CONCERT REVIEW: Knotfest Roadshow – Slipknot – Killswitch Engage – Fever 333 – Code Orange Live at DTE Energy Music Theatre

Entering DTE Energy Music Theatre was like walking into a theme park. There is a reason why it was rated first in the world for Pollstar’s 2019 year’s end rankings. Last weekend an army of black shirts with dyed hair walked through the outdoor amphitheater’s large gates. The late afternoon was pregnant with the infancy of Autumn which carried a refreshing crispness in the air. The tingly weather placed the multitude of concert goers in a rambunctious mood. The well-groomed music venue is accompanied with exceptional landscaping and pretty restaurants that set a peaceful tone which would be greatly contradicted with the night of mayhem ahead. Slipknot was in town, and they brought the Knotfest Roadshow with them.

Knotfest is a music festival that was created by Slipknot in 2012 and has touring plus destination fests in multiple countries. This year they gathered a pretty impressive lineup. The weight of anticipation swelled right before the first opener of the evening. The show started off with everyone’s engines humming with fervor as the fresh faces of Code Orange were seen. The hungry act from Pittsburgh claimed the stage in the unforgiving sunshine at 5:30pm. They did not have the cloak of darkness to conceal them in any mystery. With no attempt to blur the edges, they were simply exposed. They are an aggressive act who decisively did not shy away from this kind of vulnerability. The balance of main vocals between Jami Morgan and Reba Meyers provided a sincere cadence of well roundedness. Their presentation of impactful cleans and distorted was delivered with confident awareness that allowed no room for any kind of hesitancy. This Alternative Metal act barged in and unleashed an adolescent fury, because they knew no boundaries and fought with fists of relentless indignation. Meyers signaled to the audience with her snarl letting us know that the group had a contempt they needed to proclaim. This anger was accompanied with a nonchalance that invited us all into their world of stewing storms. The lack of theatrics revealed this act’s merit. They were undiluted and animated with fierce movement and energy. Their raucous music could be the Modern Garage Metal that we all need. As their hair and sweat flailed, so did the emotions of angst and urgency. Morgan addressed Detroit by saying how they’re from the Steel City which he declared is “another hard-working city”. This kind of acknowledgment leads to scattered cheers through the early attendees. The physicality and momentum behind their demonstration revealed an honest effort of heaviness which allows one to take note of this promising band’s future endeavors.

Fever 333 was next. This baby band formed in 2017 that hails from California turned a lot of heads when their music began to roll out. This three-piece act is a cocktail of genres including old-school Punk, Hardcore, and Rapcore. Each member eccentrically expressed their art very physically which is reflective of early Slipknot themselves. Vocalist Jason Aalon Butler liked to preach and proclaim to the stingy, yet enthusiastic early crowd. He saw a mix of people in the audience and shared, “This type of diversity and this type of love is America”. His commending was an honest appreciation of the small crowd. It’s not an easy feat taking on a large room with mostly empty seats and this trio did just that. They played with a fiery versatility which made them distinctive and memorable. Butler attempted a backflip and slipped out of his loose-fitting jumpsuit in the effort. He stood before us in his undergarments and firmly professed his provocative song. He was not hindered by this kind of exposure and welcomed the openness which shed light on the band’s earnest and organic outrage. Their uninhibited presence seared through the crowd and left a lasting impression.

Setting up for the next act always goes quickly. Killswitch Engage has a modest and slightly minimal looking layout, but in no way limits the epic sound they can create. This East Coast Metalcore veteran act knows no bounds and instantly delivered their signature raw, untainted aggression which immediately connected and seeped into the growing crowd’s senses. This quintet illuminated with color and passion with their provoking heaviness. They played a solid setlist including “My Curse” and “Rose of Sharyn” which reflected the band’s valued and diverse discography. Each member played with intention and focus making them ready to declare their art. As someone who has witnessed this act for many years, Adam Dutkiewicz came across more somber than normal which laid a blanket of maturity over the whole band. Yet he did still have a few zingers. In a brash voice he shouted, “We like metal riffs” and encouraged some kids to start a pit. Justin Foley on the drums is the strong backbone of the band. He keeps the momentum and power of the whole gang moving forward. There is a force and precision in their well-established sound. Jesse Leach’s and Dutkiewicz’s vocals are dynamic and danced together seamlessly. A song off their newest album, “I Am Broken Too” hit a chord with the audience and intensity of emotion was raised. Fierce, heartfelt grooves on numbers like “Strength of the Mind” and “Us Against the World” roared with triumph as the sun set and night took over the stage. Leach’s effortless vibrato and earnestness conveyed a unique strength of prophetic truth. He said it was beyond an honor that Slipknot invited them out. The partnership and reliability felt between the members revealed a contagious love. They were a united front that represented a family and this wave of unity surged and spilled over into the crowd with power and passion. They ended their set on a high note with their famous cover, “Holy Diver”. Truly a worthy opener for Slipknot.

As the crowd prepared for the headliners, many stood on their tippy toes with readiness to see the band that graced the front of their shirts and hats. The curtain dropped and the glory that is Slipknot stormed the stage. The act besieged the music theatre and captured each person present with their opening number, “Unsainted”. I was immediately reminded of Shakespeare’s Globe in London. This playhouse is a replica of where William Shakespeare wrote out his plays and where commoners would gather to watch the wonder of the writer’s originality. M. Shawn “Clown” Crahan gleamed in his red clown mask as he and “Tortilla Man” hung from their percussion towers and as Sid Wilson slinked about in his theatrical death mask allowed one to think how these nine guys are putting on their own play and we, the commoners get to marvel as they perform their genius. The spectacle that is this broadly defined Alternative/Nu Metal band from Iowa carried their own thematic glamor and allure. Rage reigned as they bombarded with hits like “Psychosocial” and “Wait and Bleeds”. Though their agility has lessened over their twenty-plus-year career, they still scurry like demons around the stage prompting havoc. Each member appeared antsy and marvelously animalistic. Frontman Corey Taylor runs around a little less these days, but still swaggers with determination and confident assurance. There was fierce poetry proclaimed from each member as they expressed their intensity through their playing and presence. Like good theater does, a frenzy and fire was set loose and a primal savagery took over. The chaotic, yet intentional aesthetic, the practiced bombastic noise, and authentic musicianship revealed how this band is a well-oiled machine. Slipknot is a beautifully orchestrated show with a strong dose of spirit and soul. The spectacle in the anarchy and crude deliverance is incredibly satisfying to witness. The authoritative, haunting laugh of Taylor carried and added to the thematic. Stimulation prevailed and shined with the finesse from guitarists Jim Root and Mick Thomson. They strummed with persuasive and passionate density that deeply permeated. It was a particularly special evening since it was Root’s birthday. We all sang together making the crowd connect. Taylor asked for the lights to be “turned up” a couple times so he could look at the crowd and address them in full light. He declared the band had been coming to Michigan since Ozzfest in 1999 and planned to keep coming back. The depth and chug of the last number, “Spit It Out” scorched with thoughtful intrigue and brilliance. Through the warmth of pyros and lights, Corey thanked the thousands that had assembled. The crowd clung to the last moments of their heroes being tangible in front of them. When the show ended the crowd went limp with their idol’s absence. The wind was taken out of many fan’s, but the hope of Slipknot’s return rests in many of their hearts.

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