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Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess

Knotfest
With Slipknot, Lamb of God, Deftones, Machine Head, Serj Tankian, Cannibal Corpse, Dillinger Escape Plan, Prong and Gojira
Somerset Amphitheater, Somerset, Wisconsin
Saturday, August 18, 2012

See Also:
Slideshow: Knotfest 2012 Music Performances
Slideshow: Knotfest's People & Scenes
15 gorgeous GIFs from Knotfest 2012

Iowa metal clan Slipknot took over Somerset Amphitheater Saturday with several thousand members of its extended family. It was a dusty and rainy day to experience nine or so hours of brutal guitar work, larynx-ripping vocals, and toe-curling bass drums. Concerned parents can breathe easier knowing that this was tightly organized "chaos." Sure, there was an ever-building buzz among attendees as the air filled with medium-grade pot smoke and the ground became littered with crushed beer cups, but a high level of kinship carried through these ranks.

A timeline of events -- with an introduction to Dracula Cat, Deftones' electrifying rainstorm set, recently incarcerated Lamb of God's Randy Blythe laying his emotions bare, and the pyro-fest of Slipknot to close it out -- at the second of two Knotfest dates (Friday's was at a racetrack in Western Iowa) follows.

1:17 p.m.: Gimme Noise and photographer Erik Hess parked near the Somerset grounds and saw a crowd of hundreds of early arrivals -- many in black T-shirts emblazoned with one of the nine bands on the bill --  waiting for the gates to open. The music didn't start until 3 p.m., so the first song of Knotfest for many was Curtis Mayfield's "Superfly" echoing through the empty grounds.

1:38 p.m.: We stopped by the lemonade and "Smurf juice" stand peopled by young entrepreneurs Audrey and Ethel. They said they have never heard Slipknot, but a coffee can stuffed with bills showed business was brisk. Among their customers was a crew of five friends who drove all the way from New York.

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess


 

New York Slipknot fans drink lemonade at Knotfest 2012 from Voice Media Group on Vimeo.

1:55 p.m.: We met Ace, Cooter and Rob from Manitiwoc, Wisconsin. The hospitable trio offered us some of their beer. Then some of their Jägermeister.

1:57 p.m.: In a final act of generosity, Cooter pulled some strawberries from the cooler to offer up.

2:12 p.m.: This Minnesota based crew was working on some of that honey-flavored Jack Daniel's, which tastes much better straight from the bottle than regular Jack Daniel's. Time to head to work.

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess


2:57 p.m.: French metallers Gojira began the barrage with blast beats and hilarious banter on the Second Stage. "Sad news for you guys," singer Joe Duplantier said from the stage. "Slayer is not on the bill."

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess

3:12 p.m.: The cordial Frenchmen growled and headbanged through "Backbone" AKA "fucking Back fucking Bone." Up the hill from the stage, there was a fenced-off area housing several large pyro rigs that would be lit up more frequently as the day went on. After a particularly large ball of orange subsided, a perfect black smoke ring formed and drifted into the sky.

 

3:37 p.m.: A merch table customer was spotted wearing a replica of the long-nosed #3 mask (worn by Slipknot percussionist Chris Fehn), and he had perfected the tricky task of perching a lit cigarette between his lips.

3:45 p.m.: Influential New York thrashers Prong swaggered into the muscular "For Dear Life." Between songs, frontman Tommy Victor modestly referred to his band as "old school," but certainly had no trouble roaring to life for a career-spanning set that teased material from this year's Carved Into Stone. As a crowd settled in on the grass, more than a few snapped their fingers/necks.  

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess

4:03 Lamb of God's Randy Blythe jumped onstage for Prong's cover of the Misfits' "London Dungeon."

4:11 p.m.: The Ring of Fire carnival ride at the very top of the hill lit up. Nearby, several mutant creatures on stilts with elaborate makeup and and costumes stalked the grounds. This was also an apt time to visit Cat Dracula, who seemed to have an entire tour bus all to himself.

