Aftershock 2017

Aftershock 2017
Discovery Park, Sacramento, CA
October 21-22, 2017

Words By Dan Wall
Photos by Brad Neville

Now that the Aftershock Festival has settled in at Sacramento’s Discovery Park, this year’s version didn’t look much different than last year’s two-day rock fest.

The weather was glorious, in the low 80’s both days with little wind nor humidity affecting the over 50,000 attendees who packed the place.

The crowd was the usual collection of metal heads, punks, goth girls, modern rock lovers and everything in between. This sort of variation fuels the bands, some who are loved by all, some who are decent representatives of their genre, and some who really need to find some common ground between writing a good song and just making noise.

Saturday’s bill was geared to the interested music fan who wanted to see some classic bands from the 90’s for the first time, a couple of modern rock bands who don’t appear in this area very often, and just about any rock style jammed in between.

The band at the top of my personal must-see list for Saturday was Stone Sour, the Corey Taylor (Slipknot’s vocalist)-led group who played just seven songs during a short 40-minute set. That’s not nearly enough time for me, but that’s something you must deal with when frequenting these types of multi-band festivals. Sometimes your favorite band doesn’t get to play much, while other bands you’d prefer to have been left off the bill play for over an hour.

For those not familiar with this band, and might have knowledge of Taylor’s other group, Stone Sour plays heavy modern rock music with a melodic edge. Some songs even lean toward the ballad-side of things, something you would never say about Slipknot and its all-out thrash metal assault. After Slipknot’s first couple of records, Taylor started really singing and writing more-polished songs, and that’s what motivated him to pursue the same style with a different act with a more commercial sound. “Say You’ll Haunt Me, “Through Glass” and “Song 3” were the best of the bunch on this day, but the band left a huge number of great songs behind for its headline shows.

There weren’t a whole lot of the other bands who impressed me on this day. I did enjoy Nine Inch Nails headline set, but the Trent Reznor-led group will never be in my Top 250 bands or so. I do realize why loyal fans like the group, however, and its power metal/industrial style sounds impressive being blasted out of a huge sound system. The lighting was brilliant as well, even for a one-off performance like this, and if you like hard rock and can’t get up for the tune “Head Like a Hole,” well, you are probably wasting your time attending a show like this.

Elsewhere on Saturday, a bunch of bands showed up and entertained, but none of the bill made me run home and download any songs for the iPod. Highly Suspect is an interesting band that might have a future with some better songs. I will never be a fan of Gojira because of the vocals (I simply must have some knowledge of what’s being sang), but drummer Mario Duplantier is incredible. Eagles of Death Metal (should be renamed Eagles of Glam and Punk Rock) are a bunch of fun, and I have tremendous respect for the band after learning about what Jesse Hughes and the group went through in France back in 2015. Having said that, the band’s best received song was a cover of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” and not an EODM original.

Mastodon is loud, heavy and technically brilliant, but I still have no desire to spend much time with it. Everything this group does sounds very familiar to something its already done before, and the music runs together like one big prog-rock concept record. But I will be lynched by its fanatical fan base if I say that too loud.

A Perfect Circle continued the Maynard James Keenan collection of bands that have appeared here (both Tool and Puscifer played here last year), but nothing Mr. Keenan does really matters to me. So, charge me if guilty, but I am on Maynard overload concerning this festival. And Run The Jewels is a rap band, and anyone who knows me or follows this site knows how I feel about rap.


Also, hotly tipped as the next Led Zeppelin, the band known as Greta Van Fleet is simply not the next Led Zeppelin. Why anyone would say that is a mystery to me. Sure, they imitate and swipe a lot of the various Zep riffs, tempos and song structures and meld them together in an… uh… original tune…. but… While Greta Van Fleet might be the next Greta Van Fleet, it will never be the mighty Zep.

As you can probably tell, I wasn’t overly enamored with much of what was played on Saturday. But in all fairness, these are just not bands I listen to outside of Stone Sour. It doesn’t mean the groups suck, because someone obviously likes these groups to some degree, and I can even pick out songs or certain moments when I can see why they matter. But I am much more into hard rock and metal, which is why the Sunday offering was much more suited to my tastes. (And I don’t like ripping bands because of my taste; I’ll let you know if someone truly sucks or doesn’t seem to care, but there was none of that here).

Sunday was a much better day in terms of pacing, talent, weather (if it could get any better) and scantily-clad women. But with a 10-beer Saturday hanging over my head like a Mastodon song, it took a while to become human on this day. And I won’t even get into what my brother-in-law and his partner in crime Jason looked or smelled like.

17 bands performed on Sunday, and like Saturday, very few made much progress towards being named the next big thing. The sound of a lot of these groups is much more suited to the kind of music I listen to, and thus more enjoyable, but no one came on like Volbeat back in 2013 and turned the place on its ear.

Starset, Power Trip, The Butcher Babies, DED (hey guys, how about that scheduled interview-NOT!), Hollywood Undead, Beartooth-all good bands, all with a few decent songs and enough of a fan base to keep record companies interested. But none of these bands will ever come through your town and play anything other than the town’s biggest club as headliners. The blame for that can be directed squarely at record companies, illegal downloading and how the music business works today.

