Escape the Fate There was a time when Escape the Fate appearing at a Las Vegas music festival could be referred to as a homecoming, but numerous lineup changes over the years have left drummer Robert Ortiz as the only remaining original member and the only remaining tie to Las Vegas. So instead of a homecoming, it was merely a brief acknowledgement of Ortiz’s roots from singer Craig Mabbitt: “Hey Robert, you happy to be home?” Ortiz did seem happy, repeatedly jumping up from his seated position behind the drums, and his bandmates had plenty of energy, too, even if the group’s music has gotten progressively more terrible over the years.
Some of the songs had so many prerecorded synths and beats (and even harmony vocals!) that the five band members seemed almost superfluous, and it was a little sad to hear Mabbitt introduce “Live for Today” by declaring, “This is a dancier song.” ETF was never a particularly original or accomplished emo/hardcore band, but at least early hits like the fast, screamy “This War Is Ours (The Guillotine II)” (which got the crowd singing along) had some edge to them. Drippy power ballad “Breaking Me Down” from most recent album Hate Me would shame even the most hardcore Monster Ballads aficionados.
Eagles of Death Metal Not only is Jesse Hughes’ band not a death metal act, it was probably the least metal band on the entire festival bill (it was also the only band to feature even one woman, thanks to touring bassist Jennie Vee). That might have kept some audience members away, but it didn’t dampen Hughes’ oddball enthusiasm. “I promise that when we are finished with this show I will win $50,000,” he declared more than once, while also introducing multiple songs as having been written about this intention. They weren’t, of course, but the band’s garage-y, stoner-y rock was still fun and loose, thanks to Hughes and fellow guitarist Dave Catching, who engaged in a lengthy guitar duel at the end of set closer “Speaking in Tongues.”
While other bands were inciting the audience to create circle pits, Hughes asked, “Is everybody here ready to become possessed by the spirits of the night?” He did get the audience to sing along to “I Want You So Hard (Boy’s Bad News),” and he dedicated David Bowie cover “Moonage Daydream” to the members of Mastodon, at their request, apparently (Mastodon’s Brent Hinds also joined the band onstage briefly at the beginning of their set). EODM has been in the news mainly for its connection to tragedy, at the center of the Paris terrorist attacks in November 2015. But other than an oblique reference to “still breathing and rocking and rolling,” Hughes stayed away from anything serious, instead providing a little levity during a festival full of heavy, intense music.
Mastodon The band might currently be touring with Eagles of Death Metal, but Mastodon was a much more fitting addition to the Las Rageous lineup, providing some of the heaviest music at the entire festival. Mastodon’s set drew mainly from new album Emperor of Sand, released just a few weeks ago, but the band’s music is such a crushing wall of sound that most of the songs ended up running together anyway. There were occasional catchy riffs in “Ancient Kingdom” and “Show Yourself” (both from Emperor of Sand), and the band’s use of three different lead vocalists made for a different kind of live experience (especially when drummer Brann Dailor was singing from behind his kit), but mostly the music came out in a long, monotonous onslaught.
Avenged Sevenfold In past Vegas visits (even as part of the similar hard rock-focused 48 Hours Festival in 2011), Avenged Sevenfold has brought elaborate stage productions, complete with pyro and extensive sets and props. But whether due to the limitations of the facilities or an evolution in the band’s approach to live performance, it produced no such bells and whistles for Las Rageous. Instead there was one giant video screen behind the band members, projecting some twisted music videos in addition to the requisite crowd reaction footage. While the band’s cheesy, over-the-top arena rock often benefits from cheesy, over-the-top production, it did just fine on its own, keeping the attention and interest of a crowd that had spent two days standing outside watching loud, aggressive bands.
Frontman M. Shadows still dresses like he wants to be Axl Rose circa 1991, and his band’s music is often a little overstated, but it’s also fun and catchy, especially in the more concise anthems like “Afterlife,” “Bat Country,” “Hail to the King” and “Nightmare,” all of which inspired plenty of crowd sing-alongs. “You are their f*cking nightmare,” Shadows joked after the loud response to “Nightmare,” wondering if it was keeping guests at the next-door Golden Nugget awake past midnight. Even so, those guests should have appreciated the treat of a well-honed rock show (despite the band just coming off a six-week touring hiatus). It was a proper send-off for a successful first year of the festival.