I had the unique opportunity to be a stage manager for this year’s Summer Slam, courtesy of Pulp’s Cris Ramos. It’s the headbangfest’s thirteenth iteration, and I confess I only have been to one before, in a year I cannot recall except for the fact that I was asked to surrender the chain of my chain wallet at the gate–I never got it back and that was the end of my chain wallet-wielding days.
That said, I never found myself wanting to go to Summer Slam again. Not that I was reluctant to surrender a metal object in my person–maybe it’s a confluence of various reasons like having friends growing old with me and with that age the reluctance to find oneself in moshpits and circle dances, and keep up with the physical demands of and maintain a mindset for such situations.
And there’s personal motivation: At one point I told myself that I will only go to Summer Slam only if I’ll be performing on stage. The desire to take photos of the event only followed some two-three years ago when I got more into rock photography than I used to, but the first reason still remained on top. Yes, some awesome and legendary bands have graced the Summer Slam stage like Lamb of God, etc., but there has to be enough reason.
Last Saturday, that reason came. I was asked to perform on stage, but not as part of a band. I was asked to be stage manager. Cris briefed me a few days before Summer Slam about my duties and responsibilities during the event, gave me a few tips, let me ask a few questions. He gave me a shirt and a pass, and then agreed to meet on Saturday.
Oh, and he told me I can take photos when the coast is clear.
Of course stage management is the priority, and I had to be alert at all times. It’s not as if there would be monotony on the job: eleven bands, dozens of members to please, a handful of stage hands to work with, and the various laws of the universe are enough to keep me on my toes for more than half a day. But these bands, particularly the foreign acts, are to play long sets, so I’m sure a couple of minutes snapping from the stage sidelines won’t make my job performance suffer.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take decent photos of the first three acts (Chicosci, Philia, and Mr. Bones and the Boneyard Circus), all of them homegrown. Those were the feeling-out rounds of this eleven-round slugfest, and I was just getting the hang of things. Plus, things have to be kept snappy during those times so that the show could be on schedule as much as possible–it’s a dream, and it’s something worth following with a little compromise and negotiations here and there.
Everything was dandily rolling along when something happened just as the third band were setting up.
It rained. Acutely-angled torrents of rain ushered in by winds of worst timing. The band tried to play through it in true rakenrol fashion but the microphones and speakers started giving out. Equipment was getting wet, and every hand was in deck trying to cover up those precious gadgetry and expensive apparatuses with tarps and everything else we could find. The show had to stop for nearly an hour to save the equipment and the entire show itself. The crowd that gathered by the time Philia was playing scampered to the bleachers of Amoranto stadium, and some were even worried we could lose the swelling crowd due to the outpour. But good ol’ Ramon “The Doctor” Zialcita shone through the rain clouds and assured the fans the show will push through. God bless that man.
The late afternoon summer sun fulfilled The Doctor’s promise, just in time the equipment was good enough to be back in full operation, albeit the video wall needs a bit more time to dry up. But a rock show just needs to be loud, first and foremost, and it went its course. As soon as things were going smoothly, I unsheathed my camera from my bag and snapped away at every chance I get. Sure, I can only take photos from the side and the back of the stage, but I still consider my position privileged, so I made most of it. Here’s some I managed (and the rest can be found here):
A Skylit Drive. The first foreign band to grace the stage for the day warmed up the crowd–a gross understatement considering the intensity of the crowd’s reception and the summer heat. The posthardcore band set the tone for the rest of the day with a spirited and frantic performance.
Circa Survive. Circa Survive fed off the hot crowd to deliver a sweltering set, in a more soul-stirringly frenetic pace. I also had the opportunity to steal a shot of vocalist Anthony Green before his band went on stage in a calmer mood compared to his delirious performance persona.
DragonForce. One of the most anticipated bands of the event was everything everyone expected: Blistering musicality coupled with a blazing stage presence made for a DragonForce show to remember for ages. If Summer Slam XIII was anyone’s first ever rock show, or if anyone had the opportunity to watch only one band in the show, DragonForce would define the night.
Coheed and Cambria. Along with A Skylit Drive, it’s Coheed and Cambria’s second time in the country–the first one was a fevered solo show last 2010. Albeit playing a shorter set than three years ago, the band dished out a scorcher for the fans. Fireworks accented their closing song “Welcome Home”, lighting up everyone and the summer sky.
As I Lay Dying. The headliner brought with it an inferno, and quite literally. Flame blasts shooting up from the stage emphasized the savagery of As I Lay Dying’s metalcore sound, completely burning their performance into the memories of everyone in Amoranto Stadium.
Cannibal Corpse. “All you motherfuckers are going to die tonight!!!”, growled George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher as he introduced one of Cannibal Corpse’s songs, after which audiences heads rolled furiously to the band’s grinding cadence. The veteran death metal band churned out a set that personified the genre itself: the sound and the persona moving the crowd to neckbreaking headbang orgies, frenzied moshpits, and circle dances.
I was physically spent by the time Amoral went on stage, and I apologize for the lack of photos. I admire the Finnish band’s dedication despite being pushed back in their schedule due to that freakish wind and rain, delivering a spirited performance that turns out to be a technically sophisticated amalgamation of melody and metal brutality.
Summer Slam XIII can be summed up as the triumph of fiery performances and metal fans over the winds and rains that almost cost the show and everyone’s fun. I heard that crowd reached record numbers that day, and that could only mean good news to fans looking forward to next year’s show. Alas, it is still the middle of summer and of the year and there are more shows coming up!