by Steven Sanchez
You hear the tapping sounds on a ride cymbal, the strums of a guitar, then chiming in is a funky bassline, accompanied by a second riff from a guitar, this continues on and builds up until you hear a guttural and primal scream shouting, “Are you ready?” These are the rhythms and lyrics stitched to the song “Blind,” that belongs to the band, Korn. Needless to say, when they came to town at the Save Mart Center with perfect company in Breaking Benjamin, and Bones UK for the Winter Tour 2020, on March 1, the sold-out crowd answered with a profound yes with their head bangs. The Bakersfield boys have been royalty and pioneers in the genre of nu-metal (a fusion of metal and hip hop) that was popular on the airwaves in the 90s and 2000s with the likes of Rage Against the Machine, Limp Bizkit, and Faith No More, The Deftones, and Linkin Park. Through lineup changes and obstacles along the way, they’re still going strong.
This performance had emotion and meaning since it was years since the original founding members had played together since 2005 until they got back together in 2013. The band is comprised of lead singer and songwriter Jonathan Davis, guitarists Brian “Head” Welch and James “Munky” Shaffer, bassist Reginald Quincy “Fieldy” Arvizu, and drummer Ray Luzier. The band has evolved from their early days from their wardrobe in athletic apparel, gold chains, backward hats, and flannel shirts to a goth-driven, dark look all around, and since their lyrics have dealt with controversial but real subjects; it was fitting.
They were and are innovators that’ve served an important role in helping to put the Central Valley music scene on the map to the mainstream, in a way no other act has done before or since. Even more challenging since their hometown, Bakersfield, has established its name as being a community that produced country twang and honky tonk music. Because of that, they developed a unique sound all on their own where their lower string, tune down guitars, beatboxing, and urban flavor became their specialties as a way to stand out. For that no other artists from this area have been able to copy or replicate that sound and their place in music history has been unsurpassed, so they still remain in a category and class on their own in that regard. Every band that is from this area looks up to them as the bar setters of the kind of success they want to achieve.
Most importantly, the band wears their hearts on their sleeve and their music is personally therapeutic to Jonathan and that was what attracted their fan base to them. This tour is in support of their most recent album, “The Nothing,” that surprisingly came out on the day of my birthday September 13 of last year. Speaking of therapy, Davis went through a lot of personal stuff and loss the previous year before the release of the record, so the production became cathartic for him as some of his emotional breakdowns were recorded and ended up on the album. But that’s what we’ve come to expect of Jonathan, and that’s why fans have stuck with them as they approach their fourth decade in the music industry.
BONES UK opened the night up and definitely got people in the mood for what was to come. The British female duo is comprised of lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Rosie Bones, lead guitarist Carmen Vandenberg, and the backing of drummer Heavy. Well, they make no bones of the fact that they’re loud and are contributing to a fast-growing sorority of raucous female rockers that are proving their awesomeness, like Lzzy Hale of Halestorm and Taylor Momsen of The Pretty Reckless to name a couple. Add the industrial aspect into the bowl of rock, is a sound and image unique onto itself, and before you know it their name will move up a few spots on the marquee where their names will be in the bold font on the posters as future headliners. It may’ve been a Sunday night, but the fans were there to party like it was a Saturday night.
Then came Breaking Benjamin, and the Pennsylvania metal band rocked the joint. They came here a couple of years ago with Five Finger Death Punch as part of the Blazefest lineup that also included Bad Wolves and From Ashes to New. As good as that show was, this one topped that. Lead singer and guitarist Benjamin Burnley has kept this band going strong since 1999 and is the creative force of the band. He is one with the music and is one with his fans, and he expressed that when he went through the floor aisles of the arena shaking hands with the fans while singing. Burnley, individually, performed the show in the darkness without the spotlight on him, and from the way he sang and played guitar, he didn’t need to be visible, because everyone knows he’s the beacon of light of this group. The main climax of their set is their most standout song and a personally favorite of mine, “I Will Not Bow,” and this song encapsulates their career by the lyrics with “I will not bow/I will not break… I will not fall/I will not fade/I will take your breath away.” They’ve been through a lot, they’ve bent, but have never broken, and on that night, they did take our breath away.
The superstars out of Kern County took the stage. The familiar Korn staples were presented. Davis played the bagpipes and beatboxing and head banging and screaming and slap bass-ing and dark tones and mosh pits were all on the menu. They played the classics like “Here to Stay,” “Freak on a Leash,” “Make Me Bad,” “Twist,” “Got the Life,” “Blind,” “Coming Undone,” and played new songs off their newest album “The Nothing.” When you wake up the next morning post-concert and your ears ringing with their songs still playing inside your head, that means you know it was a good time.
We featured Brian last year in our mental health awareness issue about his documentary and his recovery through his faith along with his daughter Jennea, and as great as it was talking to him, it was more amazing to see him onstage in his element with a guitar in his hands. The band was able to infuse classic rock songs from other groups into their music like Metallica’s “One,” and Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” that made the crowd go crazy. At the end of the show Jonathan thanked us and said this place is like home and that couldn’t have been more gratifying to hear. Especially for me and others like me who grew up listening to these guys and their music helped get us through hard times as their music is about angst and through dark times trying to find ways to deal with life. Their music was my workout and pump up playlist in junior high and high school so it was very sentimental. Their performance was high caliber and that night confirms why there here to stay.