The Morning Aftershock
7.30am Monday, October 24th. I have fervently tapped the snooze button on my alarm at least five times, and now, stretching lazily across my bed I tap it for a sixth feeling that I could steal another eight hours in the land of nod no problem, but frustrated that I cannot. Yep, I am recovering from a most violent sensory overload of Heavy Metal and Alternative Rock, and with ears still ringing I drag myself from the bed to the coffee pot, to the desk and begin rifling through notes, goodies, and interview files.
Taking place in Downtown Sacramento’s Discovery Park October 22nd and 23rd, this 2-day circus of superior entertainment has rendered me useless! Both days included a lineup the like of which has superseded any that I have witnessed to date! The name says it all!!!! I am indeed suffering from “Aftershock!”
When I first brought the festival to our wonderful editor Lauren’s attention, we agreed that our coverage would be limited to Primus and Tool, both Saturday Night headliners. But, so many serendipitous events occurred between that date and the last performance by Korn on Sunday Night, that I could not possibly leave out the rest of the goodies! The media compound was swarming with radio hosts, well-known TV and print publication reps, and artists. It was literally buzzing with excitement from start to finish. So, Igniters, if you are all sitting comfortably? We shall begin.
My assistant and I arrived at the venue around 5 pm. We picked up our Media and VIP credentials at Will Call and slipped through the VIP gate. We were greeted by the penetrating sound of 4 piece New York rock band, The Pretty Reckless. Led by the peerless vocal talent of Taylor Momsen, and accompanied by her band: Ben Phillips, lead guitar and backing vocals; Mark Damon on Bass; and Jamie Perkins hitting the skins. Their latest single release, “Take Me Down,” the first from the album, Who You Selling For–skillfully dropped on October 21st one day before their performance at Aftershock–became an instant hit and sped up the rock charts, like lightening, all the way to number one in just seven weeks. As did their three previous single releases, “Follow Me Down, “Heaven Knows,” and “Messed Up World,” all taken from their 2014 sophomore full-length Going to Hell. Together they brought down the house. I wanted to grab a few words from Taylor and the guys, and ask how it felt to be hitting the main stage on such a prestigious lineup. Had it had sunk in yet that they were 3rd headliners behind Tool and Primus? Though they spent quite a long time in the media compound, the major publications had them wrapped up with photo shoots and countless interviews. Clearly, we were not alone in our enthusiasm. If you ever get the chance to catch them live, do it! They are effectual songwriters, gifted musicians, and arresting performers!
As I made my way back to our coveted VIP spot to wait for Primus to begin, I was stunned by the view, 22,000 people thronging toward the mainstage! The VIP area sat on a small graded hummock and gave a bird’s eye view to witness this tidal wave of fans. All vying for a front row spot and the majority, of course, failing miserably. By now the sun was beginning to drop, and Primus arrived on stage in twilight. Towering stage left and right were two giant blow up Astronaut figures with red visors on their helmets and one arm raised as if they were ready to take an oath. Slowly but surely the music began to an empty stage. Enter Les Claypool wearing a pig mask and Ler and Herb as their usual selves kicking off the show with the dominating bass riffs, strange guitar picking, and off-beat drum introduction of, “Those Damn Blue Collar Tweekers” From 1991’s Sailing the Seas of Cheese. The crowd reacts with intermittent roars, and the show is off to a uniquely predictable start! I have often wondered how on earth Les and the lads can remember all the music and lyrics to songs like these. So long, so complex and so many time changes, bridges and tangents it never ceases to amaze, and I can only guess that improv must play a huge part in their songwriting process. Next up? “Last Salmon Man,” with a large pause to greet the masses of Sacramento, California. “Not to be confused with Sacramento, Montana,” as Les points out, while deftly explaining the meaning behind the song which we discover is the serious topic of the diversion of water from Sacramento and Northern California to the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California and the harm to our own local’s supply playing a massive role in our water shortage issues. Suggesting a simple solution of stopping