Founded in 2002, the inaugural Bonnaroo Music Festival featured Widespread Panic, Gov't Mule and The String Cheese Incident among the bigger name musical acts. This year, the event counted Kendrick Lamar, Billy Joel and Deadmau5 towards the top of the 4-day bill. In other words, Bonnaroo's origins leaned much heavier on the jam band side of the musical spectrum than it does these days.
While they've had a few harder acts perform in earlier years, this time out, the fest's bookers left a bit more room on the schedule for some heavier artists. Bonnaroo 2015 welcomed the doom metal savants of Pallbearer and the proggish metalcore heroes Between the Buried and Me to the bill. But the get for the festival organizers this year, at least in terms of the heavy metal side of things, was undoubtedly Slayer.
The Los Angeles thrash gods brought the beast to This Tent on Saturday night in front of a crowd clearly thirsty for the hard stuff. Opening with the title track to their 2009 World Painted Blood album, Slayer invaded the stage with all guns blazing.
Founding guitarist Kerry King sported a scowl on his face as mean as the riffs he was firing off at the crowd. By the time the band broke into their third song, "Die by the Sword," the security staff in front of the stage were earning their keep by rescuing the crowd surfers who were floating towards the barricade.
It was a thing of beauty.
Slayer peppered their setlist with songs that covered most of their discography, including "Disciple," a lesser-known gem from 2001's God Hates Us All album. This was the fourth or fifth time I've caught the band with guitarist Gary Holt in their lineup in the last few years and from the sound of last night's set, it's clear the Exodus axeman is feeling comfortable in the lineup, volleying riffs with King like the seasoned thrasher that he is.
After subbing for guitarist Jeff Hanneman during an extended illness, Holt eventually became his replacement after the former passed away in 2013 from alcohol-related cirrhosis.
Holt and King's twin-guitar onslaught at Bonnaroo was in full display on such crowd favorites as "Raining Blood," "Seasons in the Abyss" and the positively eerie "Dead Skin Mask." Bassist/vocalist Tom Araya kept his onstage banter to a minimum, opening up room in their allotted time for more material.
By the time Slayer closed with the thrash metal national anthem that is "Angel of Death," the sweaty fans that were stuffed to the gills beneath the enormous tent looked like they just went through a religious experience, which if you know anything about the band's lyrics, you know how cuckoo that sounds.
1. World Painted Blood
2. Hate Worldwide
3. Die by the Sword
4. Chemical Warfare
5. War Ensemble
6. Mandatory Suicide
8. Seasons in the Abyss
9. Hell Awaits
10. Dead Skin Mask
11. Raining Blood
12. Black Magic
13. South of Heaven
14. Angel of Death