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Nu-metal lends itself to complete chaos. The hip-hop-infused heavy-rock style was pioneered by bands like Korn, Limp Bizkit and Slipknot who channeled their trauma and anger into swaggering music that's designed to soundtrack wild times — mosh pits, ragers, schoolyard fights and everything in between. It's a genre that's particularly suited for the live setting, and throughout nu-metal's storied history, there've been numerous performances that have now attained legendary status. From festival freakouts gone awry and MTV madness to jaw-dropping late-night drop-ins, these are 10 of the wildest.
Somehow, this actually happened. During the promotion for Adam Sandler's 2000 film Little Nicky, which had a soundtrack stacked with nu-metal bands, the comedian teamed up with Deftones and Brandon Boyd, of Incubus, for a heartfelt, stripped-down cover of Deftones' "Be Quiet and Drive (Far Away)." Sandler strums an acoustic, Chino Moreno and Boyd croon softly and, wildest of all, it actually sounds pretty damn good.
There was so much going on during Kid Rock's 1999 feature on MTV's Daytona Beach Break. Stoic runway models strutting across the stage, college kids jumping like maniacs and Kid Rock leaping around, clad in glimmering track pants and a fedora, rapping lines like, "If you don't like Kid Rock, you can suck my dick" while the crowd screams giddily. No matter what you think of Kid Rock now, it's hard to watch the footage and not wish you could be there to witness the insanity in-person.
Korn doing an unplugged session was already pretty improbable on its own merit, but the band's choice to invite goth-rock icons the Cure to join them took it to a whole other level of amazement. In the middle of the 2007 special, Jonathan Davis invited Robert Smith and his bandmates to join them for a cover of the Cure's "In Between Days," and the nu-metal pioneers found surprising harmony with their English heroes. Who could've predicted a collaboration like that during the "Freak on a Leash" years?
Limp Bizkit's set at Woodstock '99 was arguably one of the most insane rock performances of all time. The pit was raucous to the point of people being in physical danger, and when Fred Durst, Wes Borland and Co. busted out their iconic anthem for fucking shit up, "Break Stuff," many fans took that literally and started tearing plywood from the festival walls. Bizkit may have been unfairly scapegoated for a fest gone wrong from the get-go, but even so, "wild" is an understatement here — this performance was downright feral.
Yes, kids, there was a time when MTV not only featured music, but actually hosted an Icons special paying tribute to Metallica and featuring Limp Bizkit, Snoop Dogg, Korn, Avril Lavigne and others busting out very-of-the-era covers of the thrash pioneers' classic jams. Seeing Korn take on "One" and Limp Bizkit turning "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" into a nu-metal stomper feels like a fever dream. But if the performances themselves somehow don't convince you of the wildness of this time-capsule event, the beauty of watching Metallica's awkward reactions should.
P.O.D. playing "Goodbye for Now" on Leno in 2006 wasn't all that wild at the time, but looking back, the late-night appearance is totally bonkers considering who was joining the band behind the mic. Before she overtook the pop world as Katy Perry, a young musician born Katheryn Hudson — who also appeared on the studio version of the Testify single and its music video — made her television debut that night by singing with the Christian nu-metal crew. Yes. Really.
If there was ever a place for Rage Against the Machine to protest, it would be the New York Stock Exchange, and somehow the anti-capitalist rockers made it happen. Teaming up with documentarian Michael Moore in January 2000, the band set up their gear on the steps of the financial headquarters and played an impromptu show that attracted hundreds and temporarily shut down the doors of the building. Guerrilla activism by way of nu-metal.
Any number of Slipknot performances could land on this list, but we picked the Nine's 2001 appearance on Late Night With Conan O'Brien due to the sheer insanity of the context and the magnitude of the platform. It's one of the most intense musical performances in late-night history and, really, there's no way anything this ferocious should have made it on network TV. Iowa's masked maniacs were young and full of anger, thrashing through the furious "The Heretic Anthem" — a song that doesn't mince words about organized religion — with both a dangerous energy and the utmost musical prowess. In Conan's words: "May God help us all."
Raising awareness about the Armenian genocide had been baked into System of a Down's ethos from the beginning, but it wasn't until 2015 that they were actually able to perform in their homeland. To mark the 100th year anniversary of the horrific act of ethnic cleansing, the nu-metal auteurs traveled to Armenia's capital city of Yerevan and played a free show to an endlessly vast sea of loyal fans. Unreal.