BY DYLYN PETERSON
Staff Writer, UAS Whalesong
Aftershock Festival is an annual weekend metal concert in Sacramento, California. Previous years haven’t been as impressive as this one, with such bands as Tool, Korn, Disturbed, and Avenged Sevenfold. I flew out on the night of the 21st, and begrudgingly missed several days of my Spanish class. I would have my karmic retribution, however, because I got so sick I couldn’t reliably stay conscious on the 24th. At the time of this writing, I am still occasionally coughing up chunks of lung.
The following are a number of anecdotes from my time in California. All of these stories are the unembellished truth.
The moshpit for Meshuggah forms like a protocell, or a star, exploding into existence at the first note. I spend most of the set as part of the phospholipid membrane, selectively permeable only to the most hardcore-looking dudes, pushing back the people inside. It is chaotic and dangerous, and therefore appealing. A man shoves his way through the crowd, eyeballs me with a glazed-over look, smiles like only mental patients do, and happily hands me his giant bag of popcorn with a gentle nod. He proceeds to break somebody’s nose, by accident, I’m sure. After seeing three or four more over the course of the weekend, I discover that moshpits always flow counterclockwise.
Meshuggah is the reason I am here. I have ended an eight-year respite from air travel, and spent more time on planes than in my entire life previous, to see them, to see Jens’s glorious singing faces, to be amazed that anybody can play some of these guitar parts. I am not disappointed. They begin to play “Bleed,” their signature song, and I try to push past my mother to join the moshpit, my first time. I tell her, “My people are calling me.”
“Hang up the phone,” she says.
I borrowed the title of this article from Maynard James Keenan of Tool. He said it to introduce the song “Ænema,” from the similiarly-titled album Ænima, which is a personal favorite. Over the course of the song, a laser light show completely blocks out the sky, and puts a roof over the audience. A man behind me leans over to a buddy, and says, “Remember when it was just a couple of lights?”
My spot is only as good as it is because I’ve been standing here for eighty minutes. I felt pretty clever when I decided to skip out on Slayer, but apparently so did the three thousand people around me. I can feel the bones in my feet begin to fuse, and my Achilles tendons fray, but I will not leave, I will not sit down. I’ve gone halfway across the continent to see this. Besides, it hurts less when I dance, much less when I sing along.
My mother has a very interesting time. At the beginning of the second day, she loses track of Serena and I, and decides that the best way to find us is to get as close to the stage during every show as possible. Being youngsters, my partner and I spend most of our time at a respectable distance, as we value what little remains of our hearing.
Entertaining side effects of my mother’s strategy soon start to emerge. At such proximity, she has special access to the objects band members throw off of the stage, things like guitar picks and drumsticks. Additionally, my mother is a tried and true weirdness magnet; I’ve seen random homeless men in downtown Juneau recite poetry to her, apropos of nothing, at least three times. They were all great orators, too. Between these two things, the story she told me is not surprising, although it is quite impressive. It supposedly happened entirely in the span of five minutes.
The hilarity begins at the end of Korn’s set. Already, my mother is shellshocked by the notoriously violent Korn moshpits, and not at peak mental performance. The band proceeds to, after thanking the audience for coming and being so great (and we were), distribute a number of signed frisbees. My mother manages to catch one, but within seconds, a crazed man wrestles it out of her hands. She is angry, and in her dissatisfaction, grabs hold of the man’s sensitive area, in the hopes of inflicting some degree of physical pain to match her emotional distress. The man does not visibly react, and disappears into the crowd.
She then takes a moment to catch her breath. In so doing, however, another fellow materializes out of the crowd, and, for no discernible reason, slips his…uh…I suppose the polite term would be… Well, he slips his penis into her purse. Thinking he was trying to use her purse as a urinal, she spins around, and manages to disentangle his genitals from her personal effects. She may or may not have smacked him in the head; she flip-flops on that.
It’s about then when my mother notices a strange woman poking around in her hair. Naturally, she doesn’t respond well, because the precedent at this point would be highly disturbing. After slapping the heck out of the lady’s hands, she discovers a bass pick from my high school hero, Fieldy of Korn.
Naturally, she doesn’t find any of this very notable.
Altogether, these stories were well worth the health toll I paid. Who needs to be able to breathe, anyway?