Rob Zombies Great American Nightmare was a haunted house/concert experience held at the Pomona Fairplex, a large venue about 20 miles east of Los Angeles. Lasting through the month of October the event featured three haunted house attractions, musical performances, and tons of food and merchandise vendors. After working with Universal Studios Hollywood for the last several years designing haunted houses for their Halloween Horror Nights event, it seems that Zombie got inspired to forge ahead on his own. A creative collaboration between Zombie and Steve Kopelman, a well-known haunted house producer and owner of Haunt Holdings LLC, the team had the full creative control that corporate America could not provide. The music selection was extremely eclectic with Zombie, Kevin Lyman from the Warped Tour and John Reese from Mayhem Fest working together to choose bands. Each Thursday night featured rock alternative music, Fridays EDM, Saturdays hard rock/metal, and most Sundays were Latin-focused. From goth rockers like 45 Grave to DJ’s spinning dance music like DJ Bl3nd there was literally something for everyone. Friday November 1st, closing weekend of the event, featured Zombie himself performing a set. He had originally planned to just close out the event on Saturday November 2 but demand was too high and he added the performance on Friday after the event was well underway in mid-October, with some of the EDM acts still playing afterward.
The performance was held inside the Fairplex concert hall and surrounding it outside the venue was the twisted carnival that was the rest of the event. Decorated in true Rob Zombie fashion, the outdoor part of the event felt like Universal’s Horror Nights on steroids. People dressed as ghouls immediately began harassing guests upon entry into the Fairplex, or “FEARplex” as it was dubbed for the event. The music played on speakers as patrons walked around, which was much better than Universal, featuring rock and metal music instead of the snore worthy classical music from old horror movies that Universal plays. The vendors were all local artists that really needed the exposure, such as Black Craft Cult t-shirts instead of the typical corporate giants one might expect. Even the bar area featured an up and coming whiskey company offering discounted shots. In fact, the alcohol served was another unique aspect of the event as they actually served real mixed drinks and not the wine coolers flavored as mixed drinks that one is lucky to find at the amusement parks. This event was obviously not meant for children and patrons seemed aware of that as everyone in attendance was pretty much an adult. It is rare to find a Halloween haunted house event that is not toned down for children and this was one of the best things about great American nightmare.
Zombie performed at 9:30pm, going on a bit later than expected, and his set lasted about an hour and a half. Peppered with covers such Schools Out by Alice Cooper and American Band by Grand Funk Railroad, Zombie basically did his greatest hits with a fair amount of White Zombie songs, which is always a good thing. It was a full-scale Zombie show with the big flashing screens on each side and full stage decoration. Guitarist John 5 was especially on his game busting out blistering solos. Zombie and 5 have a great chemistry on stage and given all the different acts 5 has played with over the years such as Marilyn Manson and Rob Halford, Zombie seems like 5’s best fit so far. His signature style adds an additional flavor to Zombie’s macabre mix. Scum of the Earth and I Zombie were especially good; before I Zombie Zombie announced that he hadn’t played the song in fifteen years. Pussy Liquor, from the House of 1000 Corpses soundtrack, was an interesting addition Zombie doesn’t often add to his set. Being that the live version is much heavier than the recorded version, he should definitely play it more often. With its bluesy, funky bass line it definitely got the goth girls hips swaying. Thunder Kiss ’65 is always a crowd favorite that definitely delivered its usual weighty groove that gets people head banging. A creepy, very well done mid set jam session showed the crowd that, though the band may be billed as “Rob Zombie,” they definitely function as a unified force live. They closed the show with an energetic version Dragula and then came back out for a slightly underwhelming encore, but overall it was a decent show.
Mid-set, Zombie had announced on stage that apparently a little old woman had gone through one of the mazes and said it was “disgusting.” She called the police and the police came and told Zombie to tone it down in regards to the pyrotechnics. Why these people decided to bring grandma along to Rob Zombie’s Nightmare will forever remain a mystery. The mazes, Lords Of Salem Total Black Out, The Haunted World Of El Superbeasto 3D, and Haunt Of 1,000 Corpses, definitely were genuinely scary and had a lot more theatrics than the average amusement park maze, even without the “fire and explosions” as Zombie referred to them. Overall one of the best things about the event was being able to explore everything there was to offer after the performance ended. Usually the post-concert adrenaline rush is met with the anti-climax of angry staff encouraging people to leave as soon as possible so they can start cleaning up and go home. In this case, there was plenty more to do and one didn’t have to just pack up and go home right after seeing an awesome band. Overall, Great American Nightmare had plenty to offer for its actually modest ticket price of just under $50, especially considering one got an amusement park ticket and a concert ticket all in one package. Let’s hope it is back to deliver more scares and more metal next year!