Want an alternative to the metal-core, melodic death metal, stoner, and dinosaur metal that is Ozzfest? Well, Dave Mustaine & Megadeth, along with progressive metal leaders Dream Theater, have put together a tour targeted at metal fans who like a little more musicality in their music. Along with bands like Fear Factory, Nevermore, Symphony X, and others, Gigantour made its way around the US this summer, making a stop at the Mid Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, NY, and Sea of Tranquility's Ken Pierce and Pete Pardo were on hand and each gives a full review of the festival. In addition, we have some commentary from Jack Toledano who was at the Jones Beach show on Long Island.
Read on for the full coverage of Gigantour!
When I was offered the opportunity to cover the "Gigantour" it was a goal of mine to try and do this in a venue that I had never been to previously. Of course The Jones Beach Amphitheatre or the PNC Arts Center would have been an easier commute and travel but this is Metal and raising the bar a notch is what I am all about. I opted for the performance that would be held at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie NY. As many Metal heads know by now the "Gigantour" is the brainchild of Megadeth's mastermind Dave Mustaine. The show is colossal and features a number of varied and very interesting Metal acts. The roster for the show I would attend would be as follows: Bobaflex, Drykill Logic, Symphony X, Nevermore, Life Of Agony, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Fear Factory, Dream Theater and of course Megadeth. Not as numerous in line-ups as the Ozzfest, but in all honesty I prefer a festival to not be overblown either. It loses some of its appeal if there is too much going on and makes it very difficult to report on.
Before arriving we had heard that both Bobaflex and Drykill Logic would not be performing yet in the parking lot we saw a Bobaflex van and inside heard Drykill Logic's set come to a conclusion. So much for advance tips but we would have missed them anyway for when we arrived we were given issue with our allotted photo badges. Apparently a number of fakes were being shown and as a result they got changed one hour before doors opened. This change however did not funnel down to listed people and their photographers so it made entrance into the venue an absolute delight. Even when I was cleared and made it in the venue and then to the photo pit with the now "approved" pass I was denied because it was a "fake". No one in Security knew the left hand from the right and made a normally frustrating deal ever more complex. With no one in the place being on the same page we were lucky that our Friend Chris Caffery was around and got us Working badges. Thanks man, you saved the day without realizing it and allowed the event to be covered to the degree it needed. We walked in as Symphony X was preparing to come on as and I love this band for they are so energetic. As always, singer Russell Allen clearly delivers the best he possibly can. Yet also in this performance I would find some fault with the sound as it seemed very distorted at points and inconsistent at others. This was not the fault of the band. Add to that it was incredibly short. The band played five numbers and it seemed as quick as they came onstage that they were gone. Symphony X is one of those bands that I think all fans of bands like Queensryche and Fates Warning should pay attention to for they are great live and merit a lot more acclaim than they have gained thus far.
Jeff Loomis from Nevermore
Up next would be Nevermore and after absorbing some of their latest release "This Godless Endeavor" I was very excited. Of course it would prove to be a problem as now it was time for me to interview one of the guys in Fear Factory. Down to the depths of the venue we trekked and right past Dave Mustaine himself. He was reading and lounging on the couch so I did not want to disturb him pre show. For a few minutes we got to chit chat with Burton of Fear Factory and the overall impression was their excitement to be on the tour as well as discuss briefly their pending release "Transgression". On completion of our interview I raced up and back to the photo pit only to realize that Nevermore was in the middle of their second to last number. Once again a super power of Heavy Metal getting only 5 tunes. Needless to say the stuff I saw was serious business and showed that this band was as good if not better in the live sense. While the set list seemed to show only the video single "Final Product" you can be rest assured that the group will feature more of the tunes from this new CD. I also caught them performing "Enemies Of Reality" and look forward to seeing them again. There is rumor to them supporting Opeth in the Fall so if that comes to your town I advise you look into it.
