I’m no stranger to Slipknot shows. After being introduced to The Nine via ‘The Heretic Anthem’, blasting their music in the basement that I shared with my impressively tolerant grandfather, sheepishly begging my mother to order me the Disasterpieces DVD (“You’re sure you want this?” she asked once she saw the pentagram on the cover), and headbanging and screaming more than any child probably should, I saw the band perform live and in person for the first time in February of 2009. It was a cold school night but that didn’t stop me from making it to the very front row right on the barricade for my first metal show. Clearly, I wanted the full experience. I certainly got it that night.
There were all nine of them, the original lineup, looking larger than life up on that stage. I went to that show by myself (none of my friends at the time listened to anything even remotely as heavy as Slipknot), a scrawny 15 year-old kid barely hitting 5’4. It wouldn’t have taken much for me to get hurt or even crushed at a concert that intense. But my heavy metal baptism was a display of everything that makes Slipknot and their fans so special. All night long, I was given the space to jump up and down, slam my head and shout every word to the songs as dramatically as possible, because everyone around me was joining in and doing the same. I was constantly protected from the endless barrage of crowd surfers by the taller adults around me, who also made sure to keep the swirling mosh pits at bay. As Corey and the guys like to tell the audience every night, when you’re all under the same roof like that and have equal passion for the music, you’re family no matter what. I never felt alone at that show. I was with my people.
I’ve been chasing that high ever since. The impact of that concert and a couple of others that I was lucky enough to experience in those formative years ignited a passion for loud live music that has yet to be snuffed out. In the years since that fateful February night in ‘09, I saw Slipknot tear it up several more times around the Southeast United States, each show legendary in its own right. There was Atlanta during Mayhem Festival 2012, where the lawn became a series of muddy slides as the day went on. There was the Be Prepared For Hell Tour with Korn in 2014, where the floor at the Nashville date got so insane that my friend Joel broke his leg in the chaos and was happy to just keep on going. There was Carolina Rebellion 2015, where I crowd surfed all the way from the back to the front of the massive festival during ‘Custer’. There was the Knotfest Roadshow in Bristow 2019, where the ending of ‘Sulfur’ felt like it broke the necks of half the audience.
All this to say: I thought I’d seen and felt it all by the time this year’s edition of the Knotfest Roadshow came back around. After plowing through both Charlotte and Raleigh in 2021, this year’s tour hit two spots in the Carolinas that the band hadn’t visited in quite some time: North Charleston, South Carolina (they haven’t been to the state since 2009 and last played North Charleston in 2004) and Greensboro, North Carolina (not played since 2009 as well). It’s been a week now since I attended both stops on the tour and every part of me still aches, my throat and chest have been on fire, and I doubt my hearing will ever be the same. They were some of the best shows I’ve ever seen and further undeniable proof that even after two decades of melting peoples’ faces off, Slipknot have still got it and still bring it.
In North Charleston, after a long day at work, Maggots from the cities to the swamps slowly filled in to the local coliseum. Up in the seats, a duo was rocking old school self-titled era Clown and Corey masks. On the other side, someone was dressed head-to-toe as Jay and wound up taking photos with other fans for much of the night when he wasn't windmill headbanging. There were also a lot of kids there. Much like myself back then, it appears the school night wasn’t gonna stop them from coming out to the show to get their minds blown. Unlike myself, these kids’ parents were along for the ride. In fact, it’s likely that many of those parents were the ones who introduced them to the band in the first place. One girl who couldn’t be older than 14 headbanged like a maniac all night, her giant mass of curly hair standing out in the crowd as she flung it every which way.
I brought my friend Paul to the Charleston shindig; a fresh pair of eyes and ears as Paul (bless him) had never seen nor even properly listened to a single Slipknot tune. With the band currently playing one of their longest and most definitive sets of their career, he got to witness the full package. In a strange bit of cinematic timing, just as the show’s intro, ‘Get Behind Me Satan and Push’ by Billie Jo Spears, began skipping and repeating the word Satan over and over, a trio of teenagers rushed towards the rapidly forming mosh pit in the center of the crowd. One of them collided with some poor woman walking by with a very full beer, sending it tumbling out of her grip only to explode onto the floor directly in front of us. With the music and ambience shifting into the sinister opening notes of ‘Disasterpiece’, Paul looked aghast at the scene that had just played out and was continuing to play out before his eyes. The roller coaster had begun.
