Another year, another Rock and Shock Festival arrived on the scene to get us even more in the Halloween mood. A terrific lineup of iconic personalities, and amazing vendors at the DCU Center along with a strong lineup of music titans over at The Worcester Palladium made this a year to remember. I have been to eight of the eleven years of this great festival and it gets better and better every year. This was one of the years where the convention ran slightly ahead of the show for me in terms of love, but that is less about the bands and some the horror giants that were in attendance, among my favorites in the genre, ever.
Friday was marred slightly by the typically shitty I -90 traffic heading out to the venue, taking almost 2.5 hours to arrive from Boston. Not only did we miss a tight group of local bands, I missed some of the bands I really wanted to see like Brick By Brick and Shattered Sun. Getting there in time to catch some of Soilwork at least made up for it. Not only did they play some more recent tracks from The Ride Majestic (Nuclear Blast), they played the throwback classic cut ‘Bastard Chain’ which was amazing.
Following Soilwork it was time for some more old-school jams with Sanctuary and Soulfly. The reactivated power metal/thrashers Sanctuary were super tight and sounded great. Better than I expected or remember. Soulfly also put on a great show. Max Cavalera and crew played a lot of hits as well as Sepultura classics and even a little Nailbomb jam. Maybe about the best Soulfly set I’ve ever seen. Max is just really great at extolling the crowd to move: screaming, rapping, or playing some percussion instruments, the guy does it all.
As expected Hatebreed’s career spanning, 20th anniversary set was as great as could be. Jamey Jasta and his crew have boundless energy and played an almost two-hour set. Track after track of classic beat-down songs and deep cuts from every era of the band rained down from the speakers. Many times Jamey jumped into the barricade and had fans screaming along with him. It was epic feeling and people were just throwing down all over the venue. It was a pretty amazing time and Jamey made sure everyone new Hatebreed is coming back with a new album in 2016.
Getting up early on Saturday, we made sure to spend a lot of time at the convention at the DCU center and really get to see and do everything over there. There were many awesome vendors, specifically a lot of local businesses, which was great to see. There were also several dog rescues and pet adoption tables with people doing great work to find some puppies and kitties new homes in the middle of all this metal and horror greatness. While I was only able to get glimpse of George A. Romero, some of the movie personalities I got to chat with made up for it such as Doug Bradley (Hellrazor), William Sanderson, Bill Mosley, Traci Lords, and especially Stephen Macht and Michael Mackay from Monster Squad. Most of the band signings were happening here, with the longest line I saw being for Superjoint.
Saturday’s lineup was a little deeper and more eclectic than most years too. The second stage had an array of diverging styles represented by The Relapse Symphony, Byzantine, Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein with his solo band, and Eyes Set To Kill among others. The main stage was led off by doom masters Witch Mountain. New singer Kayla Dixon has a tall order to fill replacing the much adored Uta Plotkin, but Kayla has amazing pipes and stage presence. She does justice to all of Uta’s material, the other past material of the band, and definitely brings her own style to the table too. I am so looking forward to a new WM album with her at the mic.
For a bit of consistency, the next three bands had a common thread in Wednesday 13, New Year’s Day and The Rocking Dead, all bringing an old/new take on horror punk, glam rock and metal. Wednesday performed the best, NYD had the most fans in the house, and The Rocking Dead was beautiful wreck. Both the later two performed with The Rocking Dead, an all-star collection of talented folks playing all covers. It was exciting to see and hear Doyle and Taime Downe of Faster Pussycat jam out to some great songs, but the band hadn’t rehearsed at all and the sloppy performance was not amusing.
Prong was up next and were one of the best bands of the weekend. The band seems reinvigorated by some new blood in the band and performed a mix of old-school (‘Beg to Differ’, ‘Unconditional’) and new-ish (‘Revenge Best Served Cold’) tracks. Props to Tommy Victor for pulling double-duty this tour with Danzig. I’m waiting patiently on that new Prong album in early 2016 too.
After catching a little bit of Veil of Maya’s performance, we had to grab some provisions (beers and food) and do a final sweep of the band merch for the weekend. Then it was time for Superjoint to open up a total can of whup-ass on The Palladium. Easily the most brutal set and pits of the entire weekend by far. Between Phil Anselmo’s between song levity, the amped up playing it was a really fun time. With an excellent blend of hardcore, doom riffs and heaviness, the band was actually tighter and better than they were back in the day to me.
Finally the set changed over for Danzig. As always he had an impressive stage set up and props, with the ominous “Skull Horns” mascot emblazoned on everything. The backdrop and stage were definitely the best of the entire weekend in contrast to the other bands except for maybe Soulfly. The band came out strong with ‘Skin Carver’ and ‘Hammer of The Gods’. Glenn still has a mighty voice live after all these years. The good thing about being an enigmatic artist and not touring all the time is that people are not burned out on seeing you. Even the songs you have heard a million times on record sounded good live. Feeling every note and dramatic beat, the front man flung himself around the stage like a much younger man. While this challenged him to keep his breath and tone steady, he held up well. The set list was also pretty eclectic with three new cover songs from his new Skeletons album (Evilive/Nuclear Blast).
One thing that was a bummer was the much talked about photo policy. As everyone now knows, Danzig hates photographers; professional or otherwise. I saw at least 25 people kicked out of the show by security for taking pics or videos, and that number may have been 3-4 times that number from what I have been told. Although I admit this policy is extreme, Danzig has a point. Everybody put your phone down and watch the goddamn show! Plus there were signs everywhere and it wasn’t exactly a secret since security guys were warning people all night and stopping the from filming.
Overall Danzig’s set was pretty sweet, although some people I talked to after quibbled with the song choices. He did mix it up well with 15 tracks spread across 7 albums. And I might have chosen a different closer than ‘Brand New God’ from Danzig 4P (American), but no matter. If it’s the last time I ever see the guy live, it’s all good to me.
See you next year Rock and Shock!
PHOTOS BY MEG LOYAL PHOTOGRAPHY
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