Gigantour Report from Huntington, WV
Band Photo: Megadeth (?)
After parking at the pay lot across the street we approach the Big Sandy Super Arena located on 3rd avenue of Huntington, West Virginia. The venue is lovingly referred to as the “civic center” by the locals. On the bricked walk way in front of the doors is a van, not any van but a van fully painted in the cover art of the new Bobaflex album, Apologize for Nothing. Impressive, flashy and showboating, but impressive none the less. This is home state for the band, so why not show off a little. We snap a couple of pictures of the van and we’re off to the window to grab our tickets. I give the lady my name and who I’m on the list for, Bobaflex. She finds the envelope; she slides the package through the slot in the glass. I open the package, as promised my photo pass. Off to a good start to a good night.
These homework assigns have a way of taking a lot out of you; seven hour metal shows can do that to a person. The Gigantour in Huntington was lined up with two stages, Megadeth headlining the main stage and Bobaflex opening on the second. Doors opened at four thirty on a Wednesday afternoon, show starts at five, I leave work early to get there on time. The place was empty, maybe a hundred people in the arena when Bobaflex took stage, the dinky little second stage with shit lighting. Didn’t matter. These guys came to rock their home state and they did.
The smell of fresh keg beer, pizza and hotdogs rolls in from the concessions. People were pouring in through the gates by half way through the set, security checking wrist bands to enter the floor and passes for cameras. Bobaflex rocked the house, playing most of their tunes from the new album, including the single “Better than Me”, plus some old favorites like “Doomwalker.” The natives loved it, the couple hundred people in the audience loved it, they cheered the band off stage. First act of the night sure the hell wasn’t the heaviest, but the energy they came out with got this crowd worked up. They were ready to rock for hours on end. The opening act did their jobs like pros.
It seemed unreal, their set, the first of the night, was so short. It just felt short; they played for like forty five minutes. Then bam, Nevermore. Everyone turns around, the main stage is lit and the band is rocking out their first song. The mob marches towards the opposite end of the Big Sandy. The main stage is lit with colored lights, hung with huge backdrops and blasting out the rock. My ears are already ringing from Bobaflex’s set, my friend offers up a spare set of ear plugs, I tell him “if it’s too loud you’re too old.” Fuck it’s loud.
So I say, “I need a beer”. So we go back to the concession stand to get our Miller Lite and head back to the show. The security guards stop us at the gate telling us we can’t bring beer on to the floor or into the stands. Really this means, “You can’t drink that and watch the show at the same time”, fuck that’s stupid. So we slam our beers right there, buy another and slam it. Fuck, I’m buzzed. So we make our way up into the stands and find a seat and a better view. Nevermore was giving the crowd what they came to see, they liked the music and the way they were pressed into the front of the stage showed their intent. More people were coming in from both gates at the other end of the arena.
The show itself was pretty uneventful. Between Dry Kill Logic and Fear Factory or Symphony X and Dream Theatre, no one got into a fight, there were no stabbings, no shootings; just some foul language and bad jokes, middle-aged drunk women, half dressed college girls, drunk guys from previous bands mingling in the audience. Everyone was really enjoying themselves it seemed, people everywhere buying t-shirts and cds, food, beer, going outside to smoke cigarettes, and going to the bathroom, your standard goodtime metal show. The crowd moved full court every time a band changed, the music kept playing and the game went on, back and fourth.
The music just kept on going and going and going. I really enjoyed hearing Life of Agony live, I was a big fan of River Runs Red, and hearing them play the title track was a treat. Plus hearing the music from their new release for the first time was awesome. Most of the other bands I was unfamiliar with, Dry Kill Logic, Symphony X, I had never heard anything from. Both of them put on good shows on that dinky shit of a stage. Rocking out their brands of metal, with Dry Kill Logic taking a more pounding groove based approach, Symphony X playing more of technical guitar, 80s style with the new metal sound. The audience really liked all the second stage bands, they were happy to have them and treated them kindly. The people rocked just as hard for the small stage as they did the main acts.
I had caught Fear Factory at an Ozzfest way back, like 7 years and I had seen Dream Theater in Denver about four years ago, so I was seeing them for the second time. Fear Factory did a little tribute to Dimebag while on stage, playing about half a Pantera song, which I thought was cool of them. Otherwise I found them to be brute force musicians, hard and heavy, direct and unrelenting. And Dream Theater just takes on a life of their own on stage, the crowd loved them. Their music changes so much, it’s like diversity overload which leaves you buzzed and reeling. I’m not a big fan of the vocal style of Dream Theater but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the music which is exceptional and their live performance was intense, with excellent use of colored lights to emphasize mood and solos.
Then of course came the headliners and organizers of the tour, Megadeth. I’ve never been a huge Megadeth fan, but I was looking forward to seeing them perform live. Let’s face it their metal legends, Dave Mustaine and the whole Megadeth brand. And they did nothing short of impress. Their set started with a blast of a quarter stick of dynamite and six fireballs shooting out of the stage. I could feel the heat from the flames eighty yards from the stage, back in the stands. These guys knew what they were doing and definitely knew how to get your attention. The few hundred people in the crowd were stunned, I don’t think they knew what to do, I don’t think Huntington had seen fireballs on stage before. Megadeth put on great show and the audience responded accordingly; moshing, headbanging, crowd surfing, and one or two girls flashing. All of the standard behavior when confronting metal legends on stage.
At one point in the show Dave Mustaine stopped and asked the crowd how many of them had seen Megadeth play live before? Maybe a quarter of the four or five hundred people held their hands up, I was amazed. Then I remember this was my first time seeing them play live, I had heard Megadeth for years on the radio and MTV, at the houses of friends and their car stereos, but I’d never seen them live. Mustaine was just as surprised as I was; he said “this is the part in the show when we speed it up some”, with fireballs in full force behind them they busted into another metal song. These guys were restless; they played for nearly two hours, ending the show with the four of them, hands clasped together in the air, sparks showering them from the lighting truss above. Unreal, like something out of a movie. Mustaine was very grateful to the audience, very happy to have played this small river city, he thanked us multiple times for coming out and for keeping rock’n’roll alive.
The Gigantour is no Ozzfest; it wasn’t a Warped Tour or Lollapalooza for that matter. Most of the headlining acts hit their peak in the 80’s or 90’s but refuse to quit playing metal, to give up the dream and the life style. And why would they, they all still have what it takes, the endurance and talent to put on a kickass show for hundreds of people at a time. They all still have the creativity and skill to keep pumping out excellent material and take it across America for everyone to see, including to unknown Huntington, WV. If Gigantour comes around again I’d like to be there to see the monsters of metal put on another show, to be introduced to new material and new metal bands. To be part of the unbelievable energy which came to the Big Sandy Super Arena with Megadeth.
You can check out photos from this show in the photo gallery.
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