Calamity & Viscera
Slipknot is a band known for its visceral nature. Visceral can be defined as deep inward feelings beyond words, primal, instinctual. Or, you can use visceral to describe internal organs, blood, and gore. Both very much apply when you’re going to a Slipknot concert.
You may not get covered in gallons of fake blood à la GWAR, but the imagery is still there. That couldn’t be more apparent from when the curtain dropped and Slipknot came out swinging with a barrage of drumming and blaring guitars.
Satanic imagery is being displayed on every available video screen. Corey Taylor, the lead vocalist, is wearing a mask that looks stitched together with human skin. There’s a flamethrower mounted to a guitar. Mick Thompson, one of the guitarists, looks like he’d be at home as an executioner with a metal mask of sharp slits for vision and air.
The scene is visceral. It’s intense, with fans moshing and sending crowd surfers over the rail at the front of the stage. It conjures up visions of dread and death. It’s not a place that exudes camaraderie and feelings of belonging, but…it does.
Metal is part of the counterculture; it’s meant for the folks that don’t completely fit in with what society wants us to be. An overall community in metal is even present in the most grandiose of settings like the Target Center. While other music genres preach being good to each other, rarely is that practiced, even more so during the show itself.
There was moshing down in GA, but even during that release of pent-up aggression, there was still a space for a 12-year-old kid on his dad’s shoulders in the middle of the pit. The kid stayed atop there with his arms wide open, taking in the music as the moshers swirled around him. Everyone worked together to make sure this kid was having the time of his life.
I am certainly not suggesting this doesn’t happen at other music events. Still, the frequency of it happening at metal shows certainly proves an unspoken understanding that is very pervasive at big and small shows.
Corey Taylor, the lead singer of Slipknot, brought up Slipknot’s midwestern roots and how being a pre-internet resident of the midwest makes us a little different. We didn’t have the luxuries of the coasts, and we certainly were not at the forefront of pop culture.
Because of the relative simplicity of our lives, we dedicated ourselves to what we did have, and because of that, there’s no place where fandom is more aggressive. I certainly have to agree with that statement.
It’s hard to get people in LA or NYC to care much about anything, and I do not blame them. There are many options ranging from entertainment to the natural landscape; it’s hard to dedicate yourself to anything without sacrificing so many other things.
Fandom in the middle of the country is a different breed; it’s intense, it’s obsessive. You see it in our sports, and our dedication to a team that year in and year out crushes our souls. And you see it in music, whether it be in EDM, indie, or metal.
This particular Slipknot show demonstrated the fandom, and with that, the ability for an arena-sized show to still have a sense of belonging that is more akin to something you’d find in a smaller club.
More Fire Is Always a Good Thing
Beyond the sense of family, however, the rest of the show was the bombast you’d expect at a venue the size of the Target Center. There were copious flame cannons, including one mounted on a guitar. The production had literal turrets for Auxilary drummers. There was production integrated with the keyboards and, like many large stadium shows, snare drums to give a little bit of a drumline feel to some parts of the show.
There was a little bit of something for everyone, but not enough to sacrifice the overall feel of a hardcore metal show. It’s a tricky balance to perform, but I saw it executed pretty well here.
The mix of bonafide hits and deeper cuts also were present during the show. Slipknot has this as an art; that experience comes with 19 years of performing and touring, including the early years when the band did some legitimate damage to First Avenue.
There’s a claim by the band that they’re banned from the venue, but they also have a star on the iconic facade. I think First Ave would be more than welcoming, but the band has unfortunately outgrown the venue ten times over.
There’s a Metalhead in All of Us
Metal was my first love, and while I’m listening to a much larger variety of music these days, going to a metal show reminded me of the many things that make it special, whether that be the absolute fire-filled spectacle of a large arena show or the unique comradery among an environment that seems like it should foster anything but that.
A Slipknot show is where someone can be “sold” on metal. It’s a large smattering of many influences that showcases what makes a metal show great. It’s a fantastic entry point for someone who is still exploring the genre but is still a fantastic experience for those with years and years of fandom under their belt.
You always have to worry about your artists selling out when making it to arena-sized shows. Still, Slipknot remains exceptionally unique and unapologetically themselves, a portrait of metal that spawned from the heart of the midwest.