Sights and sounds in the heart of the town for all to enjoy.
All photos courtesy of Heaviest of Art, taken at the festival on November 15 + 16.
Following last year's inclusion of MASTODON, CODE ORANGE, HIGH ON FIRE, and POWER TRIP on a richly diverse and exciting debut festival lineup, Adult Swim welcomed IRON REAGAN, INTER ARMA, and DETHKLOK for the second annual Adult Swim Festival, further offering their support for metal on the big stage. However, metal was but one of this year's main attractions for the uniquely curated festival.
Adult Swim upped the ante on experiences for the now expanded festival, which moved from the Row DTLA to the Banc of California Stadium, adding more space and refined sound fidelity to their musical offerings. Aside from two large festival stages, attendees were treated to one-of-a-kind immersive experiences such as The Rickflector, a VR experience that places you inside the animated world of Rick and Morty. Those with a place in their heart for the show could also ride down the Morty Slide and win some sweet Pocket Morty merchandise, courtesy of Wendy's. Let's add a Cat Joust, a Mechanical Hot Dog Ride, a Meatwad Dome to experience 360 degrees screenings of Adult Swim shows, and a plethora of comedy acts. Need I say more?
To pair the above experiences with a diverse musical lineup is a leap of faith, but one that is needed and frequently taken by Adult Swim, who's out of the ordinary creative ideas take audiences by storm. From Metalocalypse to Mr. Pickles and Fishcenter, the network has been home to metal-centric shows for years, offering the otherwise taboo genre a place in mainstream television. Hell, the Mr. Pickles series hosted a Thrash-tacular Metal Tour with EXODUS and MUNICIPAL WASTE on the bill. It takes creative decisions such as these to bring different wavelengths together and with Adult Swim Festival, they're doing just that. An interesting weekend was ahead to say the least, and come Friday, this writer was excited to engage in it all.
Those privy to LA traffic on a Friday night know that it is no laughing matter. However, that did little to stop the wave of riff heads who navigated through congested streets in time to catch Virginia's own IRON REAGAN.
Tony Foresta and crew wasted no time in getting the party started, riling up hundreds and stirring mosh pits as early as 5:30 pm. That's not something you see often (especially on a Friday evening in Los Angeles) but then again, this is IRON REAGAN we're speaking of. Energy was simply off the roof despite the tardiness of thousands and you can thank tracks like Miserable Failure and Bleed the Fifth for that.
Landphil's and Bronzino's fret work were razor sharp and drum work by Parrish was nothing short of incredible. Musicianship aside, stage presence is what truly defines IRON REAGAN as a must-see act. Skotis paraded around the stage, letting the tongue out with every bass lick he hit while the crowd ate it up entirely. Commanding is but one word you could use to describe this outing.
The band's politically charged anthems were an ideal way of kicking off a festival with little to no respect for being normal. Though early in the evening, folks were either moshing, buying Pocket Morty plush figures, riding hot dogs, or immersed inside a giant meatball. Sounds completely normal. Right?
What better way to continue the momentum started by IRON REAGAN than with a crushing display by another band from Virginia, that being INTER ARMA. The Mike Paparo-led force of nature garnered the rage from this year's Sulphur English release and set forth tracks as shattering as Citadel and Howling Lands. It doesn't matter what kind of high quality headphones you may have heard their music on before, because festival speakers and massive acoustics make for the ideal INTER ARMA experience.
Metal heads were banging their heads along to every track on the outskirts of the performing area, enjoying their brews and holding on to those sweet limited edition posters. Other CATTLE DECAPITATION and corpse paint wearing riff maniacs were throwing horns and participating in the many amenities available on the ground, all pictured in the slideshow below.
Aside from acts as prominent as IRON MAIDEN and THE MISFITS, the chances of you seeing metal at the Banc of California stadium are slim to none. Said bands only bring prominent openers, removing any opportunity for underground artists to join large bills, even if it's low on the lineup. Underground bands like INTER ARMA sometimes don't ever get to hit the festival stage, so one must applaud Adult Swim's daring chances to bring new and exciting underground artists to their stadium event. With live performances being a necessity in the longevity of musicians in today's times, introducing new artists to festival stages is a needed element.
Having seen the band in a small, 150-capacity venue, I can testify to the leveling qualities of their sound. Now, having witnessed them on high caliber speakers surrounded by thousands within a stadium, it's clear that this is the way their music is meant to be heard.
INTER ARMA's catastrophic delivery was followed by HEALTH, TIM HECKER & THE KONOYO ENSEMBLE, CAPTAIN MURPHY, and LEIKELI47, all of whom kept audiences on their toes with dynamic musical performances. Each may have not been metal or even rock per say, but music is universal and every soul in proximity to the stage was fully immersed in the vibrations of Thundercat's (CAPTAIN MURPHY) bass and HEALTH's grandiose expressions. After two explosive metal sets, the subsequent performances raised the bar high for the main event of the evening. Rest assured, they delivered.
Enter DETHKLOK, our headliner for Night 1. Joining Brendon Small and Bryan Beller for the band's first performance in 5 years was Gene Hoglan (TESTAMENT), Nili Brosh, and Pete Griffin, rounding up one solid outfit of death metal extremity. Lights were dimmed and the The Tribunal appeared on screen, sparking cheers and sweet nostalgia. As the short intro scene came to a close, Small and co. walked out to smoke and a flashing DETHKLOK logo on stage, turning the crowd into the frenzy. Before you knew it, you were deep into a riff fest, caught inside the various mosh pits and headbanging with every blood curling growl that snuck into your eardrum.
