Since its inception in 2008, Mayhem Festival has become America’s premiere summer event for mainstream metal, with past headliners including Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, Motorhead, Slipknot, Marilyn Manson and loads more.
This year’s lineup is headlined by Rob Zombie, who played the festival in 2010 and is a veteran of a certain U.S. metal tour that preceded Mayhem. “It’s pretty similar to the Ozzfest,” he told Radio.com, referring to the Osbourne-led affair that led metal bands across America in the late ’90s and early ’00s. “It’s a lot of the same bands.”
But not all of the same bands. Where Ozzfest reached out to include nu-metal and rap-metal hybrids like Limp Bizkit, Hed PE, Tommy Lee’s Methods Of Mayhem, Crazy Town and Linkin Park, Mayhem appeals more to metal purists (though nu-metallers Korn have played both festivals).
Still, Bill Kelliher of Mastodon also notes the similarities between the tours; his band, an Ozzfest alumni, returned to Mayhem this year after playing the tour’s inaugural trek in 2008.
“We did the Ozzfest in 2005, I thought it went pretty well for us,” he said. “So [when Mayhem made the offer], they were like, ‘Remember Ozzfest? Well, it’s like the same deal.’ This was something new. Everyone was telling us about [festival co-organizer] John Reese and that he had his s*** together.”
Shock-rock newcomers the Butcher Babies, who first attended the tour as fans, were determined to make it to the Mayhem stage eventually.
“When we started the band [in 2010], playing Mayhem was a goal we had in mind,” co-leader Heidi Shepherd said. “To be sitting here, years later, playing the festival, it’s a huge dream come true.”
Co-leader Carla Harvey notes that, particularly since Ozzfest ended its run as a U.S. tour in 2010, Mayhem is a “a very important tour for metal” every year. “Nowadays when hip-hop and pop are so prevalent, this is the best place to see all the best metal bands,” she added. Unsurprisingly, they favor Mayhem. Harvey adds, “Sharon Osbourne, don’t get mad at me, but this seems a little bit more fun than Ozzfest! It just seems like there’s more energy.”
Following the model of the more punk rock-centric Warped Tour — which, like Mayhem, was co-founded by concert promoter Kevin Lyman — the tour uses corporate sponsorship to keep prices down. Mayhem features a heavy presence by Rockstar Energy Drink, as well as Jagermeister, which sponsors one of Mayhem’s stages. The bevvy of merch booths give off a headbanger flea market vibe, while Mayhem’s charity of choice, Metal Of Honor, is on the grounds to help raise funds for, and awareness of, organizations that benefit Veterans.
“America forgets about its veterans very easily — it’s terrible,” Kelliher says. “The homeless and jobless rate [among veterans] is horrible. You think you’re doing the right thing, going to war for your country. You are doing the right thing. You go over there, you get your leg blown off, you see your buddies die, you come back here and people don’t get it.”
The festival gives free admission to all veterans, who get special Metal Of Honor wristbands and VIP treatment, including occasional meet-and-greets with the bands. “If we can give someone just a little bit of our time during the day and it makes them happy, that’s awesome,” Harvey says. In addition, Jagermeister honors one local soldier from the main stage each night, in front of the entire audience.
Some of the Veterans organizations that are present at the festival include Military.com, Hire Heroes and Hire A Veteran, all of which work to place veterans in the work force when they return from their tours of duty. The Bob Woodruff Foundation has a presence at the festival. But Rob Zombie says that the charity that he works most closely with is The Puppy Rescue Mission.
Rob explains: “What it is, is a lot of soldiers in Afghanistan would find these dogs and bond with them and sneak them on the bases, even though they weren’t supposed to have them. It was probably the only moment of sanity for these guys, when they spent time with them. Some of the stories I’ve heard are horrible: people would torture these dogs, and kill them for fun. These guys saved these dogs, and really bonded with them. But they weren’t allowed to take them home, and if they could, it was so expensive. That was a cause I could really understand and get behind. Imagine being that far from home and bonding with a dog and then being told to just leave him there and then get on a plane to go home. No way!”
The Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival goes through August 4 in Dallas, Texas. Check the festival’s official website for dates.