There’s perhaps no better name for the show that rolled through the PNC Music Pavilion than “Freaks on Parade”. An amalgamation of all sorts of characters came out to brave the new normal of record-breaking temperatures at the Charlotte amphitheater, with the vast majority dressed head to toe in heat-capturing black. Even so, plenty of color still lit up the venue in the form of eccentric hairstyles and makeup, both out in the audience and up on the stage. Goths, metalheads and other misfits were here to see a once-in-a-lifetime lineup that seems to have time traveled from a pre 9/11 world (or a 2006 AMV YouTube channel): Powerman 5000, Static-X, Mudvayne and Rob Zombie. Freaks is an understatement.
After what felt like a pretty unnecessary weather delay, the doors finally opened over an hour late, pushing Powerman 5000’s set back and forcing them to start before most had even gotten through security. It was unfair to both fans and the band and led to a bit of an awkward start to the evening’s festivities. But as Spider One (who just so happens to be brothers with that night’s headliner) and his crew kicked through a set of pure rock that included the hits off their 1999 platinum record Tonight the Stars Revolt!, things started to settle into proper concert mode. “It turned out to be a good fucking night, I think.” the longtime frontman told the growing crowd. As the band ended their set with their iconic track “When Worlds Collide”, the whole place was readily shouting along and primed for what was to come next.
Static-X, disbanded after the death of founder Wayne Static in 2014 and resurrected four years later by original members Tony Campos, Koichi Fukuda and Ken Jay, took over the stage with a flurry of fast and bouncy industrial metal beats. With a set dominated almost entirely by songs off their smash-hit 1999 debut Wisconsin Death Trip, no other band was quite as tight as them that night. Jay in particular was a rapid-fire beast behind the drum kit and the new singer, who goes by Xer0, sounded shockingly on point with the late Static himself. There was obvious excitement throughout the crowd to see a band that many thought would never be seen again; the first pits opened up and the audience began to really get into the groove of the show. If anything, Static-X’s set was far too short for a crowd hungry for more. Luckily, they promised to be back for a headlining tour next year.
Mudvayne, another band back from the dead as recently as just last year, dropped into the PNC Music Pavilion like a bomb, with frontman Chad Gray, in his signature, clown-like, bloodied face makeup and spiked blue hair, literally leaping onto the stage as the band tore into set opener “Dig”. Mudvayne’s outlandish image and technically complex music have become more mythical than ever in the decade-plus that they’ve been away and the Charlotte crowd welcomed them back with open arms - once again, quite literally as Gray repeatedly came down to sing directly to the front rows. They were undoubtedly the heaviest act of the night and it felt like being bludgeoned over the head for an hour in the best possible way. Ryan Martinie is absolutely ferocious on the bass and Gray’s screams have to be seen to be believed.
“This is the heavy metal community of the greater Charlotte area right here!” Gray told the sweaty mass of people, many of whom were sporting Mudvayne-style makeup of their own. “Whether you know it or not, you need what the fuck is going on right here, right now. This is not a luxury. This is a motherfucking necessity for heavy metal people. We have to have this.” He continued, “Because what it does to me, and what it should do to you, is allow you to realize that we belong to something so much larger than just ourselves and that’s what we’re looking for. There is a connection, there is a level of respect that is beyond high. If anybody goes down in that pit down here…” he gestured towards the GA area at the front, “Or up there…” he said as he pointed to the lawn up top, “You better know somebody reaches down, grabs your hand and helps you the fuck up. There are very few aspects of life where that happens on a regular basis. We all came together to save each other today.”
It was a surprisingly emotional moment among several that night, but then again, anyone who’s a part of the heavy metal community knows that strong emotions and being free to let them out is what it’s all about. Gray’s comments seemed to really connect with the crowd and they thanked him by cranking the energy up another notch. Songs like “Death Blooms” and “Determined” set off rowdy moshing and headbanging that woud make any orthopedist see dollar signs. “Happy?” acted as Mudvayne’s finale, sounding far grander and more anthemic than the studio version ever could. “We are Mudvayne, we are back from the fucking dead and we are not going away anytime soon!”
