Reliving the rush of Aftershock 2021

Reliving the rush of Aftershock 2021

After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Aftershock Festival returned to Sacramento’s Discovery Park for not three, but FOUR days! This year was the fifth installment of the event and brought a lineup that included Metallica, The Original Misfits, Volbeat, Cypress Hill, Body Count, Rancid, Gojira, Social Distortion and many more rock and metal favorites. As fans poured in from all over the world, one thing became clear, this was going to be bigger and better than any year before.  If you have never been to Aftershock, it is an alternative music and arts festival that features the multiple genres of punk rock, hip hop and metal, along with multiple art galleries that feature art from the likes of Dave Navarro (Jane’s Addiction), members of Anthrax and other weekend performers.

Discovery Park’s 50-acre event grounds allowed for three large stages, lots of local vendors and ample food options — including gluten-free and vegetarian options! One of the things that was noticeable this year, as compared to years before, were pop-up churro/pretzel/ice cream vendors randomly stationed around the festival grounds, allowing for quick treats for festival-goers. These pop-up mini food vendors were particularly valued by families, who did not have to wait in much longer meal lines. Another new addition was the KOLAS lounge: an interactive, cannabis-friendly “village” featuring circus performers and cannabis vendors, along with a psychedelic screen lounge area for attendees to chill out and enjoy their medicinals. 

Photo credit: Lexie Alley

Day One (which was actually bonus day added for fans who so graciously waited two years for the fest’s return) included Oxymorons, Fit for a King, Death Angel, Knocked Loose, Exodus, Testament, Anthrax and, a personal favorite of this reporter, Cypress Hill. Upon entering the fairgrounds on Day One, there were several large live painting installations set up throughout the venue. In addition to that, the event grounds had set up several photo opportunities for fans, such as extra-large prints of several album covers and a fallen angel throne display, complete with an Aftershock employee who would take photos of your party for you.

Cypress Hill closed the night, performing hits like “Here Is Something You Can’t Understand”, “Rock Superstar”, “When The Ship Goes Down”. They even brought out Public Enemy to do a song! Cypress Hill was the perfect headliner for Day One.

Day Two — which was many fans’ first day at the festival — was a punk rock powerhouse of a day.

The lineup’s headliners included Bay Area favorite Rancid, alongside Volbeat, Dropkick Murphys and the first set of Metallica for the weekend (with the second set being on Sunday). To fans’ surprise and delight, Metallica opened with “Whiplash” and went on to play favorites “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” “Fade To Black,” “Battery” and more. As Metallica finished with “Seek and Destroy”, the sky was illuminated with a combination of some very impressive pyrotechnics (which you could feel from pretty far back in the crowd!!) that was quickly followed by a literal fireworks show! As this reporter exited the fairgrounds, churro in hand, you could hear fans of all ages showing their excitement and sharing their favorite moments from the day’s performances.

Photo credit: Nathan Zucker

Day Three had an energy to it that was particularly light and fun. Upon arriving at the fairgrounds, it was sunny and warm, with not a cloud in the sky. After checking out several of the near complete art installations that had been being painted throughout the weekend and grabbing an album from one of the record vending tents, the first set we stumbled upon was DED, who are currently on tour with other Aftershock performers In this Moment and Black Veil Brides. DED is an American Nu-Metal band from Tempe, Arizona who is made up of former members of Greeley Estates and Man Made Machine.

The sets that were most impressive during the day were Machine Gun Kelly’s and Body Count’s. During Body Count’s performance, lead singer Ice-T brought his young daughter onstage who — in a red tutu — proceeded to headbang away. Ice-T let the crowd know that the band was joined by his teenage son, which made for a true family venture. Machine Gun Kelly was a performance all his own and was one of the few performers of the weekend who truly made the stage, and the accompanying buildings, his own. Considering the last metal festival he played, where Machine Gun Kelly appeared to have started beef with Slipknot lead singer Corey Taylor, there was much anticipation to his performance from all Aftershock attendees. Kelly proceeded to climb up adjacent buildings to the stage, run down the middle hugging and shaking the hands of fans, climbing onto the lighting displays and truly immerse himself in the crowd. Kelly and his band made for a fun environment that brought many new fans to the festival for the first time.

Photo Credit: Steve Thrasher

The next several hours were filled with experiencing Mudvayne in all its original member glory, (along with their four costume changes) and singing along to every Offspring hit one could want to hear before grabbing some amazing food from Sacramento’s favorite food truck, Bacon Mania. The Original Misfits, featuring Danzig and Jerry Only, then took to the stage in full original-styled regalia: devils lock, leather pants, face paint and all. Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein shredded his guitar as Glen Danzig belted his signature punk-meets-Elvis style. To much surprise, drumming for The Original Misfits was Dave Lambardo (of Slayer), who did not miss a beat and maybe even added a couple to keep us on our toes! Jerry Only quite literally destroyed three bass guitars onstage and proceeded to throw their remnants into the crowd.

The performance will no doubt go down in history as one of the most iconic stage performances of The Misfits’ career. 

The last day of Aftershock brought the return of Friday’s headliner, Metallica, who performed the Black Album in its entirety. Before fans had their faces melted and their minds blown by Metallica, they indulged in the sounds of Window 7, The Cold Stares, All Good Things, The Blue Stones, From Ashes to New, Mammoth WVG, Steel Panther, Yelawolf, Black Veil Brides, In This Moment, Pennywise, Mastodon, Rise Against and Social Distortion. Two bands that really surprised me were .grandson and Law. The former is a rap-rock alternative band that actually just dropped a new song with pop star Ke$ha and Blink 182’s Travis Barker; the latter is southern California’s latest head-turner, which (as many fans of Aftershock may not know) is fronted by Jakob Nowell, lead singer of Sublime Bradley Nowell’s only son. I was impressed by both bands’ energy and commitment to engaging their fans during their set. If you haven’t yet, check out our Aftershock 2021 playlist here!

For the first time in its history, Aftershock had four full days of music. The last and final day of Aftershock brought some final numbers that were quite impressive. In total, over the four days of Aftershock, 145,000 fans attended and 30 million was brought to the city of Sacramento. Out of the fans that attended, 75% of the fans were from out of the Sacramento area. Considering all of the new improvements this year, along with the additional day of music, we can’t wait to see what they do next year!

Official Recap Video from Danny Wimmer Presents:

Cover & thumbnail photo by Nathan Zucker

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