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.
When the 2013 Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival rolled through Mansfield, MA on July 16th, it was about 90 degrees out, humid, with no breeze and barely a cloud in the sky. A bright, sunny day doesn't exactly scream "metal" (although I suppose you could equate the heat to the fires of Hell). No matter how you put it, it was oppressively hot - but the climate didn't stop the bands nor the fans from giving their all.
"I don't know what goes on in the other states, but I know you like to fucking party!" exclaimed Mayhem Festival headliner and Massachusetts native Rob Zombie as the thousands of fans before him erupted into a sea of cheers. Despite the day's blistering heat and the surrounding pyro fire, Zombie and his band - guitarist John 5, bassist Piggy D and drummer Ginger Fish - never slowed down throughout the 70-minute set.
The song selection ranged from new material ("Teenage Nosferatu Pussy," "Dead City Radio and the New Gods of Supertown") to old White Zombie hits ("More Human Than Human," "Thunder Kiss '65") and many fan favorites ("Living Dead Girl", "House of 1000 Corpses") in between. John 5 and Ginger Fish each had a solo to showcase their talents individually. The band also played their surprisingly-fitting rendition of Grand Funk Railroad's "We're an American Band," along with partial covers of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" and Alice Cooper's "School's Out."
Speaking of Cooper, the band's grand stage production is comparable to that of Zombie's longtime friend. Many songs incorporated various elaborate props, costumes and gimmicks to make each one exciting and unique - such as giant robots, big balloons, a light-up guitar and several large, varying platforms on which Zombie sang. The songs that didn't utilize props (and even some of those that did) showcased lots of pyrotechnics. It was undeniably entertaining.
Truth be told, I had never listened to Five Finger Death Punch prior to the Mayhem Festival. I'm not a fan, but their hard rock-meets-nu metal sound (think Stone Sour or Disturbed) is something I probably would have eaten up during my angst-ridden middle school years. That said, they put on a solid, hour-long show that included a cover of Bad Company's "Bad Company." Although nothing could compete with Zombie's setup, Five Finger Death Punch's stage included chrome gargoyles, skulls and smoke-breathing dragons.
Vocalist Ivan Moody told the crowd that his favorite part of the show is when he invites kids from the audience to come on stage. Four children who were probably around 10-12 years old had the best view in the house for "White Knuckles." Moody later introduced his daughter, whom he flew out for the show. With the help of the audience singing along, he dedicated the a capalla intro of "Far From Home" to her. The band then closed with "The Bleeding."
Mastodon barely said a word during their performance, instead spending nearly the entirety of their 45-minute set rocking out. They sounded great, with tight musicianship and rotating vocalists. Although many of the audience members seemed unfamiliar with their brand of progressive metal, it didn't stop them from headbanging along. They concluded with "The Sparrow," the colossal closing jam from their most recent offering, The Hunter.
If anyone came close to topping Rob Zombie's stage set up, it was Amon Amarth. The Swedish melodic death metallers brought the viking imagery of their lyrics to life with the bow of a ship, which also doubled as a platform, featuring a smoke-breathing dragon figurehead. The audience was also inspired by the set-up; at one point during the 35-minute set, several members of the crowd sat down in the pit and pantomimed rowing a boat.
Prior to the main stage kicking off, the parking lot hosted several other impressive acts. The Musicians Institute Stage was headlined by Finnish extreme metal group Children of Bodom. Surprisingly, they only played one song - the title track - from their new album, Halo of Blood, with the rest of the material being older favorites ("Hate Me," "Silent Night, Bodom Night," "Hate Crew Deathroll"). Vocalist/guitarist Alexi Laiho's musicianship was impressive, as always; he makes the sweeping, virtuosic solos seem effortless.
Machine Head headlined the Jagermeister Stage with another strong performance. The long-running metal group was recently the subject of some bogus controversy over using dummy amplifiers on stage, but the minor dispute certainly had no effect on their playing. The most memorable moment of their set was the huge wall of death they incited for "Struck a Nerve."
Although I wasn't a fan of the music, Butcher Babies put on an entertaining show. They're essentially a modern version of Kittie, fronted by former Playboy TV personalities Carla Harvey and Heidi Shepherd. (It's worth mentioning that their drummer, Chris Warner, used to be in Scars of Tomorrow.) The provocative ladies may have been seen as little more than eye candy to most of the crowd, but they know how to play to their audience.
