Festival review: Aftershock 2019

With the eighth installment of Monster Energy’s Aftershock festival in the rearview mirror one thing remains very clear: this is North America’s premiere festival destination.

Located once again in Sacramento, California’s beautiful Discovery Park, the weekend of October 11th saw another wonderful and diverse Aftershock Festival take place. With three full stages of some of today’s biggest acts, as well as a number of up and coming bands, there was truly something for everyone.

With headline acts such as Slipknot, Staind, Blink 182, Rob Zombie, Tool and Korn, one would think that would be enough for the price of admission for this three day festival, but I’m of the opinion that some of the bands underneath them actually stole the show (or weekend).

Day 1

Let’s start with Friday. Anyone who knows me can figure out what I’m going to say about Lamb of God: they absolutely crushed it. LoG is one of the tightest, heaviest live bands around. There is a reason these guys from Richmond “Mother fucking” Virginia are always at the top of the bills for big festivals – it’s because they deserve to be.

Clutch, I’m not a fan of, but I give credit where credit is due. Their rock, blues, heavy grooves style had the crowd rocking hard in the late afternoon, and honestly maybe one of the biggest surprises of the weekend for me.

And finally, Philip H. Anselmo and The Illegals‘ set performing A Vulgar Display of Pantera was something truly special to witness. I mean, let’s be honest; the majority of the crowd wasn’t even old enough to have seen Pantera, but good grief Charlie Brown, were they into it.  This was my fourth time attending Aftershock and I have never seen early day mosh pits like that before. Well done Northern California, way to represent at 2 in the afternoon. Philip and the Illegals blasted through all the crowd favorites, and what started out to be a medium size crowd at the beginning of the set, turned out to be as packed as if they were the headliner that day.

Day 2

Now Saturday was a bit interesting for me, I went in to the day really looking forward to basically two bands, and came out blown away and very entertained by a few others. That’s the beauty of festivals like this, diversity.

Stone Temple Pilots – I know this can be a touchy subject for some folks because of the passing of Scott Weiland and people (including myself) identifying his voice with the band. But I’m here to tell you, the band still jams, and Jeff Gutt sounded amazing live in concert. Now I can be a bit of a purist when it comes to these matters, but I was really, really surprised when their set started and it sounded refreshing yet very familiar. I mean, we are talking about STP, and they have a ton of hits, and Jeff Gutt sounded wonderful as the front man. 

Next on my radar was Ghostemane. Yes, I said Ghostemane… a rapper. I found his mumbling, bumbling vocal style, quick paced stops and starts, mixed with some really heavy beats very entertaining, and so did the crowd. Now I didn’t walk away and go buy his catalog or anything, but I definitely grew a respect for the young man and his art; it was really different than anything I’ve heard or seen live.

Spirit Adrift – such a great band. This was the first time I’ve had the chance to see them live and they were probably my favorite from Saturday’s festivities. The only complaint I would have about their set: it was too early in the day, and too damn short. They truly play Heavy Metal in the same vein as a Black Sabbath. Now I’m not saying they are all that, but as I walked away from their set, that’s all I was thinking. Heavy duty riffs, fantastic vocal range and the grooves – oh mama, those grooves. This band has several full releases and an EP out and I’m telling you, they have yet to make a “bad” record, and that material transfers over wonderfully to their live set.

Day 3

Now here is Sunday – you know, the day after Saturday.  With 2 days and approximately 20 hours of music under my belt I’m not got going to lie: “Mean” Gene was feeling beat up. But like every good Metalhead, you just keep pushing on, and I sure am glad I did.

Babymetal, yep, Babymetal. This was my second time seeing this energetic group from Tokyo, Japan, and they were strangely awesome again the second time around. Now granted, I have no idea what they are saying or singing about, but for me the music behind those pint size high pitched vocals is pretty damn Metal.  I was very impressed with a handful of songs and thought to myself, “these riffs are pretty nasty.” Now a lot of folks I know see this group as a “gimmick” or a “novelty” act, but don’t be fooled; to the trained ear, this is Metal, and some of it is done real well. What I was a little surprised by was the number Asians or Asian-Americans in attendance for their set. I mean, these festivals are always painted with every color of the rainbow and from all walks of life. But Sunday it was very clear that Babymetal has a large following of their own and it was pretty neat to see.

The next band that always makes an impression on me was the mighty Gojira. This is a band that is always precise, always heavy, and always good. Now they came on later in the day and the mosh pits kicked up almost instantly, and so did the dust in Discovery Park. To me, they have a unique sound that just makes you want to nod your head up and down with a little force – not a full headbang, just enough to let everyone know you found that groove. Ever like a band that doesn’t make your music rotation enough, but if they are coming around you have to go see them live? Gojira is that band for me.  The grassy meadows in the park that day were full up with a lot of excited fans like me, and the men from France did not disappoint.

Last but not least, a band that 100% shocked me that I really didn’t know too much about, The Hu. This rock band from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia was an absolute treat to see live. With only one album out to date, and another one due out in December, The Hu had the third stage totally packed with fans of all ages, shapes, and sizes wanting to be Genghis Khan for about 45 minutes. I even overheard one crowd member state, “the only thing this show is missing is blood.” The Hu is getting ready to take part in their first North American tour (which I just found out about) and wouldn’t you know it, my local show is already sold out. The heavy rocking Mongolians are extremely proud to be doing it their own way, while paying respect to their heritage; it was a beautiful thing indeed.

I keep saying it, year after year: Monster Energy’s Aftershock Festival is always a good time. The music, the people, the food, and local artists make it such a wonderful event for everyone who attends. This year was a three-day version, and it has already been announced that the 2020 show will also be three days, with Friday and Sunday being headlined by the Bay Area’s own Metallica. They will be performing two nights with two completely different set lists. You can say what you will about the largest, and most popular metal band to ever walk the earth, but two total different headline sets sounds pretty cool to me. Hope to see all those familiar faces next year.



Aftershock 2020

Gene A. Gaona enjoys writing album reviews and conducting artist interviews for Hellbound.ca and Capital Chaos TV as well as taking in as many live metal shows as possible. He firmly believes there is nothing better in this world than his family, and great heavy metal.