Life Of Agony: I had just seen LOA at a recent Mudvayne show and admit that they impressed me more at that show that on Gigantour. Here they performed well. Yet they seemed a little out of place in the context of the bands that preceded them on the roster. It also became apparent that they were not being well-received by the audience immediately around me. I have to say that Nevermore's set seemed hard to beat in terms of sheer unbridled Metal. I noticed the group getting a large number of negative commentary shouting and some middle finger high signs going off. Now, I am not a fan of that especially when the band is being ultra enthused on stage, but I did feel a better selection or an earlier slot would have been smarter in this instance. I can't name a song they did since I was trying to shoot some photos and not be in the way of road crew who were moving stuff around almost consistently during this set. For the band I felt this was a good gig for them as they have not been in the public eye that much until their latest album, so perhaps other audiences liked them more. The played longer than the 30 minutes that Nevermore and Symphony X were given.
Dillinger Escape Plan: This was definitely the most craziness that I have ever seen and the minute they came on I did not like them since it was so much screaming and yelling. However as they progressed in the set, I was starting to detect a very adept level of musicianship. You needed to focus on it a little because it was just so frenetic that it would pass you faster than you expected. They did some cool things, and their guitarist is a madman while he plays. They were confined to such a small area of the stage which could not have been fun for them, and if I can draw one complaint on their set it would be the tossing around of the microphone stand and swinging the mic itself in such close quarters to everyone (band members and photographers down in the pit). This is not a band for everyone and if I am one of those people I have to get back to you on it. I remain on the fence.
Fear Factory were certainly among the most impressive acts of the night. We heard that a tune would be played from each of their albums as the band had been allotted a mere 30 minutes as well. I was starting to notice a disturbing trend. They made sure to give a sample of their new release "Trangression" by playing the title track as well as songs like "Archetype" and some others. The group had one of the cleanest sounds of the evening and one of the cool parts of the show was the brief Pantera jam and gave a shout out to Dimebag. Clearly Dime's absence from Metal music will hold some impact for a long time. I would have liked to hear more of the new CD from them as my advance copy was very interesting. The band does their own version of a U2 song and one by Killing Joke in addition to their brand of Metal. It is worth looking into.
Dream Theater: Truly these guys are Leaders in the Progressive Metal field without any question or any doubt. Everyone in the lineup is a virtuoso on their instrument and James LaBrie is a powerful front man who walked the stage like a regal King. On the drums is Mike Portnoy who has one of the most incredible drum kits ever visualized or imagined could be put together. This is clearly a drum techs worst nightmare and must require a map to store and put back together. John Petrucci remains one of the finest guitar players ever and that's the easiest way to put it. He belongs on the G3 tour, although he has come out and jammed on occasion. Holding down the groove on bass is John Myung who never ever seems to lose pace or time. To this day I don't think have heard as good a Progressive Metal bassist. Keyboardist Jordan Rudess (The Dregs) is also a phenomenon and comes up with ideas and musical colors that make the Dream Theater set more interesting time and time again. Among their stellar performance were the following songs: Caught in a Web, Lie, The Root of All Evil, Panic Attack, As I Am, Endless Sacrifice, The Glass Prison, The Great Debate, Pull Me Under & Metropolis. In the almost 2 hour set the band played a number of new tracks from recently released "Octavarium" and the previous masterpiece "Train Of Thought". This is the 3rd or 4th time that I have seen them and rarely could I find more than praise for their level of work and creativity in music. They managed to get a little something in from their other records as well. It's a band that mostly musicians tend to follow but I feel their appeal overall is of a larger scale.
Megadeth: The evenings closer and the reason for the Gigantour in the first place, Dave Mustaine and Megadeth are one of the greatest Metal bands around today. The lineup has remained stable with the Drover brothers on guitar and drums (Glen and Shawn) as well as former Iced Earth bassist James McDonough. Singer Dave growled through their classic numbers and mixed some of his new stuff in between. I did feel he should have performed a mostly hits set for this show to give the audience who might have only seem them recently a little more of a change. However like all the rest of the bands he has albums to sell in order to continue and one cannot fault him for that. I felt also that this time around the lineup seemed a little tighter, and more fluid. When I last saw the group at the Roseland Ballroom show I felt that there were moments where it felt like they were just going through motions. This might have been since the lineup was so very new at the time and needed to know a catalog of material as well as a new release. Their sound was great and Mustaine proves time and time again why so many of the songs he has released are considered Metal standards. I have to say that while a large part of the set was the same for me, he did manage to include so much of what I enjoy and the rest of the fans as well.