Other highlights of the day included Job for a Cowboy, who have come a long way since being a MySpace deathcore band before proving themselves as a legitimate death metal act, and Motionless in White, whose fanbase seemed to have come out in droves just to see them. Also among the performers were Emmure, Born of Osiris, Battlecross, Huntress and more.
The sixth annual Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival was a great success. Although the line up wasn't quite as strong as that of last year, in my opinion, it still delivered an entire day of a diverse metal acts for an affordable price. If you're a fan of heavy music, you're bound to find something you enjoy.
Equal Vision Records has always been a powerhouse of an independent label, with alumni including such influential acts as Refused, Saves the Day, Converge, H2O, Coheed and Cambria, Give Up the Ghost and countless others. The label remains as relevant as ever, as made exemplified by the exciting and diverse line-up of Say Anything's current "Rarities and More" headlining tour.
In addition to Say Anything, the all-Equal Vision tour includes Eisley and HRVRD, along with up-and-comers Northern Faces and I the Mighty each opening a leg. I attended the sold out June 23rd stop at the Paradise Rock Club in Boston, MA. The 933-capacity venue is a bit smaller than those that Say Anything typically play, which seemed appropriate for a tour in support of All My Friends Ere Enemies, a collection material from before the band's breakthrough album, Is a Real Boy.
The intimate setting also afforded mastermind Max Bemis with the opportunity to get closer to the crowd. He said that, since they had the next day off, the band could go extra wild that night. And wild they went, for 75 intense minutes. Bemis deserves recognition for embracing the old material. He easily could have cashed his check for the rarities compilation without ever playing the songs; instead, fans are being treated to an entire tour dedicated to them. Bemis later told the audience that it was "the most fun tour of our lives."
The setlist was split down the middle between album tracks and early rarities. I was particularly impressed with the song selections, because the newer offerings focused more on deep cuts rather than the hits. These included "Every Man Has a Molly" (which received the most vigorous crowd reaction of the night), "The Futile," "Died a Jew," and "Peace Out," among others. Bemis confessed that the latter is his favorite part of the set, because he's always astounded by how many people know the words.
Some of the older songs were written more than a decade ago while Bemis was still in high school and without a full band. ("All My Friends," for example, was one of the first songs Bemis ever wrote as a young teenager.) The tracks are endearing in their simplicity, but they still display early stages of Bemis' lyrical and songwriting prowess. Many of them have been reworked to suit the band's three skilled guitarists, including a full-band version of the previously-acoustic "The Presidential Suite."
After leaving the stage following "Alive with the Glory of Love," Bemis returned with an acoustic guitar. "I'm gonna play a song that I've never played live," he said, "And also that I've never rehearsed." Despite his forewarning, it was a beautiful, error-free rendition of "A Boston Peace." His bandmates proceeded to join him for "Say Anything" and "A Walk Through Hell." It was a fitting closer, as "Hell" is the song that inspired the interest in a rarities collection in the first place. Bemis allowed the crowd to sing the final chorus to conclude the night.
Eisley co-vocalist/guitarist (and Max's wife) Sherri DuPree-Bemis was sick for their set, but you'd would never know by listening to their performance. Equipped with tea, she sounded great - as did the rest of the DuPree family band. They didn't spend much talking, but DuPree-Bemis did mention that it was the best crowd of the tour so far. They're touring in support of their new album, Currents, and the set was bookended by cuts from the album - the title track and "Drink the Water," respectively. They also mixed in old favorites among the new material.
There's never a dull moment during a Hrvrd performance, as exemplified by their set. It began with a melodica to kick off "Black Creme" and continued for half an hour. Not only are the members of Hrvrd great musicians, but they also put on an engaging show. Their performance is theatrical, nearly vaudevillian. Singer Jesse Clasen went so far as walking through the crowd while singing "French Girls," a song that also features trumpet and maracas. He then adorned a creepy old man mask and lurked around the stage at the end of their set. As a longtime supporter of the band, I'm happy to see them reaching a wider audience.
Openers I the Mighty caught the audience off guard by entering the stage to "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music before kicking off with the raw screams of "Speak to Me." It was their first day on the tour, but they showed no apprehension. They made their 20 minutes count with full-out energy. Most of the material came from their excellent new album, Satori.
