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Extreme Thing 2014

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If you’ve lived in Vegas for more than a year, no matter who you are, then you’ve heard of Extreme Thing. The annual festival put on by X 107.5 is usually on the last weekend of March, and has the most diverse lineup of Rock, Metal, EDM, Pop, Punk, Hardcore, and Ska. There is also a Battle of the Fans each year to give the local groups a chance to showcase their talent on these main stages. Past shows have had groups like Suicide Silence, Bad Religion, Avenged Sevenfold, Mindless Self Indulgence, Anti Flag, and Less Than Jake to name a few (yes, in comparison to ALL the bands that have played this festival, that is a few). This year’s lineup was

 

The start of every year is always met by a massive line at the gates. I saw a Facebook post from the organizers this year at 8:00 AM that had people already waiting in line for an 11:00 AM opening. I got to the gates around 11:00 AM and didn’t get in until noon, which was perfect timing as we walked in right when our friends in We Gave It Hell were starting up on the Hard Rock Live Main Stage. Expect big things from these guys. This was their second year opening up the main stage of Extreme Thing after going through the Battle of the Fans, and they did not disappoint. If you love to get down in the pits or hardcore dance, then We Gave It Hell were is the perfect warm up for the rest of the day. After seeing these guys numerous times in tiny local venues like Eagle Aerie Hall and Ultravoilet, I can say with confidence that they’re meant for the big stage and should get used to it very soon. Besides hearing some great songs like “N.O.S” and their new single “Under Lock and Key”, the part of their set that I enjoyed most was seeing the day’s first Wall of Death. There’s nothing like seeing two sides of a crowd split down the middle, then run with brute-force into each other with a hard blast of metal as the soundtrack.

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The next band to come was Suffokate on the Findlay Chevrolet Stage. Even though the stages are so spread apart, it’s a fun time making the journey. Between the Hard Rock Stage and Chevrolet Stage ,there were numerous merch booths, carnival rides, and drink stops. I had to make my way to the Victory Records tent to get a goody bag, and I’m glad I did because the compilation CD they had for the season was pretty damn good. Between the two stages is also the Amateur Wrestling Ring, the BMX Six-Pack, numerous tents of food, and the Monster Energy Stage, where the EDM sets were taking place. While I didn’t hear much of the EDM sets that day due to so many bands that were playing, there were some notable local DJs like Byra Tanks, Bombmakers, Durdee, and Zack the Ripper that I could hear rockin’ the crowd every time I walked by. If you were there for the EDM, I’m sure that they blew your minds that day like they always do. You can check most of them out at shows around town put on by Ravelation.

DSC_4035With time to spare we made it to the Findlay Chevrolet stage to catch all of Suffokate’s set. Now, I’ve been waiting to see these guys for a while. They’ve gone through a lineup change with the original singer Ricky Hover leaving the band, but the guy filling in was amazing. The pit was complete violence! They went through songs like “Slaughter Your Enemies”,” The Hole Beneath”, and “Force Fed”, but what I was waiting for was the last song of their set, “The Skies Were Filled With Fire”. The lead into the song is tough as shit, with a pause and a calm voice saying, “Pussies”, then complete chaos breaks into one of my favorite descriptions of how an Apocalypse scenario would go. I was very pleased with how that set was carried out.

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Next up was my wildcard of the day, Sleepwave, on the I.A.D.T stage where Taking Back Sunday and The Used would later be headlining. Sleepwave is headed by the former screaming vocalist of Underoath, Spencer Chamberlain, who is one of the singers that made a huge impact on my teenage years. Going in with an open mind I would soon find out that it was not open enough. Spencer had sang with clean vocals with soft instrumentals to back them up. I was really disappointed in not only the quality of his voice, but the stage presence that they had produced. I actually felt bad for making my friends join me at the stage. Needless to say, after two songs I apologized to them, and we made our way back to the Hard Rock Café Stage to catch the rest of Volumes. DSC_3910

