Avenged Sevenfold's entrance to the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, MA on July 22nd could have been mistaken for something out of a Dracula film. The stage was set up like a gothic castle, complete with a giant, sword-wielding skeleton king sitting atop a throne that overlooked the entire amphitheater. The band members took the stage in low, moody light as fog lingered near the ground; several of them carried chalices.
With a loud explosion, the Huntington Beach, CA quintet kicked into the aptly-titled "Shepherd of Fire," the lead track from their latest effort, 2013's chart-topping Hail to the King. It was instantly obvious why they were chosen to headline the 2014 installment of the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival.They know how to work a crowd, reminiscent of a larger-than-life '80s rock band in their prime.
It's hard to believe that it's already been five years since the death of the band's original drummer, James "The Rev" Sullivan. The band continues to dedicate a song to their fallen friend every night. They played the ballad "So Far Away," requesting that the audience hold their lighters and cell phones in the air in The Rev's honor. The crowd respectfully obliged.
For me, the highlight of their set was seeing them play "Eternal Rest" and the set-closing "Unholy Confessions" from 2003's Waking the Fallen. The band has changed quite a bit since then, shifting from metalcore to more accessible hard rock, so it was nice to see that they haven't forgotten their roots.
2014 marks Korn's second time co-headlining Mayhem, the first being back in 2010. I had never seen the nu metal stalwarts before, but they left me impressed with their energy considering how long they've been at it. The band's seamlessly shifting between tracks from their 1994 self-titled debut to last year's The Paradigm Shift and everything in between.
Of course, it was the classics that got the fans going. They went wild when frontman JD brought out his bigpipes, knowing the crushing "Shoots and Ladders" was imminent. Other highlights included "Freak on a Leash," "Falling Away from Me" and "Here to Stay." They closed the set with the song that started it all, "Blind," during which three of the band member's children came onto the stage and headbanged with their parents.
The main stage also boasted performances from Asking Alexandria, whose brand of metalcore was well received by the younger attendees, and Trivium, who worship Metallica with the best of them. Long before that, however, the parking lot was bustling with three other stages: the Coldcock American Herbal Whiskey Stage, the Sumerian Records/Headbang for the Highway Stage and the Victory Records Stage.
The biggest buzz came from Body Count, the rap-metal crossover group fronted by hip-hop icon Ice-T. Ice-T - these days a household name who is perhaps better known for his acting career than his music - certainly doesn't need to be doing this, but he's there for the love of it. He even brought his son, Ice Morrow, on tour to perform backing vocals. Most of the crowd seemed to go to the set purely out of curiosity, but it didn't take long for them to get roped in by Ice's showmanship.
The band closed with "Cop Killer," which stirred a huge controversy upon its initial release in 1992. It may seem more innocent all these years later, especially given Ice's well-known role on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, but he made it clear that he stands by its message of protest against police brutality. During the song's "Fuck the police" bridge, Ice added: "I play one on TV. They can suck my dick!"
As if you needed another reason to love Ice, he and his son went directly from their set to the neighboring stage to watch legendary death metallers Cannibal Corpse perform. Ice even attempted - futile as it may have been - to keep up with vocalist's George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher's boundless headbanging. Fisher dedicated a song to him: "This song is for Ice-T. It's about shooting blood from your cock. 'I Cum Blood.'"
The award for most entertaining set of the day goes to Mushroomhead. The band crammed a whopping nine performers - including three vocalists - onto the stage, each one donning a monstrous mask more horrific than the last. With members running rampant all over the stage (and often crowd), the chaos was reminiscent of a smaller scale Slipknot show but with a stronger emphasis on theatrics. Even if their industrial metal sound isn't your style, their live show is something to behold.
Suicide Silence suffered the tragic death of their vocalist, Mitch Lucker, in 2012, but his replacement, Eddie Hermida (ex-All Shall Perish), is doing a fine job keeping the legacy alive. Miss May I seem to feel more at home on Mayhem than the did at Warped Tour in the past. Darkest Hour were on point as always. Islander's intense sound and stage presence brought to mind Deftones, Glassjaw and Rage Against the Machine.
While the line-up wasn't quite as strong as it has been the in pastyears, if you ask me, the 2014 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival offers plenty of highlights. The festival is also very supportive of the troops; before Korn took the stage, a local veteran was brought on stage, honored by the crowd, and award a guitar for her service. You can't beat a day full of metal packed into one affordable ticket price.
The Vans Warped Tour celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, and a lot has changed in those two decades. One thing that has been consistent for the last several years is people complaining about the line-up. While it's undeniable that the tour's focus has shifted, the adaptation is an easy one to make. As with past years, the 2014 roster boats plenty of old favorites in addition to today's hot acts and up-and-comers.
I went the Mansfield, MA stop at the Xfinity Center on July 10, 2014, where I ended up catching only portions of many sets because where was simply too many good bands playing. Even still, I missed several acts I wanted to see - but there's always next year.
I had heard positive buzz about K.Flay from multiple artists on the tour, so I decided to check her out. Born Kristine Flaherty, K.Flay is a young, female rapper. She was accompanied by a drummer for a fuller live sound. She was among the first acts of the day, taking the Beatport stage at 11:15 in the morning. Many curious passers by couldn't help but stop as they entered the venue among the hordes of people. Like me, they did not leave disappointed.
Those "No Moshing/Crowd Surfing" signs - which made headlines when the tour began - were affixed to every stage, but the rules were not enforced. In fact, many people seemed to take it as a challenge. I first saw the mosh pits open up for The Ghost Inside, who took one of the two main stages at 11:40. (Vocalist Jonathan Vigil confessed to the crowd, "I just woke up a half hour ago.") The hardcore dancing did not stop there, as they were followed by The Devil Wears Prada on the adjacent stage.
Speaking of moshing, Every Time I Die kicked off the afternoon with an excellent set. They brought their main stage-quality material and audience to the slightly smaller Monster Stage. Similarly, UK pop-punk act Neck Deep have already built a sizable following here in the States, as evident by the crowd they brought to the Kevin Says Stage.
One of my favorite recent additions to the Warped Tour is the Acoustic Basement, which affords fans the opportunity to see intimate, acoustic performances from musicians both established and unknown. Bayside frontman Anthony Raneri packed the tent with a solo set before his band played later in the day. The guy is a workhorse; even performing twice a day for the whole tour, he never disappoints. Raneri even invited a fan on stage to propose to his girlfriend during his set.