4:15 p.m. A rundown of the T-shirt slogans: "Fuck it All," "I Fuck Nuns," "Heavy Fucking Metal," "I Fucking Hate You," and several folks wearing "Fuck You, You Fucking Fuck."

4:40 p.m.: "We don't give a fuck whether you like us other not," Dillinger Escape Plan singer/screamer Greg Puciato informed the crowd at the asphalt-surrounded Main Stage. With a searing blend of saw-blade synths, megablast drums, and guitarist Ben Weinman in a Dr. Dre shirt treating his guitar like a pro wrestling adversary, this schizo set was one of the most furious of the entire day. The centerpiece: The loud-soft, fast-slow dynamic of a sprawling version of "Farewell, Mona Lisa." Head-banging vs. body-banging? There's no contest.

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess

4:55 p.m.: Shawn "Clown" Crahan led a crowd of locals to an outpost of junked out cars, and began a short drum circle performance using PVC pipes as sticks and the hoods of these jalopies as the toms. Then, VIP ticketholders got to ride upside down on the stomach-turning Ring of Fire with Crahan. Unfortunately, the ride was not open for other riders after they were finished.

 

5:11 p.m.-5:13 p.m.: Death metal royalty Cannibal Corpse engaged in synchronized neck-swivel head-banging on the Second Stage led by large-necked vocalist George Fisher. Their long locks looked well-conditioned, and flowed through the air in mesmerizing fashion. In all, the set was murderous, demented aggression and created a rumbling onstage on par with a locomotive. Crowd-surfing and moshing fully took hold of the day at this point.

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess


5:29 p.m.: Fisher brought an engaging enough personality to material like "The Time to Kill is Now" that a pink bra sailed onstage. Later, he addressed those who decided not to brave the furious pit during their set: "All you pussies up on the hill jerking with your peckers, I'll kill your fucking family if you don't scream." So scream they did.

6:13 p.m.: System of a Down singer-gone-solo Serj Tankian in a pair of Diesel jeans and his meticulously pointed beard was the picture of laid-back stylishness during a day of sweat, long hair, and spittle, but the Main Stage crowd greeted him with a waterfall of crowd-surfing bodies. Along with the orange-vested security forces catching the flow of bodies behind the barricade was a demonically dressed fella egging them on. "Jump in," Tankian yelled. "The water's just fucking fine."

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess


6:33 p.m.: When Tankian wasn't waving his hands like a twisted orchestra conductor, he was bracing crowd for his apocalyptic vision of "the winding road of realipolitik." Whether his nuanced message of "Uneducated Democracy" off this year's Harakiri was getting through to the jostling bodies is anyone's guess. 

6:44 p.m.: This young Slipknot fan signed his name on a wall inside a museum tent filled with old stage gear from the band's past tours -- as well as a wealth of airborne allergen particles. After examining some very real cow skulls set up out front, Gimme Noise sneezed about 15 times back-to-back.

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess

 
6:57 p.m.: Chants of "Machine fucking Head" commenced at the Second Stage. Seconds later, memories of that shitty, mid-'90s Bush song charged into Gimme Noise's skull, and it was only the gut-busting kick-drumming by Dave McClain. It took a couple songs before the band settled into a groove.

7:07 pm.: "Are you ready to lose your minds?" singer Robb Flynn implored. Meanwhile, a dude with a camera mounted to the top of a bike helmet plunged into the swelling pit near the front of the stage. Two guys with bandanas covering their mouths -- either to look tough or to combat the rising cloud of dust -- charged into the commotion. Flynn and band took over with the motivating principle that fast wouldn't be good enough if faster still existed, as exhibited on "The Aesthetics of Hate."

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess


7:30 p.m.: Flynn obviously read Spin's piece about EDM putting money in the Republicans' coffers, and offered that "The bankers and the politicians want us to listen to that [unts unts] dance music because it doesn't mean anything." They then it got quiet as they launched into new single "Darkness Within," a slow-building acoustic song that eventually unloads into a powerfully heavy ballad.

