So, this was the highlight of, and the real reason for, my USA trip – seeing Tool. Finally. The one (surviving) band I needed to tick off my bucket list. I have wanted to see Tool FOREVER. And since it didn’t look like they’d be coming to England soon, I figured I should just go to them. And what better way to spend Halloween than seeing Tool?

Thanks to a heavy night with some Canadians and too much Jack Daniels in LA the night before I actually nearly didn’t make it to Phoenix for Monster Mash (and I think it’s pretty obvious I’d have been devastated if I hadn’t!). But I got there, just in time for Primus! I was a little disappointed to miss With Our Arms to the Sun and ÆGES, but I have noone to blame but myself for that.

The Music

I’ve never really got into Primus, I was supposed to be going to one of their Primus & The Chocolate Factory UK tour dates but that didn’t quite go to plan so I was looking forward to seeing them at Monster Mash.

I started off heading toward the front of the crowd, but I figured I’d probably get more out of it if I stood back and took it all in, since their vocals are generally a bit mumbly anyway so it wouldn’t matter too much if I lost a bit of clarity. And they had lit up mushrooms on stage, so it was nice to look at.

So I settled down cross legged on the grass in front of the giant screen in the food court. More about the food court in a minute because it was a total game changer.

I enjoyed their set a lot, although as expected it was a little self indulgent in parts.

By the time Tool came on at 10pm, the venue was packed. PACKED. I’ve never been in such a crammed crowd. 30,000 people in a not very big park all around one stage. There were people standing on bins, climbing up trees… security had their hands full.

Again I started off near the front, but it was little me surrounded by lots of much bigger guys so I basically saw a load of backs. So I found a little space on the grassy hill to one side, which was much better. Sound wasn’t great at this venue if you go too far back, so I was happy I got lucky with a good spot.

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Tool opened with Led Zeppelins ‘No Quarter’, with Maynard dressed as Robert Plant. Check out this image from Puscifers Instagram

Went as Rupert Plant of Fred Zepplin last night.

A photo posted by Puscifer & Caduceus (@puscifer) on

I couldn’t really see much of the band themselves though (so if I hadn’t seen the Instagram I wouldn’t have noticed the costume!) as the screens were only showing graphics (yes they were awesome graphics and lights but still). Straight after they finished the opening song, Maynard said ‘Thank you, good night!’, and left the stage. Awkward.

Obviously they weren’t going to leave it at that but there were some people around me who genuinely seemed to think they would. Admittedly I could kind of see Maynard doing that…

Anyway, they came back. And it was awesome. It did feel pretty special hearing Maynard sing ‘Learn to swim, I’ll see you down in Arizona Bay’ during the Bill Hicks tribute ‘Ænema’, since we were in actually in Arizona Bay and everything.

I don’t usually post setlists, but this is Tool, so for anyone interested; No Quarter, The Grudge, Parabol, Parabola, Opiate, Schism, Ænema, Descending (I think that’s just a working title for now), Jambi, 46 & 2, Vicarious, Ions, Stinkfist.

I had hoped to hear something from Lateralus. So I was happy.

Vendors

I didn’t really have time to check out the vendors.

But I did make sure I stopped by the 98KUPD stand where my friend was working. Rob Zombie was the next days headliner and the radio station were running a competition to win a gorgeous red motorbike with Rob Zombie artwork.

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They let me sneak behind the barriers to take a closer look, check out the details!

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Food

You’ll have seen in my posts about Aftershock and Knotfest that I’m always impressed by the food at American festivals. But they were nothing in comparison to Monster Mash – it had a great little food court with really interesting options, a nice clean grassy area to sit in, and big screens showing what was going on on stage. Perfect.

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After doing about three circuits of the food court, I finally settled on a gyro. It was possibly one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth. Seriously.

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And I had a vodka spiked black (mixed berry) lemonade. Bit bitter but different.

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The Venue

I don’t know how I feel about Tempe Beach Park really. It has some really great points – the main stage sits in a sort of bowl, so the grassy knolls surrounding it make for a great view. You can actually see and hear quite well from even outside the park, I noticed on my way in that if you stood next to the road at the perimeter it was a better experience than some people had inside. And there were a lot of people taking advantage of that.

