Mayhem in the Heart of Texas, AT&T Center, 8/14/09

I couldn’t resist.

I was going back home to Texas for a wedding, and I *happened* to see that Mayhem would be in San Antonio while I’m there. So even though I’d seen the show twice already, I tried my luck and was able to get set up to photograph and review the festival. I was also very excited because I was granted an interview with Behemoth, who any reader knows is one of my faves.

The beginning of the adventure was close to a scene from Almost Famous as my parents picked me up from the airport and gave me one of their extra cars…hahaha at least there was no family whistle and I was not told ‘don’t do drugs’. I found my way to the AT&T Center, which used to be called the SBC Center, where I had seen my second ever NIN show. It was very fitting that the venue was right next to Freeman Coliseum, which was home to my first metal show: White Zombie and Pantera in 1996. Life comes full circle!

As I walked the long way from the parking lot to the venue, the heat made it feel like I was walking into hell. It was incredibly fitting. I went to will call, where I always have my brief moment of ‘I’m not on the list’ panic, and was promptly given all of the goods. Then I was escorted via golf cart to some super secret entrance and down an elevator into the depths of the venue to a super posh press room. HRC felt like she had hit the big league….I guess everything is bigger in Texas! I confirmed my interview with the press coordinator, was given the photography ground rules, and was escorted out to the main floor where Bullet For My Valentine was doing their soundcheck. It was kinda cool to be in an arena alone…I was tempted to run across the floor and click my heels together, but I thought that might be slightly inappropriate.

I made my way outside to the side stages. Immediately I was reminded about Texas guys….someone offered to by me a drink within five minutes! Maneuvering Mayhem on my own proved to be kinda interesting…people didn’t know quite what to make of me, and I was at least 10 shades lighter than everyone there. I surveyed the scenery- Job For A Cowboy was on, and I stood at the back since I was too late to go to the photo pit. When they finished their set, everyone turned around and ran at me to the second stage, which I didn’t realize was right behind me…it kinda freaked me out. The other two Mayhem venues allowed for the stages to be side by side, which made it easier for photographers to run back and forth.

I ended up going and waiting for the Behemoth set. The other photographers were eyeing me….who’s the new girl? San Antonio is a small market, and I ended up meeting lots of people from there and Austin who welcomed me with their southern hospitality. When we moved into the photo pit, the security guard promptly gave me sunscreen to put on as I was turning pink. Lathering up with sunscreen in the Behemoth photo pit was a humorous moment for me.

The crowd was chanting ‘Be-he-moth!’, so I was happy for them that it seemed like fandom has grown over the course of this one month tour. But when the band hit the stage, the reaction seemed somewhat muted as the heat just flat out doesn’t allow for people to go completely off. The sound was also a little wonky….I think at three daylight shows, I’ve hit my limit and need to see them in the setting they are meant to play in- dark clubs. After I finished photographing, I enjoyed the set from the side, watching the young crowdsurfers- almost 50% female!- come over the barriers. They were all really excited, and I was reminded about how big of a deal something like Mayhem Fest is for them…big metal shows don’t always make it this far south. In particular, there was a high school aged girl wearing a shirt that said ‘Fuckin’ Slayer!’ that literally skipped back to the crowd with a huge smile on her face all four times she came over the barrier.

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I went in search of water after Behemoth. Ever speck of shade was occupied by melting metalheads trying to escape the sun. Tents with misters had people standing shoulder to shoulder. Inside the venue, the floor was lined with people waiting for the seats to open. It hurt the attendance- and the energy- of the side stages for sure.

I went back to photograph The Black Dahlia Murder…who I wish I liked more. I just have a hard time with the ‘heartburn’ tattoo on the lead singer’s belly….so, you know, I stood there photographing it up close and personal. I felt sorry for the dude in the gorilla suit. That had to be REALLY hot. After getting out of the photo pit, I watched until a crowdsurfer making his way back to the crowd full on smooched me and drenched me in his sweat, which grossed me out beyond belief. I escaped to the venue.

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I was walking around taking in the scene, when I ran into a guy who I went to high school with that I hadn’t seen in probably 12 years! Slight ego boost- I guess I haven’t aged too much. I found my way to my seat and went over my interview questions for Behemoth while I waited for the main stage bands to start.

I have really grown to like Bullet For My Valentine since seeing them at the first Mayhem show. They’ve got some really great songs- ‘Tears Don’t Fall’ and ‘Scream Aim Fire’. Sure, it’s ‘lighter’ metal than the other bands on the tour, but it’s kind of a nice mid show break from the heavier stuff. Their set was pretty dark, so my pics didn’t turn out quite so good.

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Sometimes, I think about bringing an old Polaroid into the photo pit. It think it would be super awesome.

I watched the rest of the BFMV set and then went into the press room to wait for my interview. As I get to the door, the press coordinator tells me, “I know Kerry King is hanging out in there, but don’t try to talk to him”. Ha. So I sit there listening to a guy schmoozing with Kerry, and then a guy from Job For A Cowboy comes in and the coordinator tries to stick him with me, and I’m like…no, I’m waiting for Behemoth, remember? And so he goes and sits down with her waiting for his interviewer to show up, talking about making this romantic night for his girlfriend. Torture. They keep discussing this romantic night, and the coordinator looks over and proceeds to tell me how people think these metal guys are all tough, but really they get it all out on the stage and they’re such nice guys the rest of the time..blah blah blah. Go ahead, torture me some more. I wait thirty minutes (which I didn’t mind, since Killswitch Engage was on….no me likey). The coordinator looks at me and says, “I don’t know where they are….but I *might* have accidentally canceled your interview when I canceled another one”. Wow.

So I have a minor mental meltdown…since I spent a good bit of time researching my questions and crafting a unique interview since they’ve done so many over the last months with the same fucking questions over and over. She gives me the tour manager’s phone number to see if I can salvage the interview…who I promptly text, and he promptly confirms that he was told it was canceled, but said he’d try to gather them up. It never happened.

As you may have noticed, HRC is the fragile type. I spent the next thirty minutes pissed off at myself for having another interview fall through, but the fact of the matter is, this is just how it goes. But there’s almost nothing that I hate more than a missed opportunity.

Good thing Slayer was on next. Slayer is damn fine medicine. It was very cool to photograph them. San Antonio is definitely a Slayer crowd. Pretty much everywhere I went all day you could hear someone randomly shouting “Slayer!”. Even the photographers in the pit with me took long breaks between shots to just take in their up close and personal views.

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For the Manson set, we were only allowed one song, so we were all scurrying around like crazy to ‘We’re From America’. Luckily, the set was a bit brighter and less smoky than the others I’d seen, so I was able to get a couple of ok shots. After the one song, we were escorted out of the pit into the cavernous halls of the venue. All of us were looking at each other like, are we about to be murdered, or something? But they made everyone check their cameras before going back in to watch the rest of the show. Manson is strict like that.

I’m surprised that of all of the bands, Manson has had a slightly different stage show each time I’ve seen him on this tour. He lit up a bible. He made a long, meandering, nonsensical speech about what ‘Texas Style’ means. The girlfriend was there, and I’m sure she was delighted to be serenaded to ‘The Dope Show’. The assistant shtick has somewhat mellowed out. Now Manson has taken to stabbing his water bottles with his knife mic.

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Afterward, I was invited to the afterparty, which happened to be hosted by Killswitch Engage…who, as you know, is my least favorite band on the tour. I was really happy that they had Lone Star beer there, though! Hadn’t had one of those in ages.

HRC’s Mayhem adventure has now come to a close.

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