Buzzfest Brings The Noise, And The Pain

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For many, many more shots of Sunday's bands, see our slideshow here. For the really fun stuff - crowd shots! - see our slideshow here. Sunday, Aftermath spent ten hours wading in Buzzfest XXIV's radio-rock and classic nu-metal at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. It's hard to fathom that since 1995, there has been a crystal anniversary's worth of these things, picking from whatever the bountiful modern-rock tree was bringing forth each corporate quarter. This year we got to see the return of Limp Bizkit, the Deftones on the mend, Three Days Grace making us feel dirty, Seether enticing us and Switchfoot giving us a gospel Foo Fighters show. You get the feeling that a lot of the people who go to Buzzfest may not get enough live music in their lives. Each spring and fall, the Buzzfest faithful make up for the dry months in between by going balls to the wall for nearly 12 hours of sun, fighting, flirting and copious drinking. Yes, you can go off and wax elitist about how "Ah man, those people suck" and "Nothing but a bunch of assholes," but Buzzfest is just Warped Tour for the real party people - the hearty ones who will fight with cops, take pictures of random strange titty and will gladly replace any and all internal fluids with Miller Lite. Our day started out with Switchfoot, one of the biggest breakouts in Christian alt-rock over the past decade, on the main stage. Now they aren't so much a religiously leaning group as much as they are nice-guy everyman rock. Every song is anthemic and built for maximum uplift, including the everlasting "Dare You to Move." Lead singer Jon Foreman went out into the crowd to rouse everyone from their seats halfway through their short set, and was the first bright bit of the day. Around 3 p.m., the Deftones turned in the loudest non-Fred-Durst-related set of the day. The band is now without bassist Chi Cheng, who was left alive but in a near-vegetative state after a 2008 car accident. Where most bands would retreat into mourning, stalling the creative juices, the Deftones have reached back to their hellfire Adrenaline roots, tempering them with the same lush ambience they debuted with on 2000's White Pony. The band sounds more ferocious than ever, and singer Chino Moreno has slimmed down since we last saw him live some five years ago. "Rocket Skates" and the title track from the new Diamond Eyes were both loud and aggressive wonders. The new material achieves a clarity we haven't seen from the band in at least a decade. Old stalwarts "My Own Summer" and "Be Quiet and Drive," from 1997's Around The Fur, sported a new sheen to them live, with replacement bassist Sergio Vega now holding down Cheng's vacant spot. After the Deftones' set, we took a few hours off to gander at the sights around the venue. Guys were going shirtless when they shouldn't, and girls were going near-topless to show off their surgeons' handiwork. By mid-afternoon, the beer had set into the crowd, and people got surly, lusty or just plain sloppy. The merch tables were selling product with a quickness, including a pair of Seether panties that read "Fuck Me like You Hate Me" across the ass. Three branches of the military were out in force, using pull-up bars, free tote bags and machine guns to draw in interested potential recruits. As the early evening arrived, we settled in - unawares - for Three Days Grace's set. For someone who never listens to 94.5 FM save the odd trip to NTB, we sure as hell knew (at least vaguely) a good three-quarters of the band's songs. Aftermath didn't realize the Canadian band was so ubiquitous, with most everyone shoved back in under the tent and on the lawn for them. It's still kinda unsettling to hear 15,000 people chant "I'd rather feel pain than nothing at all," but who are we to judge? A strange eerie pall set in after TDG left and stagehands prepared for Limp Bizkit's closing slot. The band has largely been inactive after guitarist Wes Borland's second departure in 2005, and honestly, in the interim we heard largely nothing but good riddances being thrown their way. But sure enough, the entire Buzzfest audience was packed in as tight as could be around 9:25 p.m. It's funny how different the public perception of the Bizkit is from what actually transpires once the prospect of seeing the band live again is set on the table. It really was as if Durst and company had never left the scene at all. With the original classic line-up reinstalled and most everyone still in their same 1999-era heyday regalia (Durst's red ballcap and baggy pants are now the stuff of low-brow iconography), the band launched into "Hot Dog" from 2000's Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water to a million whoops from the crowd. Borland was half-naked and covered in gold paint and fur, naturally. During the band's 90-minute set, the president was still a philandering white boy, Britney Spears was still half a virgin and an iPad was something your mom bought when she got her monthly bill. The band's old '90s schtick has now passed into tradition, along with KISS costumes and Iron Maiden's Eddie. Nothing has changed since 1999, with Borland still dressed up in ghoulish garb nightly and Durst gorilla-prancing all over the stage rhyming "fuck" with "fuck" like a Tourette's-ridden Robert Frost. If anything, it was comforting that nothing had been trifled with. "Break Stuff" and "Nookie" came about halfway through the set and, of course, this being Houston, nothing could reasonably go off without trouble. An especially endearing moment was hearing every soul in the crowd scream "Break your fucking face tonight," which had to have echoed all through the Woodlands, making the well-to-do citizenry shudder with fear. Right then, we looked back to the lawn and saw a man getting kicked into the front barricade as the song faded out. "Nookie" began, and two more fights instantly broke out on the concourse where we were watching the show. One guy took a swing at a cop and was wrestled to the ground, and (somehow) a secondary fight started out of that one. In their tidy worlds, some would like to think that the blame could be leveled at Bizkit and Durst alone - but sadly, this being H-Town, the same thing could have happened at a Coldplay show and we all know it. A guy on the way out almost knocked over a beer cart while he screamed, "This is the best show I have ever been to in my life!" as his wife looked on in horror. Another random bro in agreement howled in the distance, like coyotes on a prairie. Walking out of the show, we wondered out loud to our company if our city shouldn't just embrace its brawling roots and run with it. We obviously can't control ourselves after one beer, and we sure as hell can't be trusted to not bust another person's face for looking at us incorrectly and act like every night is like Gilley's circa 1978 at closing time at any major musical event. Let's just make concerts lawless and wild from here on out, what do ya say, guys? Being the upstanding citizens we are, though, Aftermath will let you take care of the stilletto blades and brass knuckles.

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