The facilities at the park are great too. Actual proper toilets. Additional portaloos too, but mostly actual toilets. And it was a great layout, to allow for separate areas for vendors, food and the stage.

It just couldn’t really cope with 30,000 people. For a smaller event I think it’d be great.

I had such an amazing time at Monster Mash, even if I only managed to make it for a few hours. And I will definitely put the effort in to see a Tool show again, the sooner the better!

I also met some awesome San Diegans on the walk back to my hotel, who bought me In N’ Out!

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L xx

All photos my own (other than the Puscifer Instagram pic!)

After spending Saturday at Aftershock, which you can read about here, we made the 6 hour drive from Sacramento to San Bernardino for Knotfest (who knew California was so big?!)

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The Music

We arrived a little late so missed some of the earlier bands but made it in time to catch a little Cannibal Corpse. After that we skipped the music for a bit to check out what else was around.

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The line up for me later in the day was basically the same as that at Aftershock. Clutch were excellent, again. A MUCH bigger stage for them this time.

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Bring Me The Horizon played the exact same set that they did at Aftershock, and got pretty much the exact same crowd reaction. I’m still surprised that they’re so popular in the USA (not that it’s not well deserved) and also that Americans don’t know Chelsea Smile. But maybe the lack of knowledge of their older stuff is more of a new fan thing, rather than an American thing? Whichever.

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After the little bit of a disappointing show at Aftershock, Slipknot were back on form at Knotfest. It seemed much more of an enthusiastic performance, from Clown in particular – he actually walked through the audience at one point. And I was happy that they changed up the set list.

The sound at San Manuel Amphitheatre, in the actual fixed main stage area, is excellent and I think that made a massive difference. I actually really like the way the main stage is set up – it has a semi circular pit area (on concrete – ouch!) with tiered seating behind, both of these areas are for premium ticket holders. General admission ticket holders can watch from the lawn area at the back – but with the MASSIVE screens, that is by no means a bad view. I’ve been in both the pit area and the seats (because I’m a bit pathetic and girly and also sometimes my feet hurt) for varying bands, and both were great.

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As usual, apologies for the awful/lack of photography. Taking pictures just isn’t at the front of my mind when I’m watching a band. I know I need to improve on that…

Knotfest Museum

Despite being at Knotfest for the whole weekend last year, I managed to miss the Slipknot Museum, and this year I got lucky – I didn’t realise they were closing it at 7pm on the Sunday, and I managed to be the last one in!

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It’s basically a circus tent with a load of Slipknot paraphernalia (with no explanations), curated by the band themselves from their own collections – old jumpsuits, masks, art, previously used equipment etc.

I’ll leave you with a few photos.

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Outside the entrance are frozen goat heads on spikes – I was so lucky that, just as I was about to kiss one for a selfie, one of the security guys pointed out it was real…

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Here’s the outtake, haha!

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Vendors

One thing that struck me about Knotfest 2015 was that it was almost exactly the same in terms of layout as it was in 2014 – even the majority of the vendors were the same.

Quite a lot were generic festival stalls, and having browsed similar at Aftershock I didn’t spend too much time on them.

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I did buy the most me tshirt ever from the Bring Me The Horizon merch stand though. It’s a really colourful sublimated print with the umbrella motif, new for this tour. I absolutely love it.

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VIP Area

Like with the vendors, the VIP area was the same as last year, even down to having the same (very good!) Mexican food truck. The only real addition this year were clown statues, and not particularly Slipknotty ones.

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I like the VIP area at Knotfest a lot. It is handy to be able to access it – unlike Aftershock, Knotfest has no real shaded areas in the main arena, so the sun can get a bit overbearing. The VIP area has a lot of gazebos and covered areas. It also has a pool table, sports on TV and a decent bar.

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It is however a lot more expensive (about $100 more I think) to upgrade to a VIP ticket, but I think if you can afford it (especially if you aren’t used to the heat, like me!), do it.

