On Friday, Nov. 5, Los Angeles hosted what could be argued as the biggest event metal and hard rock has seen in this decade so far. The event was none other than Knotfest, the traveling roadshow curated and headlined by metal legends Slipknot, who brought with them an incredible roster of bands and artists who are leading the pack of elevating the genre to its highest level in years.
Taking place at the Banc of California Stadium, thousands of dedicated fans turned up in droves to see the spectacle and theatrics that accompany a Slipknot event. The roster was stacked with appearances from Vended, Code Orange, FEVER 333, Killswitch Engage and Bring Me The Horizon.
The festival ran impeccably, with smooth transitions between each of the event’s six acts. Remarkably, the energy within the stadium never dissipated throughout its nearly 10-hour duration. While it’s safe to assume that the majority of the festivalgoers were most excited to witness Slipknot’s performance, the crowd showed respect and energy to each and every artist who graced the stage, making it an experience that everyone felt involved in. If you’re a fan of heavy music and the community that surrounds it, Knotfest is most certainly a place you can call home.
The first standout performance came from FEVER 333, who didn’t waste a single second of their time slot to exhibit their brand of artistic and impactful chaos. The set felt especially powerful in that it was their hometown show, as the band formed only a few miles away from the stadium in the neighborhood of Inglewood. Vocalist Jason Aalon Butler, while already well known for his incredible stage presence and daredevil charisma, managed to push the boundaries of what a FEVER 333 set is.
Butler jumped from platforms, climbed ladders, sang from the stadium bleachers, threw garbage cans, skateboarded off ledges and, of course, delivered powerful and politically charged speeches about equality, safety and elevating marginalized voices. FEVER 333 once again gave a raw and visceral set, with an abundance of power and thoughtfulness. It left the audience charged with energy and a lasting perspective.
Next up was melodic metalcore titans Killswitch Engage, who delivered a set full of introspective and emotional songs coupled with playful stage banter courtesy of their hilarious yet artistically brilliant guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz. Dutkiewicz, armed with his signature pizza guitar, cracked jokes that made the crowd roar with laughter while also never missing a single note, guitar riff or pitch-harmonic squeal that have become signature to the band’s iconic sound. Original vocalist Jesse Leach, who returned to the band nearly a decade ago, has never sounded stronger. Leach has an uncanny ability to produce throat-shredding screams paired with emotional, soaring clean vocals that are chock-full of hooks and could rival any of today’s biggest pop songs.
A highlight from the set was a performance of their nearly 20-year-old breakout single “My Last Serenade,” a song that has now become legendary for bridging the gap between metal and emo, long before the two genres began to intertwine in the way we now expect. All in all, Killswitch Engage sound better than ever with unrivaled technical musicality and lyrical depth.
Following an onslaught of heavy music from the event’s previous acts, the festival took a moment to wind down with a fiery intermission from dance and aerial stunt group Cherry Bombs. The best way to describe the performance would be one part burlesque show mixed with a Cirque du Soleil spectacle of aerial acrobatics and fire play. The group, led by Slipknot vocalist Corey Taylor’s wife Alicia Dove, orchestrated incredible dance sequences set to a soundtrack of select cuts from Spiritbox, Refused, the Prodigy and more.
After the intermission, it was time for Bring Me The Horizon to take the throne. Having recently played a raw and intimate set at L.A.’s Whisky a Go Go just days before the festival, the band were ready to unleash an even more ambitious and larger-than-life production. While the setlist was similar to their secret show, the band supplied an incredible stage and visual design full of striking video sequences, flashing lights and distorted images that felt both nightmarish and gorgeous at the same time.
Highlights from their set included a performance of their 2015 single “Drown,” where vocalist Oli Sykes sang every last line of the song in the middle of the massive crowd, giving the audience a chance to scream along to every lyric as he handed them the microphone. Another highlight from the set was a performance of their latest single “DiE4u,” which truly feels tailor-made for a stadium setting with a massive chorus and constantly rising dynamics.
Bring Me The Horizon have become a household name in not only metal and hard rock but across multiple genres, cementing themselves as one of the most popular groups of the last decade. As their popularity continues to grow, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the band headline and curate their own worldwide music festival in the near future.
Slipknot took the stage in triumphant fashion, starting off their set with a literal bang, courtesy of the fireworks they set off before launching into a massive, career-spanning set of ferocious and aggressive material. A Slipknot set transcends the idea of live music — it creates an immersive experience for all attendees with the inclusion of pyrotechnics, horror-themed stage design/props and of course their iconic masks and costumes that change with every era the band are in.
Vocalist Corey Taylor doesn’t hide the fact that he loves his fans and appreciates their die-hard dedication. At one point, Taylor asked the venue to turn on the lights because he wanted to catch a glimpse of his family, aka the thousands of people engrossed in the multi-sensory spectacle of the performance. Family is an integral part of the Slipknot experience — it’s the fabric of what makes the entire universe that surrounds the band so special.
The band played just about every song you would want to hear from their discography. However, they also managed to make the night even more special with a performance of their brand-new single “The Chapeltown Rag,” which had been released mere hours before they hit the stage, marking the song’s live debut. Slipknot’s set was unrelenting in the best way, and it was hard to ignore how tight and in sync the band are while performing. Each member plays with breakneck speed and almost nonhuman proficiency.
Following a performance of their 1999 breakout single “Wait And Bleed,” the band left the stage only to return shortly for an intense encore performance of classic deep cuts from their early discography, eventually closing out the set with more fireworks and theatrical spectacle. Even if you’re not a fan of Slipknot or heavy music in general, you’ll still find yourself completely immersed and enamored by the experience the band create with their live performances.
As the night came to a close, concertgoers appeared to be in the best spirits, having witnessed their favorite bands perform at such a high level of intensity and spectacle. Knotfest had a beautiful way of bringing people from all walks of life together for a night of music, community and art to its most elevated and visceral state. Leaving the show, many pondered how this event could be topped next year when the festival inevitably returns. While we may not know the answer yet, we are all looking forward to whatever that might be.