Imagine camping in a huge meadow with thousands of other tents. The weekend has barely started off, and already you are drenched in sweat while your body has become a glorious mud bath. All around you, people are becoming more bruised, scabbed and dehydrated by the hour. Indeed, they are reverting to the survival mode of our ancestors – yet they could not be any happier. The flow of alcohol remains bountiful as the town vibrates under music. Welcome to Montebello’s Amnesia Rockfest 2015.
This year, the festival gets off to a particularly harsh start with a night of lightning and rain, followed by a scorching sunny morning. The porta-potties’ odor permeates the area as some occasionally overflow, and any individual courageous enough to infiltrate the 4$ showers exits even dirtier than upon their entrance. This festival is definitely not for the faint of heart. Yet being there, one feels happier than ever. Artists, hippies, punks and people from all around the world merge into one beautiful community built around amazing music. Welcome to Montebello’s Amnesia Rockfest 2015.
The actual festival area was divided into two main sections: the calmer, more intimate Tony Sly stages were luckily separated from the three main stages that attracted masses of obnoxiously drunk men and people whose tattoos defined all rules of aesthetics. As firecrackers exploded all over the place (and even in the neighboring streets – complete lack of respect to the locals), many people found quite an interesting usage to the free condoms generously distributed around the town. Thus, around the streets and even during the shows, you’d have condom balloons, blow-up whales and naked mannequins beyond tossed around the crowds.
As I mentioned in my preview , the festival lineup itself was extraordinary. Tragically enough, it would have not been humanly possible for one person to assist all of the shows. However, most of the bands I saw really do deserve a lot of praise. The Voodoo Glow Skulls (ska punk) really impressed me when their lively trumpet would brassily mimic their lead singer’s laughter. Bad Religion was a blast, as always – their songs are so short that the band has the time to pack in a huge portion of their discography in one set. Their lead vocalist, Greg Graffin, is quite the sophisticated (not to mention peculiar, for the punk scene) character. While singing, he would gesture as though he were giving a lecture: confident and knowledgeable, Graffin really came off as a wise and open minded university professor (which he is, as a matter of fact).
To add more “entertainment” to the event, we had Steve-O (a charming fellow from the Jackass TV series) to amuse us – quite the downgrade from Henry Rollins’ spoken word poetry performance of last year. (I left after Steve-O started explaining to the audience about how he “chugged beer up his ass”, but the few seconds of his performance that seeped into my ears horrifically lacked humor.) At least he was immediately followed by Sublime with Rome, whose song Smoke Two Joints triggered quite the generous sharing process (people just really wanted to “spread the love”, after all). The crowd awaiting Skinny Puppy, however, was quite annoyed at how happy Sublime’s music is and they kept jeering until their favorite industrial band came on.
Now the Skinny Puppy set was honestly one of my favorites of the whole festival. Skinny Puppy did not just casually play a set; they gave the audience a full on show. The lighting and fog corresponded perfectly to how crazy their music is – fluctuating from sinister and dark to smooth and groovy, the strange sounds echoing from the stage really set listeners in a pseudo-trance. The vocalist, Nivek Ogre, entered the stage sporting a skin colored mask, fake needles piercing his body in various locations. To the horror of the crowd, as Nivek’s mask got pulled off, fake blood gushed everywhere, camouflaging his face in crimson liquid. He spent the rest of the set prancing about the stage energetically, occasionally faking a horror movie-worthy seizure. Ogre continued squirting the fake blood all over the place, spewing red all upon the stuffed dog placed in the middle of the stage (the toy helped enhance how much Skinny Puppy fervently oppose animal testing). On the other hand, Matthew Setzer (on guitar) resembled a tribal vampire with his porcelain white face, black dreads and dark rings moving up along his arms. He later explained to me that although the dread locks are real (they took him over 14 years to grow), Setzer had to spray paint them black. And he had to wrap duct tape around his arms, spray paint it and remove it to leave such perfectly symmetrical bands around his limbs. I also got to catch a quick conversation with Nivek after the show – as he was whipping fake blood off his face, I even found out a little more about what it was like to act in Repo! The Genetic Opera:
Nadia Blostein (NB): The whole concept of using a mask theoretically made out of a real human face really reminds me of Repo! The Genetic Opera (my all-time favorite rock-opera). Was that movie a source of inspiration to your costume design? Who designed your costumes?
Nivek Ogre (NO): Well actually, I designed my full costume myself. And talking about Repo, I played the character Pavi in the movie. However, I was into the whole “mask made out of a human face” idea way before the movie came out.
NB: Geez, I never realized that Pavi is also part of an industrial band… And because of the entire social stigma associated with Paris Hilton (one of the actresses in the movie), I have to ask: what was it like to work with the rich young lady?
NO: Honestly, beyond how distorted she has gotten from the media, I really got to know her as a human, and as a pretty sensitive and relatively unhappy human at that. She was actually really cool to work with and she smoked a lot of weed during the movie shooting. She even made each actor a cute, childlike collage at the end of the production. It was also pretty sweet to work with Anthony Head (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
I left shortly after, not to bother Nivek with his whole clean-up process (his whole body was quite bloody, to be honest). Next, the Descendents were playing at the same time as Linkin Park. Although I naturally did not even venture close to the latter’s show, it felt kind of off to have Linkin Park, traditionally renown as cheesy sellouts, playing on the main stage whilst the highly influential Descendents were at Tony Sly. Tony Sly did make the Descendents experience a lot more personal though. Although the Descendents are getting kind of old (sadly), it was nice to hear some of their classics live – they even recited their legendary distortion of the Ten Commandments: The All-O-Gistics. Thus concluded a fantastically draining first day at the festival.
Keep your eyes peeled on Thursday (July 2nd) for the detailed recounting of Day 2, with all the resulting adventures.
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