Food

Last year, as it was my first American festival, I was really impressed with the quality of the food. The choice wasn’t huge – basically Mexican, Chinese or Italian, but it was all really good! And it was EXACTLY the same this year. I won’t talk about the food anymore really, other than to leave a pic, as I posted in details about what I ate here.

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And I really like the drinks on offer at Knotfest…

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Camping

Now, I didn’t actually camp at Knotfest this year, but I did last year, so I wanted to stick in a little section about that experience. It was completely different to camping at a UK festival – well, general camping anyway. It follows the format of VIP camping at UK festivals, where you camp next to your car. Except you pay for a camping pass per car, rather than per person, and it allows for up to 6 people. I think it’s around $120 per car. You can see here how idyllic the setting was! It did get surprisingly cold at night though.

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Other Stuff

Knotfest had a lot of other attractions on offer. I didn’t have time to see them this year, but they were repeats from last year so I didn’t miss out. They included the Ring of Fire ride, flaming carnival games, the Thunderdome fighting arena and steel drums. If you’re interested you can read more about them here.

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Overall, Knotfest is a great festival, and a must do for a Slipknot fan. But I do think that once you’ve been once, you don’t necessarily need to go again. I think I’ll give it a miss next year for an alternative event.

L xx

All photos my own.

Remember I said that the WWE NXT at Aftershock would need it’s own post here? Well, here it is.

I don’t follow NXT, so I was a little clueless as to who everyone was, but I’d never been to wrestling before and I had a gap between bands so thought I’d give it a go. And I’m so glad I did.

I caught two matches. The first was between Alexa Bliss and local (San Jose) favourite and NXT Womens Champion Bayley.

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There was SO much love for Bayley in the crowd, it must have sucked to be Alexa.

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As expected, Bayley won.

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Anyway, Alexa vs Bayley was entertaining, but the real highlight was Samoa Joe vs Baron Corbin. As with the Divas, everyone was rooting for the local guy, Samoa Joe from Huntington Beach.

It was a little more interesting this time though, as Corey Taylor was in the audience and had a little altercation with Baron Corbin, which I’m sure everyone has seen or read about by now.

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Photo by Adam Cleland

I was lucky enough to be sitting right behind Corey in the audience (and we spoke/touched which is why I didn’t mind that I missed out on the meet and greet with him!) so I had a perfect view. And I think my videos are pretty decent. They won’t be anything you haven’t seen by now, but give the main one below a little watch if you like.

I also went to WWE Raw in San Diego on the Monday, so more wrestling here!

L xx

All photos and footage my own unless stated otherwise.

Saturday was my first proper day at an American festival. Ok, yes, I’d been to Knotfest before, but that was kind of just a huge, glorified 3 day Slipknot gig. Aftershock is more of an all round type thing – if I had to compare it to a festival in the UK, I’d say maybe Download? Although it has more cool different stuff like you’d find at Reading and Leeds, but the line up is a little heavier.

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Anyway, Aftershock is hands down my favourite festival I’ve attended, and I actually wish we’d camped and stayed for the full duration. But nevermind. We actually ended up at Aftershock purely by chance in the first place – the original intention was to just go to Knotfest, but I’m not really into Judas Priest (who headlined day one of Knotfest) and heard Slipknot were playing Aftershock so thought, why not?

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There is so much I need to cram into this post, that I don’t really know where to start. I’d normally do chronologically but it just won’t work here, so I guess I’ll go by topic.

The Music

Seems a good place to start, right? Since the music is why I was there and everything.

Aftershock had some great bands on the smaller stages. I say smaller stages, there was only one ‘small’ stage, the others were just three main stages in different places. Two of them were actually directly next to each other, so you didn’t really have to move for the last couple of bands (Shinedown and Slipknot) if you got a good spot kind of in the middle (which obviously I did).

stagesSo, the smaller bands… I was a little distracted by other stuff earlier in the day, so I didn’t see that many until later on, but I did catch a bit of Beartooth, Seether (I always forget I like Seether – although the radio station we listened to in the car for the rest of the trip, Octane, basically had them on repeat so they are now stuck in my head) and Breaking Benjamin (I’ve never really got into them).