this process and keeping our water here, Les, an avid fisherman with a loud, unequivocal voice in the world of activism, covers many soap box topics in his daily life having no fear of using his prominent popularity to do so. Next up a smattering of classic Primus cuts, including “Frizzle Fry,” from their same entitled studio album that debuted all the way back in 1990! Positively mind blowing here is the fact that it has been 27 years since this phenomenon we call Primus began, when their first album Suck on This,” dropped in 1989. An astounding reflection of their genius, with the catalogue standing up just as well today as it did then its songs still making the bands set list all these years on. “Too Many Puppies” began with a resounding and delighted chuckling roar from the audience, strangely veering left somewhere in the bridge turning into a teaser from Metallica’s Master of Puppets! Of course, no Primus show would be complete without the infamous bassline throb and hugely controversial lyrical content of “My Name is Mud.” In fact, I am certain a riot would occur if they tried to skip this one. Many people began their journey as fans of the band when this profound groove hit the mainstream after their studio album Pork Soda hit stores in 1993. We arrive at the finish line with Les, Ler and Herb treating the crowd to “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver.” For this we were served an appearance by Mark Osegueda of Death Angel, chiming in a seamless vocal mash-up with “Dog Will Hunt.” What else can I say? Premature maybe, but I was decided there and then that this would be dubbed by most as the set that stole the festival!
A short break in the media tent and a Monster Energy Drink Later, I was headed back to the main stage for Tool. All members were on stage as I took my place propping myself up against a gorgeous oak tree, for what promised to be a delectable 90-minute mental orgasm of visual and auditory pleasure! I was not disappointed. After a long intro into “Third Eye,” (Aenima Track 15, 1995), the lads warmed us up and then slayed all in the audience with their impeccable live, studio quality, sound, and energy.
An impeccable transition into the next offering on the set list, so much so that anyone who does not know Tool from back to front would have assumed the first song was continuing, a favorite of mine, “The Grudge,” (Track One, Lateralus, 2001). Crushing it on drums, Danny Carey hardly breaks a sweat through this complex arrangement, with Maynard, Adam and Justin filling in the blanks with their strange but equally matched in complexity scores.
I have often wondered how these guys even manage to memorize the sheet music for all this. Rich in bridges, tempo changes, and tangents, I can only conclude that they are all operating at a savant-like, genius level of intelligence, or they are simply aliens from another galaxy! Which is almost more plausible. The crowd sway with sheer delight and appear gob smacked, brain washed by the brilliance, and ready to drink the Kool-Aid as the hypnotic and haunting intro for “Parabola,” (Lateralus, Track 7, 2001) begins. Crystal clear and reminiscent in purity of a Hindu mantra, Maynard controls the direction of the song with his powerful projecting vocals with exquisite timing. By now the band has warmed all the way up and are challenging my latter statement in which Primus have stolen the show. “Opiate” is next. Faultless, hard, and note for note as good as it was as the final track on their introductory EP by the same name in 1991. And next? Oh, joy! The crowd literally erupt and deafen me as that famous, determined guitar riff from Aenima, title track of the 1995 album, brings the crowd to the edge of ecstasy in terms of why we love this band. Another impeccable rendition, I ask myself can they top that? The answer a resounding yes!!!! “Descending,” “Jambi,” “Forty-Six &2,” “Sweat,” and finally, “Stinkfist!!!!” And I am spent!!!! All in all, a generous and fair shared helping of Tool’s incomparable discography! So, I will renege on my previous dubbing of Primus and make it a draw for the number one spot in show stealing. So deliciously different, so incomprehensibly unique. Both acts floored me. What is left after these two Superior performances you may ask? Tomorrow promises some very exciting new experiences for me. With Puscifer, Maynard J Keenen’s new project, Some Fear None, Korn, and Disturbed. If I can last that long!!! Tune in soon for part two including an all band member interview with the afore mentioned Sacramento natives, Some Fear None, more food experiences and some great performances!