7:45 p.m.: The sun began its descent, but the sky darkened prematurely as a bunch of ominous clouds gathered across the sky behind the Main Stage. Gimme Noise ran to the car to grab rain gear.

8:10 p.m.: After a mariachi-ish intro, alt-metal studs Deftones get off to a nimble start to their hour-long set with "Rocket Skates." Goatee-toting frontman Chino Moreno hopped up on stage-front platforms, twirling his microphone more like a plaything than a tool, and bassist Sergio Vega jerked excitedly behind him. Not much later, the late-'90s "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)" incited a hazy intensity that carried into the photo pit (see below).

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess

  

 

8:34 p.m.: Later, Moreno looked out into the crowd and greeted them, sort of. "That's my cousin Julio!" he shouted excitedly. "What are you doing here? Oh, that's not Julio. Hector! What the fuck are you doing here..."

8:37 p.m.: The rain started coming down in the middle of the already drama-fraught "Change (In the House of Flies)" and each bolt of lightning fed the band to take the song further into its melancholy.

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess


9:03 p.m.: The blistering "suck suck suck suck" chant of early hit "7 Words" took a turn for the epic as they rode the lightning exploding several times across the sky. Moreno's shirt was ripped open, and perhaps his entire being along with it. The majority of the Knotfest attendees were either parked under an available awning or freaking out in the darkness. Note to self: Should Deftones record future albums during thunderstorms?

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess


9:09 p.m.: The rain let up, and lusty fans chanted "Lamb of God" over at the Second Stage. The crew wavered between putting tarps over the speakers or taking them off for several quiet minutes.

9:12 p.m.: The skies parted again and droplets fell as hard as the had all evening. One guy leaned over to his friend and yelled "This is some Biblical shit." After heavy-hitters Lamb of God came out amidst the downpour, Gimme Noise's rain-spattered notebook added the entries "Hollywood shit" and "demonic shit." It's most likely that they played "Desolation" and "Ghost Walking" to start off, but with all of the bodies in motion, the angry elements spitting from the sky, and dread-locked vocalist Randy Blythe emitting a guttural onslaught unlike any other, these were blurry recollections.

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess


9:24 p.m.: After a few songs, Blythe understandably addressed the crowd. It was uncertain if Lamb of God would take part in Knotfest after he was briefly imprisoned in the Czech Republic for a charge of manslaughter stemming from a violent concert incident there two years ago. "It's so good to be home," he said. "God bless America." After performing "Walk With Me in Hell," he continued: "Slipknot said, 'You cancelled the tour, but could you still do the two Knotfest dates?' I said 'Fuck yeah.' You think Britney Spears or Ke$ha or whoever's fans would be out here in this? No, they'd be sitting on their fat asses at home."

9:56 p.m.: The rain stopped, and Gimme Noise shed some wet clothes in the car while Lamb of God boomed on some more. 
 
10:17 p.m.: Blythe sounded sincerely touched when he gave a final thank you, but the core of hardcore maggots had already relocated to the Main Stage. A red curtain came down in front of it, and a determined security guard warned anyone remotely close to the barracade to move back.

 

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess

10:23 p.m.: We found out why the guy was so serious about it after the curtain rose, revealing the red-suited clan populating the stage. An enormous firework-level POP! accentuated "(sic)" as vocalist Corey Taylor (#8) roared "This is a wa-a-a-a-a-r!" with his fists in the air.

10:35 p.m.: Even with results far more brutal, there was a pop mentality at play with the Slipknot stage show. Inspired by ADD nature of our times, the adrenaline of youth, and whatever the crowd had ingested by this point, the eight-man crew in masks was in constant motion. Clown rode his rising and falling drum kit, compete with a keg he banged with a bat several times, up and down much like the carnival ride of earlier in the day. Add that to the evolving video screen behind them, and flames rising onstage and up on the hill, and it was on par with the stadium spectacle of Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne tour.