In closing I have to say that as much as I enjoyed Megadeth and Dream Theater, I felt this Festival should have been done just a little differently. I would have changed the lineup roster just a bit and cut the headliner bands set by maybe 30 minutes each. Doing this would have allowed for the fans to see more of bands like Nevermore, Symphony X and Fear Factory in particular. These bands truly made the night all the more sensible and should been later in the lineup roster as well. Bands like Life Of Agony and Dillinger Escape Plan should have found shorter and earlier slots. Perhaps some disagree with me but since I spoke to some folks who had just seen Mega and Dream and were interested more in X, Nevermore and Fear I could see where the change might have made this ever more a success. It's my hope that this type of show happens again next year. It is a welcome change to the mix that Ozzfest offers and with Ozzy retiring from the Festival this year who knows how special that will be.
Finally, an alternative to Ozzfest is here. Not that Ozzfest is a bad festival mind you, but it's nice to think that there is something else now set up that caters to different forms of metal, notably the more technical, progressive, and melodic. Thanks to Dave Mustaine from Megadeth, we now have something called Gigantour, a one-day festival featuring metal bands that concentrate on more than just aggression and anger. Not that Gigantour doesn't feature its share of violent metal, after all, when the line-up includes such bands as Fear Factory, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Nevermore, and Megadeth, you can expect plenty of heavy riffs, frantic stage antics, high pitched screams, growling vocals, and screaming guitar solos. However, Gigantour also features such respected progressive metal acts like Symphony X and Dream Theater, as well as newer metal bands like Dry Kill Logic, BobaFlex, and longtime hardcore riff rockers Life of Agony.
While many of the Gigantour shows were scheduled for outdoor venues, this particular show was at the Mid Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, NY, a former haven for many metal acts back in the 1980's and early 90's, but over the last decade more a home to Pro Wrestling, Holiday Events, pop acts, and flea markets. This indoor gig for the festival proved to be troubled from the start, as we experienced plenty of confusion with security as we tried to gain access to the arena, lack of air conditioning which resulted in sweltering temperatures, and plenty of sound problems which resulted in most of the bands sounding muddy and way too loud. However, the performances for the most part were stellar. While we missed Dry Kill Logic and BobaFlex due to conflicting reports on the actual start date of the show, Symphony X took the stage immediately upon us entering the arena. These New Jersey progressive metal stallions, who postponed studio time to complete their upcoming CD to take part in this tour, thrilled the crowd with 30 minutes of heavy, complex, yet highly melodic metal with plenty of progressive flourishes. Guitarist Michael Romeo is one of today's elite guitar shredders, and vocalist Russell Allen soars and roars like a youthful Ronnie James Dio. Playing songs from their last few albums, Symphony X had most of the half-filled arena screaming with approval from the opening notes, and it was readily apparent that the band should have perhaps been allowed to either play higher up on the bill or allotted more playing time. Symphony X is a band that no doubt made many new fans on this tour, as well as reaffirmed to their existing fans that they are ready to step up to the next level.
While I missed much of Nevermore's set due to a interview being conducted in the lower labyrinth of the arena with Fear Factory, I caught enough to experience what a powerhouse act this band really is. Guitarist Jeff Loomis has developed into a monster talent, and Warrel Dayne as always delivers his powerful and menacing vocals with precision and emotion. It seemed like the band was just getting warmed up at the end of their brief set, and again, Nevermore is another band that will be nest experienced at a headline gig or opening up for a big act where the full power of their complete set can be experienced.
It proved to be pretty hard for Life of Agony to follow the juggernaut that was Nevermore, as the long standing band seemed very out of place on this bill of thrash, progressive, and industrial metal bands. Life of Agony were trying to have fun, and played a tight, energetic set of hardcore tainted hard rock, but the Poughkeepsie crowd would not have any part of it, and basically counted the minutes in anticipation of the band finishing their stint on the stage. Not a good situation for a band that obviously has a strong following in other circles, but maybe in the future Gigantour would be advised to keep bands of this style off the bill. Another band that the crowd was indifferent to was The Dillinger Escape Plan, at least in the beginning of their set. By the last two songs, the crowd had warmed up to their brand of maniacal yet technical mayhem. DEP employ savage and slashing technical guitar riffs, jazz-like improvisation, screaming hardcore vocals, and intense rhythms. With all the swinging of guitars, microphones, and running around the stage (what little space they had to play on) I'm surprised the band didn't hurt each other. Many of the songs featured came off their latest critically acclaimed CD Miss Machine, and by the end of their set they finally had the crowd behind them.
