With the exception of the whining Maroon 5, the lip-synching Brittany Spears, and WFW fake wrestling, The Savemart Center has witnessed some amazing performances over the last few years: Andrea Bocelli, Green Day, Kenny Chessney and Neil Diamond. Well, on October 11, 2005, it added another name to its list of “great performances,” when Los Angeles-based rock band “System of a Down” (SOAD) gave an amazing show for 15,000 Fresnans.
The group is composed of four Armenian-Americans: Serj Tankian – vocals, Shavo Odadjian – bass, Daron Malakian – guitar and John Dolmayan – Drums. The band came together in 1993 when Serj Tankian and Daron Malakian met each other by coincidence. They soon picked up Shavo Odadjian as band manager, and later they were introduced to John Dolmayan through their producer Rick Ruben.
Their music is a melting pot full of melancholic ballads, ferocious metal pieces and politically charged/anti-establishment lyrics. Serj Tankian’s deep and somber voice adds an endearing novelty to their music that is not often found in contemporary rock.
Perhaps the most diverse crowd for any concert, the attendees were from all age groups and all nationalities. There were 10 year-old girls, middle-aged bikers, teenage head bangers, and everyone in between. This concert was also the first time the Fresno Armenian community found a commonality with the Fresno rock community. The diverse draw is perhaps due to the variety of songs SOAD has to offer.
Rock fans enjoyed SOAD performing 26 songs. They played “Sugar” and “Know” from their first album “System of a Down” released in 1998, and also songs such as “BYOB,” “Question,” and “Mr. Jack,” from their album “Mesmerize.” The music by itself was fast and energetic. However, further adding to the energy of the concert were the lighting effects, which rapidly got brighter as the intensity of the songs jumped and quickly dimmed with the mellow portions.
As the powerful lights sporadically hit, one could see how captivated the crowd was by the music. The sheer energy on stage spread throughout the crowd. The entire audience was pumping their fists and screaming the lyrics to the songs and jumping up and down. At times the jumping was so intense that one could actually feel the floor shaking. The band played for two straight hours without a break, giving the crowd their money’s worth. Serj is an amazing showman; he had the entire crowd at the palm of his hands. Daron also did a wonderful job ad-libbing some lyrics here and there to please the Fresno crowd.
Serj said “Fresno is special to us because we’re Armenian, and before there was North Hollywood and before there was Glendale, there was Fresno.”
Politics is not merely something they sing about, they are also very active in the political arena. “System of a Down” is heavily involved in activities related to the acceptance of the Armenian Genocide. Every year, on or around April 24, the band holds a special concert to raise money for Genocide Recognition activities.
More recently, they held rallies in front of Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert’s office to urge him to allow a vote on a House bill, which properly addresses and recognizes the Armenian Genocide. The bill has already been passed by a House committee and now needs a vote in Congress. In the past, the Speaker has pigeon-holed similar House bills. The efforts of SOAD and their fans have spread the word of the Armenian Genocide to hundreds of thousands of people, and have further encouraged many to get involved.
There is something very hypnotic and contagious about thousands of people singing and dancing to the same tune. You can’t help but get caught up in the music and the moment, especially when the music and the show are performed well. It was an amazing concert. People, who were not fans of System of a Down’s music prior to the show, surely became huge fans afterwards.