Setting the Stage: Throngs of heavy music fans flocked to the outdoor Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater on Long Island, New York, on Tuesday, but not all for the same reason. The co-headliner billing of alternative metal icons Korn and grunge legends Alice in Chains brought together two bands with little stylistic overlap despite co-existing as parallels in the alt-metal scene since the ’90s. Add in the disparate genre-bending support acts — post-hardcore veterans Underoath and the industrial hip-hop band Ho99o9 — and the bill at the amphitheater was truly a diverse trip through the modern spectrum of heavy music.
Taking the Stage: Jones Beach is far away on an island on the southern edge of Long Island, near the Atlantic Ocean, and no easy trip for city dwellers. Because of the show’s early start time of 6 p.m., many unfortunately missed the joyfully aggro and acerbic set from Ho99o9 (pronounced “horror”). Fresh off a sold-out headlining pop-up show at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn the Friday prior, the band’s tasteful combination of live blast beats, hardcore punk energy, and harsh sampling deserved a larger audience than the sparse smattering of apathetic rock fans lingering around the venue while there was still daylight.
Underoath also played to a small, early crowd, with their more dramatized stage show keeping the arriving Alice in Chains fans at a distance, many choosing to pre-game in the designated drinking area until their band of choice went on. Underoath stuck mostly to their newer, more electro metalcore stylings, pulling heavily from 2018’s Erase Me. Their sound has certainly grown into that of a stadium band, featuring everything from dubstep-esque breakdowns to melodic sludge metal. These stark contrasts didn’t always work in their favor, especially perturbing the delicate sensibilities of the guitar purists who came for Alice in Chains.
Appropriately and perhaps purposefully, Alice in Chains took the stage during sunset, as a golden glow beamed from behind the band shell and across the nearby Zachs Bay. Opening with the sinister combination of the late Layne Staley composition “Angry Chair” and “Man in the Box”, the band proceeded through a hits-heavy set with occasional dips into their newer albums. The live takes on the title track and “The One You Know” from 2018’s Rainier Fog had more power than their studio versions, as Jerry Cantrell’s delectable guitar tone overtook the venue. Singer William DuVall may not have the same vocal grit as Staley, but his performances held up well and did justice to Staley’s originals and other songs from Alice in Chains’ ’90s output.
Slowburners “No Excuses” and “Nutshell” from the Jar of Flies EP were particularly notable, the latter rendering a beautiful moment after Cantrell dedicated the song to Staley and the audience responded by turning their phone lights on, creating a glowing wall of lights across the venue. These tracks also offered some welcome restraint after the generally bombastic nature of the show thus far. That the grunge legends only had an hour and 15 minutes to play (without an encore) felt like a slight, but the band was sure to send fans off with a memorable closing one-two punch of “Would?” and “Rooster”.
Once again, the energy in the amphitheater took an abrupt shift after Alice in Chains’ moody sunset performance. Emerging from behind a massive black banner, Korn jolted the crowd and unleashed a sudden mania, opening with “Here to Stay” as dreadlocks went flying and the stage’s elaborate light installation cast an eerie shade of red upon guitarist Brian “Head” Welch, who appeared as a tornadic blur on stage right, a physical personification of the band’s music.
“Are you ready?” singer Jonathan Davis screamed, signaling the opening of “Blind”, the classic track from the band’s 1994 self-titled debut. A staple in Korn’s catalog and one of the most significant moments in nu-metal, it sounded invigorating and massive on Tuesday night, highlighting the set. The crowd responded in kind, as moshes and crowd-surfers suddenly appeared from a previously languorous pit.
Like seasoned pros, Korn kindled this physical reaction with a career-spanning setlist that ranged from new single “You’ll Never Find Me” from their upcoming album, The Nothing, to classics like “Freak on a Leash: and “Falling Away From Me”. In a particularly crafty move, the band slipped the chugging passage from Metallica’s “One” into the end of “Shoots and Ladders”, which was well received by all in attendance — a unifying moment during a show that sometimes felt segmented by the disparity of its bands and their respective fans.
Photo Gallery: Korn, Alice in Chains, Underoath, and Ho9909 at Jones Beach, New York (click to enlarge and scroll through):
Korn, Underoath and Ho99o9 photos by Jon Hadusek
Alice in Chains photos by Mathieu Bredeau
Here to Stay
Rotting in Vain
You’ll Never Find Me
Shoots and Ladders
Got the Life
Make Me Bad
Freak on a Leash
Falling Away from Me
Alice in Chains setlist:
Man in the Box
Check My Brain
Dam That River
Bleed the Freak
We Die Young
The One You Know
On My Teeth
Breathing In a New Mentality
Hold Your Breath
Writing on the Walls
Sink With You