Up next was Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties, the side project of The Wonder Years vocalist Dan "Soupy" Campbell. It was one of his first solo shows, but his years of fronting The Wonder Years have made him a natural performer. Campbell put a unique spin on the set by performing in character as his alter ego, the lonely Aaron West, introducing each song with a fictitious story behind it. His debut album, We Don't Have Each Other, was released only a couple days prior, so audience participation was minimal, but the crowd respectfully sat back and absorbed the enveloping performance.
I stuck around for a few songs from MxPx frontman Mike Herrera. MxPx recently celebrated their 22nd anniversary with an acoustic collection, so Herrera was happy to bust out the classics. I split early to see a couple of songs from Enter Shikari. Although the band's electronic-metalcore hybrid is not my cup of tea on record, I love their action-packed live show.
Regardless of how you feel about their music, Bowling For Soup has one of the most entertaining live shows you'll see on Warped Tour. They rarely tour these days, so I relished the opportunity to catch them on the main stage. Their setlist was mainly comprised of the hits along a cover of Fountains of Wayne's "Stacy's Mom," but it's their between-song banter that keeps me coming back. "We're the band that waves to people," vocalist/guitarist Jaret Reddick told the crowd. "Try to get Falling In Reverse to wave to you later." It's like getting a mini stand-up comedy show in the middle of a concert.
I caught several other classic bands in the afternoon. Yellowcard are as tight as ever. Less Than Jake proudly told the audience that they've played Warped Tour more than any other band since 1997, but they somehow have the same high level of energy. Saves the Day allowed tourmates Four Year Strong to pick that day's setlist, which was loaded with fan favorites. New drummer Dennis Wilson (ex-Every Avenue) seems to be fitting in just fine.
I was sadly only able to see a few songs from Heart To Heart, but it was perhaps the most passionate performance I witnessed all day. It was intense enough to encourage vocalist Nick Zoppo to subconsciously tear off his shirt Hulk Hogan style. ("I really liked that shirt," he confessed after the song. "I just bought it yesterday.") I strongly urge anyone attending Warped Tour to stop by their set.
Punk rock is alive and well on Warped Tour, as exemplified by Teenage Bottlerocket. The band is somewhat of a caricature of punk, flipping the audience off and calling them posers in between their infectious, bite-sized, Ramones-esque punk tunes. At the end of their set, they played a medley featuring Van Halen's "Panama" and the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop" "for anyone over 30."
It must really be nice to be Four Year Strong right now. Following a panned album and a couple years off, they have regrouped and returned as strong as ever. Their homestate fans were eager to have their bearded brethren back. They displayed great intensity per usual, with co-vocalist/guitarist Alan Day making his way onto the barricade during opener "What the Hell is a Gigawatt?" to get closer to the crowd. Their set concluded with their irresistibly catchy summer anthem, "Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)."
Speaking of locals, I have to mention the Break Thru Music stage, which was exclusive to the Mansfield date. It hosted talented acts from the area all day, including Lions Lions (who carelessly toss their instruments as much as they play them), Traditions, Raindance, Actor Observer and Class of 92 (A Loss For Words vocalist Matty Arsenault's side project).
The Story So Far and Bayside both went on at 7:15, so I caught half of each band's set. The Story So Far brought a huge throng of enthusiastic fans. Singer Parker Cannon sounds great live, and thankfully there were no security issues. Bayside were in the amphitheater, but they certainly received a main stage-worthy reception from their fans. Raneri was just as impressive with his bandmates as he was solo.
I stayed in the amphitheater to watch some of Cute Is What We Aim For, an old guilty pleasure who seemingly fell off the face of the earth with Myspace. Frontman Shaant Hacikyan addressed the time away: "It's been seven years since we've been on this tour, and to be honest we didn't think this many people would show up." Much to the audience's satisfaction, they played a lot of old favorites.
As the sun was setting, I saw Close Your Eyes, who were one of the final acts of the day. It turned out to be among the most energetic performances I saw at the show, and it was a strong contender for most punk jumps during a set. I thought the cramped Ernie Ball Stage stage might collapse under the melodic hardcore band. They had a relatively small but loyal pocket of fans who waited the entire day to see them. Vocalist Sam Ryder Robinson spent closer "Song for the Broken" singing along with them from the barricade.
2014 signifies 20 years of the Vans Warped Tour, but every year is a celebration for Kevin Lyman and company. As always, they have compiled an impressive line-up of bands ranging from seasoned veterans to fresh faces and everyone in between.
Fall Out Boy took the stage at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, MA on June 22, 2014 - the third date of the Monumentour, their co-headlining run with Paramore - to the sound of Sylvester Stallone's monologue from Rocky Balboa. It was a fitting entrance; if anyone knows about getting hit and moving forward, it's Fall Out Boy. Since returning from their hiatus with a surprise album last year, the band has been rejuvenated.
Now, the Chicago quartet are playing some of the biggest shows of their career. They sounded massive in the huge amphitheater, yet their performance exhibited the same energy as when they played small clubs a decade ago - only now they're accompanied by pyrotechnics.
Since the tour is support of Save Rock and Roll, the setlist was made up of selections from the album and their past hits. I would have loved for more deep cuts, but I don't blame them going with the crowd pleasures for such a big tour. (As it was, a good portion of the audience seemed unfamiliar with the Take This To Your Grave material.)
Although the song selection was fairly predictable, the band mixed things up mid-set. First, vocalist/guitarist Patrick Stump and drummer Andy Hurley engaged in a drum off. Stump's solo showed some impressive chops for a frontman, but Hurley demonstrated while he's the one behind the kit. Meanwhile, bassist Pete Wentz and guitarist Joe Trohman made their way through the crowd, instruments and all, and up to the soundboard, where they remained to play "Dance Dance." As they made their way back to the stage, Stump kicked off "Young Volcanoes" acoustically.
The band invited Lolo (known for her guest spot on Panic! At The Disco's "Miss Jackson"), who also joined openers New Politics earlier in the night, onto the stage to accompany Stump on "Just One Yesterday." They also covered a portion of Queen's "We Are the Champions," which was "for the dads," as Wentz put it. Ultimately, group closed with "Saturday" as a shower of pyros rained down on them.
Fall Out Boy had big shoes to fill following Paramore's explosive performance. Vocalist Hayley Williams took the stage sporting a new teal hairdo as an explosion of streamers covered the eager crowd during opener "Still Into You." Williams was joined by her cohorts - guitarist Taylor York and bassist Jeremy Davis - on the stage, while longtime touring guitarists Jon Howard and Jutin York and recently recruited fill-in drummer Aaron Gillespie (of Underoath fame) sat atop a large platform above them.
"This is our tenth year as a band," Williams gushed. "I don't know how that happened." Despite the line-up changes and platinum status, Paramore is still the same band it was a decade ago. The stage may have grown exponentially, but everyone in the venue - from the pit to the cheap seats - felt like they were part of the show. A highlight of the set came when Williams picked a pair of sisters to join the band on stage to sing the bridge of "Misery Business" - and they nailed it.
While Fall Out Boy had pyro, Paramore's festive weapon of choice was confetti and streamers. During the rousing closer "Ain't It Fun," giant balloons emblazoned with the Paramore logo were batted into the audience. The band kicked them back and forth with the crowd with performing. After the song, the six musicians came together to take a bow for their adoring fans.
Danish trio New Politics opened the show. Vocalist David Boyd kicked off the set with a back flip, and his energy remained high for their half hour in the spotlight. Later in the set, he made his way on top of the crowd to sing. The group already has two hits with "Harlem" and "Yeah Yeah Yeah," along with a freshly-inked deal with Wentz' DCD2 Records, so this tour is an excellent way to expose fans to the rest of their material.
During Fall Out Boy's set, Wentz commented about how cool it is to have two rock bands with guitars that are played on the radio on tour together. Indeed, the Monumentour pairs two of our scene's biggest acts into one package. With dynamic, 75-minute sets from each band, fans of both are guaranteed to leave pleased. Maybe Save Rock and Roll was not, as naysayers purported, such a pretentious title after all.
After an exciting Saturday at the Boston Calling Music Festival anchored by Death Cab for Cutie, I returned to Boston's City Hall Plaza on Sunday just in time to watch Built to Spill. The seminal indie rockers inspired several acts on the festival's bill; Death Cab, Brand New and Modest Mouse have all cited the band as an influence. Despite this, however, much of the audience seemed unfamiliar and, in some cases, disinterested. It was a rare Built to Spill set without any covers, not to mention next to no speaking, so the band relied solely on their blistering jams.
I hadn't listened to Phosphorescent prior to the festival, but the best word I could use to describe the set is "chill." The band is a solo project by Georgia singer-songwriter Matthew Houck, but the live line-up is rounded out by five additional musicians. It didn't do anything for me, but the sound is an interesting blend of dreamy indie rock and Willie Nelson-esque country.
Tegan and Sara perked up the audience with one of the weekend's many bright spots. The talented twins alternated between vocals, guitars and keys, while a backing band of other adequate musicians filled in the gaps. It was a tight performance relying primarily on material from last year's Heartthrob, although they weren't afraid to showcase a few older tunes ("Monday Monday Monday," "Living Room"). They ended on a high note with the explosive "Closer."
I know know a couple of Bastille's hits, but their set left me interested in hearing more. One of the few acts on the bill in which the singer wasn't tied down by an instrument, vocalist Dan Smith bounced around the stage (and, at one point, down on the barricade) throughout the set. I was also impressed by his voice, hitting the notes while expending that kind of energy. Smith stated that Boston Calling is one of the coolest places the band has ever played. Watching thousands of people jump up and down during the penultimate "Of the Night" was a sight to behold, topped only by the crowd singing the "eh-oh" of "Pompeii" in unison.
The flowers affixed to Brand New frontman Jesse Lacey's microphone stand were the only delicate part of the band's hour-long set. Lacey lead the menagerie with poised intensity. Guitarist Vincent Accardi is far and away the most animated of the group, perhaps growing even more frantic since his pop punk days. Bassist Garrett Tierney and drummer Brian Lane provided the tight low end. The quartet were joined by two other musicians who provided third guitar and supplemented percussion when needed.
Despite a fan holding up a sign asking the band to play "Seventy Times 7," they didn't even touch their debut, Your Favorite Weapon. Instead, the setlist pulled from their latter three albums. The three selections from Deja Entendu were adapted to "fit" their evolved sound: more feedback, fuzzy guitars, strained vocals. The set-ending "You Won't Know" transformed into a dizzying, 10-minute opus that culminated with Accardi carelessly tossing his guitar in the air before overturning his amplifier and exiting the stage.
Prior to Modest Mouse's set, the USAF Heritage of America Band performed the "The Star-Spangled Banner" in honor of Memorial Day; a touching tribute to those who serve our country. Modest Mouse then took the stage to conclude the festival. I'm only familiar with the band's singles, but I didn't realize just how many hits they had until hearing them all in a single performance. A high note came when the band caught the crowd off guard by playing their most well-known song, "Float On," unannounced in the middle of the set. The seven musicians (many of whom swapped out different instruments as necessary) managed to rejuvenate the exhausted audience after a weekend full of music.
In my review of the Boston Calling Music Festival's inaugural event, I praised its impressive set-up. In the year since, they have only refined the experience with an adapted layout while continuing to deliver strong line-ups. It's impossible not to love the simple, two-stage set-up; when one band finishes, the next one starts 5-10 minutes later. Boston has finally found its calling with its own big-time music festival. See you in the fall!
For its third event in two years, the Boston Calling Music Festival expanded to a three-day format. Although I missed Friday's opening night festivities (headlined by Jack Johnson), I made my way to City Hall Plaza in downtown Boston, MA for the second and third days of the event.
The first band I caught on Saturday was The Neighbourhood. The indie rockers brought their chill, California vibe to the east coast. (The festival's line-up seemed to be dominated by west coast acts, not that there's anything wrong with that.) The band recently returned from an international tour just a few days prior, but they showed no signs of jet lag as they warmed up the afternoon crowd.
Former Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis took the stage in a rainbow blazer and matching guitar that looked like they were designed by Lisa Frank. The blazer is actually from the artwork for her first solo album in six years, The Voyager, which is due out this summer. In addition to solo material new and old, she played a couple Rilo Kiley tracks (including "Silver Lining"). Lewis was accompanied by five other musicians for a rich, full sound. For the closing number, "Acid Tongue," the backing band doubled as a choir to accompany Lewis and her acoustic guitar.
Frank Turner & The Sleeping Souls may have put on the best performance of Boston Calling. The pace was set immediately as they opened with "Photosynthesis," in which Turner wailed on his trusty acoustic and guitarist Ben Lloyd ripped a solo on the electric mandolin. It was Turner's 1,568th show, as he proudly told the audience, but his boundless energy (perhaps owed to his hardcore roots) made it feel one-of-a-kind.
It's often difficult for a band to connect with large festival crowds that may not be familiar with their music, but Turner did so with ease. With the audience gleefully singing and clapping along to its "There is no god!" chorus, "Glory Hallelujah" sounded like a ditty from an atheistic children's show. He brought a lucky fan on stage to play a harmonic solo on "Dan's Song," and later challenged the attendees to do jumping jacks during "Recovery." To end the set, Turner abandoned his guitar and introduced "Four Simple Words" as "a song about dancing" - and that's just what the audience did.