By the time Rob Zombie hit the stage alongside legendary guitarist John 5, bassist Piggy D. and drummer Ginger Fish, the Charlotte audience appeared to be tuckered out from the day’s hot and heavy music onslaught. Zombie classics like “Living Dead Girl” and “More Human Than Human”, along with more modern favorites like “Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown” and “Well, Everyone’s Fucking in a U.F.O” managed to break through the exhaustion however, with the band and their massive production hitting just the right tone of what could only be described as a very metal horror-themed party. Zombie himself, constantly jumping around and dancing to the groove, often ran out of breath to sing his own songs due to the excitement.
“Somehow I convinced myself it wasn’t hot out here. I don’t know if I’m just crazy from the heat, I don’t know if I’m lightheaded and hallucinating and crazy from the heat, I don’t know if I’m lightheaded, hallucinating, crazy from the heat or I’m just plain seeing things. I don’t think they’re all related.” Zombie said after a wild performance of “Never Gonna Stop (The Red, Red Kroovy)”. He never did elaborate on what exactly he was or wasn’t seeing, but the candid comment was perfectly fitting for the delirious energy of the show at that point. After a big screen showing of the trailer for Zombie’s upcoming film reboot of The Munsters, the night finally came to an end with - what else? - the one and only song about digging through the ditches and burning the witches, “Dragula”. A song just as iconic as the horror legend himself and the only possible way to finish things off.
Spider One might’ve said it best at the very start of the evening. “We’ve been doing this a long time so it means a lot when we come out onstage anywhere, whether we’re opening for somebody or playing our own show, that we see people with such fucking energy and enthusiasm for music that has been around for many, many years.” he told the audience near the end of Powerman 5000’s set. It ended up being the sentiment of the entire show. “Here’s one that to me feels like it’s new but I think it’s about 20 years old.” Zombie said before ripping through The Sinister Urge single “Scum of the Earth”. The Freaks on Parade Tour isn’t some lame nostalgia trip or a group of bands just trying to relive the glory days. With the exception of Mudvayne, all of these acts have been regularly releasing new music and playing shows the past few years. This is more of a reaffirmation of how, despite what many naysayers have been shouting for decades now, this music is actually timeless and still relevant today. There’s no further proof needed than the thousands of enthusiastic freaks still showing up and filling out huge venues every night to get rowdy with their fellow freaks onstage.
The concert’s most memorable moment came during a performance of the oldest song from any of the artists that night - White Zombie banger “Thunder Kiss ‘65” recorded all the way back in 1992. It was one of those transcendent times when even with as late as the show had gotten and how worn out most of the place was, something about the song and that unmistakable riff brought out the strength for everyone to lose their minds once again. The further into the song Zombie and his band went, the more the energy from all around seemed to build back up into an explosive crescendo that had everyone back up off their feet. “I think I’ve played that song about 10,000 times.” Zombie confessed to the rejuvenated partygoers. “And I will only stop playing it if you tell me ‘Stop fucking playing it, please!’”. If the response that night is any indication, he’s not gonna be able to stop for a very, very long time.
The Freaks on Parade Tour is currently playing across the U.S. through the end of August. Get tickets HERE and check out the remaining tour dates below.
- Fri Jul 29 – Camden, NJ – Waterfront Music Pavilion
- Sat Jul 30 – Mansfield, MA – Xfinity Center
- Sun Jul 31 – Holmdel, NJ – PNC Bank Arts
- Tue Aug 02 – Burgettstown, PA – The Pavilion at Star Lake
- Wed Aug 03 – Cuyahoga Falls, OH – Blossom Music Center
- Fri Aug 05 – Tinley Park, IL – Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre
- Sat Aug 06 – Council Bluffs, IA – Westfair Amphitheater
- Wed Aug 10 – Salt Lake City (West Valley City), UT – USANA Amphitheatre
- Fri Aug 12 – Irvine, CA – FivePoint Amphitheatre
- Sat Aug 13 – Las Vegas, NV – Michelob ULTRA Arena
- Sun Aug 14 – Chula Vista, CA – North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre
- Tue Aug 16 – Albuquerque, NM – Isleta Amphitheater
- Thu Aug 18 – Del Valle, TX – Germania Insurance Amphitheater
- Sat Aug 20 – Fort Worth, TX – Dickies Arena
- Sun Aug 21 – The Woodlands, TX – Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion