Remember back in November when I said I’d be back to see Tool ASAP? Well, I’m a woman of my word.

When Tool announced their Western USA tour dates for 2016, I couldn’t resist a sneaky weekend to visit my friends in San Diego to coincide with their San Diego date (9th January 2016 at Viejas Arena), haha!

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I had no luck getting a ticket, they sold out pretty quickly, and were straight on Stubhub, some even up for thousands of dollars! But I managed to call in a favour which was lucky since I’d already booked my (very cheap!) flights.

3 Teeth, a band completely new to me, opened. And they were awesome. I’d not heard of them before they were picked by Maynard to accompany Tool on tour (allegedly he met 3 Teeths vocalist at a wedding and they became friends), but I will definitely give them more attention from now on! Their sound is quite dark, industrial, and interestingly they have no bassist – using keys and samples to fill the gaps. Definitely worth checking out.

Just like at Monster Mash festival, which I attended last Halloween, Primus joined Tool on this tour. I think they’re a good warm up for Tool really, although I would have been interested in seeing a different band rather than the same combination again. And I guess the focus on the bass with Primus was a nice contrast to the bassless 3 Teeth!

Yet again, Primus brought the giant mushrooms on stage with them, haha! They also made good use of the huge video screen behind them, showing home movies, random animations, and other videos during their set. For ‘Mr Krinkle’ Les Claypool wore a pig mask – I did hear he did that for Monster Mash too, but I missed it that time.

Since seeing them at Monster Mash, I’ve listened to a lot more Primus and I enjoyed their set a lot more this time around. Now knowing their back catalogue a bit better I can tell you that they mostly played really old stuff, I think all but one song was before 1995s ‘Tales From The Punchbowl’. They closed with one of my favourites of theirs – ‘Jerry Was A Race Car Driver’. Pretty sure this was the same setlist as at Monster Mash? If not, it was VERY similar.

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So, Tool. Another flashback to Monster Mash, since they opened with Led Zeppelins ‘No Quarter’ again. And the deja vu carried on for the rest of the show – the setlist was EXACTLY THE SAME. Oh, except this time they missed out ‘Ions’. I mean I had heard that they don’t vary their setlists much, but really?

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I know I sound like I’m complaining, but lets face it, I was there for the experience and I can never hear anything Tool do enough times so I was still a happy bunny. I can’t remember if I mentioned this in my Monster Mash post actually, but both times they did play some new material, which has the working title ‘Descending’. I liked it.

Unlike Monster Mash, this time we were treated to an elaborate laser light show – seriously, I have never seen lights so perfectly timed to the music. When you add this to the incredible sound, intricate artwork and video concepts, it was pretty much the perfect show. They may be samey, but Tool have their performance perfected. And what Tool fan really cares about samey?

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So chances are I might go back to the States for Tool again in the not too distant future, who knows. Although I’d much rather they come to London, it’s a bit easier on my bank balance.

L xx

All photos my own (yes, they suck, I was caught in the moment!)

 

Last time I was in California, in October, I meant to visit the (now closed) Donut Bar in Orange County, because I’d heard great things, but didn’t get round to it. I hadn’t realised there was another (the original) Donut Bar in San Diego so was crazy happy when my friends took me there for breakfast donuts!

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Donut Bar has a menu which changes daily, and is written on a chalkboard at the shopfront (it’s also uploaded daily onto their Facebook page).

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They do sell out though, and queues can be long, so it’s best to get there early! Luckily it wasn’t too busy for us on a Friday morning, but I am told it gets pretty bad! You can place a order here to pickup the next day though.

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On the day I visited the menu was quite varied, featuring everything from a basic $1 ring donut to a $5 Monte Cristo (if you don’t know what a Monte Cristo is, it’s a deep fried ham and cheese sandwich – now imagine that in donut form…).

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I was surprised at how Vegan friendly Donut Bar was – they had four Vegan options which were clearly marked. There was a basic ring, a creme brulee, an apple fritter, and the one I went for – the Strawberry Split. At $4 this spectacular donut, I’m told, is one of the ones that put Donut Bar on the map. Seriously, look at it. It’s ginormous, and delicious, and I would never have guessed it was Vegan. I’m trying to find out what the cream substitute is but so far I’ve not had any luck.