I wasn't familiar with the indie folk-rock stylings of The Head and The Heart, but the seven musicians who comprise the band - many of whom showcased their multi-instrumentalist talents - impressed me. There was even a successful wedding proposal during their set. Vocalist/guitarist Jonathan Russell also took the time to compliment the festival's simplicity, stating, "You should be proud of this."
Boston Calling marked The Decemberists' first show since 2011, but the performance certainly didn't show three years of rust. Unfortunately, it started raining just before they came on and continued to pour throughout their set, but the rain did not dampen the band's spirit - and a large portion of the crowd toughed it out with them. The 15-song setlist began with all three parts of "The Crane Wife" and lasted over an hour until the band ended with "June Hymn." They also announced that they are working on new music and played two new, as-yet-untitled songs, which are sure to please fans.
Death Cab for Cutie entered the stage shrouded in smoke and bathed in moody, red lights. They kicked off with the eight-and-half minute album version of "I Will Possess Your Heart," which frontman Ben Gibbard began on guitar before making his way to the piano. After wrapping the song up, he emerged front and center with his guitar, where he would remain for the rest of the set. Armed with two microphones (one equipped with vocal effects), Gibbard and company lead the crowd in 85 minutes of material.
Although no new songs were played, Gibbard assured the crowd that the band is hard at work on a new album. The set was filled with fan favorites; "Title and Registration" and "I Will Follow You into the Dark" received the loudest reactions. Gibbard performed the latter acoustically, and his vocals were nearly drowned out by the crowd. For "The Sound of Settling," Gibbard ditched his guitar and went onto the barricade to sing along with fans. The band exited the stage following the song but returned a moment later for an encore that included "Lightness," "A Movie Script Ending" and "Marching Bands of Manhattan" to end the night.
Read my review of Day 3 of the Boston Calling Music Festival, which featured Modest Mouse, Brand New and many more.
The 16th annual New England Metal & Hardcore Festival kicked off on Thursday, April 17th at its home base of The Palladium in Worcester, MA. Although the first day was a little light on the hardcore, it offered plenty of great metal. It particularly interested me because the line-up featured several notable metalcore bands I listened to in my formative years, including All That Remains, Bleeding Through, Darkest Hour and Scars of Tomorrow.
Being local favorites has found headliners All That Remains performing at about half of the Metal Fests over the years, and they continue to bring an excited crowd. Although the band largely transitioned away from Swedish-influenced metalcore to radio-ready hard rock (and, thus, now exist outside of my wheelhouse), they still put on a great show.
Vocalist Philip Labonte didn't speak much, but he commanded the crowd while singing. Meanwhile, lead guitarist Oli Herbert's virtuosity was as impressive as ever. The hour-long set included the Guitar Hero shredder "Six," the fan favorite "This Calling," the classic "This Darkened Heart," the power ballad "What If I Was Nothing" and the closing hit "Two Weeks."
All That Remains may have been the main draw, but I was most excited to see Bleeding Through. Despite being a longtime fan of the band and enjoying all of their output, I had never seen them before. It was bittersweet to catch them at their final east coast appearance before disbanding. Thankfully, they went out with a bang.
Although it may have been more exciting for fans if the band had played the second stage (a considerably more intimate, barricade-less room that the band has played several times throughout their career), the main stage afforded the band a wider audience and a more grandiose farewell. "Love Lost in a Hail of Gun Fire" (complete with the opening Boondock Saints sample) kicked off the 45-minute setlist, which spanned their career.
Frontman Brandan Schieppati took the opportunity to reflect on the band's 15-year lifespan, waxing poetic about the old days, calling out Trustkill Records president Josh Grabelle for ripping off bands and referring to The Truth as "our sellout record." Schieppati later gave an impassioned speech about how grateful he was for being able to follow his dream. He proceeded to thank his bandmates and the audience before concluding the set with "On Wings of Lead."
For a band that has been around as long as Darkest Hour - over 15 years now - they haven't lost a step. They've consistently put out strong material, as exemplified by their half-hour performance - which included a brand new track ("The Rapture in Exile") and closed with an older favorite ("With a Thousand Words to Say But One"). They were preceded by Oceano and Gideon, who were the first bands to really get the mosh pit going on the main stage.
Earlier in the day, the recently-reformed Scars of Tomorrow took to the stage. They may have been better suited for the second stage and/or later in the day, as the crowd seemed ill-prepared for their breakdowns, but the band did not let it effect their energy. They have a new album coming out this summer and previewed it with their brand new single, "Questions." The rest of their set was made up of older material, including the closer "The Horror of Realization."
I ventured up to the second stage for Wilson. If they could keep up with former tourmates Gwar, I knew their live show would be worth seeing. (It also worked out well because I did not have to watch Emmure, who were on the main stage at the same time.) Lively and loud, Wilson did not disappoint. They had a relatively small crowd, but they rocked it so hard you'd think they were playing to thousands. Reminiscent of Every Time I Die's thrashy, southern-fried hardcore stylings, Wilson is certainly a band to keep an eye on.
The rest of the weekend included Behemoth, Iced Earth, Whitechapel, The Acacia Strain, Nile, Slapshot, Nails, Ramallah and a reunion from Boston legends Sam Black Church, among many others. While I wouldn't call this line-up the strongest in recent memory, the New England Metal & Hardcore Festival continues to provide fans with a unique, comprehensive and versatile experience for fans of heavy music.
The Wonder Years' sold out show on April 15th began not with the typical bang, but with the whisper of "There, There." Frontman Dan "Soupy" Campbell - sporting a beard that would make Daniel Bryan proud - crooned the opening of the first track from the band's new album, The Greatest Generation, before being drowned out by the 2,000+ strong crowd at Worcester, MA's The Palladium.
"I'm sorry I don't laugh at the right times."
When the song kicked in, the band and the crowd alike lost it, beginning a 70-minute cathartic release set to some of the best pop-punk songs of the modern era. The Wonder Years have refined their craft both musically and on stage, while their draw has continued to grow exponentially over the years. They are one of the tightest live bands in the scene, achieving the perfect balance between high energy and strong musicianship.
As a longtime fan of the band, it would be hard to ask for a better setlist. The run - their first proper U.S. headliner in quite some time - is dubbed The Greatest Generation World Tour. They played several standout tracks from their latest effort, including "The Bastards, The Vultures, The Wolves," "The Devil in My Bloodstream" and "Dismantling Summer." They also played choice cuts from Suburbia and The Upsides. A highlight of the night came when the band, after an impassioned speech by Campbell about their meaning, played a pair of non-album tracks, "An Elegy for Baby Blue" and "I Was Scared and I'm Sorry."
