Words & Photos by Alan Snodgrass
Now in its fifth year, Sacramento’s premier rock festival returned to Discovery Park with two days, three stages, 35 bands and a whole lot of people. Enough people (50,000 over the course of the weekend), in fact, to officially call this year’s Aftershock a sell-out.
With highs in the mid-70’s and scattered clouds, the dustbowls of prior years were nowhere in the forecast. And with significant adjustments to prior years’ parking logistics, it was shaping up to be an excellent weekend for music as the crowds queued up for the doors to open at 11 am.
The Shrine kicked things off at 11:15 am after an all-night drive from Venice, California with an set of psych rock that went down like cup of sludgy black coffee. With that wake-me-up, the drinks started flowing and Discovery Park was primed for the long day.
If one were to pick a moment, however, where things really kicked into gear, it would have been precisely at 1:35 pm … the time that letlive. and Death Angel each took their respective stages for what were undoubtedly two of the best sets of the day. Out on the road in support of their latest release (The Evil Divide), Death Angel was in top form and had the crowd in front of the Capital Stage kicking up dust for the duration of their all-to-short 30 minute brunch set.
As with any multi-stage festival, there are decisions to be made when there are competing set times. The difficulty of those decisions this year serves as a testament to how well festival organizers curated this year’s bill. The Pretty Reckless vs. Deafhaven, Anthrax vs. Face to Face and Drakulas vs. Motionless in White … even though you couldn’t go wrong whichever way you chose, there was definitely a pang of regret when hearing about the sets that were skipped.
In spite of the fairly diverse line-up, this was clearly a metal crowd. Sets from Anthrax, Meshuggah, Primus, Slayer, Baroness and Tool packed the fields tight for some pretty epic sets. Anthrax’s set opener “Caught In a Mosh” was worth the price of admission alone. But digging a little deeper into the line-up would have uncovered some gems like Whores. and Drakulas, the band you will one day look back and lament that you could have seen them “back when.”
With Saturday night wrapping up at a respectable 10 pm, there was plenty of time to party on, get a good night’s sleep and still make it back to the fest for day two. Indeed, 11 am Sunday found a steady flow in the gates as folks checked out the booths before meandering over to the Capital Stage for Some Fear None and the first set of the day.
The first hours of Sunday felt more geared towards a younger crowd than Saturday with The Amity Affliction and Parkway Drive well attended up certainly getting some odd looks from the older folks in attendance which disappeared as the more established acts came up.
The only real bummers of the weekend were on Sunday when Ignite unexpectedly dropped off the bill and when Ghost’s epic set ended 7 minutes ahead of schedule. But all seemed to be forgiven as Chevelle, Zakk Sabbath (Zakk Wylde doing Black Sabbath covers), Disturbed and Puscifer wowed the crowds … the latter getting extra credit for scaling down their usual production to fit on the smaller Discovery Stage where a mini wrestling ring was just big enough for some luchador action.
While Avenged Sevenfold was the last band on the bill, Korn was the unexpected highlight. With their new album (The Serenity of Suffering) literally days old, the band was pumped in way that’s seemed absent in recent years. Maybe it has to do with the fact that Serenity brings the band’s sound full circle to where they started, but without a doubt both the band and the crowd were going ape shit throughout the entire one hour set. It was Aftershock’s mic drop moment.
9 pm Sunday and another successful Aftershock is in the books. With over half of attendees hailing from outside of the Sacramento area, year five marks the year that Aftershock officially became a destination festival in a way that will undoubtedly ensure its longevity. Here’s looking forward to many more to come.