Knotfest @ RNA Showgrounds
- This morning I received a message via raven that I was to be restrained and prised from my beloved oubliette to experience the mortal terror of Knotfest at Meanjin / Brisbane’s RNA Showgrounds. The orders came straight from the great Humungus upstairs himself, what choice did I have? I slipped into my Sunday best straitjacket and dog collar and let my dear friend Meat Muppet cart me up to the surface via trolley. Fortunately, the manhole we use for slinking into the studio every Wednesday morning is just a short trundle down the road from the Showgrounds and there was no serious mischief until we arrived. The Meat Muppet dumped me at the entrance, and I wriggled like a bag full of feral cats to the media booth. ID was an issue, as I am incapable of being photographed - but I managed to pass off an old library card I picked up in Alexandria. Beautiful place, no smoking allowed of course.
The struggle was real, but a horde of pasty, tattooed arms released me from my bondage and I was set loose upon plausibly the greatest gathering of metalheads under the high UV index of Meanjin’s Sun. I was confronted with an unusual security measure on the way to the main stage area: no chains, no studs and no spikes allowed. The repercussions of this measure were brutal, piles of jackets and wristbands sat in a vaguely threatening pile as the less perceptive and aware of the mob were shorn of their subcultural identity in the name of public safety. A wise decision likely, and the security staff were kind enough to escort me to my designated observation post in the stands above the main stage without any trouble. Ironically, security had no issues with utilizing chains themselves to secure me to a 3-meter radius area in the shade of the stands above the main stage. Very generous indeed, I’m used to a short leash. They even acceded to my demand for a supply of rum and coke. I perched on my seat like the hideous, pale gargoyle that I am and began taking stock of the scene unfolding around me. This is what I saw.
Insane clowns, blue men and a full gamut of colours ranging from light charcoal to deepest obsidian. The band around which this Knotfest is arranged is Slipknot, although I was quite surprised at the lack of nautical imagery. Rather, the crowd’s penchant for various end-of-life oriented pictures put me quite at ease; finally, I was surrounded by my people. Words like ‘freedom’ and ‘insurrection’ flitted about in my head like the final moments of a dream before waking.
As it happened, one of my gremlins was in attendance and I induced them to chew out my restraints so I could mingle freely with the general populace. Wary of the formidable security presence, I roamed the Showgrounds and absorbed the organised chaos unfolding around me, not before I raised my spirits with a set from Canadian group Spiritbox. Quoth lead vocalist Courtney LaPlante: ‘Slipknot don’t need any of [the support acts] here, they can do this by themselves. They chose to be here… They chose you.’
I went for a wander around and witnessed a full menagerie of Meanjin’s metal scene: long hair, tattoos, occult imagery and the odd ghoulish flourish of corpse paint would intimidate most. Perhaps more alarming to the average punter was the sheer number of these diehard musical metallurgists; the event sold out long ago at a peak capacity of 30,000. Many of our finest headbangers missed the show entirely. Wandering through the huddled masses, I rubbed in some 100+ SPF corpse paint of my own to shield me from mine own mortal enemy – The Sun. I saw world-record holding Australian daredevil Space Cowboy pluck a speeding arrow from the air and suspend a twenty kilo weight from fishhooks attached to his eye sockets. I descended upon the international travelling Slipknot museum and admired the collection of historical artefacts, most impressive of which were Slipknot’s collection of masks from previous eras of the band. According to the museum’s director these masks smell like vomit and beer due to the intense heat of their performances, therefore the masks were hermetically sealed behind glass. Shame really.
The day dragged on and the pitch of excitement grew as each of Slipknot’s support acts alternated on the monstrous dual stage: Malevolence, Void of Vision, Alpha Wolf, Knocked Loose, Spiritbox, Story of The Year, In Flames, Amon Amarth (a crowd favourite), Northlane, Trivium, and Megadeth – these bands were the support acts! At one point in the proceedings, Megadeth killed the entire audience and performed a mass resurrection in the space of five minutes. I churlishly snuck through a wall of seccies and into the pit just in time for Parkway Drive, and the 30,000 strong crowd had well and truly reached a fever pitch. Pyrotechnics exploded overhead the sea of sweaty flesh, it was enough to drive you wild. Parkway Drive were one of the few Australian acts on the lineup, and no doubt they were specifically chosen by the Slipknot team for Knotfest Australia. Lead vocalist Winston McCall’s muscular presence enchanted more than a few of the denizens, his voice blew out early on in the set and this may have something to do with the shorter set than their Melbourne and Sydney appearances. Say what you like about technique or even the metalcore genre, everyone in the audience was amped up and feeding off each other’s energy. Although explicitly banned in Queensland, circles of death and mosh pits opened and closed like the lids of the many eyed faces of the Old Gods. Bottom Feeder was a favourite of mine, and the last of Parkway Drive’s set – I’d never heard anything like this band before.
Slipknot’s ‘Kabuki’ curtain had actually found a way to hang in such a fashion that it could only be described as menacing. The sea of flesh roiled as people scrambled to the other stage. Slipknot had no qualms making the crowd wait, and affable lead singer Corey Taylor (aka #8) was up for a chat after Slipknot’s first track Disasterpiece. I tore off the clinging material of my shirt and joined in the great heaving mass of elbows and knees flailing about the space in front of the stage. Two enormous, raised platforms housed Slipknot’s percussionists Michael Pfaff and Shawn Crahan. Mick Thomson and Jim Root have been staples on guitar for the band since 1999, Jay Weinberg on drumkit, Craig Jones on keys, Alessandro Venturella on bass and last but not least Sid Wilson on turntables; as always, the band were dressed to kill. A few words were said in tribute to the passing of founding member and bassist Paul Gray, the number of black shirts emblazoned with his name demonstrating the feeling of loss between the band and the crowd was certainly mutual. I was chewed up and spat out before the end of crowd favourite Psychosocial, a heaving and dehydrated mess. After drinking about four gallons of water from one of the ubiquitous drinking water tanks, I sat up perched high above the crowd in my original position. Although I had no plans to cause any trouble, there were some with other ideas. One man held up the show for about five minutes after he scaled one of the stadium amp towers, roughly twenty-five metres into the air. He plopped himself down on top as a distinctly Australian voice echoed out over the swarm of metalheads admonishing the gentleman and insisting he come down before the band could continue playing. Taylor played along like a champ, although one diehard Slipknot fan noted that at Slipknot’s last Australian gig for Soundwave in 2015, Sid Wilson had stage-dived into the pit, crowd-surfed to an amp tower, climbed to the top, dove back into the crowd from the top of the tower and crowd-surfed back to the stage. Tall stories? Either way, that was the word on the ground. The same fan was critical about the lack of tracks from Slipknot’s more recent releases We Are Not Your Kind (2019) and The End, So Far (2022). In fact, Slipknot played at least three songs from this era – All Out Life, The Dying Song (Time To Sing) and Unsainted – although it is perfectly reasonable to be somewhat disappointed that these newer albums weren’t so thoroughly explored after eight years away from Australian shores. Slipknot’s last headline tour with Metallica in 2019 had been cancelled due to Metallica frontman James Hetfield’s struggle with alcoholism. Possibly the strangest phenomenon of this all-day event boiled over for Slipknot’s encore tracks People = Shit and Surfacing, the love and fellowship of outcasts. For once in my miserable career, I wasn’t alone; that is the magick of Slipknot.
- Lord Oberon Death.