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess


10:40 p.m.: Before "The Blister Exists," Taylor spoke of re-christening the Somerset Amphitheater and recalled the band's 1999 performance on the second stage of Ozzfest. Over the course of the evening, Slipknot was like a miniature Ozzfest in itself with songs that lean to the moody goth and masked stagecraft of Marilyn Manson, the nu-metal rap posited by Limp Bizkit, the emotional release of Linkin Park, and the heaviness of whomever you choose. Serious question: How has Rammstein never appeared on Ozzfest?

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess


11:01 p.m.: After a stage backdrop shift, a chest-pounding rendition of "Gently" began what seems to be the second movement in the symphony of destruction, and a snow-like substance began pumping out of machines mounted at the top of the stage. A young man holding one of the very real cow skulls from the museum walked by Gimme Noise's spot on the damp pavement.  

11:16 p.m.: A lot of pyro was unleashed during "Everything Ends." Apologies for the sound.

11:27 p.m.: A third stage shift occurs, and Taylor had two things to get off his chest. One, everything about Knotfest is "To celebrate the life and music of Paul Dedrick Gray," their bassist who passed in 2010. The other was to reinforce that this grouping was a family. (A family that commands a ticket price -- but still.) Then, Slipknot launched into arguably the catchiest anthem in their gloom-soaked arsenal, a ditty about sticking fingers into one's own eyes called "Duality."

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess


11:38-11:40 p.m.: As is tradition, Taylor got the crowd to "get down on the fucking ground right now" during the set-closer "Spit it Out." After two minutes of this pseudo-sadistic act, he instructed "jump the fuck up!" This earned a widespread participation that was embarrassing compared to what rappers often get when asking audiences to throw hands in the air and wave 'em like they just don't care. The maggots did care, so they stayed on the ground.

11:48 p.m. Before the first encore song, Taylor proclaimed "This is your new national fucking anthem," and then launched into the merciless "People = Shit." No word on if Wisconsin rep-turned-VP-candidate (and metal fan) Paul Ryan was in attendance or if this idea has any traction within his party.

 

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess

11:53 p.m.: And for the final pummeling of the night, "Surfacing" from the group's 1999 self-titled release, drummer Joey Jordison's kit was raised up and tilted forward until it was rotating like the ring of fire. "Take care of yourselves and each other," Taylor bellowed to the crowd at its finish, and a recording of "Til We Die" played as the band hugged onstage and tossed swag into the crowd.

11:56 p.m.: The red curtain came down.

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: Slipknot's music isn't going to find its way into my drive to work, my exercise routine, or lull me to sleep at night, but this event showed they're more committed to their show and their fans than a good lot of bands out there. Aside from the music portion, though, there wasn't anything that beat the weather for entertainment. I thought we were promised a mud luge!

The Crowd: Tons of Slipknot T-shirts, costumes, and face paint. Most folks were under 40, and a few were under 4.

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess


Random Detail: Good call on having access to real bathrooms and drinking fountains on-site.  

Slipknot Setlist:
742617000027 (Intro)
(sic)
Eyeless
Sulfur
The Blister Exists
Wait and Bleed
Before I Forget
Disasterpiece
Gently
Vermilion
Everything Ends
The Heretic Anthem
Psychosocial
Duality
Spit It Out

Encore:
(515)
People = Shit
Surfacing
'Til We Die (Outro)

P.S.: Corey Taylor assured the crowd that this event "is only the beginning."

See Also:
15 gorgeous GIFs from Knotfest 2012
Slideshow: Knotfest 2012 Music Performances
Slideshow: Knotfest's People & Scenes
Slipknot's Shawn "Clown" Crahan on Knotfest, the Ring of Fire and backstage insanity

Slipknot's Knotfest at Somerset Amphitheater, 8/18/12
Photo by Erik Hess

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