Always one to end on a high note, the Philadelphia sextet concluded with an encore of "I Just Want to Sell Out My Funeral." The Greatest Generation's 7-and-a-half-minute closing opus interweaves lyrics and themes from other songs on the album, serving as a highlight real. In a live setting, the song hits even harder, providing the perfect bookend to the set.
The Wonder Years brought along a collection of bands they admire, which doubles as a veritable who's who of the current pop-punk scene. Their longtime friends and frequent tourmates in Fireworks provided direct support (replacing Defeater, who were forced to drop off due to a health issue). Although some fans evidently haven't had enough time to familiarize themselves with the band's brand new album, Oh, Common Life, the older material remained crowd pleasing. The set closing "Detroit," in particular, set the audience off.
It's rare for lower billed bands on a package tour to elicit such rambunctious crowd reactions, but Citizen, Real Friends and Modern Baseball were all well-received, to say the least. Although this tour is a great opportunity for each of them, many audience members were already familiar with the bands, displaying their approval with copious crowd surfing and singing along.
The Greatest Generation World Tour is yet another testament to why The Wonder Years are the gold standard for the genre. Between their honest songs, their tight stage presence, their rabid fanbase and even the bands they surround themselves with, The Wonder Years have set the bar impossibly high for any other band hoping to take the pop-punk throne.
Yellowcard celebrated last year's tenth anniversary of their breakthrough effort, Ocean Avenue, with a freshly-recorded acoustic rendition of the album, followed by a tour in which they performed the album acoustically. The run was a great success, and the band (and their fans) enjoyed it so much that they decided to go back and hit the markets the missed on the first leg.
Before kicking off their set on February 1 at Lupo's in Providence, RI, Yellowcard frontman Ryan Key outlined the "rules" the audience must abide by: have the best night of your life, sing along until you lose your voice and enjoy the show through your eyes rather than your phone.
Key and lead guitarist Ryan Mendez then launched into the instantly-recognizable - even on acoustic guitars - intro of "Way Away." The set offered a fresh perspective on the fan favorite album; although it was faithfully to the Ocean Avenue Acoustic recordings, which themselves weren't far removed from the source material. It wasn't a sit-down acoustic performance; it was a full-band rock show that happened to include acoustic guitars. Faster numbers "Life of a Salesman" and "Twentythree" even elicited mosh pits from the excitable crowd. One fan successfully proposed to his girlfriend during "One Year, Six Months."
The performance of Ocean Avenue clocked in at around an hour, and that alone was worth the price of admission - but the members of Yellowcard were far from finished. After a brief intermission (set to Explosions in the Sky!), the band returned to the stage with their trusty electric guitars. They proceeded to play for another 50 minutes of post-Ocean Avenue material, including "Always Summer," "Awakening," "For You, And Your Denial" and "The Takedown."
Key was genuinely grateful to have an audience respond to their music after all these years. He also revealed that the band will be working on a new album this year, in addition to announcing some exciting touring plans in the near future. Although Key claimed "Lights and Sounds" would be their final song, its conclusion was accompanied by a quick drum solo by the uber-talented Longineu W. Parsons III that segued into a spirited reprisal of "Ocean Avenue."
The tour's sole support slot was filled by What's Eating Gilbert, the side project of New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert. He and his formally-clad friends transported the crowd back to the '50s with their throwback doo-wop rock sound (although the cursing was anachronistic). The half hour set showcased material from the handful of EPs Gilbert released since the project's inception in 2010, along with covers of Betty Everett's "The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss)" ("This song sets the moms off!" according to Gilbert) and Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman." Like Yellowcard, they played acoustically.
More than a decade after singing "I've made it this far now / And I'm not burning out" in "Way Away," Key and his bandmates are standing by those words. Yellowcard has run the gamut of highs and lows since Ocean Avenue's release; to see so many people continue to care after after all this time is further proof of the band's resiliency.
The holidays can be a hectic time, but what better way to release that seasonal stress than with a show? Bayside spread the Christmas cheer with a trio of holiday shows to close out 2013, culminating with a sold out performance at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston, MA on December 29. They brought along Man Overboard, Banquets and Modern Baseball for the ride.
Bayside plowed through several songs before addressing the crowd. When they finally did introduce themselves, it was clear that they needed no introduction. There's a reason they say Bayside is a cult, after all. The band played at bigger venues the last few times they came through the area, so it was a treat for the sold out crowd of 933 to see them at the Paradise.
I'm not holding my breath for a Sirens and Condolences 10th anniversary tour next year, but I'm happy the band still pulls from it; this time it was "How to Fix Everything." On the other end of the spectrum, they played "Pigsty," the new single from their forthcoming sixth album, Cult, for only the second time. I was hoping to hear another new cut or two, as the record is great, but alas the band stuck to the tried-and-true favorites, such as "Devotion and Desire," "Montauk" and "Dualty." Much like they did when they supported Alkaline Trio earlier in the year, they closed with "Dear Tragedy," during which frontman Anthony Raneri sang without his signature Les Paul.
It seems that the Boston set was a few song shorter than the 2 other nights, lacking the acoustic "Don't Call Me Peanut" and the group's rendition of "O Holy Night," among others. No word on whether this was a scheduling blunder or what, but had I not read the previous setlists I would have been none the wiser. The hour-and-ten-minute set with its strong setlist was very satisfying.
Man Overboard provided direct support, and they brought plenty of fans eager to defend pop punk with them. The New Jersey quintet always deliver a fun set, with Boston always being receptive to them, and this was no exception. The band has released an impressive array of material in 5 short years, and their setlist drew from all of it. In addition to newer material, they played several older cuts - among them "The Real You," "I Ate My Gluestick," "Montrose" and the singalong favorite "Love Your Friends, Die Laughing" - before closing with "Where I Left You."
It seems that most of the audience members were new to Banquets, but that didn't stop either side from enjoying themselves. The band's sound bridges the gap between punk and rock, reminiscent of fellow New Jerseyans The Gaslight Anthem. They spent little time talking and focused more on rocking. The setlist drew largely from their self-titled effort, ending with the high-energy highlight, "Call It a Comeback."
Modern Baseball opened the show with a half hour set that included the majority of their fantastic debut album, Sports. They also threw in "Your Graduation," the first single from the upcoming You're Gonna Miss It All. Between the new album on Run For Cover Records and a highly coveted spot opening for The Wonder Years on the horizon, I expect Modern Baseball to be everywhere in 2014. The band received a warm reception from the crowd.
Bayside have a huge year ahead of them, with the release of Cult on February 18 and a headlining tour kicking off in March, so it only made sense for them to end 2013 in a big way. You'd be hard-pressed to find a better way to end the year than watching Bayside rock a sold out crowd with a great line-up in tow.
