The Big 4 – Festival Review – Indio, CA – 4/23/11
The Big 4 festival in Indio, CA was an event like no other. It was exactly as it should have been, considering American heavy music fans have been clamoring for the show ever since the concept was realized overseas. Why it even took this long is ridiculous, considering all four bands started their careers right here in the US of A.
There have been 7 shows and counting overseas with no real logical explanation for the lack of attention here in the States for the festival. This one show was finally booked, but with no promises for any additional dates, which heavily increasing the publicity for the event. Therefore, Indio, CA saw visitors from not only the entire United States, but all over the world as people came together to celebrate this festive occasion.
I traveled by myself via a shuttle from downtown Los Angeles which was a stellar decision on my part. It cost almost as much as a tank of gas, I was able to sleep on the way home, and I met some really cool people as well. It was such a trip showing up in the parking lot and seeing a line of people of all ages wearing their heavy metal best, ready to board a shuttle for a day long festival with beautiful weather and music provided by the four greatest thrash metal bands of all time.
After arriving on site and obtaining all requisite passes, I got in line with the VIP ticket holders. This was some line, by the way. It easily stretched over a mile long. The gates opened at 2pm and Anthrax was scheduled to hit the stage two hour later so people were very antsy to get inside and situated. VIP tickets cost $200 and allowed purchasers four upgrades from the $100 general admission tickets: Separate restroom facilities, a VIP bar that was also separate and had a couple of different options (Blue Moon beer; whoop-dee-doo,) and better food options, such as the amazing Grill â€˜Em All food truck.
Most importantly though, VIP ticket holders had access to the front of stage pit, which I now realize more than I ever imagined, made an enormous difference in regards to actually viewing the performances. The VIP pit was extremely large mind you; you could get as close to the stage as you wanted but could also comfortably hang in the back, while still enjoying a terrific viewpoint. This pit was separated by two barricades in which security stood in between to provide crowd control, catch crowd surfers, etc.
Behind the second barricade, were the rest of the grounds where getting a good view of the actual stage was up to you. From my vantage point, it was just a sea of people pushing to get as close they could to see the stage. For those that couldnâ€™t see the live action, there were enormous screens on both sides and above the stage. There were over 50,000 people there and only 1 stage, so you have to imagine what itâ€™s like to get a good vantage point on the outside of the VIP pit.
Of course, most people were happy to be a part of something truly special. The grounds are so expansive and there was so much to experience, that you could go there and have a blast without having the typical perspective you would in a traditional venue. It was really just up to the individual; if seeing the stage without the help of the screens was truly important to you, then you needed to spend the extra $100. Also, I didnâ€™t see one single food option for less than $8 and a 12 ounce Coors Light was $9, so this was by no means a cost-friendly music festival. Thankfully, they kept the bottle water at $2.
I loved every single performance. All four bands were amazing. As you can see below, the setlists were very focused on the overall careers of the Big 4. This was a celebration; therefore the setlists were primarily centered on the career-spanning hits of each band. My personal highlights were Joey Belladonna donning the Indian headdress and running across the stage during â€œIndians,â€ Megadeth opening with the killer Cryptic Writings track â€œTrust,â€ seeing Dave Ellefson on stage with Megadeth for the first time since he rejoined the group, watching the intimidating Kerry King absolutely destroy his solos while donning heavy chains hanging from his belt, and of course, everything about Metallica. There are metal bands, and than there is Metallica. Nobody can touch those guys. They also played â€œOrion,â€ which was worth the price of admission alone. After the song James said, â€œOrion, thank you. The one who is always with us in spirit, Mr. Cliff Burton.â€ Amazing tribute to Metallica bass player Cliff Burton, who tragically died in a bus accident in 1986.