The "Rarities and More Tour" is a testament to how far Max Bemis has come as a musician. He has brought Say Anything to the masses without forgetting where he came from. Bemis revealed that the band has already started working on their new record, which will be out next year. Perhaps even more exciting, he teased the idea of a tenth anniversary tour for Is a Real Boy. While the show provided a befitting retrospective the band's past, they still have a bright future ahead.
Boston is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but New England is also cursed with unpredictable weather. Those who traveled long distances to attend the inaugural Boston Calling Music Festival learned that the hard way. Although it was Memorial Day weekend, the weather on Saturday was nothing short of miserable; it was rainy and windy throughout the day, and the temperature dropped to the low 40s by the event's end. But the weather didn't affect the spirit of the attendees, as Boston once again proved its resilience for the fantastic music festival.
Fun. headlined Saturday's festivities, and they proved to be the perfect choice. Vocalist Nate Ruess told the 19,000-strong crowd that it was the biggest show the band has ever played. After hearing them sing along, he smiled from ear to ear and thought aloud, "I'm going to have the best fucking night!" Lo and behold, he later said that it was his favorite show he has ever played. He also told the audience that the band would begin working on a new album after completing their tours later this year, and he promised that their first show back would be in Boston.
Fun. opened with "Out on the Town" and continued to go strong for nearly 90 minutes, pulling largely from last year's Some Nights. Among the set's many standouts were "All the Pretty Girls"," "At Least I'm Not as Sad (As I Used to Be)," and an acoustic cover of Paul Simon's "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard." The loudest segment of the performance - and, likely, the entire festival - was the audience singing along to the massive chorus of the band's breakout hit, "We Are Young." Although most of the crowd members failed to hit the high notes, Ruess did so effortlessly.
The band momentarily left the stage after their rendition of The Rolling Stones' "You Can't Always Get What You Want," but they returned to perform the anthemic "Some Nights." Although the monumental "whoa-oh" culmination would have been an fitting high note on which to end, the band continued with "Stars." Before concluding the show, the wide-eyed, still-smiling Ruess confessed, "This has been the most incredible night of my life."
I'd be lying if I said I knew who Marina and the Diamonds was prior to Boston Calling, but the crowd's thunderous roar as she took the stage proved that plenty of others did. Although her music is not my cup of tea, Marina added diversity to the lineup as well as the audience; it was apparent that many teenage girls attended solely for her. It was also nice to see a pop singer with a full backing band.
With an Electra Heart neon sign affixed to City Hall behind her, Marina delivered a set that left fans pleased, particularly by the closer, "How to Be a Heartbreaker." She was not afraid to go down to the barricade to get closer to her supporters. Her on-stage drinking and cursing made it clear that Marina Diamandis is not trying to be a pop princess, but the British singer's synth-filled pop tunes are dancey and catchy, landing somewhere between Kate Nash and Katy Perry.
Admittedly, I'm not familiar with much of The Shins' material outside of their hits, but they sounded great. Their top-notch performance successfully recreated studio-quality sounds from the stage. The band played many of their singles, including "Australia," "Simple Song," "Phantom Limb," "So Says I" and "New Slang," before finishing with "Sleeping Lessons."
Portugal. The Man's gave my flashbacks to the last time I saw them - 2011's Lollapalooza - as it was also a rainy, outdoor festival. And, like that time, they did not let the weather affect their performance. The band members are no strangers to Boston; they have recorded two of their albums in the historic city. They were happy to be back in support of their latest effort, Evil Friends (which is wonderful, by the way).
With a large back catalog - the prolific artists have put out seven albums in eight years - it was impossible to pull from everything in their abridged festival time, but the crowd seemed plenty pleased by the set. They opened with their new single, "Purple Yellow Red and Blue," and kept things moving for about 45 minutes until they closed with "Sleep Forever." The loudest reaction of their set, however, came when they transitioned from "Everything You See (Kids Count Hallelujahs)" to a snippet of Weezer's "Say It Ain't So."
One of the best performances of the day came from Matt and Kim. Despite being a duo, their nonstop, full-throttle energy went unmatched. They commended the audience for waiting in the cold rain "like only New England can" - and they would know, as they're native New Englanders themselves. Although their power pop stylings are better fit for a sunny day, the rain only seemed to invigorate the musicians, and the crowd fed off their infectious pep. Drummer Kim Schifino professed to the audience, "I like it when things get wet, and I love it when things get dirty!"
