The annual Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival made a stop in Detroit Rock City earlier this year, bringing a full day of metal music to the masses.
While many fans, no doubt, were at the show to see the legends of the genre – headlining acts such as Slayer, Motörhead, Slipknot and Anthrax – as I looked around, what really impressed me was how many young fans were at Mayhem to catch the second and third stage bands.
Looking around the crowd, I noticed just as many black As I Lay Dying and the Devil Wears Prada tees as Slayer ones, and a light bulb went off: This is the new generation of metal music.
Not that the new and classic are mutually exclusive. Because, they aren’t. At Mayhem, newbie bands and bands that have been around for decades were able to coexist. Speaking with several of the groups backstage, it was obvious that the younger acts like Betraying the Martyrs and the Devil Wears Prada were beyond thrilled to be touring with such statesmen as Anthrax and Slayer, and the classic acts were revitalized by the new talent on the bill. There was mutual respect all around.
There were two side stages this year: the Jägermeister Stage and the Sumerian Stage, the latter which featured many budding bands from the Sumerian Records roster. As for the younger bands on the bill, at the Detroit date, the Jägermeister Stage hosted the Devil Wears Prada, Asking Alexandra, Whitechapel, Betraying the Martyrs and headliners Anthrax, featuring the return of lead singer Joey Belladonna. The Sumerian Stage offered I the Breather, Dirt Fedd, Upon a Burning Body and more.
Most bands on the Jägermeister Stage will get a chance to play the Main Stage at some point of the tour. It is a polite rotation that gives the groups an opportunity to play in front of a larger and different audience. That said, in Detroit, the Jäger Stage was packed as soon as the gates opened. These people were here for the new generation of metal.
For bands both new and classic, Mayhem is simply an opportunity to play for new people. Maybe some kids going to see Whitechapel will get turned onto Slayer or Motörhead, and perhaps someone there to see Slayer will discover a new favorite band in As I Lay Dying. The side stages wrapped up early, meaning anyone at the festival to see Slayer was able to check out the Devil Wears Prada or Asking Alexandra without missing their top band, and vise versa.
In an era where so many traveling festivals and blockbuster tours are competing for the same fans, Mayhem was able to sell out its Detroit venue (DTE Energy Music Theatre), pulling in roughly 15,000 rock ’n’ rollers and metal heads. And, yes, lots of them were there for the second and third stagers. Those numbers are a testament to the new generation of metal, which is working hard to keep metal imaginative and ever-evolving in 2012.