The first time I saw Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God live was back in 2003, when they appeared together on the Headbanger's Ball Tour. They've shared many bills in the ten years since, including their current co-headlining run with support from Testament and Huntress. I attended the sold out Boston, MA stop at the House of Blues on November 23.
I thought Killswitch might headline given that it was their homestate, but instead Lamb of God took the honor. Their tight performance, vocal fanbase and arena-style production showed why they were the closers. The stage was equipped with a large platform - off of which frontman Randy Blythe jumped nearly every song - along with two large video screens. The screens displayed a mix of live cameras and footage evoking imagery of the bands lyrics (war, religion, death, politics, etc.), making each track feel like a live music video.
Visuals aside, the band's performance was on point. Blythe is a certified madman, while the technical skills of guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler and drummer Chris Adler (who celebrated his 41st birthday at the show) are always impressive. Bassist John Campbell had to leave the tour due to family emergency, but friend of the band Aaron Patrick (formerly of Massachusetts' own Bury Your Dead) stepped in to fill the void.
The setlist was made up of about 75 minutes worth of material from all six Lamb of God records. All the hits were accounted for, including "Laid to Rest," "Redneck." "Walk With Me In Hell" and "Ruin." This year marks the 10th anniversary of the fan favorite album As the Palaces Burn, so they included a couple of extra cuts from it. Per usual, the band closed with the hard-hitting "Black Label." The song is known to incite a massive wall of death, so much so that the band no longer needs to call for it it. Blythe simply announced, "If you don't know what's gonna happen, get the fuck out of the way!" before the song kicked in and all hell broke loose. It was a nice exclamation point on which to end the evening.
Even for a band as good as Lamb of God, Killswitch Engage is not an easy act to follow. As if they needed to get more pumped up, the hometown heroes entered the stage to the tune of Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger." They opened with the crushing intro of "A Bid Farewell" and continued for a solid hour of top-notch metalcore through the closing of "The End of Heartache." The crowd's enthusiastic response included moshing to the breakdowns, singing along to the soaring choruses and headbanging to the endless riffs.
I've had the pleasure of seeing the band twotimes since the return of vocalist Jesse Leach, but this was my first time since the release of their new album, Disarm the Descent. I was interested to hear the new material live, and I'm happy to report that it sounded great. In fact, the band seamlessly transitioned between new songs and old favorites, including a healthy dose of material from Howard Jones' tenure as vocalist - and Leach and company nailed them all.
Not only is guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz a great musician (and producer, to boot), but the seemingly boundless energy he brings to the stage never ceases to amaze me. Scantily clad in his signature short shorts, Dutkiewicz could be found running back and forth on the stage - literally - throughout the set. He also ventured into the audience during "Fixation on the Darkness" and played half of "Life to Lifeless" with a beer bottle in hand. It's impossible to tell if his antics are meant to keep himself, the band or the crowd entertained, but it works on all three levels. He and Leach both expressed their appreciation for the audience, the band's supportive fanbase and the Massachusetts music scene.
It was a bit strange to see thrash metal legends Testament so low on a bill, especially considering they inspired (perhaps indirectly) the bands playing after them. Aside from the abridged time, however, nothing about their set felt like that of a support band. They showed no signs of age as they plowed through 40 minutes of breakneck thrash. Even the stage had a larger-than-life feel, with skull-embossed pentagrams atop the amps, intense strobe lights and tons of smoke.
Female-fronted metal band Huntress warmed the crowd up with an opening set. Vocalist Jill Janus took the stage like a hellcat. A standout of the set came in the form of "I Want to Fuck You to Death," a song co-written by Motörhead's Lemmy Kilmister. The band's van was in an accident a week prior, so it was good to see them unphased. Between this tour and an opening slot for Danzig earlier this year, Huntress have proved themselves as a band to watch.
The tour wraps up today, so hopefully you caught a show when it came through your area. For my money, it's one of the best metal line-ups of the year. I wouldn't expect any less from Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God; they've been at the top of the genre for a decade now and show no signs of leaving the throne any time soon.
New Found Glory and Alkaline Trio are two of the most dependable bands in the scene. For the past 15+ years, both groups have been consistently releasing good albums and touring the world. The two bands are currently on a co-headlining tour with support from H2O, another reliable act. New Found Glory and Alkaline Trio switch off closing the shows, and it was NFG who concluded the show at the House of Blues in Boston, MA on November 12.
There's a reason New Found Glory's new live album is titled Kill It Live. They're always energetic and fun without missing a beat. The band members proudly call Florida home, but Boston may as well be their home away from home. Guitarist Chad Gilbert addressed the crowd, "I have been waiting the entire tour to play Boston!" Before playing "Connect the Dots," one of three new tracks from Kill It Live, Gilbert said that it felt like a record release show, with all of their friends from Bridge Nine Records - the Boston-based label who put out the effort - in attendance. The band even induced a "Yankees suck!" chant from the rowdy audience.
Gilbert mentioned that Catalyst's 10th anniversary is on the horizon, so hopefully we get an album tour for that (as the band did for Sticks and Stones and New Found Glory). I was happy to hear two cuts from the often-neglected Coming Home - "It's Not Your Fault" and "Hold My Hand" - complete with accompanying keyboard. Fans finally seem to be coming around to the underappreciated effort. The band also performed two covers: Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing" (dedicated to "Boston's oldest hardcore band") and Sixpence None the Richer's "Kiss Me" (dedicated to Freddie Prinze Jr.).
I've seen New Found Glory live more than any other band in my lifetime - probably somewhere around 20 times now - but I think this was the first time I've seen them where they did not close with "Hit or Miss" or "My Friends Over You." Instead, "Hit or Miss" was smack-dab in the middle of the set, encouraging frontman Jordan Pundik to get on the barricade and sing along with fans. They pretended to close with "My Friends Over You," but they returned for a bipolar encore consisting of "The Story So Far" and "Intro."
Alkaline Trio's set was a tad shorter but equally impressive. Vocalist/guitarist Matt Skiba, vocalist/bassist Dan Andriano and drummer Derek Grant came out sporting their new branded varsity jackets (although Grant didn't keep his on long) - as were many of the audience members. They began with the blazing "Cringe," the opening track from their debut album, Goddamnit, and weaved their way through their expansive discography from there. With such a large back catalogue, you never know what you're going to get from the Trio, but they always mix it up.