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Another donut, I just have to mention is the Big Poppa Tart Donut. Costing $4, the Big Poppa Tart weighs in at a huge 1lb, and has a whole pop tart in the centre. On the day I visited three flavours were available – S’Mores, Strawberry and Blueberry. Try this one heated up…

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Next time I want to try the Jim Beam Maple Bourbon…

Donut Bar also have an outlet in San Diego airport Terminal 2, and I may have had a takeaway box for the plane…

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L xx

All photos my own.

 

Donut Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

As an animal lover my visit to see the sea lions at La Jolla Cove was hands down my highlight from San Diego this time around. And being there as the sun went down made it especially magical.

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La Jolla (pronounced La Hoya – it means ‘the jewel’ in Spanish) Cove is part of La Jolla Underwater Park, a marine refuge area.

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La Jolla Cove really is beautiful. It’s a popular spot for swimming and snorkelling because the high cliffs mean there is rarely high surf. There was on my visit mind you, as San Diego was recovering from El Niño (a strong band of warm water in the Pacific Ocean near the equator increasing the likelihood of rain storms), and there were plenty of surfers taking advantage of it!

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The small cove inside the cliffs has a white sandy beach, and you can often find sea lions there, or on the rocks. The cove was originally meant as a protected swimming area for children, but it attracted the local wildlife.

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lajolla4There does seem to be an ongoing argument as to whether the sea lions should be removed as they’re apparantly multiplying quite rapidly. Personally, I’m on the side of the sea lions – why mess with nature just so kids can go swimming?

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Above the cliffs is a lovely big grassy area, the perfect picnic spot. I definitely plan on returning to La Jolla when the weather is a bit better.

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There is so much more to see and do there than just observe the sea lions, so watch this space!

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L xx

All photos my own.

 

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!)

This was supposed to be my first ever live WWE, but I saw the NXT at Aftershock Festival a couple of days earlier (remember Corey Taylor’s altercation with Baron Corbin?). That did wet my appetite though, so it was all good!

We had really great seats, I was 2 people away from the barrier at the walkway, and only 4 people away from the actual ring. So my view was fantastic!

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To be honest, I kind of get lost as to what’s going on but the gist I got was that following the pay-per-view Hell In A Cell they needed to determine the new challenger for Seth Rollins WWE title after he defeated Kane, and there was some kind of fallout from Bray Wyatt’s assault on The Undertaker. Or something like that.

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After a bit of a dull intro from Triple H and Stephanie McMahon, in which they went on a bit about being proud of Seth Rollins, Triple H explained a rather convulated method of picking the contender for the title. The winners from Hell In A Cell had to compete in a series of singles matches, with the winners taking part in a four way show finale (a bit over complicated for me, I wasn’t sure how they determine a single winner of a four way?).

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I’m no sports writer by a long shot (and I had no idea what was going on half the time which is probably obvious from this rambly post) so I won’t detail the fights. At all.

wwe3We had Roman Reigns vs Kofi Kingston (with The New Day intefering), Cesaro vs Kevin Owens, Alberto Del Rio vs Neville, and Big E vs Dolph Ziggler – which resulted in a four way of Roman Reigns vs Kevin Owens vs Alberto Del Rio vs Dolph Ziggler.

This was quite fun to watch, with Kevin Owens and Alberto Del Rio seeming to work together at the start, focusing on getting rid of Dolph Ziggler. It made its way down to just Kevin Owens and Roman Reigns at the end, with Roman winning and becoming Number One Contender for Rollins title. It was a really action packed match, and I’m told it was a really good episode of Raw so I think I got lucky!

Aside from the contenders matches, there were of course sidelines. There was a recap of the Hell In A Cell clash between Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker, and Renee Young interviewed Zeb Colter about his unexpected partnership with Alberto Del Rio.

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There was a fun six man tag team match between the Dudley Boyz and King Barrett, Rusev and Sheamus – who I think were the Hell In A Cell losers? It was just a brawl basically but good to watch.

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Bray Wyatt had a little monologue about taking on Roman Reigns and The Undertaker – which was interrupted by Kane who was in turn overcome by the rest of the Wyatts.

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As expected, the Divas were one of the highlights for me – we had a fun match between Team PCB and Team Bella, with a big of an intro with Team PCB promising to work together. This lasted until the end of the match, at which time Paige turned on Charlotte and Becky. Predictable. Oh yeah, Team Bella won.

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I had such a great time at Raw, my only disappointment was that my favourite, Randy Orton was missing! Hopefully he’ll be at the Raw in London in April.

L xx

All photos my own.

 

 

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.

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.