Day 1 of Rock and Shock 2014 had many doubters after Machine Head had canceled their tour which was to make their stop in Worcester, Massachusetts on this day. Children of Bodom and Epica were on this tour but were not able to make it out after the tour was canceled. Having said that, we were still offered a great day with Overkill taking over the headlining spot, Doyle from The Misfits and his “Rocking Dead” band playing a one off show filled with Misfits covers, as well as Battlecross who even after the MH tour was caput, still found a way to play for us. There were also a great list of opening acts before the day officially started with Swedish group, Avatar, and a sweet dose of technical death metal from Arsis. I wish I had more time to catch the local openers, but unfortunately the convention down the street at the DCU center sucked up a lot of time (fortunately not money).
In the small stage upstairs, the freak show look-a-likes in Avatar brought their unique personality and stage presence to a larger than expected crowd. Lead man, Johannes Eckerström, truly set the mood with his odd on stage antics including swinging his cane around and drinking straight from a gasoline container (please note: I am positive that he was not actually drinking gasoline). Fan favorites seemed to be ‘Let It Burn’ and ‘Smells like a Freakshow.’ This having been my first time seeing Avatar live, I am looking forward to my next experience. Possibly a headlining show with a bigger stage show perhaps?
Moving downstairs after a quick bite to eat, I put myself right on the barricade for tech death stars, Arsis. Lead guitarist and vocalist, James Malone, was on fire as per the usual. This was also my first time finally seeing Arsis (very delayed I know) so most of my time was spent staring in amazement at the fancy fretwork being displayed in front of me. However, crowd favorite ‘We Are the Nightmare’ hit towards the end of the set and that got my head banging the hardest it had all day. As if that wasn’t enough, we also got a cover song, ‘Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)’ by W.A.S.P. which certainly got the fans engaged with Arsis. I am certainly looking forward to seeing these Virginia Beach natives again with a longer set time of course.
Easily my favorite band to come out in the last 5 or so years hit the stage next, Battlecross. Unfortunate for this Michigan five piece not having their tour with Machine Head to go on, they made sure that they could still make it to R&S. The Worcester audience was treated to two songs off the previous album (‘Push Pull Destroy’ and ‘Kaleb’) while getting a steady dose of the latest material as well (‘Ghost Alive’, ‘Never Coming Back’, ‘My Vaccine’, ‘Beast, Flesh & Bone’). To close out the set, Battlecross made sure to go out with a bang with their cover of arguably Slayer’s greatest song, ‘War Ensemble.’ The pit grew into hysterics and ended the set chanting Battlecross. Before the band took their leave, lead singer Kyle Gunther (aka Gumby), reminded the Worcester crowd that they will return for a headlining show in December on a tour with the likes of Wretched. Also, Gumby may have spit out some news as he confirmed that after this late 2014 tour ends, the boys will be heading back into the studio to write their third album to follow up War of Will (Metal Blade).
Next up was Doyle of The Misfits with the “Rocking Dead” band behind him, playing Misfits tunes. The rest of the Rocking Dead consisted of Wednesday 13 (Murderdolls), Ace Von Johnson (Faster Pussycat), Kriz DK (Deadstar Assembly, Genitorturers), Alan Robert (Life of Agony) and Virus (Device, Dope, Lords of Acid) for this one time live show. Unfortunately I never got into the Misfits outside of a handful of tracks so I couldn’t be certain as to which songs they actually played. I did recognize singles such as ‘Last Caress’ and ‘Die, Die My Darling’ which got me to sing the vocals triumphantly. At one point in the set, Lamb of God vocalist, Randy Blythe, took the microphone for a song that he stated “is about being locked up in an international prison” which certainly is a statement in and of itself. Overall it was cool to know I was one of only a few people who actually saw this one time only performance.
Closing out Day 1 of Rock and Shock was thrash legends, Overkill. Having just released their newest album, White Devil Armory (eOne), I expected a heavy selection of new material. To my surprise, there were 3 selections off of the new album (‘Armorist’, ‘Pig’, ‘Bitter Pill’) and at least one selection off of 8 other previous albums! Fans of all ages enjoyed classics such as ‘Wrecking Crew’, ‘Hello From the Gutter’, ‘End of the Line’, and ‘Rotten to the Core’, while also digging newer tracks such as ‘Electric Rattlesnake’ and ‘Ironbound’. The in between songs banter from front man Bobby Blitz was at its best as per the usual, calling out Boston sports fans due to his love of all things New York and the rivalry between the cities. Bobby was also very active on stage running around like it was still 1986 which is always a delight to see as there is no one else like Mr. Blitz. Closing out the show saw typical closers with ‘Elimination’ and their ever popular Subhumans cover, properly titled ‘Fuck You!’, bring the audience at the Palladium to the climax of their day.
Having been to a few of these convention/festival weekends now over the past few years, I still cannot seem to get all the timing down to ensure I get to all of the bands and cover the convention. Having said that, I am glad I got to see the bands involved on this day of Rock and Shock. Overkill and Battlecross continue to put on some of the most energetic live shows today, I got to see Arsis and Avatar for the first times, and I was also lucky to catch the one time only show of The Rocking Dead super group. Even with Machine Head deciding to kick their tour to the curb, I firmly believe that this day worked out for the better anyways and it will be hard for future R&S band day lineups to beat this one.
WORDS: TIM LEDIN