“This next one is a love song,” growled Cannibal Corpse frontman George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher, mid-way through the second day of Knotfest ‘15. “It’s about shooting blood out of your c-ck!” Thus was the spirit of Knotfest on Sunday afternoon, as battle-bruised fans moshed in billowing clouds of dust to the absolute heaviest collection of metal music that could be collected in one place.
With Day 1 just a throbbing memory (read my review of Knotfest ‘15 Day 1 right here), the metalheads filling San Manuel Amphitheater in San Bernardino were throwing down and rocking out under overcast skies. Helmet, Kyng and fan favorite All That Remains got the action started early on revolving stages 002 and 003, while relatively unknown bands like The Darkest Day, Avoid The Void, and blood-splattered shock rockers Dead Animal Assembly Plant owned the Headbang For The Highway stage and won over curious fans.
Later afternoon saw the return of California natives Snot playing their funk metal to a wild crowd, but it was Cannibal Corpse who really kicked the day into a louder, wilder, headcrushingly brutal gear. With an introduction from Sirius XM’s Jose Mangin, the death metal masters drew the largest crowd of the day so far, kicking up dust clouds that drifted across the festival grounds. That crowd grew even larger an hour later when the legendary Suicidal Tendencies exploded onto the stage, singer Mike Muir just a blur of motion as he blasted through favorites like You Can’t Bring Me Down and Institutionalized.
In between three stages of nonstop metal, fans enjoyed festival food, the Knotfest museum, and a yellow monster truck crushing cars safely behind a large fence. Vape tents, merch booths and artist signings offered all kinds of non-music options for those in need of a break or looking for souvenirs, and fans could be seen in every corner of the grounds enjoying food and drinks or simply enjoying the sight of thousands of metalheads all in one place.
Knotfest promoter John Reese formally opened the main stage by introducing the festival’s only hip hop acts, Ghostface Killa and Mobb Deep (read my summer interview with ultimate metal festival producer Reese here). While Knotfest may not seem like the natural opportunity for rappers, after the success of last year’s Tech N9ne set it was refreshing to see Slipknot and their team once again include our sister genre in their smorgasboard of metal. The rappers and their hype men worked hard to win the crowd over and were generally successful, especially when sampling rock staples like We Will Rock You and Smells Like Teen Spirit.
As the sun went down and fans continued filing into the main amphitheater, it was time for Knotfest’s headliners to make their own impact. Clutch absolutely killed it with their set, plowing through a dozen songs and jamming out on classic stoner metal riffs. It’s almost unfortunate that they played before and not after British act Bring Me The Horizon, who received screams of support from the metalcore fans sprinkled in the crowd, but mostly folded arms and stares from everyone else.
With nightfall complete and overstimulated fans again starting bonfires on the back lawn, it was finally time for Slipknot to present themselves to their fans the only way they know how – with 90 minutes of earblasting, facemelting nihilism in the form of heavy metal music. Opening with newer track Sarcastrophe, the nine masked men then ripped into The Heretic Anthem, balls of flame exploding all over the stage as they and the crowd roared together “if you’re 5-5-5 then I’m 6-6-6!” Watching the band perform in front of the massive audience brought to mind the classic Rolling Stone magazine quote reviewing the band’s first record: “A threshing machine devouring a military drum corps.”
It’s not unreasonable to call Slipknot the biggest metal band of the millennial era; only Metallica has previously tried to host their own two day music festival on this kind of scale, and that band pulled the plug on their Orion Festival due to unprofitability. So as Corey, Clown and their bandmates plowed through a monstrous setlist full of favorites like Wait & Bleed and Before I Forget, thrashing on guitars, pounding drums and rampaging across the flame-filled stage, they pulled the 40,000 strong crowd deep inside their hellish metal paradise like no other band can.
Since Slipknot just wrapped up their summer tour with Lamb of God, it was thoughtful of them to switch up the setlist for those who caught Summer’s Last Stand, swapping in rarer songs like Me Inside, Prosthetics, Metabolic and Eeyore for the ‘Knot faithful. Mega-hit Duality was a particularly epic peak of the night, topped only a few songs later with Spit It Out. Half the pit was already crouching on the ground before Corey even barked out his instructions to get down, and the entire San Manuel Amphitheater exploded together as one as he screamed “get the f*ck up!”
Night 2 wrapped up with another fan favorite in People = Shit, and finally Surfacing, otherwise known as our new national f*cking anthem. Corey profusely thanked the crowd on behalf of Slipknot, and just like that, it was all over.
Bonfires still smoldered on the lawn as the thousands of metal faithful trudged to the gates. Knotfest ‘15 was in the books, and fans admired their bruises, sunburns or freshly opened wounds as mementos of the weekend. Even though the concept of winter is foreign to Southern California, Knotfest surely marked the last gasps of the summer concert season. But after two days of unstoppable music, wild entertainment and heavy metal kinship, have no doubt that it will return again next fall, as loud, violent and evil as Clown’s very own existence.