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(Live Review) MILWAUKEE METALFEST 2024 PRESHOW - Milwaukee, WI, 5/16/24


The Beard & Little Johnny


Greetings from rainy Milwaukee. The lad and I have arrived and checked into a bed and breakfast that just screams “haunted mansion.” A two-million-dollar three story place with a lot of twists, turns, and things that go bump in the night. Little Johnny took a look and said, “Beard, what did you book us into?” “Mighty Decibel does not pay for room and board little dude. You want to sleep in the metal bus again?”

(Ed: You can afford a bus? I've got to revisit that salary I pay you, Beard!)

Our room is on the third floor, so if this weekend ends up being the end of the Beard and Little Johnny, it will be because of poor lodging choices. (Beard note: Actually, the place turned out to be quite nice, and the owners were way friendlier than at any hotel stay. Although they were concerned about Little Johnny, they loved the Beard and hey, homemade breakfast was included.)


This evening was the preshow concert for the Milwaukee Metalfest. A historic event that metalheads of the Beard's age remember fondly from back in the day (circa late 1980’s / early 1990’s.) It went away for several decades, but was resurrected last year by promoter and Hatebreed lead singer Jamey Jasta and is enjoying its second year of resurgence. Tonight, was show #29 and bands #97-99 of our 2024 season and featured Hatebreed vocalist Jasta and friends, (with openers Toxic Ruin and H1Z1.)


At minimum tonight allowed us to get a lay of the land, (so to speak), as the Rave/Eagles Club complex was a large multi-floored building, and it was important to learn the set up for this weekend’s chaos. With less than a mile between us and the venue, of course we would walk rather than drive each day. This news, as expected, did not sit well with Little Johnny who remarked “Great, you booked us in the Milwaukee version of the Amityville house and now you are going to double down by making us walk to and from it. You suck Beard.” “Talk to our boss little dude. Or get that beer sponsorship you keep yammering on about.”


After walking over to the venue, and obtaining our preshow passes from the box office, we made our way to the main room and the nearest bar so that Little Sulk Face could have a beer. Two beers and twenty-six dollars later, (plus tip and believe me the tip was stop drinking beer here.) I realized we cannot afford to get drunk at this venue. Additionally with three stages on three floors, it is a rat’s nest of stairs and rooms in low light so good luck to me with my poor eyesight. I will need my wits and potentially a seeing eye dog to traverse this place.



First up tonight was Milwaukee nu-metal band H1Z1.

This style is far more Little Johnny-than-Beard type music. Mixing bits of hardcore and hip hop with screaming metal, H1Z1 was not my thing, but Johnny jumped around perfectly happy with the somewhat industrial style metal going on.

I did enjoy the energy but ultimately Johnny can grade how he wants. For the Beard it is 74/100.



Next up were fellow Wisconsinites, Sheboygan’s thrash metal act Toxic Ruin.


Toxic Ruin was pretty bare bones thrash. Nothing especially impressive, but nothing I did not like either. Once again Little Johnny loved it. This is definitely going to be his kind of festival. The vocals were a bit indecipherable for thrash, so I am keeping the grade down in the low 80’s. They are “local” boys though, so they had good crowd support. What the hell, it is the first night and the Beard is feeling magnanimous.

(Johnny just looked over my shoulder and sneered “Way to use the fifteen-dollar word ya pretentious bearded clown), yep, it’s going to be a long weekend. Toxic Ruin gets an 82/100.



Finally headlining this event was Metalfest promoter and Hatebreed vocalist Jamey Jasta along with Bobby Blitz (Overkill), Zetro (Exodus), and Bobby Hambel (Biohazard) doing a metal version of the all-star jam thing.

Jasta is a good frontman. He reminds me of Sammy Zayne from WWE (if Sammy sang metal instead of wrestling.) Jasta came out and did a few Hatebreed numbers before bringing out his first guest, Exodus singer Steve “Zetro” Souza. Having Zetro brought out the old school circle pit where Johnny had a true workout. Zetro and Jasta’s band knocked out “War is my Shepherd” to a crowd explosion on the floor. As you might have expected the Beard backed WAY out of the way on that one. That was followed by both “Toxic Waltz” and “Bonded by Blood” which were both cool to hear as well as watching the chaos.

Next Jasta called up Bobby Hambel, the original guitarist from Biohazard. Biohazard played at the Beard's very first Milwaukee Metalfest back in 1990. Jasta was all energy with his beard and hair bouncing as he led the guys through a collection of old Biohazard numbers before finally introducing Bobby Blitz from Overkill (big crowd pop for him.) Blitz said, “well, if Zetro can play “Toxic Waltz”, I guess I can play “Elimination”. That lit up the pits once again. Blitz (at 64 years old) still has an ear-piercing shriek.


Admittedly, the all-star mash up was fun. Little Johnny continued to feel like we were FINALLY at his kind of metal festival since he got to jump around the entire time. Now, I do not know Jasta’s backstory so without anything to contradict it, I will say he seemed sincere as an artist and promoter. I guess the next three days will show how good he is at it. As this was my first experience with him and his stuff and since it was kind of like a covers set, (with legitimate authenticity), I am going a solid and safe 85/100 for Jasta & Friends.


Afterwards they were spinning metal tracks at the outdoor portion of the event, and it was a nice evening, so we hung out a while and let all the sweat dry up on Johnny before walking back to our rooms. This wrapped up night one and the preshow. Tomorrow it will be ten plus hours of metal and a good night’s sleep will be needed before we undertake that.


Keep following us every Wednesday on The Mighty Decibel, watch all the latest videos on TikTok at thebeard0728, and stay up on Facebook by friending Mark McQueen. Until next time this is the Beard and Little Johnny saying ...

Stay Heavy and Horns Up!!!


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