The fourth annual River City Rockfest was poised to be an 11-hour day of sweaty, humid, molten headbanging metal fit for a king. Or at least for an eventual official crowd of "more than 27,800." And it was. But there was no need to ease into the festivities.
Not with Avatar on the bill.
The band from Gothenburg, Sweden, which would have fit in splendidly with the Hellzapoppin' freak show elsewhere on the grounds of San Antonio's AT&T Center in style and appearance (minus the fire swallowing and power drills piercing the skull, of course), was given the honor of kicking off the Rockfest's 20-band extravaganza at 12:05 p.m. on the main stage.
At first, that distinction appeared to be a disadvantage, given that gates weren't scheduled to open until noon with the band only playing 25-30 minutes. Fortunately for those who threatened to riot (at least in spirit) if they missed the band's set, the gates burst free at 11:40 a.m., and the rush to the front of the stage commenced after passage through metal detectors making their Rockfest debut.
Vocalist Johannes Eckerström, guitarists Jonas Jarlsby and Tim Öhrström, bassist Henrik Sandelin and drummer and band founder John Alfredsson gave them what they came for with older songs after having dropped Feathers & Flesh on May 13. The eccentric Eckerstrom demonstrated he has just as much a knack for sticking out his tongue and wagging it from side to side to encourage loud approval as he does for performing tunes, helping to make Avatar arguably the most unique band performing all day. Interestingly, Avatar was one of three Rockfest bands that released their latest record on Friday, May 13 (DevilDriver and Hatebreed being the others).
Oddly enough (or maybe not), Eckerstrom told the crowd, "We don't have much time to play" . . . before proceeding to spend more than enough time talking. During one such occasion, the vocalist sent out a not-so-heartfelt word of warning to other bands, declaring, "This is a message to Fleshgod Apocalypse on how a show should be done."
And just like that, Avatar was done. The band headlined Alamo City Music Hall on Sunday, Jan. 31, but that wasn't exactly in front of the thousands that showed up at the beginning of the Rockfest. So it's not a stretch to say it probably won't be long before Eckerstrom and Co. unleash their circus-like heaviness upon the Alamo City again in the not-too-distant future.
And give their South Texas peeps reasons to wag their tongues as well.
For a River City Rockfest interview with Hatebreed, click here. Click these respective links for festival coverage of Megadeth, Scorpions, Red Sun Rising and The Sword, Bullet For My Valentine, Hellyeah and Sixx A.M. Stay tuned for headliners Disturbed plus Sevendust, Pop Evil, Hatebreed and San Antonio's The Heroine.