DETHKLOK fired from all angles with each band member at their best, precise and concise enough to form one destructive sound. Sound barriers were surely broken at some point in the set, which included favorites Bloodlines, I Ejaculate Fire, Murmaider, and Thunderhorse to name a few.
A pairing of earth shattering visuals and sonics filled the Banc of California Stadium throughout the set, visible from the active Figueroa St. just outside the venue. Per the image of our friendly corpse-painted friends below (who were among the first people in line), DETHKLOK's set did more than just provide a sense of nostalgia. It got the crowd moving, screaming, pushing, banging their heads, but most importantly, having fun. Those who stood by the rail stared in awe with every riff and Metalocalypse scene placed before them, further cementing DETHKLOK's significance to the scene.
It may have been live streamed, but this was to be experienced in person for full effect. The Brendon Small-fronted unit delivered death metal of the highest order, pleasing those keen to the heavier side of the musical spectrum. Regardless of your familiarity with the Metalocalypse show and your musical interests, sitting through one song in this set cemented the fact that there truly was no better way to close out Day 1.
With no metal or rock acts scheduled for Day 2, you have to wonder whether it's worth returning for the second day of the festival right? Wrong. This is where the party starts.
Consider it a stupid argument, but you can't dance to metal. You just can't. As much as you want to consider moshing and stage diving a dance, it isn't. However, Day 2 of the Adult Swim Festival welcomed the likes of FREDDIE GIBBS, 2 CHAINZ, VINCE STAPLES, JAMIE XX and more, all of which got the hips moving and heads bopping. Where Friday brought the riffs and scorching solos, Saturday brought the electricity through rhythmic flows and eclectic beats. Quite the distinction, but that's Adult Swim for you.
The Tabby and Calico Stages were grazed by a different kind of audience this time around, one with less battle jackets and band shirts due to the genre shift among the lineup, though there were a steady amount of metal heads still roaming around the stadium grounds for the festivities (I applaud you). Musical tastes may have changed, but the Meatwad Dome and Babycat Stage remained unique, offering a plethora of new experiences including an exclusive Season 4 screening of the adored Rick and Morty series. Seeing as there's an overlap between the fandom of metal and Rick & Morty, many from Day 1 made a return for this particular opportunity.
Festival stages opened earlier for Day 2, allowing crowds more time to find parking, hop on the mechanical hot dog, and ride down the Morty Slide. Earlier door times meant earlier musical performances as well, of which NO JOY, NEGATIVE GEMINI, CLIPPING., CUPCAKKE, and HELADO NEGRO offered to all. It's important to note that despite these early set times, there were crowds for each of said artist's performances, which was a welcome sight given the tendency of most LA crowds to skip openers.
Where many may alienate metal from rap/hip-hop, the two genres share similarities that are ever present throughout the themes and lyrical content of each. Day 2 of the festival was testament to that.
Like IRON REAGAN, FREDDIE GIBBS and MADLIB aren't particularly enthusiastic about the man sitting in the Oval Office, so they made it a point to take jabs throughout their respective sets, and hilariously so. Crowds cheered in agreement every time, echoing the rapper's sentiments. Hip-Hop and it's conduits are as political as punk and thrash metal, as observed going decades back. Each promote going against the norm and encourage free thought against mainstream ideologies and systems of government, of which FREDDIE GIBBS threw a middle finger to mid-set. Where IRON REAGAN stirred mosh pits, MADLIB and FREDDIE bopped heads and had hands waving, both in complete unison.
RAPSODY and TIERRA WHACK kept the momentum going with joyous back-to-back sets as the sun began to set on the Banc of California Stadium. With natural light down and stadium lights on, the atmosphere began to change and crowd became electric for the mighty 2 CHAINZ to come on. Crowd pleasers such as Birthday Song, No Lie, and I'm Different made an appearance, charging up the thousands in attendance.
Following a live rendition of the always insane The Eric Andre Show, young VINCE STAPLES took the Tabby Stage for a magnificent performance. Though Staples hid behind smoky darkness for a large part, his stage visuals were one to remember. Renditions of shows from yesteryear, such as Seinfeld, appeared behind the Long Beach rapper, only with him included in certain scenes, making for a humorous sight as he jumped from Blue Suede to Big Fish.
The predominantly rap/hip-hop day came to a close with an electronic offering by way of Jamie xx. Being one-third of famed group The xx, Jamie brought an interesting palette of sounds to the table, including a variety of techno and house, adding an interesting musical layer. The DJ's set was paired with smoke, disco balls, and flashing lights, closing out the festival with a different vibe altogether, but still one that was welcoming to audiences across the board.
Again, distinctions between the musical offerings of the 2-day festival prove that Adult Swim is continuously invested in pushing the boundaries of creativity, as seen in their otherworldly television lineup. It's not everyday that you can say that you saw 2 CHAINZ and DETHKLOK perform on the same festival, but it takes a leap to even consider putting said artists on the same bill. Now, take that diverse lineup and add a projection screen inside a giant meatball, a hot dog mechanical bull, comedy shows, a butt load of beer and what do you get? A great fucking time.
Now two years into existence and two rich lineups later, it begs the question as to what organizers have in store for years to come. New Rick & Morty experiences? More electrifying musical lineups? More beer? You can check off all of these boxes.
Until next year, Adult Swim.