On a rather damp but quite warm Sunday morning, the final day of the ever-magnificent Sonisphere Festival has landed on us with full force. Smiles and groans met with very bouncing sound in the air. I, for one, was prepared for a mission to document a rather special, but touching gathering of old and new faces.
Equipped with camera wrapped around my sore neck from the previous two nights, I set myself on the journey to the Jägermeister Stage. With every step, men, women, kids and teenagers passed by with t-shirts embracing their favourite band of today. What I was grinning from ear-to-ear was the massive hubbub of people in masks and boiler suits of all kinds of colours, sewn-on patches, tattoos and a cacophony of sounds blasting out memorable songs, whether pumping it from their stereos, iPods or through their vocal chords. Of course, this can mean one thing. The intimate gathering that I’m documenting was the Slipknot Maggot Meet-Up, to commemorate with their talked about headlining show at the stroke of 9pm. In case you’re not aware, it marks the first anniversary of Paul Gray‘s heart-wrenching passing.
As I strolled across the ever bumpy, but soggy Sonisphere fields and what it seems to be the raw stench filling the air, a white flag with the words “Slipknot Maggot Meet Up” appeared for all to see on a fence. The stench disappeared as the sun grabbed the clouds to take a peek. This precious moment was organised by Slipknot/Murderdolls/Stone Sour forum administrator and all round sweet lady, known as Jojo Maggotmummy, to gather fans old and new to sign the flag in memory to the late great Paul Dredrick Gray, also known as the number 2, co-founder, songwriter and monstrous bassist of Slipknot. My, what a meet-up it was. Fans with tattoo pieces smothering their skin, fans wearing boiler suits and masks to look the part of this celebration. People had even shared their moments when they had the chance to talk about the late, great Paul Gray, and rest assured, the memories were very positive. Whilst the affectionately dubbed “maggots” walked towards the huddle, this gave the opportunity for fans to meet other Slipknot fans, got the chance to meet up with old friends, show their pieces of art on their bodies and to scribble their names on the pre-made flag to mark their respects of the day. Even, I was greeted with kids in Slipknot masks and gear with their parents to made the occasion known.
Many pictures were taken and even numbers were exchanged. Laughter filled the fields and as many passers-by walked along wondering what the hell was going on, it didn’t embarrass the Maggot Meet-Up one bit, and it shouldn’t do anyway. Group photos were taken of everyone who signed and attended the event for five minutes of their time or longer. I feel as though it was longer as it was a happy occasion to unite. I, as a Slipknot fan since 2001, had no problem on signing my name on the flag to pay my respects to the late Paul Gray and to give my wishes to the Slipknot lads (I badly drew a camera next to my name). There may be even experiences in the group that the fans may have lost a loved one on the year that Paul passed away. “Bittersweet on so many levels” mentions Jojo as the group huddled to reveal their amazement when showing a file full of fans’ tribute tattoos across the globe.
What I loved about the whole meet-up, is more and more fans started to pour in like a disease, despite of them not knowing of the Maggot Meet-Up. Especially for those who aren’t that keen on Slipknot‘s material, or previously loved their music. They still weren’t reluctant to sign the flag to mark their respects for the fallen hero.
Although I’ve documented the event for a half an hour and I was due to start documenting on other bands, I was absolutely grateful to be greeted by a massively wonderful group of maggots. There was no hatred. The fans were all together for many things in human life and for the love of infectious music, that is Slipknot and the man who made it all happen, Paul Gray.
As I walked away from the group, a huge roar of laughter echoed the skies. Was it someone tripped over and landed face first into a mud puddle? Although we’d love to dream, it was the roar of a group of down-to-earth people who have rejoiced to mark respect, love and memory of Paul Gray and to wish every inch of their support from their hearts to one of the influential bands of today. And on the night, they will be tearing a new hole in the Apollo Stage. My friends, Slipknot are here to stay and no-one can touch them. Whoever is a proud fan of the mighty titans, raise your hands!
Two Minute Silence
As many festival goers were being like school kids on a school day just for this weekend, it was arranged by Sonisphere Festival that there will be a two minute silence at 2pm to pay their respects for the late great Paul Gray. Everyone was to go outside and stand in silence. Although it is like Remembrance Day, there was a chilling wind waving through this bright afternoon.
The stage was set embracing the number 2 of the monitors. Whilst ‘Vermillion Part Two’ pumped through the speakers, two men, one holding Paul‘s Ibanez bass guitar and a pole with his boiler suit and pig mask attached taken centre stage. As the screens switched to his recognisable number filled with blood red, the fields turned cold. In silence, a lot of metalheads surrounded the Saturn Stage with their heads bowed down until their eyes met the grass or their eyes met the stage to stare at the vision of Paul Gray, with his number embraced.
As one hand of the devil horns was raised to the crystal clear blue skies, a domino effect of devil horns and the fingers forming a V were touching blue. Even, many held their heads high to make contact. It was a terrifyingly serene moment that a lot of people should cherish. Two minutes are up. A massive uproar of cheers, whistles and chants to Paul‘s name invaded the stage. I know, and many will know, Paul will be watching us and probably give an acknowledgeable nod to say thank you to all who have attended. And possibly when Slipknot played that night, the heavens opens and Paul cried to us.
To his comrades. To his loved ones. Thank you for the memories, you won’t be forgotten!