Slayer's Kerry King during Rockstar Mayhem Fest 2012.

The world’s largest touring heavy metal music festival, Rockstar Mayhem Fest kicked-off the summer season with 42,000 headbangers in its opening shows in San Bernardino and San Francisco, CA July 30-31, 2012. Undoubtedly, this gives an impressive boost to the genre of metal, which was once pushed to the back of musical preferences in America (and coming out strong in Northern Europe). As Mayhem rolls-out in yet another massive summer tour season already it’s clear that metal has attracted an entirely new generation of headbangers.

This year’s line-up includes Slipknot, Slayer, Motorhead, Anthrax, White Chapel, and I the Breathe. In addition, former Warped Tour bands are on Mayhem this summer including As I Lay Dying, The Devil Wears Prada, and Asking Alexandria, indicating that the two tours, both co-founded by Kevin Lyman, have an interesting crossover effect and of course fans and trends.

Lemmy Kilmister from Motorhead during the kick-off of the Rockstar Mayhem Fest 2012.

According to co-founder of Mayhem John Reese, “Mayhem is off to a rip roaring start and we look forward to a great year with an awesome line-up of artists.”

On tour also is the Metal Mulisha Jump Team, the world’s greatest freestyle motocross team in the world, and a slew of interactive sponsors including of course, Rockstar, Jagermeister, Hope for the Warriors, Hot Topic, and Sumerian which also has their own outdoor stage featuring a variety of metal artists.

Opening show of the Rockstar Mayhem Fest 2012 attracted 26,150 headbangers and an on-going circle pit.

The opening show in San Bernardino with a whopping 26,150 in attendance popped the record by more than 4,000 fans for any Mayhem event in its five year history. Slipknot singer Corey Taylor told Rolling Stone, “I know there are some people in this genre who don’t take it seriously. They’re almost uncomfortable with the fact that they make hard music. I think that’s fucking horseshit. The most devoted fans on the planet are heavy metal fans. They’ll stay with you your whole life.”

Devoted fans indeed: the Mayhem band merch tent was packed all day, and long lines for autograph signings were a part of the scene. Most popular merch were was obvious by the scores of people wearing Slayer and Slipknot T-shirts, but similar to Warped last year, newer heavy bands like Asking Alexandria and The Devil Wears Prada are known for their unique merch graphics, mixing cartoony animations with gore graphics and darkness.

Metal Mulisha performs two shows throughout each day of the Mayhem Tour.

Also seen within the metal festival fashion realm were DIY denim jackets with metal studs, sewn-on patches, and creative expressions. Black, of course, rules this festival, but the difference today are the emo-metalheads in skinny denim black jeans, multiple piercings, and tattoos, and long straight angled and often dyed hairstyles.

Once the outdoor festival bands ended on the Jagermeister and Sumerian Stages, audiences moved to the Amphitheatre for spectacle performances including heavy flashpots during Slayer’s set and a giant Ouija Board backdrop during Slipknot spelling out, “All hope is gone.”

DIY denim vests with patches and metal studs were a part of the metal festival fashion scene.

Other highlights from the opening day included Anthrax’s “Indians” that incited a massive circle pit of young fans and a dust storm covering the festival grounds. Just as the crowd seemed destined to burst, up popped Metal Mulisha pulling out all the stops with their wicked freestyle motocross tricks, ending in 3 guys pulling airs back-to-back and ending each with backflips, touching down on the landing ramp just seconds after the other. You won’t see that type of show at the X Games.

The Rockstar Mayhem Fest rolls across the United States until August 5th.

The Devil Wears Prada is part of the new generation of metal bands, formerly played on the Warped Tour.


Asking Alexandria also draws a younger headbanger crowd.
Anthrax got the circle pit in fast motion.
Mayhem merch tent was packed all day. Hardcore fans buying it up fast.
White Chapel kicked-off the first set of the first show of the Rockstar Mayhem Fest 2012.
More from Slayer.
Hair-whipping fan.
Girl in peach.
Rockstar energy drink booth conquered the festival area with devoted fans.
Capoeira dance-mosh was typical at Mayhem. This mix of martial arts moves and dancing is growing among young people in circle pits these days. Once a martial arts performance from Brazil, has now morphed into the preferred method of moshing. Took place mostly at the outdoor Sumerian stage.