I was happy to find that the band played nearly an entirely different set than when they came through back in May. This Addiction and Maybe I'll Catch Fire were unrepresented, but the band mixed newer material - including their latest single, "I Wanna Be A Warhol," which Skiba dedicated to Lou Reed - with older cuts. Skiba and Andriano tweaked some of the old songs to keep them fresh. Peppered throughout were a surprisingly high volume of B-sides, such as "Warbrain" and "My Standard Break From Life." They ended the set on a high note with a quartet of fan favorites: "I Lied My Face Off," "Another Innocent Girl," "This Could Be Love" and the closer, "My Friend Peter."
H2O kicked the night off with a short but sweet set. The hardcore/punk group is usually found tearing it up in small clubs, so it was a bit strange seeing them on such a large stage, but the band did not seem phased. If anything, it only added to their vigor. Vocalist Toby Morse remarked how excited they were to be touring with their longtime friends and playing for a largely new audience each night. There where, however, some small but vocal pockets of fans in the crowd.
The setlist drew heavily from 2008's Nothing to Prove while incorporating several older favorites. Chad Gilbert made a surprise appearance for "Guilty by Association" to sing along with Morse, who went onto the barricade to get closer to the crowd. Their set ended with "What Happened?," the studio version of which features Matt Skiba. I was hoping he would come out to sing his part, but alas he did not. Morse told the crowd that the band will be releasing a new album next year on Bridge Nine.
New Found Glory and Alkaline Trio's co-headlining tour is a proud display of the bands' staying power. The pair first toured together back in 1999 (alongside Face to Face and Saves the Day!). Although they've both grown a lot since then, they maintain the same youthful ferocity and passion. Along with H2O, the three groups have maintained their line-ups for years while continuing to satisfy their dedicated fan bases without any signs of slowing down, making this tour a great celebration of of unity and longevity.
Following the breakup of the Misfits and the dissolution of Samhain, frontman Glenn Danzig formed the eponymous Danzig in 1987 and released their debut album the following year. Danzig and his bandmates - guitarist Tommy Victor (Prong), bassist Steve Zing (ex-Samhain) and drummer Johnny Kelly (ex-Type O Negative) - are now celebrating the 25th anniversary with a headlining tour. At 58, Danzig still has the voice and the charisma to pull off the old material, as made evident by the October 19th stop at The Palladium in Worcester, MA.
After opening with newer cuts "SkinCarver" and "Hammer of the Gods," Danzig informed the crowd, "It's going to be all old songs from here on out," which was met with enthusiastic cheers. The band then went into "Twist of Cain," the opening track from their self-titled debut. From there, Danzig and company continued mostly in chronological order, playing favorites from Danzig, Danzig II: Lucifuge and Danzig III: How The Gods Kill, including "Her Black Wings," "How the Gods Kill" and "Dirty Black Summer."
Although the tour was conceived to commemorate 25 years of Danzig, fans were also excited to celebrate Danzig's former group. Danzig enlisted Misfits guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein to join the band for a handful of Misfits songs. The towering Doyle stomped onto the stage like Godzilla on Tokyo, and he and Danzig tore through seven classics: "Death Comes Ripping," "Vampira," "I Turned Into a Martian," "Skulls," "London Dungeon," "Bullet" and "Last Caress."
The crowd clearly loved every second of it, as this portion of the set garnered the loudest singalongs, the biggest circle pits and the most crowd surfers of the night. Danzig seemed to feed off the audience's enthusiasm, even going on the barricade to sing along with fans a few times. Doyle is an absolute beast, physically wailing on guitar harder than anyone I've ever seen. The songs may be 30 years old, but their unrelenting energy is timeless.
After Doyle exited, Danzig carried on with "Soul on Fire" and the band's biggest hit, "Mother," before leaving the stage. They returned a moment later for an encore, at which point Danzig gave the crowd the choice of what they would play. They settled on "She Rides." Following that, Doyle came back out to play "Astro Zombies" with the band to end the night on a high note.
Danzig told the crowd that he's taking some time off the road following the run, presumably to work on new material, so this tour is a fitting send-off. Of course, these shows also bring up the possibility of long-gestured Misfits reunion. It seems like a no-brainer to fans, and Doyle said he would like to do it, so hopefully Danzig and Jerry Only can work out their differences and make it a reality. But even if it never happens, the Danzig 25th Anniversary Tour serves as a great reminder of why several generations have been and continue to be inspired by the man they call Danzig.
As a perhaps the most distinguished lover of rock 'n' roll, Joan Jett celebrated the release of Unvarnished - Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' tenth studio album and first in seven years - with a good, old-fashioned rock show.
The "surprise" event was announced only a few days prior to its occurrence, with a limited amount of tickets available to the public. It was held on October 2nd at Santos Party House (co-owned by Andrew W.K.) in New York, NY. With a capacity of 480, the nightclub provided a unique, intimate evening with a living legend.
Following an introduction by The Dictators' frontman "Handsome" Dick Manitoba, The Blackhearts - lead guitarist Dougie Needles, drummer Thommy Price, bassist Acey Slade (ex-Dope) and keyboardist Kenny Laguna (who is also Jett's producer) - took the stage. Jett was the last one out, with her headphone-clad goddaughter in her arms. Jett traded the infant for her guitar, and the band kicked off with "TMI," one of many punchy, catchy numbers from Unvarnished.
It was unclear if the show would rely heavily on material from Unvarnished, but Jett refuted that notion by following up with "Cherry Bomb," from her influential previous band, The Runaways. Like a snake shedding its skin, Jett removed her leather jack after the two songs to reveal a sparkling, red catsuit, accented by a studded belt, a pair of Chuck Taylors and her signature raccoon-eyed makeup. At 55, she pulls off the outfit better than most girls half age could - while playing guitar, no less.
Jett introduced "You Drive Me Wild" as being the first song she ever wrote. Although she was a mere teenage at the time, it holds up well today - and her new material plays seamlessly alongside it. In addition to many of the best tracks from Unvarnished - including lead single "Any Weather" (co-written by Dave Grohl) and "Soulmates to Strangers" (co-written by Against Me's Laura Jane Grace) - The Blackhearts played such classics as "Bad Reputation," "Crimson and Clover," "I Hate Myself for Loving You" and, of course, "I Love Rock 'n' Roll." They ended their encore with a cover of Sly and the Family Stone's "Everyday People."
Joan Jett is a bona fide rock and roll pioneer, icon and a future Hall of Famer. It was truly a treat to see her and the rest of The Blackhearts at such an intimate appearance - but I think it's safe to say that the show would have rocked just as hard regardless of the size of the venue. Unvarnished is classic Jett, and its release show followed suit.