Fear Factory however did not need 30 minutes to get the fans behind them, as the veteran industrial metal legends tore through songs from each of their albums, as well as the title track from their latest Transgression. Even with some new members, the band was tight and powerful, getting the wildest crowd response so far of the day. The only drawback again was the 30- minute time slot, as the band practically ground to a screeching halt with their momentum gaining like a runaway train. This was a band that easily could have completed a 60- minute set and the fans would have savored every minute of it. Be on the lookout for a full- blown Fear Factory headline tour in the very near future.
The two headliners were to follow, Dream Theater and Megadeth. Both bands played 90+ minute sets, which perhaps in hindsight could have been trimmed a little to allow for some of the other bands to get an extra song or two in, but that's a matter for another discussion. Dream Theater, like many of the previous acts, were excessively loud, which is unusual for them as they always rely more on finesse, technical precision, and melody rather than volume, but it seemed to be a trend this day for whatever reason. Singer James LaBrie and keyboard ace Jordan Rudess were much louder than the rest of the band, and for the first time in nearly a dozen times I have seen the band guitarist John Petrucci was not the most powerful presence on stage volume-wise. The band though had the very pro-Dream Theater crowd (they are after all a NY band) on the palm of their hand, singing along to songs of most of their albums, as well as their latest Octavarium. Songs like "As I Am", "Caught In a Web", "The Root of All Evil" and "Panic Attack" are just a few examples of the obviously "heavier" song list that the band played for this gig (and the band changed their set list every night on this tour) and they encored with the obligatory "Pull Me Under/Metropolis" medley. As always, the band played a virtuoso, classy set that left the crowd breathless.
By the time Megadeth took to the stage it was already getting late, and many of the die-hard Dream Theater fans had left the arena, leaving the venue at about 75% of the crowd that was there a few hours before. Honestly, it was a long day of metal music, and with the excruciating heat and excessive volume, not to mention that it was a Sunday and many folks had to work the next day, it's not surprising that a good amount of people left. Megadeth stormed the stage and proceeded to tear into plenty of new songs as well as staples from their long and storied career. While many of the classics were played, like "Wake Up Dead", 'Sweating Bullets", "Skin of My Teeth" and "Peace Sells", it seemed that the abundance of newer material kept the momentum of their set from really locking in. Also, this latest version of the band, minus Marty Friedman, Dave Ellefson, and Nick Menza, are not nearly the tight, virtuoso machine that Megadeth were back in the late 80's and throughout most of the 90's. Not that the Drover brothers can't hold their own against anyone, but I just don't think the band chemistry is there yet, and it seems like Mustaine is left to be the center attraction in a band that needs all the members to be close to equal. Regardless, a live Megadeth show is always an experience, and they sure made their fans happy and sent them home tired and sweaty from a relentless set.
In summary, the inaugural Gigantour looks to have been a success. While I would hesitate booking this event at this venue next year if they choose to do Gigantour once again, I am hoping it was enough of a success to go for a second year. This type of event is made for the outdoors, and hopefully for next year they can iron out the kinks and do it again with another great line-up of varied metal acts at an affordable price. It makes for a great alternative to Ozzfest for many fans.
Jack Toledano checks in with his report of the 8/23/05 Jones Beach show:
With the intention of trying to bring more heavy metal to US crowds, Dave Mustaine of Megadeth came up with a heavy metal festival alternative to Ozzfest, entitling it "Gigantour". In most venues, particularly the outdoor ones, a 2nd stage was included, enabling a total of 9 bands to play, with a little something for fans of many different genres of metal. Playing on the 2nd stage were Bobaflex , Dry Kill Logic, Symphony X, & Life of Agony. On the main stage were Nevermore, Dillinger Escape Plan, Fear Factory, Dream Theater, and of course, Megadeth.
If you were into a more thrashy, gruff vocal style, bands like Bobaflex, Dry Kill Logic, Dillinger Escape Plan, & Fear Factory would satisfy. If your thing is more melodic, as in progressive metal, Dream Theater and Symphony X would be more your style. If you are into a more straightforward, classic, or power metal style, then Nevermore and Megadeth might be more your thing.