The first band I really paid attention to were Clutch. Which, if you know me personally, may make you laugh a little as I have been so resistant to liking Clutch for like, forever. But when I saw them at Download this Summer, I had to admit they were pretty good. And they kind of blew me away at Aftershock. They played on the smallest stage, the Coors Light stage, which was in such a beautiful setting, it was kind of nestled amongst trees, on the other side of the arena to the other stages. So standing back a bit, watching Clutch, in the sun, with gorgeous scenery – well that was pretty perfect, and not an experience I’ll ever have back home.

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Next up were Bring Me The Horizon. Have we established on the blog yet that Bring Me have been my favourite band for about ten years now? Admittedly I prefer the older, heavier stuff, but the new album still works for me – and it really helped get me through a heartbreaking Summer this year. As always, they were so, so good. It really surprised me how well received they are in America, and the amount of Bring Me shirts that I saw on people was great. As per their Reading performance this Summer, a lot of the crowd didn’t seem to know anything much pre Sempiternal. When they left some lyrics out during Chelsea Smile, just like they did at Reading, no one shouted them back – in fact I think most people actually didn’t know anything had been left out. It didn’t spoil it though, and I have to say I really respect Oli for not Americanising for a US audience, he still kept with his accent despite most of the crowd not having a clue what he was saying!

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One of the good things about the VIP area was the big screen showing whichever band was playing – and, while I think of it, one of the good things about Aftershock was that there weren’t really any band clashes, at least not later in the day. So I watched Marilyn Manson on the screen. Not much to say about him really, but he was better than the last few times I’ve seen him.

I also watched a bit of Shinedown on the screen before heading back out into the crowd for Slipknot. Shinedown aren’t a band that have ever gripped me – some of their songs aren’t band, but they’re kind of background music for me, the kind of music I can get away with playing in the car when I’m driving my Nan around without her complaining.

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And then it was Slipknot. As I think is pretty obvious, I love, love, love Slipknot. But I have to admit, and it may be the sound at the venue, I’m not sure, they weren’t at their best at Aftershock, which was a shame. I still enjoyed it though – I’m one of those people who isn’t over fussed about sound quality at a gig/festival, it’s more about how much fun I’m having. And despite by this point being jet lagged and exhausted, I was still having fun so it was all good.

Sorry there are pretty much no music photos past Bring Me, I tend to get lost in the moment and not take photos. And the ones I do take are generally a bit rubbish anyway, so it isn’t much of a loss.

Jack Daniel’s Experience

I’m not sure exactly when I started drinking a lot of JD, it only became my drink very recently, but I think it’s become kind of obvious. So of course I went into the Jack Daniel’s Experience truck – a mobile museum with some interesting facts about Jack, a display showing whiskey dripping through charcoal (it mellows it apparently), how it’s aged and stuff like that.

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I did learn that Jack was the same height as me and we have the same shoe size! And he died after getting an infection from breaking his toe when he kicked a safe in frustration.

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I had a nice chat with the guy in the museum, who liked the JD Meat & Whiskey hat I nabbed at the JD x Vice event a few weeks back (it is the best hat ever, so obviously he liked it!) and he told me that in some parts of America you can’t actually buy alcohol! Including in Lynchburg, Tennessee where JD is made.

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Outside the truck was a JD bar with generous servings. So Saturday was obviously a good day.

Crazy Dave’s Music Experience

This was an ‘interactive exhibit’ in a large tent where they held meet and greets – I missed Corey Taylor (he and Oli are the only people I’d bother seeing) because I was busy drinking JD, but you’ll see a future post that I didn’t end up being so sad about that.

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Other than that it pretty much just sold instruments and accessories. Nothing too exciting.

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Although I thought this skeleton hand guitar grip was pretty cool.

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Make Your Mark

Dividing the main arena from the outside part of the VIP area was a cool graffiti wall, with a load of spray cans so you could do your thing. I didn’t actually know at the time, but there was a famous graffiti artist there called Vyal from Risk Rock Studios. I didn’t know there was a thing of famous graffiti artists. Actually, would Banksy count? Is Banksy graffiti? Anyway, that’s totally not the point, just check out the pretty UV wall in the dark.

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Lawn Games

There was mini golf which I missed (I LOVE mini golf), but I was adopted by a bunch of guys who showed me a playground game called Cornhole in the Sacramento Kings area where you throw bean bags into a hole on a special board. Surprisingly I didn’t totally suck. They were convinced I was faking my British accent though… Actually, I get that a lot. Weird.

Vendors

As well as the usual alternative clothing stands you’d expect, Aftershock had a few more interesting vendors.

Hands down my favourite was Rock Out For Rescue – a collaboration between Take Me Home and A Dog’s Life Rescue in which they go on tour at rock festivals, selling ROFR merch and raffling off prizes. I’m a massive dog lover and advocate for rehoming, so this is a cause I really believe in.

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And the designs were awesome! I bought a hoodie (which is the softest thing ever!) with a French bulldog in Ozzy style round glasses and a studded collar graphic, and a Get Licked shirt which one of the lovely ladies at the stand cut up and weaved for me. I love it.

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At Aftershock they were raffling off some cool prizes, including a guitar (signed by Corey Taylor, Marilyn Manson, Jim Root, Gary Holt, Alex Skolnick, Lizzie Hale, Chris Wayne and Michael Wilton), special bottle of Angels Envy and signed drumheads.

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Another favourite was Mosh It Up Clothing. I actually saw their Adventure Time parody shirt on someone the night before at the Aftershock pre party and thought it was awesome.

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Image from https://moshitup.myshopify.com/

They kindly gifted me one of the Back To The Moshpit shirts, which got me loads of compliments when I wore it later in the week. You’ll see it popping up in an outfit post soon!

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Another stand I loved, and one I couldn’t buy anything from because I would never have got it home in one piece, was a collaboration between three artists; Sean Dietrich, Kai Martin and Erik Arreaga.

They actually each produced a print for a triptych exclusively for Aftershock.

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Here are a few prints I particularly liked…

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oz

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WWE NXT

This deserves a post all of its own so have a looky here.

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VIP Area

The VIP area, in association with Thunder Valley Casino Resort, was pretty handy. Nothing spectacular, but it did have shorter queues for the bar, bathrooms and food trucks.

Have a selfie of me in the VIP tent, because y’know, I’m always being told I don’t post enough pictures with me actually in them. It’s hard when you’re by yourself at things. Maybe I should get a selfie stick? Sorry, gone off topic again…

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Anyway, the VIP area – It also had loads of tables and seats, and a screen showing whichever band was on at the time, with cute haybales in front of it to sit on. Which was quite nice when I wanted a break from the crowds.

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It also randomly had chandeliers. Which I quite liked.

Would it be worth paying extra for? Not really, but I wouldn’t turn it down. A VIP ticket is about the same cost as a standard UK festival ticket though, so maybe? Well, that was indecisive.

Food

I won’t post too much about the food, as I have done a whole post about the food I had here. But I will leave you another picture of the INCREDIBLE grilled cheese I had from Drewskis.

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I had such an amazing time at Aftershock, and would definitely consider going again!

L xx

All photos my own unless stated otherwise.

 

 

Some of you may have noticed I’ve been AWOL for a bit, having been on an epic mini American festival roadtrip which I’ll likely be boring you to death about with posts for the next few weeks.

I may as well start by telling you about day one, so here goes! We had a ridiculous 16 hours of travelling from London to Sacramento (via Amsterdam and Seattle). It started off quite interesting, on the first leg of the journey (London to Amsterdam) I was sat next to an ex convict who was being deported back to Ghana. We actually had a really nice chat, about mistakes, positivity and looking to the future. His crime wasn’t horrific, and I believe in second chances – I think he was pretty happy that I didn’t just recoil away from him in horror when he told me his story! He’s actually keen to give blogging a go – to help get him through an unwanted move back to a homeland he hasn’t visited in almost 20 years.

And I had to take a picture of these really cool pillars at Sacramento airport…

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Anyway, I digress. As soon as we’d arrived in Sacramento, picked up our hire car and checked in to our Motel 6, we headed straight to Slipknots Scream Park where they were holding a little pre party for Aftershock Festival.