I was disappointed when Blink 182 were forced to cancel their handful of U.S. tour dates last summer, as I had planned on attending the Connecticut stop, but, as the band once sang, "Good things come to those who wait." Amidst their Riot Fest appearances, Blink rescheduled their stop at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT for September 8th of this year. To make the wait even more worthwhile, they brought Taking Back Sunday, Four Year Strong and New Beat Fund with them.
Blink 182 has now been a band for 21 years - longer than a good portion of their fanbase has been alive - but their live show has not missed a beat over the years. Their setlist hasn't changed much from that of their stint on 2011's Honda Civic Tour, but the song selection delivers the hits for which they're known and showcases new material (two tracks from Dogs Eating Dogs and five from Neighborhoods) while incorporating a few fan favorites ("Dumpweed," "Carousel").
Vocalists Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus didn't indulge in as much stage banter as their typically known for, but they were entertaining nonetheless. At the request of an audience member, Hoppus even gave drummer Travis Barker the microphone to say a rare "What's up?" to the crowd. The trio dropped Barkers' drum solo for this tour, previously a set staple, but he showed off his impressive skills during some intros, interludes and fills. The lack of a solo also meant no acoustic song from the band, which they had been doing on their most recent European tour. The set ended 10 minutes short of the 90-minute mark, so I'd love to see them work in a deep cut or two next time around.
It has been an exciting few years for Taking Back Sunday. The original line-up reunited in 2010, put out a new album in 2011, celebrated the 10th anniversary of Tell All Your Friends 10th last year and recorded their new album this year. They seem reinvigorated, while maintaining the aspects their fans love about them.
The way vocalist Adam Lazzara commands the audience's attention reminds me more and more of an archetypal frontman each time I see the band. With his hair growing longer, his locks now flow as freely as his microphone as he dances around the stage. The band didn't preview any new material, but the one-two-three punch of "You're So Last Summer," "Cute Without the 'E'" and "MakeDamnSure" was a perfect ending.
Things in the Four Year Strong camp have been dormant for quite a while, so it was a pleasure to see them again. Unfortunately, the venue's sound system wasn't equipped for heavier music. The drums, in particular, suffered; the snare was significantly louder than everything else, while the double bass was muddled. The band persevered, delivering a solid 25-minute set. Only about half of the crowd knew who they were, but they made themselves known.
Although their live show hasn't been quite the same since keyboardist Josh Lyford left the band, there isn't much to complain about Four Year Strong's performance. The setlist was composed almost entirely of favorites from Rise or Die Trying and Enemy of the World, with the exception of "Stuck in the Middle." The sing along of "Wasting Time (Eternal Summer)" was a great conclusion to their set.
Fresh off a stint on this summer's Warped Tour, New Beat Fund opened the show. It's apparent that the quartet's groove-heavy rock was greatly influenced by fellow Californian band Sublime. In fact, they covered "Caress Me Down," which the segued into a rendition of the Misfits' "Last Caress" and then back to Sublime; likely the only time those two bands have been mentioned in the same breath.
Frontman Jeff Laliberte confessed to the audience that it was probably the biggest arena in which the group has ever performed. When he asked crowd, "Who here has heard us?" the question was met with little response. But when he followed it up with, "Who here likes to smoke weed?" there was a much more vivacious reaction. They were outliers on this pop punk bill, but the band will be hitting the road with 3OH!3 next month, where they ought to receive a warmer reception.
It's a shame, for fans' sake, that this isn't a longer tour, as the strong line-up fits well together, but I'm happy to have been able to see it. Here's to hoping we don't have to wait another two years before Blink 182 tours the country again, because they remain one of the most fun live shows.
In his pseudo-review of the Philadelphia stop of Black Sabbath's current tour, Victor Fiorillo of The Philly Post called Andrew W.K. "the worst opener imaginable." He backed his theory with tweets from fellow attendees who were inexplicably angry about his DJ set. I'm here to refute that statement.
I, for one, cannot imagine Andrew W.K. being anything less than entertaining in a live setting, even with something as potentially uncomfortable as DJ gig. This is the guy who lives and breathes the power of positive partying. I had to see it for myself to judge, so I caught the next stop of the tour, at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA on August 12th.
Andrew spent the opening 45 minutes of the show spinning music atop a platform emblazoned with a large, 3D version of the iconic, bloody-nosed artwork from his debut album, I Get Wet. It was essentially a louder version of the intermission music, with Andrew introducing the songs and pressing play. It was a bit strange, no doubt, but it was in good fun.
To keep things interesting, Andrew was armed with a T-shirt cannon and a few Black Sabbath shirts, along with Black Sabbath-branded beach balls for the audience to bat around. To keep himself occupied, he occasionally played air guitar or air drums, banged his head, pumped his fists and sang backing vocals - the same things the members of the crowd (those who were not yelling for him to get off the stage, at least) were doing.
He played classic rock and heavy metal tunes from such artists as Led Zeppelin, Metallica, Judas Priest, AC/DC, Slayer, Deep Purple, Motorhead and more. He could have sneaked in a few non-metal songs for diversity, just as easily as he could have played one of his own songs for shameless self-promotion. Instead, he played to the audience's taste. He even took suggestions on Twitter and Facebook before the show, including the Misfits at my request.
Sure, I would much rather have seen a full-band Andrew W.K. show, or even a solo performance (essentially Andrew singing karaoke to his own songs, which is much more exciting in person than it sounds). And yeah, it would have been nice to see an up-and-coming band given an opening slot or a semi-established act to bring in a wider audience. But, frankly, when you're the most influential metal band of all time, you don't need an opener.
Black Sabbath personally selected Andrew to open with a DJ set. He's the ideal choice, really. Not only did he play on Ozzfest back in 2002, but he's also known for his high energy and positivity. I'd be hard-pressed to name a better candidate to hype an audience and set the mood for a show (or any event, for that matter) than Andrew W.K.
As for Sabbath, their set showcased why they're the best metal band. Ozzy Osbourne's voice may be a bit flat these days, but the Prince of Darkness has more spirit than any 64 year old I've ever seen. Tony Iommi's guitar riffs are even more massive live, while Geezer Butler's bass tone sounded as great as ever. Although Bill Ward was missed, touring drummer Tommy Clufetos (of Ozzy's solo band) proved to be a suitable fill in, including an impressive drum solo. The band played two solid hours of classics with some new songs and deep cuts sprinkled in.
Is Andrew W.K. the worst opener imaginable? No way! He's not even the worst opener Black Sabbath has ever had. (Let's not forget that Crazy Town shared the stage with with metal legends on Ozzfest 2001.) Although the DJ gig certainly wasn't the ideal display, and I'm sure he'd have preferred a regular performance as well, Andrew W.K. made the most of an awkward situation and, true to his form, partied hard.