After Metallicaâ€™s first set, the stage crew brought additional equipment and instruments on stage and we were privileged to watch every band on stage performing the Diamond Head cover â€œAm I Evil?â€ with Hetfield and Dave Mustaine alternating lead vocals. The Metallica/Megadeth rivalry was blown way out of proportion by the media, so you wonâ€™t see any other reference to it here, but I will say that it was surreal watching them trade verses like that.
After closing with â€œSeek and Destroy,â€ it was time for everyone to go home. Although it was such an exciting and fulfilling day, I was ready to get on the shuttle and catch some sleep on the ride home. I was drained as most people would be after spending an entire day in the hot sun. I just couldnâ€™t wait to get on my shuttle, which was safely tucked away in nearby Lot 5, to make the two hour trek home, take a shower, and get in bed.
Unfortunately, the security staff employed to keep everyone safe as well as provide accurate and helpful information, was completely inept and lacked even a miniscule amount of communication with each other. I asked where Lot 5 was located to 5 different security guards and was sent on a wild goose chase all over the grounds. I was walking back and forth in the same directions at certain points. One security guard told me, â€œI donâ€™t know why heâ€™s sending people that way. Donâ€™t listen to him.â€ REALLY?!? Donâ€™t you think that you couldâ€™ve had this squared away in advance, before 50,000 people needed to go home?
I wasnâ€™t allowed to walk down certain streets for whatever reason and had to traverse separate parking lots in completely opposite directions, only to make a left on city streets and backtrack down adjacent avenues in order to access Lot 5. Sounds confusing? Well it was, and I only had 30 minutes to get to my shuttle. I was literally sprinting all over Indio trying to find Lot 5.
These security guards apparently did not have a plan in place for Lot 5 for those that were in the VIP pit, which had its own entrance/exit point to the grounds. It was like trying to find some mystical land. It was absolutely crazy, because I had a map but wasnâ€™t allowed to use it since they closed the roads necessary to walk directly towards the lot. To the security guards, â€œLot 5â€ must have been code for â€œGet ready to lose a few poundsâ€ because I had only 30 minutes and I was watching shuttles drive past me as I was sprinting alongside the road.
I finally made it to Lot 5 by cutting through the woods via a path barely visible next to a horse trailer. I had to flag down a police officer on a golf cart to obtain this prized information that saved me from being stranded overnight. Once on board my shuttle, I met several sweaty festival patrons who had similar experiences as mine. One poor girl had a huge band-aid on her arm because she suffered a pretty nasty cut from jumping a fence to access Lot 5. Iâ€™m not joking! At this moment, Iâ€™m still wondering if there are people hitch-hiking back from Indio due to these morons who canâ€™t provide safe and accurate direction to save their lives.
To the security staff and festival organizers responsible for this atrocity in customer service: Get it together. There is no excuse for this. And when I tell one of your staff that these convoluted directions are going to be the sole cause of me missing my shuttle, do NOT respond with â€œNo you wonâ€™t; well I hope not.â€ That just makes me want to drop kick you. Thanks.
Finally, I have one message for the promoters, the agents and managers, and especially the bands from The Big 4. This is an amazing thing you have here and everyone in this great country of ours should be able to see it. Schedule more shows here in the United States. Give more people the opportunity to celebrate the Big 4 right here in the country that made Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and Metallica what they are today. Thank you!
Caught In A Mosh
Got the Time
Among the Living
Fight ‘Em Till You Can’t
I Am The Law
In My Darkest Hour
Wake Up Dead
Poison Was the Cure
A Tout Le Monde
Symphony of Destruction
Holy Wars… The Punishment Due
World Painted Blood
Dead Skin Mask
Seasons in the Abyss
South of Heaven
Angel of Death
For Whom the Bell Tolls
Ride the Lightning
Fade to Black
All Nightmare Long
Sad But True
Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
Master of Puppets
Nothing Else Matters
Am I Evil? (w/ MEGADETH, ANTHRAX and SLAYER)
Hit The Lights
Seek And Destroy
All pictures copyright Darius @ All Knowing Force
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