Aftershock earns SN&R metal snob's approval

A guy in a wheelchair gets to crowdsurf at Aftershock. // Paul Piazza

By Anthony Siino

For years, Aftershock has been my punching bag. I’ve been offered tickets and turned them down—too many “fake,” bro-y metal bands, not enough local or trve kvlt rippers.

You can imagine my frustration, then, when almost a third of the bands announced this year was actually impressive enough to make me want to go. Ghost, Anthrax, Slayer, Death Angel, Baroness, the Shrine; I could easily ignore Disturbed, Tool and Korn for those bands. I wouldn’t have to be too happy about it, though.

Come Saturday, I was ready to hate. I was fighting off a nasty cold and I could see nothing but port-a-potty lines and distracting brands as far as Discovery Park is wide. I started counting the people wearing local band shirts to collect evidence of this corporate fest’s lack of authenticity. (Final count: one Will Haven, one 50-Watt Heavy. We don’t count Deftones.)

Of course, it’s tough to hear good tunes when your head’s that far up your own ass, and, thankfully, it all came through crystal clear once I opened up to what was going on around me.

The sound was immaculate, to start. Each band came through bright and distinct without noticeable technical failures. Beyond that, the arrangement of the stages kept simultaneous performances from bleeding into one another.

Deafheaven // Paul Piazza

Death Angel // Paul Piazza

Tool drummer Danney Carey reps the Sacramento Kings. // Paul Piazza

Slayer’s Tom Araya // Paul Piazza

What impressed me most was how well Saturday’s sets flowed, with Discovery Park providing ample space for the proceedings. From the moment I came through the gate, I hit Anthrax into Deafheaven into Meshuggah into Primus into Slayer without any hangups, with each set starting and ending exactly when advertised. And when you put all of those bands in one sentence like that, even the most pigheaded metal snobs such as myself have to admit that’s one hell of an achievement.

Primus in particular killed the crowd with a setlist that went deep on classics: “Those Damned Blue-Collar Tweakers,” “Too Many Puppies,” “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver” and a rendition of “Mr. Krinkle” complete with Les Claypool on electric cello while wearing a pig mask.

Most interestingly, Claypool repeatedly made comments against the proposed Delta tunnels, without explicitly mentioning them. Referring to water-hungry municipal governments in Southern California as “bastards,” he mentioned to the crowd that he passed some golf courses down south and couldn’t help but think to himself, “I bet Sacramento would like some of that water.” Points to Primus for caring one bit about Sacramento’s needs.

Even as I acclimated to the pop-culture climate of the fest, I still felt a bit foreign and out of place, hopelessly clinging to my kvlt condescension. But by the time Slayer came out preceded by a display of crosses rotating from upright to a more Satanic orientation, I finally began to feel more at home.

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