Their 50-minute set kicked off with "Black After Block" and included such songs as "Cameras," "Let's Go" and the hit single "Daylight" before ending with their latest single, "It's Alright." Throughout the performance, the band offered plenty of great crowd interaction, including hip hop dance breaks between songs and the distribution of balloons for people to throw in the air on queue. Schifino, who had an ear-to-ear grin on her face the entire set, even awarded her shoes to the crowd members she saw going the craziest.
The day also consisted of performances by dream pop duo MS MR, female-fronted indie pop group Cults, electronic pop project St. Lucia and Boston's own Bad Rabbits. The latter kicked off the event and set the bar high for the weekend, despite it being only 1:30 in the afternoon. Infusing elements of R&B, hip hop, funk and rock, the group transcends genre. They just dropped their excellent debut album, American Love, but they're even better in a live setting.
Although I was unable to attend, Boston Calling went on for a second day, featuring the likes of The National (whose multi-instrumentalist Aaron Dessner curated the festival's admirable lineup), Young the Giant, Of Monsters and Men and Andrew Bird, among others. Thankfully, the weather was better that day.
Unlike most similar festivals, Boston Calling was equipped with two stages that alternated back and forth throughout the day. Although it's nice to be able to see every band, you're forced to wait if someone you're not interested in is playing (although the festival does allow reentry, and the surrounding city has plenty to offer). I'm not sure overlapping performances or the addition of another stage is plausible given the layout, but would be nice to have options. The sets were also noticeably longer than those of a typical festival. Again, this is great for fans, but shorter sets would afford more bands with the opportunity to play.
Despite the city's rich musical history, there is nothing else like Boston Calling. I had originally intended on wrapping up this review by stating my desire for it to become an annual event, but the folks behind festival one-upped me; they already announced a second installment for September. I will happily attend the fest twice a year (or more!) if the high-caliber lineups continue. Kudos to everyone involved for making the first Boston Calling run smoothly, and congratulations on its smashing success. Here's to many more!
Alkaline Trio is a band I have greatly admired since my youth, but, for whatever reason, I had only ever seen live them at Warped Tour. I was eager to rectify this, so I knew I had to attend their recent stop at the House of Blues in Boston, MA on March 18th. The show landed in the middle of their current tour in support of My Shame Is True, their latest effort and (I would argue) their best in a decade, with support from Bayside and Off With Their Heads.
Like their albums as of late, Alkaline Trio's set was heavy with material with guitarist Matt Skiba on vocals. Clad in black, accented by pink Converse shoes, an inverted cross necklace and a fedora, Skiba commanded the audience. Bassist Dan Andriano also had his share of gems, and his voice was on point. Both singers added fresh backing vocals and harmonization to some of the older material when they weren't doing leads. Derek Grant, an increasingly integral element in the band, rounded out the group with his precision behind the drumkit.
The band came out with the punchy, Ramones-esque "She Lied to the FBI." It's the first track on My Shame Is True, and it makes an equally-great live opener. They went on to perform 20 songs in about 80 minutes, ranging from their latest material to old favorites. As a band with such a vast and beloved catalog, it was nice to hear them break out some deep cuts.
Perhaps this is just wishful thinking, but I'm hoping the inclusion of lesser-known Good Mourning tracks, such as "Blue Carolina" and "Donner Party," was primer for a 10th anniversary tour later this year. Other fan favorites included "Hell Yes," "Clavicle," "My Friend Peter" and "Crawl." One unexpected addition was an electric version of "Olde English 800," a catchy ditty from their acoustic album, Damnesia. I'd love to hear them record the full-band version, as it sounded great.
Although they exited the stage following "This Could Be Love," the Chicago punks returned a moment later for the best three-song encore for which a fan could ask. They came out blazing with "Cringe," followed by the beloved "Radio," which turned into a giant singalong, before closing with the first song they ever wrote as band, "97."
Bayside spent the early years of their career being endlessly compared to Alkaline Trio, pairing them together for a tour is a no brainer. They teamed up once before in 2008, and five years later both groups are as strong as ever. Bayside's supporting slot lasted 45 minutes, but the positive audience response made them look like co-headliners. Although their setlist hasn't varied much over the years, they mixed it up enough this time around to keep things interesting for returning fans and new listeners alike.
