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Metal, mud, mayhem: Raucous crowd wallows in pounding music and mire at Rockfest

Jonny  Hawkins and  Nothing More were among the acts at the annual fest, which drew more than 50,000 fans.
Jonny Hawkins and Nothing More were among the acts at the annual fest, which drew more than 50,000 fans. Special to The Star

Heavy metal parodist Steel Panther was the most entertaining of the 15 bands that performed at Rockfest at Penn Valley Park on Saturday.

The quartet’s “Party Like Tomorrow Is the End of the World” mocked the excesses on abundant display at the massive festival, while “Death to All But Metal” ridiculed the narrow listening habits of a portion of the audience of about 50,000.

Steel Panther’s affectionate caricature of heavy metal includes preposterously lewd songs and hilarious impersonations of musicians’ theatrical mannerisms. The comedic routines made many of the affectations of the day’s other artists seem particularly absurd.

Korn, the bombastic headliner of the annual festival organized by radio station 98.9 the Rock, might be one of the bands that inspired Steel Panther’s satire. A trenchant fusion of funk and metal made Korn one of the world’s most popular rock bands in the late ’90s. Although Korn made a valiant effort Saturday, its angst-ridden approach was a bit stale.

A rousing set by Syn City Cowboys at the secondary stage opened Rockfest. The steady rain that fell during the Kansas City band’s performance didn’t deter many women near the stage from exposing themselves in exchange for beaded necklaces. The ritual would continue for the 11-hour duration of the festival.

The vast expanse between stages included a zip line, an autograph booth and improvised slides. A downpour as Adelitas Way played in the early afternoon transformed much of the grounds into a treacherous mud pit.

After guitarist Zakk Wylde christened the gargantuan main stage with a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the crowd responded with a chant of “U.S.A.” Wylde’s brawny band Black Label Society later gave one of the day’s most impressive performances. Other highlights included a sultry set by melodic hard rock band the Pretty Reckless and a powerful outing by Five Finger Death Punch.

While the festival ran like clockwork and the sound was more than adequate even hundreds of yards from the main stage, Rockfest is sullied by the problems that plague most large-scale concerts. Medics were frequently dispatched to aid people who had lost consciousness. Women were often subjected to unwelcome propositions.

Aaron Lewis of Staind halted a rendition of “Something to Remind You” to furiously lash out at members of the audience who he claimed were “molesting” a young female crowd surfer.

These incidents were unfortunate exceptions. Many attendees rightfully congratulated one another with continuous rounds triumphant high-fives. The giddy gestures were appropriate on a day of mirthful mayhem.

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