I had seen Volumes a couple of months ago with Texas In July, A Ghost Inside, and The Devil Wears Prada, and they were a great spectacle to see. One thing I like about Extreme Thing is being able to catch these bands that I’ve gone to places like The Hard Café, House of Blues, and The Joint to see, and being able to appreciate them in a completely different environment. Volumes are one of the bands that completely transforms when they are outside of a venue setting. We had caught the last three songs of the set which were “Limitless”, “Intake”, and “The Columbian Faction”, which I heard at Hard Rock Café months ago, but they were intensified so much more with a sea of people chanting, waving their hands side to side, and moshing at an outdoor festival. As a band that have broken into the scene recently, they have definitely made a statement and aren’t going anywhere for a long time.DSC_3903

Going into every Extreme Thing, I always have two or three bands that I can’t miss out on. Last year was Comeback Kid, Aquabats, and Mindless Self Indulgence. The year before was All Shall Perish, Zebrahead, and Underoath. This year was no different, and the bands were back to back after Volumes. Playing first on the I.A.D.T Stage was Letlive, then on the Hard Rock Stage was the Australian metal band Thy Art is Murder, then one of my new favorite bands No Bragging Rights on the Findlay Chevrolet Stage.

 

Letlive has been one of my favorite live sets for the last couple of years. I’ve seen them open for Enter Shikari twice, and both times I remember being blown away by the stage presence of the singer Jason Aalon Alexander Butler(yeah… long name). He reminds me of the old-school punk singers that would tear the stage up before half way through the set. I remember the first time I saw them he had completely torn apart the drum set, pissing the drummer off beyond belief, but their road crue were able to get the drums back together without missing a beat. Knowing that he would do some kind of stunt again, there was no way I was missing their performance that day. At the I.A.D.T Stage they had massive banners set up on each side of the stage, and during their third song “The Sick, Sick, 6.8 Billion”, Jason had undone the bottom parts of them, letting them blow in the wind like massive pirate sails. Eventually they would be tied back up by the stage crew, but it was hilarious when it happened. I’ve always said that Letlive reminds me of a new age Rage Against the Machine, and Jason confirmed those beliefs by giving a shout out to them between two of their songs and saying they were a huge influence on the band. What was even more awesome was his tribute to punk rock. He had called out a person in the crowd that was wearing a Bad Brains shirt and asked for a circle pit right before playing ”Fix Me” by none other than Black Flag! It honestly made my day.20140329_141929-2

While Letlive finished their set with my favorite song from them Renegade 86’, my friends and I headed back to the Hard Rock Stage to get a good spot for Thy Art is Murder. On the way there we were immediately stopped by the greatest thing in the world… a little food stand called Deep Fried What???. My god, this was the most brilliant food related attraction I laid eyes on that day. Knowing I would be in a coma if ate it then I passed, but that didn’t stop my friend Andy from getting a deep fried smores. IT looked like heaven. I don’t know if it was knowing that Thy Art is Murder was coming on, or some magic in the smores, but he was on a warpath to the stage and there was no stopping him. We had gotten to the Hard Rock Stage with time to spare and made our way to about half way through the crowd. When we settled we met a couple of younger kids and sparked up a conversation. Turns out they had caught Thy Art is Murder and Emmure on their tour a couple of nights before and confirmed our thoughts that we were in for something amazing. During sound check everyone immediately cheered when a big boom of 808 hit the speakers, and moments later, Thy Art is Murder hit the stage and all hell broke loose with the track Defective Breed! From teenage kids who looked like they were there for Of Mice and Men and Bring Me The Horizon, to the veteran looking metal heads, everyone immediately let their fist and kicks go and tore that pavement up! I had to kick a couple of people pack to avoid getting knocked out a couple of times, but that’s the price we pay for being on the edge of the pits. After a couple of songs they had played what I was waiting for, The Purest Strain of Hate. The intensity was phenomenal! I would have joined this war scene if I didn’t think I would die in the process. Before they had broken out their last song, Reign of Darkness, it was called once again for the crow to split down the middle. The entire floor was cleared except for the chosen stupid people that like to hang out in the middle of the wall that think their tough shit. As soon as the song kicked in, both sides charged and made one of the greatest wall of deaths that I have ever seen. It was so brutal, yet one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen! My friend Andy described it as, “I though the skies were going to open up and the apocalypse would start at any moment. Beautifully said in my opinion.20140329_150658-2

