Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival has been going for 7 years now, but this is the first year it has come to Tennessee. For reasons I’ll get to shortly, it’s probably the last time too. The touring festival rolled into Millington, TN (just north of Memphis) on what could only be described is the most insufferably hot day thus far this summer. By noon temperatures had risen into the upper 90’s and with the 60% humidity, the heat index was 104 degrees. I was told that this was the most miserably hot date of the tour so far, and it was certainly the sweatiest Mayhem Fest I’ve ever been to. Things were a tad bit different for this particular show because it was the last date booked on the tour–Avenged Sevenfold were not playing it and because the venue was a racetrack, the main stage was actually trucked in just for this date.
Other things also seemed to be running less smoothly. Security decided not to open parking until 1pm, but the first bands hit the stage at 1:05, so the local opener and Canadian black metallers, Erimha (one of the bands I had so looked forward to seeing) had already played before I could even get in amongst the sparse crowd that was mostly made up of other bands. Erimha seemed to try to make the best of it and the band members watching them were good sports and jokingly moshed to the music. I got in just in time to see King 810 take to the stage with a bizarre setup. First, the stage was taped off with yellow tape reading “Crime Scene Do Not Cross.” There were also plumes of stage fog that seemed to continuously emanate from around the drum set. Continuing the gritty theme, the band had several individuals onstage with them with fake AK-47’s and bandannas covering their faces. There was a lot going on, and it was rather comical given that at most, only 100-200 kids had made it in–with many stuck in the traffic trying to park. I’m still not sure what to make of King 810 myself, but the crowd there seemed to be very familiar with their music and were quite happy to sing along and rock out despite the heat.
I missed the next round of bands on the Sumerian and Victory Records stages while seeking out shade and finally getting the chance to apply sun screen (since I’d rushed in to see King 810). By the time I’d returned to see Veil of Maya, the crowd had already doubled in size. The band took the stage to “Subject Zero,” and followed that up with “Punisher” and “Crawl Back.” These guys didn’t seem phased by the high temperatures at all, and were all over the stage and truly a fun band to watch.
Unfortunately though, Wretched was on at the same time on the Victory Stage, which thankfully, because of the venue, was only ~500 feet away! I sprinted over there and to catch “My Carrion,” “Cimmerian Shamballa,” and “Wetiko.” While these guys are highly skilled musicians, they’ve definitely got a great sense of humor. This was evident in their stage attire, with the entire band sporting Erimha booty shorts. The rest of their set was fantastic and I managed to return to see Veil of Maya play “It’s Not Safe To Swim Today.”
Darkest Hour were up next on the Sumerian stage, playing a set that opened with a new track “Wasteland” off their freshly-released self-titled Sumerian Records debut. This was followed up by another new track “Rapture in Exile” and then by several older songs including “Demon(s)” and closing track, “With a Thousand Words to Say But One.” Their set was definitely planned to appeal to older fans while also showcasing the new material that they’ve just released. As a longtime fan myself I was excited to hear old material dating back to their 2005 and 2007 releases, and enjoyed the new songs too.