Dillinger Escape Plan:  Summer Slaughter Tour @ The ObservatoryThe summer’s most extreme music festival “The Summer Slaughter Tour” made a stop in Orange County at The Observatory in Santa Ana on Sunday July 21. Started in 2008, the 2013 version of “The Summer Slaughter Tour” brings together an eclectic group of extreme music with the focus this year on progressive metal with many of the bands not using a bass player and many featuring 7-string guitars.

Doors at The Observatory opened at 2:30pm with two local bands (I of Helix and Short Fuse) starting the long day of music with the first of the 10 bands featured on the tour hitting the stage at 3:50pm. The Constellation Room (a small stage inside a separate room at The Observatory also had local bands playing throughout the day).  The Observatory added a nice touch to the day by offering a barbecue outside for all attendees to grab food and drink during the 9hr festival.

The first band to play and officially open the Summer Slaughter Tour on this day was Thy Art is Murder. Making the trek to the states all the way from Australia Thy Art is Murder delivered a short yet ferocious set of Deathcore to the half full venue. Lead singer Chris “CJ” McMahon lurked across the stage wearing a wind-breaker with the hood up like he was ready for a trek across the outback. This being the first band the crowd was already generating circle pits and a few daring crowd surfers made it into the photo pit . . . it was going to be a long day.

Up next and also with a 20 minute time limit for their set was Rings of Saturn. Also considered Deathcore much like Thy Art is Murder, Rings of Saturn played without a bass player instead having two 7-string guitar players. Only a couple years out of high school, these Bay Area extreme musicians tore it up with some great guitar playing although singer Ian Bearer’s vocals were a bit muffled and not to pleasing to the ears. The crowd seemed interested regardless and the circle pits continued.

Now 4:50pm in the afternoon The Observatory had become very crowded as some Swedish Death Metal from Aeon was about to be unleashed in Santa Ana. The band hit the stage and the hair whips and head banging in unison got the crowd going in high gear. The band was given 25 minutes to deliver their brand of brutal yet catchy death metal. Singer Tommy Dahlström certainly looked the part with his black attire and spiked combat boots. Aeon was without a doubt the best band to this point and the large crowd must have also agreed as the circle pit was at its largest and bodies flying by the end of the set.

Things were starting to heat up inside The Observatory as the floor became just a bit more crowded with the anticipation of Revocation taking the stage. Also having 25 minutes, Revocation came out with all guns blazing. From the first note of “The Hive” the band delivered an extremely energetic and brutal set of “thrash infused technical death metal” (say that fast three times). Guitarist/Vocalist Dave Davidson has a huge stage presence belting out the vocals, while mesmerizing the crowd with his guitar wizardry all while making some seriously goofy “guitar faces”. The crowd was pumped for this band and chaos ensued with circle pits and body surfing . . . . Revocation had already dethroned Aeon as the best band of the day so far.

The Ocean was next in line to hit the stage. Scheduled to go on at 6:00pm for 25 minutes, the band was delayed about 12 minutes due to one of the guitarists having technical issues with his guitar/amp setup and the crowd as well as the other band members seemed to get a bit impatient and were not happy with the delay. Once the issues were overcome the band only had time to play two songs but they made the most of their short time onstage. Vocalist Loic Rossetti seemingly very pissed due to the delay unleashed a powerful performance onstage while also running and leaping into the crowd several times singing while the audience held him up and then would pass him back to the front of the stage. The band seemed to just be getting warmed up when they had to exit after such a short set. Santa Ana definitely got screwed on this one.

Following their MetalBlade label-mates The Ocean, San Diego death-grinders Cattle Decapitation hit the stage with some of the most intense, extreme metal known to man. Singer Travis Ryan’s spastic stage presence along with his alternating between death metal growls and high pitched squeals fueled the large crowd to participate in a large circle pit the entire set and the crowd surfing started to get out of control. Ryan also made his way into the crowd and the many Cattle Decapitation fans were more than willing to help sing along with the mobbed singer. A very lively set that certainly raised the bar for those yet to perform.