After speaking with Pete Pardo prior to the Jones Beach show to get an early sneak preview of what I was in store for, I can easily say that this type of show is definitely meant to be played in an outdoor venue. The weather was a perfect 80 degrees with no humidity, plus a nice ocean breeze, while I understand the heat inside the cramped Mid Hudson Civic Center was unbearable. There was no 2nd stage at the Poughkeepsie show, so the bands must have been extremely pressed for time. The nice thing about the two stage format is that while one band is playing on one stage, the other stage is being set up and is ready to go, cutting down on precious down time in between sets.
Nevermore was impressive, and although not many people ventured over to the main stage as Nevermore was the 1st main stage band, they seemed to have a modest following of fans. Their music was certainly much better than the more thrashy offerings of the festival. As for Symphony X, my opinion may be a little biased as I am a big fan, but they were great as always. I was disappointed in the fact that they were only given 30 minutes to perform. It would be virtually impossible for a band like Symphony X, which is accustomed to much longer songs and sets, to give a good first impression to concert attendees that have never heard them before. Be that as it may, I was very impressed by the following that turned out at Jones Beach for the X'ers. I was equally impressed by the security guard that clapped for them after their set, while it was obvious to me that he had never heard them before. Having to listen to Bobaflex and Dry Kill Logic prior to Symphony X's more melodic style may have had something to do with it. One band that I had never heard before that really impressed me was Life of Agony. Life of Agony would have to be the one band at Gigantour that sounds the most likely to get airplay on a major radio station, with their very up to date sound. They have a bit of a grungy sound, ala the Seattle bands from the 90's, mixed with the sound of some of the hard rock bands one might hear on hit radio. They were the last 2nd stage band to perform, and like Symphony X, they also had a very good following.
Which leaves us with the headliners, Dream Theater and Megadeth. Being that the Jones Beach Amphitheater is right smack in the middle of Long Island, and Dream Theater is a Long Island band, the crowd was a very pro-Dream Theater crowd, as opposed to Los Angeles, for example, which was a much more pro-Megadeth crowd. I read on the Internet that Los Angeles was one venue that just did not get into Dream Theater's style, and could not wait for them to exit the stage. The opposite was true on this night for many in attendance, although Megadeth put on their usual workmanlike and energetic set. As for Dream Theater, they owned the night in my opinion. They played an exceptional set, mixing old and new music. I was unable to get their entire setlist, but I do know they opened with "Glass Prison", and played "Panic Attack" and "Never Enough" from their new release, Octovarium. In addition, they played "As I Am", and a medley of "Pull Me Under/Metropolis". They also brought out Richard Christie from the Howard Stern Show, who proceeded to do a drum solo with Mike Portnoy, with background overtones of YYZ (Rush), Run to the Hills & Where Eagles Dare (Iron Maiden), and Hot For Teacher (Van Halen). James LeBrie appeared to be upset at the end, as apparently, he was told to end their set somewhat prematurely. Being a Long Island band, I think they wanted to give the locals a great show. I can't say I blame him.
All in all, it was a great night, and it made me wish Dream Theater and Symphony X would do a tour together. On the other hand, what seemed like a good idea by Dave Mustaine has one major drawback. There were too many bands, thus most bands other than the headliners had very short sets, which might leave fans of certain bands with a bad taste in their mouth and wanting more, as Symphony X's 30 minute set did for me.
Photos Courtesy of Ken Pierce and Greg Stewart
Megadeth Set List:
2. World On Fire
3. Skin Of My Teeth
5. Wake Up Dead
6. In My Darkest Hour
7. Die Dead Enough
8. She Wolf
9. Reckoning Day
10. A Tout Le Monde
11. Angry Again
13. Hangar 18
14. Sweating Bullets
16. Kick The Chair
17. Symphony Of Destruction
18. Peace Sells (But Who's Buying)
19. Holy Wars, Punishment Due
Official Web site: www.Gigantour.com
Official Web site: www.Megadeth.com
Official Web site: www.DreamTheater.net
Official Web site: www.FearFactory.com
Official Web site: www.Nevermore.tv
Official Web site: www.SymphonyX.com