By now, the weekend’s Aftershock festival is an afterthought. The combined crowd of 46,000 that packed Discovery Park on Oct. 22-23 has long since gone home, and the space is returning to its usual relaxed environs.
But like that ringing in the ears and a few bruises from the mosh pit, some of its effects persist. Aftershock was two days of cranked amplifiers and revved-up crowds turning out for some of the biggest acts in hard rock and heavy metal. The air was filled with many a guitar solo and cloud of vape smoke, like a siren song for the heavy-metal masses.
With music played over three stages for up to nine hours each day, there was much multitasking going down. So what do we remember most vividly?
Here’s a countdown of the six most metal moments from Aftershock 2016:
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6. Taking a ride on Aftershock’s bus shuttle system – Those who expected some kind of plush charter for Aftershock’s parking lot shuttles might have done a double take at the armada of janky yellow school buses with “Elk Grove Unified School District” on the side. These buses alleviated traffic gridlock into Gibson Ranch, with a shuttle system ($30 for a weekend pass) running between Discovery Park and Sleep Train Arena’s parking lot. With some tailgating, the mood was fairly festive on the buses, feeling something like an adult continuation school field trip to an epic rock concert.
Even better, the shuttle system worked well. Following Tool’s headlining set and the crowd of thousands pouring out of Discovery Park on Saturday night, the wait for a shuttle wasn’t much more than 20 minutes in most cases, followed by a 15-minute drive back to Sleep Train Arena where concertgoers’ cars awaited. Now, that rocked.
5. Anthrax’s “Caught in a Mosh” – Metal bands going on during some of the brightest times of the day have to battle with the sun and a crowd that’s usually less fired-up than after dusk. Anthrax had an unenviable 3:50 p.m. time slot on Saturday, but Aftershock’s overall energy turned up to 11 after the band kick-started its set with “Caught in a Mosh.” The song’s a thrash-metal call to arms, which helped forge a tone for the rest of the weekend’s slam dance warriors.
4. The guy wearing a big, green goblin nose – It’s a look that says, “I’m not here to pick up on the ladies, or worry about looking weird while eating a slice of pizza. I’m so metal that I’ve transformed into an actual goblin for Aftershock.”
Congrats, sir. You win the best accessory for all of Aftershock.
Zakk Sabbath brought it down to the essentials: sludgy, sinister and soaked in guitar distortion.
3. Zakk Sabbath playing “Children of the Grave” – Without the mighty Black Sabbath, much of this Aftershock madness wouldn’t have been possible. And though the pioneering heavy-metal band is in the midst of a retirement tour, Zakk Sabbath was an apt consolation. The group, which features longtime Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde, plowed through a megamix of Black Sabbath classics that kicked off with “Children of the Grave.” While Aftershock featured heavy metal of many shades, from the theatrics of Ghost to Meshuggah’s intricate riffage, Zakk Sabbath brought it down to the essentials: sludgy, sinister and soaked in guitar distortion.
2. Tool’s cerebral, sonically powerful set – Enigmatic, psychedelic and ultra-heavy, Tool’s show on Saturday night was a face melter of a performance. The band’s stage show is somewhat shadowy compared to other hard rock groups on the scene, with singer Maynard James Keenan perched for most of the show on a small riser toward the back of the stage instead of taking the usual alpha-male heavy metal frontman role. Combined with a trippy visual show, Tool’s tightly wrought musicianship and guitar aplomb captivated the crowd with such tunes as “Schism,” “Hush” and “Third Eye.”
1. Slayer and more Slayer – One of the most metal bands in all of heavy metal, pointy guitar headstocks and banshee-like shrieks and all, did not disappoint on Saturday night. These titans of thrash-metal played a whiplash of a set that included such classic mosh pit firestarters as “Reign in Blood,” “War Ensemble” and an especially vicious version of “Angel of Death.” Throughout the day, just a cry of “Slayer!” from some amped-out bro waiting in line for a beer elicited plenty of hoots from all around and devil-horns signs thrown in the air. And that basically epitomizes the Aftershock experience.