It was evident in the sold-out crowd that the rain and previous evening’s lightning strikes in Southern California didn’t stop the masses from pouring into the San Manuel Amphitheater for System of a Down, who headlined a line up that was eclectic as it can get, with LA’s melodic funk rock heroes Incubus, plus the high energetic and ethereal sounds of At The Drive-In, and the hard Rock n Roll heavy grooves of Clutch. Side stage bands included the doom and gloom of Pallbearer and the fast, blackened, evil sounding thrash metal attack of Skeletonwitch.
Being a Rain or Shine event, the show continued, though the showers were never heavy–just constant at a drizzle level most of the day and evening. The event was beyond capacity, it seemed, as well over 40,000 people filed into the venue from the upper corners of the lawn to the pit area and all seats between. The smell of mud and very wet dirt was all throughout the venue.
Sadly, though thousands of fans were enjoying the music of Incubus, at around 8:30, thousands more were still waiting to park and get in and thousands were still walking into the venue, which was insane.
Incubus put on a very intense but clean sounding set that felt fresh but was still full of a nostalgic time when the band was younger. However, Incubus is still a great live band and the passion and raw human emotion that goes into came across, from the musicians on stage. The funk and the bit of alternative heaviness with a classic sound the band is known for created good vibes and people all sang along to hits like “Pardon Me,” and “Nice to Know You,” among many others. The band looked more like a grunge band than a nu metal band, in flannels, and lead singer Brandon Boyd appeared youthful but passionately into every song. Towards the end of the set that lasted just over an hour, Incubus even covered the sexually suggestive Rap/R&B song, “Pony,” by Ginuwine.
Just after 10 p.m., the band everyone came to see appeared under a slight drizzle but the fans went rabid. Cheers and loud screams erupted throughout and the vibrations were thunderous.
The Glendale based band launched into a set that included songs from just about each album and gave the crowd a performance that was powerful and urgent with a high energy level that could be felt throughout the entire venue.
Rabid fans up in the pit got to crowd surf and stage dive, as singer Serj Tankian used his vocal chords and guitarist Daron Malakian riffed away at his guitar to so many of the band’s hit songs. Bassist Shavo Odadjian and drummer John Dolmayan held down the rhythm section and were as tightly run as an oiled machine. It is no secret the band still has the magic and chemistry on stage as they did almost 20 years ago, and the shows intensity level is the same in front if 50,000 people or 500 people. System of Down is labeled heavy metal but is much more. Experimenting with Ancient Armenian music, which pays homage to the band’s heritage, the band also skillfully meshes influences from everyone from Faith No More, Queen, Frank Zappa, Bad Brains, Anthrax, Slayer and more.
Fans all got to experience songs such as “Prison Song,” “Psycho,” “Lonely Day,” “Chop Suey,” “PLUCK,” and many more in a set that was well over an hours worth of music. Fans moshed in the wet damp mud, while others simply head banged and rocked out to the music, but all in all the band kept the crowd’s attention with an extremely high level of energy and stamina to keep it going in the drizzle. Towards the end, fans got to hear songs like “Spiders,”” Toxicity,” and the smash hit that broke the band, “Sugar.”
What is true, is that System of a Down is a great live band; this sold out concert was truly a great performance, and the setlist reflected band’s musical catalog. The band is also an important heavy metal rock band to come from Los Angeles, with a history of now over two decades coming from the clubs of LA and Hollywood to stadiums and amphitheaters worldwide. With the music they have put out so far, the band has a loyal and massive, global fan base.
However, what is disappointing to many, is the fact that for whatever creative/artistic differences System of a Down has, this is blocking them from creating new material. This artistic stalemate does not affect how great the band sounds live in 2018, because as a musical unit, System of a Down was on fire for the concert in San Bernardino. What this block does do, is take away from any potential new songs in the future.
Alex Distefano is an established freelance writer and music blogger from the Los Angeles area. With over a dozen years under his belt as a published Journalist, he covers the worlds of heavy metal music, punk rock, current events, cannabis culture, comedy, radio, food, tattoos, the paranormal, and ‘conspiracy theories.’ He graduated from California State University Long Beach in 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in both Journalism and Ancient History. Aside from his professional writing endeavors, Distefano works as an Educator, and delivery/rideshare driver.