For starters, the band kicked off with "Devotion and Desire," which is often reserved for the closer. They also busted out an electric cover of Smoking Popes' "Megan," which they dedicated to Alkaline Trio. They didn't play longtime staple "Blame It on Bad Luck," instead ending with a curveball, "Dear Tragedy." Frontman Anthony Raneri passed off his guitar to a crew member and just sang the closer, something I had never seen him do. He seemed to enjoy the freedom and rocked it like a true frontman. At the end of the set, Raneri told those who hadn't heard the band before, "If you like what you hear, go home and download the records, then come back to the next show."
Alkaline Trio's Epitaph Records labelmates Off With Their Heads opened the show. Not unlike the Trio's old cohorts in Hot Water Music, the band's ferocious punk rock stylings are anchored by guitarist Ryan Young's gruff vocals. They didn't waste much time talking, instead packing as many songs as they could into their half hour allotment, drawing largely from this year's Home.
Although the majority of the audience members were unfamiliar with the material, many were converted by the end of the set. The band sent "Self Checkout" out to local heroes Dropkick Murphys and later dedicated "Jamie" to Bayside and the anthemic "Drive" to Alkaline Trio for taking them out on tour. They closed with the brutally honest "Clear the Air," and Young made the crowd believe him when he sang, "God damnit, I'm falling apart!"
During Alkaline Trio's set, Andriano stated this might be the best tour they've ever done, which is saying a lot considering their extensive history. Skiba was quick to one-up his partner's sentiment by saying that this was the best show of the tour. "You can't lie with YouTube these days," he quipped. "I shit you not!" The band has been at it for 17 years now, and their set proved that they haven't lost any steam. From new material to fan favorites and deep cuts in between, there's no shame for Alkaline Trio.
While the majority of New Englanders spent Friday, April 19th glued to the television watching the latest developments in the Boston bombings story, fans of heavy music from the area found refuge at the New England Metal & Hardcore Festival. While Boston was unprecedentedly shut down for the day, The Palladium in Worcester, MA went on with the show. Despite the uncertainty looming less than an hour away in the capital city, the festival offered a safe and fun environment; a much-needed escape from the horrors of real life we had experienced in the week prior.
Despite the horrifying events that transpired nearby, the New England Metal & Hardcore Festival is a cause for merriment. The three-day festival celebrates dozens of bands from the various subgenres of metal and hardcore, ranging from well-established legends to young, up-and-coming acts. This year's event was extra special, as it marked the 15th anniversary of the festival.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a better way to celebrate the anniversary of a metal festival than with the almighty Anthrax. The thrash metal legends headlined the first day of the event, delivering a top-notch performance for all to see. It was the second-to-last stop of the band's headlining run on the Metal Alliance Tour. To make their appearance extra special, Anthrax performed their 1987 breakthrough album, Among the Living, in its entirety.
Anthrax have been around for more than 30 years, and the album they performed is 26 years old itself, but you'd never know it by watching their performance. Sure, Scott Ian's iconic goatee may be gray these days, but the band sounds as good as ever. At 52, vocalist Joey Belladonna is the eldest member of the group, but he shows more charisma than many musicians half his age.
Unlike most full-album shows, Anthrax decided to breakup Among the Living into segments. They began with Side A, performing the first five tracks, and then they mixed in the three of the four remaining tracks among other fan favorites. For some reason, "Horror of It All" was not performed. It seems they played it at other dates of the tour, so it was likely excised due to the festival's time restraints - although it would have been much more logical to cut a non-album track.
In addition to Among the Living - featuring such standouts as "Indians," "Caught in a Mosh," "I am the Law," and "Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)" - and other fan favorites, Anthrax's performance included several covers. There was a quick, surprise take on Stormtroopers of Death's "March of the S.O.D.," the band's well-known cover of Joe Jackson's "Got the Time" and their straightforward rendition of AC/DC's "T.N.T." (with which the crowd loved singing along) from their recent Anthems EP. Lastly, the band ended their set with their trashy, catchy version of Trust's "Antisocial" before giving the beckoning audience a heartfelt thank you.
Although an announcement was never made about the second Boston bombing suspect being captured during the festival, the local tragedy was on everyone's mind. Despite their proud New York heritage, the band members showed no reservations in their support for Boston. "We all humans, and we stand together," proclaimed Ian as he put on a Red Sox cap. Looking at the crowd, the unity was obvious. There were fans young and old; headbangers side-by-side with moshers; people in Anthrax shirts who made their way to the barricade early in the day and remained in place for hours; parents accompanying children and vice versa.
