It was wild Day One on Friday at the Dubai Desert Rock Festival as some of the world's biggest heavy metal
and rock bands shook the stage to its core at Dubai Festival City.
The lineup included none other than mega bands Machine Head and Korn as well as Killswitch Engage, As I Lay Dying, Slapshock and Dubai-based band Nervecell.
The turnout was smaller than expected, with approximately 3,000 very young revellers, who appeared to show their support. Fans wore predominantly black with T-shirts screaming slogans from their favourite metal
Some revellers turned up in leather outfits, some had their faces painted with black make-up, while others strutted their stuff with mohawks, black nail polish and plenty of spiky accessories.
The day started at 3pm with Filipino band Slapshock taking the stage first. The sun was shining, but there
was a welcoming breeze as people walked around the concert venue where there were stalls set up selling
T-shirts, a children's tent with computer games and a clown, and the Infusion Dance Tent, which pumped out
house music and enough smoke to choke you.
At first, the dance tent seemed an odd addition to a heavy
metal festival, however it proved to be quite the escape and an oasis in the middle of the sometimes unbearable monster-like screams from the deathmetal bands. At times, the roaring voices from the stage sounded as if doomsday was upon us and one half expected to see monsters and dragons descending from the darkening skies. Alas, that did not occur. Still, the metal heads in the mosh pits certainly seemed to be lapping it all up as they headbanged furiously and crashed into each other.
By the time Killswith Engage took to the stage, the audience was well and truly warmed up. Speaking to
tabloid! before their show, guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz, said that the only thing they wish for is that people enjoy their music.
"It's cool being on stage to see some really stoked out people being happy hearing our music." On stage later, the musician was decked out in denim shorts, a sweat bandana and a long cape. The people in the crowd looked happy indeed. They certainly seemed relieved to be letting out some bottled-up feelings of aggression.
Next up were Machine Head who showed the audience what they're truly made of and why their latest album, The Blackening, won them critical acclaim and a Grammy nomination. Five minutes into the show, however,
the music stopped and lead singer Robb Flynn declared in the microphone: "We have just been warned that I
was saying too many swear words for the Desert Rock Festival." Then he laughed and screamed to the crowd,
"You guys kick butt. Actually, you kick a**!"
Later he told the fans: "This is a metal concert. That's what it's all about... We're not actually trouble makers. We're trouble magnets!" And as the band rocked the stage to oblivion, he yelled: "Do you feel like losing your mind tonight?" It seemed, that yes, the crowds certainly did.
The anticipation to see Korn had now spread throughout the arena. People ran quickly to grab a bite to eat at one of the food stands, to return and wait for the headlining act of Day One. Korn didn't make them wait too long. The beginning of the show was grandiose.
A smoke screen engulfed the stage as lead singer Jonathan Davis ran out into full view amid screams from the audience. Wearing a long, black leather skirt, knee-high black boots and his signature rasta-like hair, he definitely stole the
show. The sound was great and his voice was wonderfully clear.
Bass player Reginald "Fieldy" Arvizu showed his awesome talents as he played his instrument vertically, while the drummer threw his drumsticks in the air and caught them with ease before he cracked them down on the hardhats.
Davis prowled up and down the stage with proud ownership as the band played hit after hit song from their over 25 years of playing rock music, including songs such as ADIDAS (All Day I Dream About Sex), Kiss, Falling Away From Me, Coming Undone, A** Itch and Freak on the Leash. Davis even appeared on stage playing the bagpipes, a signature sound of Korn.
Addressing the screaming fans he said: "Dubai! It's a pleasure and an honour to be performing on this
stage tonight... If it wasn't for you, this band wouldn't be here." He then yelled later: "I want to see you go crazy. Can you do that for me?" After an impressive two hours of great rock music, Korn played their final encore of the night, Got The Life, and after showing their appreciation and greeting their
fans from all the corners of the stage, Korn left the stage, ending Day One with the perfect bang. And on cue, the fireworks started.
Only moments before they rocked the stage at Dubai Desert Rock Festival, I caught up with Phil Demmel of heavy metal band Machine Head. The lead guitarist was looking like a true rock star with tattoos up his arm and long hair. But he was certianly not feeling like one. "I was at a hospital for four hours last night, so I am fighting chills. I spent the flight over
shivering. It has been the worst two days of my life. I think I got it from my son before I came out," he said. But in true rock star spirit he added: "We're gonna get through it. We're gonna rock tonight!"
The 41-year-old was happy to be back in Dubai. Machine Head first performed here three years ago at Dubai Desert Rock 2005.
"We're really excited to be here. It's bigger, it's a lot more professional. We really feel the love when we're here," he said, adding that he thinks their fanbase has grown since then. "I think we kicked some tail last time we were here, so I think the word has got around," he laughed.
Machine Head was first formed in California, US, in 1992 and have been plagued by lineup changes for many years due to drug abuse and other problems since its inception. However, Demmel declares that this is the final line-up. "Oh yeah, this is it. Nothing is changing now." This is perhaps why Machine Head are known to be one of the best metal bands live worldwide. chemistry
"Nobody touches us live. We're the best live band," Demmel said proudly. The reason for this, he concludes is that "there's a chemistry with the band. The chemistry with us live... it's just special."
If you've ever wondered what metal bands like Machine Head do to get charged up for the stage, Demmel said: "We like to put on some good metal that we like to listen to, like some Panthera... something that really gets us hyped up. We warm up a little bit. We practise our instruments and we stretch. We're getting a little old, so we need to stretch out," he laughed. Machine Head's latest album, The Blackening (2007), was recently described by some as the band's
masterpiece and was nominated for a Grammy. "It's doing really well. We've got so many accolades from this
one. It's critically acclaimed. More people need to know about it," he said.
And for those die-hard Machine Head fans who are looking for another album soon, you might as well forget it , for a while at least. "We're going to be touring all this year and next, so don't look for a new Machine Head album until at least 2010," Demmel said.