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Image from http://www.hellorhighwaterofficial.com/

We’d missed most of the bands, but were in time to watch Hell Or Highwater – a band I’ve never come across before but really enjoyed. It was quite a bizarre setting for a gig to me, it was basically a stage in a parking lot. Everyone was so into it, none of this standing at the back on your phone that I’m used to seeing. It felt really American!

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I spent ages trying to figure out why the vocals were so familiar, and then I realised it was Brandon Saller from Atreyu. We had a nice chat after the show, and I even bought one of their shirts for $10. Bargain.

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Image from http://www.hellorhighwaterofficial.com/

Onto the bit I was looking forward to – Slipknot’s Scream Park. I love Halloween, I love horror, I love being scared and I love Slipknot. So it couldn’t really fail, right? But if I’m honest it was a bit of a let down.

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For what it was – just 3 horror mazes, it was decent. Not hugely scary, although the clown following you around in Clown’s Playhouse was creepy as.

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I guess I just had higher expectations? Named the Best Haunted Attraction in the West by Forbes, and being described on the site as ‘produced by the twisted minds of Slipknot, Slipknot’s Scream Park features outrageous haunted houses and live horror entertainment.’ I was anticipating a bit better production, a bit more elaborate settings and for it to be not just in a pitch black empty building. I thought it would have some atmosphere, a bit of smoke setting the mood, or some people in costume wandering around making people jump. Still, I had fun, and I’m glad I went.

You can check out the trailer below if you’re interested…


L xx

All photo’s my own unless stated otherwise.

So on Sunday I’m off to Bloodstock Open Air, just for the day. It’ll be my third festival of the Summer (the other two so far were Slam Dunk South and Download), and I wish I was going for the whole weekend, but unfortunately adult life got in the way!

I’ve only been to Bloodstock once before, in 2010, but it’s a great little festival. It’s much smaller than the likes of Download and Reading/Leeds, but I like the intimacy, and I think it’ll be great for a day visit, as it means I’ll have the chance to have a proper look around without missing anything.

This isn’t an in depth music review (you will never find one of those on this blog, music either falls under the category of ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t’!), just five songs by five bands I’m looking forward to seeing on Sunday.

Here goes;

5. Triaxis – Black Trinity

I have to start off with a Triaxis song! As I know the girls in the band, I’ve seen them play loads of times, but they’re always brilliant. And I’m not normally a fan of female fronted metal. It’s a shame they clash with Agalloch (at a stupid time on Sunday!) so I’ll have to split my time between the two.

4. Agalloch – In The Shadow Of Our Pale Companion

I’m going to be honest, for me to pick a 12 minute long song as a favourite is virtually unheard of. I generally like instant gratification when it comes to music rather than something long and drawn out – although there are some obvious exceptions (Tool!). But this song has so much atmosphere, I love it. Agalloch are one of few bands I’ve wanted to see but hadn’t yet had the chance to. I just wish they weren’t going to be on so early on a Sunday morning!

3. Sepultura – Roots Bloody Roots

Such an obvious Sepultura choice! Another band I haven’t seen before and am excited for.

2. Black Label Society – Damage Is Done

I love BLS (and Zakk Wylde) but the one and only time I saw them was awful. It wasn’t that THEY were awful, but the sound at the venue was so loud it was actually painful. Bear in mind I’ve been to A LOT of gigs, and this was the only time it was actually unbearable. So I’m looking forward to giving them another go. As for my song choice, I just like it.


1. Rob Zombie – Dragula

Rob Zombie is the real reason I’m making the effort to trek all the way to Derbyshire just for a day. I’m a massive fan. I love his music, I love his movies… It’s so hard to pick a favourite song, so I just went with Dragula because, well, it’s one everyone knows and as a fan of old horror movies I love the video (the song was inspired by an episode of The Munsters, the spoken word at the start is Christopher Lee from the movie Horror Express and the video contains loads of old horror movie clips).

No doubt you’ll hear more about Bloodstock after the weekend!

L xx