After gathering ourselves and making sure we didn’t lose any comrades in the chaos, Andy and I made our way back to the Findlay Chevrolet Stage to see No Bragging Rights. They were sort of my “guilty pleasure” of the day. I had only started listening to these guys a couple of weeks before the show, but I was in love their melodic, hardcore style the first time I heard them. I had already known their set list before going into the festival and only wanted to get through their third song, Cycles, so we could rush back to the Hard Rock Stage and see the end of Emmure. They had started off the set with “Appraisals and Omission’s”, which was so pleasing to me. Being a fan of meaningful lyrics, I was overcome with joy being able to scream the words “Thanks for never being there when I needed you” with hundreds of other people who felt the same energy from these words as me. After that was the song Lagacy, which again, is so well written and has a sense of understanding to me, that I couldn’t hold back from singing the words at the top of my lungs with the most enthusiasm as I could push out. The phrase “Pockets empty but full of memories, my friends and family are my legacy” is forever imprinted in my head after hearing that song for the first time, and again it was my pleasure to be able to sing those words with the people who wrote them. Next was Legacy, the song I was waiting for. Before playing though, singer Mike Perez spoke to the crowd and told us the meaning behind the song. With many references to his father, and not being like him, I had an idea of what it was about; but I was completely wrong. At one point in his life, Mike had found out that his father was physically abused by his grandfather. While Mike’s dad never brought that into his family, he never wanted to become like his grandfather and put the torment that his father went through into his own children. It was by far the most meaningful spectacle I had seen all day, with Mike nearly in tears saying these words, then immediately going into the song with the starting words being, “This cycle, must never repeat. This must end with me!”.

 

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I wanted to stay longer but we needed to get back to the Hard Rock Café Stage to get to the last of Emmure’s set before it was too late. Once we made it back through the sea of food and merch tents we were met by the massive crowd that was watching these guys. Emmure is a favorite set of mine to see. Although I’ve seen them multiple times, there is always something crazy happening in the pits while they play. During their show at Extreme Thing in 2011, there were so many bodies dropping from hits to the face that I couldn’t even keep count. Unfortunately, we had only gotten to the stage towards the end of the set, and didn’t want to make the effort to get through the huge amount of people since we would be leaving for another stage soon. I did get to hear my favorite song “When Keeping it Real Goes Wrong” which made the journey back over to them worth it.

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When we had regrouped with the crew, it was time to get back over to the AIDT Stage to see one of the most anticipated performances of the day, but before I describe this next set I need to set the mood for my emotions at this point. On May 5, 2012 I had tickets to see one of the most influential bands in my life play their farewell tour, Thrice. The lineup was O’Brother, Animals As Leaders, and then Thrice closing out the show. Not knowing much about Animals As Leaders I was more than eager to get into them and support the act at the show that night. After listening to Animals As Leaders for a solid three weeks, I was ready to witness one of the greatest jam bands rock it out. Unfortunately, I had gotten to the venue right before the intermission when Thrice was going to play and missed out on Animals As Leaders.

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This day at Extreme Thing was my chance at redemption, and it was so sweet. We had gotten to the stage as the crowd was forming, and got a nice spot in the back to appreciate the entire stage. My friend Mike who was mainly there to see the group, made the hype of the set even more anticipating for me, talking them up and saying how much he couldn’t wait to see them the entire day, and after the start of their set I understood why. The three-piece band with two guitarists and one drummer took the stage and immediately made a statement with the cleanest, most mind bending melodies that I have ever witnessed at a live show. I found myself dazed just watching the scales that were being played on a guitar so big that I couldn’t even count the number of strings on it, and with the most precise drums backing them up. Guitarist Tosin Abasi makes the absence of vocals so elegant with each pluck of a string speaking its own story.