Next groups up: bands that might have a shot. In This Moment, the goth/horror modern rockers led by exquisite vocalist Maria Brink, offers something different in way of songs, stage production and talent. This band does get some radio play, due to its mix of modern rock, metal and Brink’s slightly-different than all of the rest of the women in rock vocals. And live, the backing band does a nice job of keeping the bottom solid and the guitars loud, while churning out a slushy, somewhat voodoo-like sound (think New Orleans here) that isn’t like anything in popular music today.

On the other side of that review is Of Mice and Men, a quartet that can truly rock, play heavy and keep the assembled masses entertained with the band’s all-out assault on your ears. The one problem: I still can’t tell you one song that this band played, because the big churning riffs and vocals from the cookie monster section of hell ALL SOUND THE SAME!! Write and sing a decent song, boys, and someone other than your dedicated followers (who must have a screw loose or a hearing problem) might start listening to you as well.

And now, the real fun part of the day, brought to you by Fozzy and Steel Panther. Occasionally, someone must take the piss out of all the seriousness of the music business, and these two acts do it as well as anybody. Fozzy doesn’t really do it on purpose, but the band, led by the big muscles of former WWE star/vocalist Chris Jericho, play traditional metal music that would interest anyone who is a fan of Dio, Judas Priest or Queensryche. The band’s new album is its best yet, and as Jericho moves out of full-time wrestling and puts more attention on his band, Fozzy seems poised to make a name for itself in the metal market.

Anything other than a big club is certainly out of the question for Fozzy, and for Steel Panther as well, but the clown princes of glam/hair rock are always available for a good time. This band is droll, nasty, out-of-line, competent and clearly hilarious. I don’t take the group very seriously, but the never-ending slew of one-liners, matched with songs like “Going in the Back Door,” “Asian Hooker” and “Death to All but Metal” really do rock. Not sure that asking a 14-year old for a blowjob will do to the band members much on their ratings, but I don’t think these guys worry about who they offend, as long as the crowd is high, the beer is cold and the girls still flash the boys at every opportunity (and yes, it happened here).

Finally, here come the big boys (and one very fine girl). Halestorm is at end of the touring cycle for its “Into the Wild Life“ album, and the band sounded impressive while playing most of its big rock hits. Back in July, I saw the band rip up a headline slot at the Moondance Jam, so this show was a slight letdown in terms of length and song selection. As usual, Lzzy Hale was the focal point of the Halestorm live experience. Her voice is a once-in-a-generation instrument, her brother Arejay is a phenomenal drummer, and both guitarist Joe Hottinger and bassist Josh Smith get better every time I see them. Can’t wait for the new album, due in the first quarter of next year.

Five Finger Death Punch played here for the third time in five years, and the big question was this: would singer Ivan Moody be recovered from his latest stint in rehab to perform with the band? The answer was ‘yes’, and I noticed a gentler, more docile Moody than ever before. The group has become a solid metal machine behind him, and this was probably the most consistent performance I’ve seen from the boys, as far as everyone being on the same page. Most of the band’s top songs, including “Lift Me Up,” “Wash It All Away,” “Bad Company” and Under and Over It” were played. Of course, it wouldn’t be 5FDP show without the raging sing-along to “Burn MF,” with a group of school children onstage screaming “burn motherfucker burn” at the top of their little lungs. Surely, someone had to be tossed out of school the next day for telling this story.

For the first time in a long time, and maybe for the last time ever, Ozzy Osbourne performed a solo show in the state’s capitol city. Despite his age and having spent nearly two years on the road closing Black Sabbath’s career, Osbourne looked good and sounded better as he led his crack band (guitarist Zakk Wylde, bassist Blasco, drummer Tommy Clufetos and keyboardist/guitarist Adam Wakeman (Rick’s kid)) through a 12-song, 90-minute set. There were no surprises-the set was a familiar one, opening with “Bark at the Moon,” closing with “Crazy Train” and rounding off with the big finale of “Paranoid.” In between, Osbourne mixed “Mr. Crowley”, “I Don’t Know” and “Shot in the Dark” with Sabbath staples “War Pigs” and “Iron Man.” Wylde was the big star on this night, with his solos easily matching those of the greats that have passed before him-Iommi, Rhoads and Lee-and he often elongated the solos with even more of his flashy-finger pyrotechnics.

If this is the last time Ozzy plays this city, he certainly went out with an awe-inspiring show, and a loud bang (post-show fireworks).

This one is in the books for another year; I will wait and see who Aftershock books for 2018 before I make my decision to attend. It’s no one’s fault, but I’m getting older (next year will be my 43rd year of attending shows and the 42nd I’ve have spent writing about them), and I feel that unless the show features more of the kind of bands that I like, I might be forced into the old writer’s home, yearning for the days of a Kansas/Thin Lizzy or Kiss/Rush show. These newer shows do take a lot out of you. This is a well-done festival, a ton of bands, 3 stages, lots of different types of food, not enough craft beer variety for me, but hey… if you have buddies that like this crazy, growly, mayhem, metal stuff, it’s a delightful weekend.

In closing, a great quote from the lead singer Caleb Shomo of Beartooth: “We’re not a rock band, we’re not a metal band, and we’re not a punk band. We’re just a band that does a lot of loud, obnoxious shit!”

If you ever truly want to describe a festival like this, there you have it.