Anthrax's "Caught in a Mosh" could be the official anthem of the New England Metal & Hardcore Festival, especially considering Hatebreed played right before them. Vocalist Jamey Jasta seems to have unlimited energy. In addition to fronting Hatebreed, he sings in multiple side projects, owns a record label and runs a clothing line. You'd think he'd be tired with all that on his plate, but his performance proved otherwise.
Hatebreed packed 20 hard-hitting tracks in an hour. A solid mix of old and new material, the set included the likes of "This Is Now," "Before Dishonor," "Perseverance, ""Everyone Bleeds Now," "In Ashes They Shall Reap," "Last Breath" (dedicated to the recently deceased Deftones bassist Chi Cheng) and the anthemic closer, "I Will Be Heard."
Jasta announced that the band would be touring the U.S. in late 2014 to celebrate their 20th anniversary. And, much like Anthrax, you'd never know the members of Hatebreed have been at it for so long. Jasta told the crowd that nothing in the world compares to playing shows, and the smile on his face throughout the set as he saw fans cheer and sing along showed that it was a genuine sentiment.
I had missed Every Time I Die's recent Boston appearance, so I was happy to see them back at Metal Fest for the second year in a row. The band dedicated their set to the city of Boston. The scorching performance was similar to thatof the previous year in terms of both vigor and song selection. They opened with "Underwater Bimbos from Outer Space" and kept the energy high for 45 minutes, closing with a killer one-two punch of "Ebolarama" and "We'rewolf."
Exodus may have given the crowd whiplash with all of the thrashing headbangs caused by their set. Vocalist Rob Dukes sent out "War Is My Shepherd" to the Boston bombers, stating "You come to Boston and think you're not going to die? Fuck you!" Municipal Waste is a band I don't listen to on record very often, but I love seeing them live because it's always a blast. Massachusetts' own Shadows Fall took the stage around 5 o'clock, which is probably among the earliest times they've ever played in their homestate - but it's merely a testament to how strong the festival's line-up is.
The main stage offered plenty of other good acts throughout the day, but I spent most of the afternoon upstairs at the second stage. While the main stage is great for larger-than-life metal bands, the second offers a much more intimate, barricade-free setting for hardcore acts. Trap Them headlined the stage - although vocalist Ryan McKenney told the crowd, "This isn't a stage; this is a launching pad!" Their rousing performance can best be described as a half hour of power.
There was once a time when Death Before Dishonor shows, particularly in their homestate of Massachusetts, would turn into war zones of flying fists. Many of the younger kids who were going hard earlier in the day for newer bands were noticeably absent from the pit, but old favorites such as "666 (Family Friends Forever)" got fans moving. The band isn't as active these days, but frontman Bryan Harris promised new material soon. The band sent out their set-ending rendition of Cock Sparrer's "Boston Belongs to Me" to the city they call home.
Other highlights from the second stage stage included Power Trip's refreshing take on crossover thrash/hardcore, the endless bodies piling up for Expire, and Code Orange Kids setting the bar high early in the day. The festival continued on for two additional days, boasting acts such as Opeth, Suicidal Tendencies, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Sick of It All, D.R.I., Miss May I, Terror and Trapped Under Ice.
On Friday evening, the New England Metal & Hardcore Festival crew came out and presented founder Scott Lee with a trophy in celebration of the event's 15th anniversary. He was thanked for giving locals a home away from home over the years, and the audience roared with approval. Lee's acceptance speech was brief, proclaiming that he intends to keep the festival going for another 15 years. With its unparalleled track record of success, that shouldn't be a problem - and fans like myself will continue to flock there every April.
After spending the fall as direct support for Yellowcard, pop punk heroes The Wonder Years were eager to return to more intimate settings. For their current headlining run, they called upon some of their best friends (and common tourmates) in Fireworks, Hostage Calm and Misser to hit up smaller venues in B-markets (so as to not interfere with their main stage slot on this summer's Warped Tour). I attended the second date of the tour, which took place at Pawtucket, Rhode Island's The Met on March 9th.
Having seen them threetimesat larger locations throughout 2012, it was thrilling to see The Wonder Years back in a small club. Upon selling out the 600-capacity venue, the band had the option of upgrading the venue to the significantly-larger Lupo's in Providence, but they chose to keep it intimate. As a result, stage dives, pile ons and sing-alongs were in full effect throughout the hour-long set, even with six musicians crammed on the little stage.