The set times were now up to 40 minutes and Norma Jean was up next . . . after killer sets from Aeon, Revocation, The Ocean and Cattle Decapitation this was a hard spot to fill. Well I hate to say it but Norma Jean failed miserably. They opened their set with a slow, mild song and the crowd looked absolutely bored . . . well that is what was left of the crowd as the floor area cleared out considerably for Norma Jean. I am sure they have their fan base and get good crowds at their own shows but Norma Jean seemed out of place at “The Summer Slaughter Tour”.

Now 8:00pm and five hours into the show it was time for the “big boys” to take over . . . progressive metal giants Periphery treated Santa Ana to 40 minutes of in-your-face melodic/progressive heavy metal. Featuring three guitarists (Misha Mansoor, Jake Bowen and Mark Holcomb) all playing 7 and 8 string guitars, these guys were a joy to hear and watch. In addition to their guitar expertise and magical fingers they were having fun onstage often fooling around while playing and just enjoying themselves. Singer Spencer Sotelo was a ball of fire running around barefoot while belting out the vocals. Periphery is much like a heavy metal version of Dream Theater and should be seen live to truly appreciate the amazing musicianship the band possess. It took a while but Periphery has now overtaken Revocation as the best live act of the day!

Instrumental Progressive Metal titans Animals As Leaders took the stage to a packed house with chants of Tosin, Tosin, Tosin (for Tosin Abasi) the band’s founder and primary guitarist. The band played a fierce 40 minutes and the capacity crowd kept the circle pits and crowd surfing going during the entire show – something I have never seen during a band that plays purely instrumental tracks with no vocalist. In addition to Abasi the band consists of second guitarist Javier Reyes and drummer Matt Garstka. Aside from playing virtually in the dark with no stage lights except lighting from two small video screens animals As Leaders played a perfect set of technically proficient guitar playing and they sounded spot on – a joy to hear live just too bad you can hardly see them due to the lack of lighting.

All that was left was this year’s Summer Slaughter headliner The Dillinger Escape Plan. At 10:00pm the house lights went out and videos of a bloody eye played on the video screens and The Dillinger Escape Plan hit the stage with a bang. Immediately the crowd began passing bodies to the front of the stage as the band delivered their unusual brand of rhythmically complex metalcore featuring bizarre time signatures equaling a huge wall of noise. With band members climbing and jumping all over the stage coupled with the constant strobe lights made for a fantastic visual effect that seemed to enhance the already ensuing combined chaos of the crowd and the band. The Dillinger Escape Plan is without a doubt the most active band ever to take a stage with vocalist Greg Puciato often jumping into the crowd and singing with the enthusiastic fans while being passed around. Guitarist Ben Weinman was climbing all over his guitar amps and leaping back down to the stage . . . it is beyond amazing these guys can play their instruments while being so dynamic. A great way to end 8 hours of extreme music, The Dillinger Escape Plan surely had the most insane crowd and delivered a show that the die-hards surely enjoyed.

An excessive day of extreme music, this year’s Summer Slaughter tour certainly delivered and was well worth the $30 anybody spent on a ticket. Music festivals are fun and allow the fans to experience a diverse lineup that they may not typically go see (although the short set times often do not allow a band to truly shine live). I am sure all bands who participated on this day made many new fans and this show is recommended to be seen as it crosses the country ending in mid

07/24 – Oklahoma City, Okla. @ Diamond Ballroom
07/26 – Dallas, Texas @ House of Blues
07/27 – Houston, Texas @ House of Blues
07/29 – Orlando, Fla. @ House of Blues (w/o Cattle Decapitation)
07/30 – Atlanta, Ga. @ The Masquerade
07/31 – Knoxville, Tenn. @ Old City Courtyard
08/01 – Myrtle Beach, S.C. @ House of Blues
08/02 – Silver Spring, Md. @ The Fillmore
08/03 – Worcester, Mass. @ The Palladium (w/o Norma Jean)
08/04 – Philadelphia, Pa. @ The Trocadero
08/07 – New York, N.Y. @ Best Buy Theater
08/08 – Toronto, Ontario @ The Sound Academy
08/09 – Montreal, Quebec @ Heavy MTL
08/10 – Albany, N.Y. @ Upstate Concert Hall
08/11 – Detroit, Mich. @ Majestic Theatre
08/12 – Chicago, Ill. @ House of Blues
08/13 – Milwaukee, Wis. @ The Rave
08/14 – Minneapolis, Minn. @ Station 4
08/16 – Denver, Colo. @ Ogden Theatre