And then there was the band we'd all been waiting for: Slayer. A thin white curtain dropped at the beginning of their performance to reveal a relatively sparse stage set-up: 40 amp cabs and a giant flaming "Slaytanic' eagle pentagram. (It's Slayer, they don't need much to demolish an audience). The crowd was surprisingly well behaved: Most just stared at the stage, arms folded, amid the occasional shirtless meathead screaming every word and a smattering of faithful young head-bangers.
Though other bands blabbed quite a bit throughout their sets, it was all about the music for Slayer, who pile-drove from one song into the next without stopping to chat. One of the only times vocalist-bassist Tom Araya spoke directly to audience was right before their '80s anti-war howler "Mandatory Suicide." "Would you give your life for freedom?" Araya shouted, to scattered cheers. He pressed on, a wicked gleam in his eye: "Would you give your life for someone else's freedom?" This time, the crowd erupted -- -- some loud, some just confused -- and, looking pleased with the mixed response, Araya kicked off the song, which gave way to a furious blur of shredding guitar riffs, booming bass, and body-blow kickdrum.
Co-headliner (and perpetual odd-man-out) Marilyn Manson finished off the fest with an eccentric, highly theatrical performance. The hour-long set opened with epilepsy-inducing strobe-light assault, after which Manson perched on the very edge of the stage and screamed "BOSTONNN!" for a good 60 seconds. The crowd absolutely erupted. "There's a lot of you motherfuckers," Manson added. "And this song's for you." The opening riffs of "The Dope Show" sounded, and the audience went even more apeshit -- a fitting opening salvo for a set larded with greatest hits, which had the crowd (at least, all of it that hadn't left after Slayer) eating out of Manson's hand.
Speaking of which: Unlike Killswitch, who'd generously lobbed water bottles into the severely dehydrated crowd, Manson and crew instead opted to be human misting tents, spraying mouthfuls of beer onto the GA pit in front of the stage section. On past tours Manson has heckled fans like a dictator from behind a podium; but this time he played up the aging-rock-star card to the hilt. His between-song routine became increasingly more bizarre: grab a beer from a roadie, take a single swig, spit into the audience, throw the still-full bottle at the roadie. Later the tableaux expanded to include gasps from an oxygen tank, enormous Hollywood stage lamps, a microphone with a knife blade, and Dylan-esque cue cards. Oddly, not a drop of absinthe in sight. Bizarre.
Toward the end of his set, Manson broke out his torch-song cover of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams," setting the mood by bringing out dozens of white candles and dimming the lights. The crowd mirrored the ghostly stage set-up by throwing up lighters and cell phones. Considering that a mere few hours ago, I'd been getting my ass kicked in a mosh pit, this was a curiously sedate note to cap off the day's barrage of rock fury. So was it a funeral dirge, or will Mayhem return to rock faces off next year? Only one thing is certan: if I ever return, next time I'm packing body armor.