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After appreciating the skills of Animals As Leaders for about five songs, I had noticed that No Bragging Rights were at their tent near the stage selling merch and signing autographs. Being able to hear them the entire time, I walked over to meet one of my favorite bands. While they were chatting it up with other fans, I bought a shirt and asked if there was anything to get signed. They first showed me a little postcard-sized flyer which would not be good for my autograph collection. I asked if there was anything else, and thankfully they had a good sized poster for tip which was perfect. I was able to get everyone from the band to sign the poster. While Mike was signing, I was able to chat with him about the song "Cycles" and how I appreciated him opening up about the meaning behind it. One thing I like about good bands is when they’re humble. Any artist can be the most talented person at what they do, but if they back that talent up with a douchey attitude, then they will never gain the respect of fans like me. One of my favorite things in music is being able to associate myself with bands that I like, and then meeting them to see that are more appreciative of you, than you are of them. No Bragging Rights showed me that they are the type of band that I can value as artist and respectful people.DSC_4866

It was around this time that the day really began to wear on me. After listening to the last songs of Animal’s As Leaders set, we went back over to the Findlay Chevrolet stage to listen to After The Burial. Instead of getting into the crowd, we sat back in the grass and enjoyed the set from a distance. After The Burial were a lot more precise than I had expected. It’s hard to back up what these guys play on album, but they match it beautifully with every vocal, breakdown, and blast beat live. Towards the end of the set, I could see that the crowd was pretty rowdy, even from where I was sitting. Their last song, “Your Troubles Will Cease and Fortune Will Smile Upon You”, was quick to get stopped after someone had gotten hit pretty bad. I wasn’t able to see it, but the singer had even called it out, asking “Is he okay?”, and from the amount of paramedics going towards the stage, I don’t think he was.

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Before letting that distract us, we made it back to the Hard Rock Stage to see Killswitch Engage. Again, we sat in the back and enjoyed the set towards the back, which for Killswitch, was a long way back from the stage. Even though there was a good distance between us and them, the sound was perfect. While liking certain songs that I’ve heard from them, I’ve never been a huge fan of Killswitch Engage, but I can now see why they are such a pinnacle in the metal community. Their live shows are non-stop, metal in your face for a full hour. I would gladly pay to see them away from a festival next time they come out. From the amount of people I saw get either bloodied up or carried out by paramedics, I can tell it would be the type of pit I want to see too. Their last two songs were definitely the ones I wanted to hear from them (besides “Holy Diver” which was absent for some reason), “The End of Heartaches” which was one of my favorite songs in in my early years, and “My Curse” which I’ve jammed so many times on Guitar Hero, that it will never leave my mind. It was great getting to know they were just as good live.

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When Killswitch Engage concluded we made our way back onto the other side of the park at the IADT Stage to see The Used. With the show officially into the night, it was so hard to get effort to even move my neck for a mini headbang. We had decided to again sit in the back on the grass for the first couple of songs. I’ve been able to enjoy The Used twice before, so I wouldn’t have been upset to miss their set to get to a comfy couch. After a group decision, we made our way to the exit near the Hard Rock Stage so we could get home. Although there were many bands like Issues, Bring Me The Horizon, and Taking Back Sunday that I had missed, I was completely satisfied with the day.

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Extreme Thing is always going to be one of my favorite outdoor events to go to every year. There haven’t been many that I’ve missed. From when the show is announced in the beginning of the year, to the day of, Extreme Thing will always be one of those things I plug whenever I see an opportunity. Even though X 107.5 doesn’t really play the hard rock jams that we’re used to, they still know how to put on a hell of a show; and as long as they keep my interest peaked with good bands at this festival, I’ll never miss it.

 

We had the ZrockR staff covering all aspects of this year’s Extreme Thing! Be sure to check out an exclusive interview with Killswitch Engage guitarist Joel Stroetzel by Marcus Miller. Marcus got a lot of good questions to one of the only original members of an iconic metal band. Then let Stephy Hayward take you into the rest of the festival with The Used and Taking Back Sunday. It makes me wish I would have stayed to see them.

 

 

All photos ©Alexander Zayas, Christina Rosenfeld, and Vinnie Corcoran

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