Before the first couple of songs had even ended, the North Charleston Coliseum was a tangle of limbs and screams as Slipknot took the place by storm. A coalition of moshers waved a banner around to indicate to their fellow metalheads where the action was at, leading the pit to only keep growing throughout the night. Early on, one man became inebriated to the point where he could no longer stand. When his friends failed to wrangle him, security then attempted to take him away. He put up one hell of a fight despite no longer having much control of his own body. Eventually, as he was dragged off, he could still be seen air drumming along to the music. Yes, it’d been forever since Slipknot had last come this way, but the greater consensus among the audience that night was how great it was to see any act this big come to town.
“No one is happier than the nine of us to be back here!” Corey told the South Carolina crowd. “Here’s a little joke. How many people have come out on this stage and said South Charleston, North Carolina? Because I very nearly did.” he laughed. “But it’s alright. I’m a singer, I can be taught. It’s South Carolina isn’t it, motherfuckers?” The place loudly let him hear their approval. At the end of the night, as the band took their bows and the lights lit up the room, the cameras focused on the true MVP of the show - one hardcore fan dressed as Paul Gray had been dominating the pit all night. It was a bit of a surreal sight to see him up on the screens behind the rest of the band like that. Gray is assumed to be there in spirit at every show, but here was an actual visual embodiment of it.
A day later, Greensboro had a more controlled sense of chaos, but that chaos was amplified tenfold. It was a proper Friday night rager at the Greensboro Coliseum, which was likely still recovering from Korn coming through only a couple of weeks earlier. The arena was nearly full when Wage War hit the stage and they immediately set off a wall of death and got a hefty pit started in the back. From up top, the collective headbanging of everyone on the floor looked perfectly in sync. By the time In This Moment awed the arena with their extravagant set, people were linking arms and dancing. A circle pit started up and didn’t stop until well after Slipknot was finished.
“Do you understand how loud you all are?” Corey asked as the band got the crowd surfers flowing and several pits going. Someone screamed out “I love you, Corey!” and the frontman responded. “I fucking love you too. I love everybody in this fucking room. We’ve been doing this a long time, you have no idea. So to come back out here after this many years and see all you crazy motherfuckers, you have no idea how much it means to us. Thank you so much.” One of my favorite things about this current set is the confidence the band clearly have behind the newer music. “‘Solway Firth’ is like harmonizing what an atomic bomb sounds like.” my friend Mark told me. He’s correct of course; the We Are Not Your Kind song and other contemporary bangers like ‘All Out Life’ and ‘The Chapeltown Rag’ have no problem getting bodies moving. All Hope Is Gone gets a surprising amount of love as well in the set. Obviously, the talk of the town is ‘Snuff’ being performed - a very rare slower and more emotional moment for the band. The crowd lighting the arena up with lights from their phones and lighters without needing prompting to do so was a beautiful touch.
I had another pair of diehards in front of me at this show, one was dressed as Chris while the other had an impressive mask that matched the skull-like one Corey was currently wearing on stage. They sang every word. Slipknot’s production (which I’ve once heard described as a “night club in Hell”) still looks as massive as ever and the arena captures that magic a bit better than an amphitheater can. You just can’t beat the energy of that nice big floor area. “This music has helped us get through some of the darkest shit in our entire fucking lives.” Corey shared. Everyone there certainly seemed to be purging one thing or another that night. Greensboro marks my 12th Slipknot show and it was one of the very best I’ve been a part of. The entire place, myself included, acted like it was the last show they were ever gonna see. What I’m saying is, it went off.
This far down the road, it’s always amazing to see artists like Slipknot continuously have the momentum to play huge venues every night (the very next show at Santander Arena in Reading, Pennsylvania was completely sold out) and be both a legacy act and a contemporary metal band. With a new album on the horizon and a momentous amount of hype behind it, things are looking to only get bigger and better. The wild folks I was surrounded by those two nights all certainly seemed eager for more. Up in the seats during the middle of ‘The Heretic Anthem’ in Greensboro, I looked out at the sea of Maggots below, a perfectly untamed mass of people losing their minds and having the best night of their lives. Ah, there was that feeling again. I’m ready to do a dozen more.
Slipknot is currently on tour across North America on the Knotfest Roadshow with In This Moment and Wage War through April 17th. On May 18th they embark on the second leg with Ho99o9 and Cypress Hill. Get tickets here.