 

 

Click for full gallery of Cannibal Corpse photos by Michael Bradley

Click for full gallery of Cannibal Corpse photos by Michael Bradley

 

Cannibal Corpse churns it out with revolting lyrics

After the final notes of controversial classic “Cop Killer” played, death metal icons and Mayhem Fest veterans Cannibal Corpse churned out the crunchy opening notes of “Scourge of Iron.” Though the audience was thoroughly worn out from the festival’s previous bands, the crowd excitedly mustered through Cannibal Corpse’s set, inciting monstrous pits that kicked up dust across the parking lot. Known for the revolting lyrics and gore-filled, the Buffalo, NY natives played a greatest hits set that lived up to expectations. While it would have been nice to see some older songs in the set, the set covered the key albums in the Corpse discography.

 

Complaints about Mayhem Fest

Which leads to one of two complaints: It’s great that this year’s Mayhem Fest featured so much diversity, but having 19 bands on the bill means that set times are cut significantly short. Some, such as Erimha, played immediately as gates opened, resulting in substantially smaller crowds. It also meant that sets occasionally overlapped and sound bled from performance to performance. Mayhem took a step in the right direction with its lineup, but a change in stage set up and opening door time would likely remedy this problem.

The next complaint is one that has baffled from Mayhem Fest’s first year:

The fact that free water isn’t offered isn’t just confusing – it’s dangerous. Too many people were carried out on stretchers from heat exhaustion.

Having an energy drink tent is great, but these sugary beverages only serve to exacerbate the problem and dehydrate people. Even setting up misting stations or sporadic water fountains could help. Water in the 90-plus degree weather isn’t just nice – it’s necessary.

 

Click for full gallery of Trivium photos by Michael Bradley

Click for full gallery of Trivium photos by Michael Bradley

The main stage at Mayhem welcomes…

As the sun began to set, the masses headed to the amphitheater stage for the headlining acts. Trivium and Asking Alexandria started the main stage strong, and the latter has particularly enjoyed a boost in popularity since playing Mayhem Fest just two years ago. While there seemingly wasn’t a huge crossover between Asking Alexandria’s fans and the fans of Korn and Avenged Sevenfold, the band appeared clever enough to embrace the confusion.

 

Click for full gallery of Avenged Sevenfold photos by Michael Bradley

Click for full gallery of Avenged Sevenfold photos by Michael Bradley

 

“If you don’t like our band, we do get better with alcohol,” frontman Danny Worsnop said. Korn passionate now as ever with “Head” back.

The highlight of the festival, however, was Korn’s set. The group sounded the tightest they have since the 1990s, thanks in part to the return of guitarist Brian “Head” Welch. Aside from closing with classic opener “Blind,” the set was excellently paced. Korn managed to cram most of its hits into the 75-minute set while still allowing new songs from The Paradigm Shift to breathe.

 

Click for full gallery of Korn photos by Michael Bradley

Click for full gallery of Korn photos by Michael Bradley

 

Overall, the group seemed just as passionate about performing as they did back in Korn’s heyday. Eccentric frontman Jonathan Davis twisted and contorted as he shouted the lyrics to “Coming Undone” and “Freak on a Leash,” before bringing out the infamous bagpipes for the nightmarish “Shoots and Ladders.” Though Korn has had its share of missteps in the last decade or so, Mayhem Fest proved that the group is on the right track.

Closing the curtains

Avenged Sevenfold closed the curtains on another excellent year at the 2014 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival. The performance featured the most intensive stage set, with a castle-like stage set up. A massive skeleton, not unlike Iron Maiden’s Eddie, was propped up in the middle of the stage, with two CGI screens flanking the mascot and displaying vivid graphics for each song in the headliner’s set. Flames shot up from nearly every angle of the stage – a feature the band seemingly lamented. “It’s toasty tonight, and we’re the idiots that brought fire,” said lead vocalist M. Shadows.

An opening trio of “Shepherd of Fire,” “Nightmare” and “Bat Country” made for a great impression from the start. In a fun turn of events, a young couple got engaged midway through the set. After locating the couple, M. Shadows brought them on stage for a celebration, hugging them both and letting them watch the remainder of the show from the side of the stage.

The Rev remembered

Much of Sevenfold’s set was dedicated to the group’s former drummer, “The Rev,” who passed several years ago. “Life is about living it how you want it,” said Shadows as he reminisced about his fallen friend. “So Far Away” in particular was a touching tribute, as M. Shadows strummed away on an acoustic guitar while the audience sang along. Set highlights included “I’m Not Insane,” “Hail to the King” and the eight-minute “Piece of Heaven,” which took a seemingly Broadway-inspired route with an orchestral section.

While it may have been a bit more chaotic in its logistics and schedule conflicts, Mayhem Fest has come a tremendous distance since its initial year, and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the future. One can only hope that the increased revenue will be used to make the festival a more cohesive and safe environment for attendees.