Since the band had just announced their highly-anticipated new album, The Greatest Generation, a few days prior, I was hoping they would preview a new song. They chose not to, but it's hard to complain after such a strong performance. The set featured most of the fan favorites they've been playing since the release of Suburbia, along with a few deep cuts ("I Won't Say the Lord's Prayer," "It's Never Sunny in South Philadelphia," "Summers In PA") to keep things interesting.
The band exited the stage after "And Now I'm Nothing," an apropos closer, but they weren't finished yet. Frontman Dan "Soupy" Campbell and guitarist Casey Cavaliere returned to perform "Living Room Song" (electrically, for a change) with lively crowd participation. The other members then reappeared for "Came Out Swinging" and "All My Friends Are in Bar Bands." For the latter, Fireworks' Dave Mackinder and A Loss For Words' Matty Arsenault (who was there as a guest) joined Campbell, as they do on The Upsides, to sing the closing. They also allowed the crowd to join in, and the rabid fanbase enjoyed every second of it.
Fireworks came out strong with two of my favorite tracks, "When We Stand on Each Other We Block Out the Sun" and "The Wild Bunch." This energetic opening compelled the previously-apprehensive audience to ignore the venue's "No stage diving" signs. (Thankfully, the threats of being thrown out proved to be untrue.) The crowd continued to go hard for the entirety of the band's 45-minute performance.
Although he's not listed as an official member, Fireworks were once again joined by an additional musician, Adam Mercer (who was also with them on last year's Warped Tour). His contributions included keyboard, guitar, percussion and vocals as needed, adding an additional dimension to the group. Meanwhile, Arsenault joined the band for their performance of "Come Around." The set culminated with "Detroit," an anthemic number that makes for a perfect closer.
Although not everyone in the room was familiar with them, Hostage Calm's half hour set provided plenty of crowd sing-alongs. The audience was particularly emphatic for into to "The M Word," the catchy "Woke Up Next to a Body" (for which Tym of Some Stranger/ex-Daytrader sang guest vocals; an unexpected treat) and set closer "Patriot." The band just started playing the latter live for this tour and, based on fans' unanimously positive reaction, they'll be keeping it in their set.
I'm a longtime fan of Transit and also enjoyed This Time Next Year, so I was excited to see Misser opening the tour. The project was created by Transit guitarist Tim Landers and former TTNY guitarist Brad Wiseman, and their live line-up also features Torre Cioffi (Transit), Mike Ambrose (Set Your Goals) and John Dello Iacono (Code of Kings). They received a strong reaction for openers (even bigger than that of Hostage Calm, although that can be attributed to the fact that 3/5 of the bi-coastal line-up is from nearby Massachusetts).
Their half hour performance kicked off with the killer intro, "Permanently." It seemed like a missed opportunity not to play "Time Capsules" immediately after, as it follows on the album, but they did play it later in the set. In addition to material from their full-length debut, they also busted out an older track ("Just Say It") and a new song ("Gaddamn, Salad Days"). They ended with "I'm Really Starting To Hope The World Ends In 2012," which transitioned into a unique take on Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" (perhaps ironically, considering the song's subject matter) followed by a bit of jamming.
The Wonder Years put forth all of their energy at every show, but there's something special about seeing them in a small club. Both the band and the fans relished the intimate setting. Adding a strong line-up of genuine musicians - really, any band on the show could have headlined to a solid turnout - was merely the icing on the cake. Don't miss this tour if it's coming anywhere near you, because The Wonder Years probably won't be playing venues this small for a while.
2002 was a landmark year for our music scene. Many of my all-time favorite albums were released that year, and in the last month or so, I've had the pleasure of seeing four of them performed in their entirety: Taking Back Sunday's Tell All Your Friends, New Found Glory's Stick and Stones, Killswitch Engage's Alive or Just Breathing and most recently, The Starting Line's Say It Like You Mean It. While each of them were among the best shows I attended all year, the latter was the one for which I was the most excited. I'm a big fan of all four bands, but it's The Starting Line who I haven't seen in the longest.
I last saw The Starting Line at the Massachusetts stop of their last tour before their hiatus in 2008. Nearly five years later, I was finally able to catch them again at The Paradise in Boston, MA on December 27th. I would have been satisfied to see them in any capacity, but to sweeten the deal, the band performed their debut album, Say It Like You Mean It, from front to back in celebration of its 10th anniversary. Furthering my excitement was the relatively small venue, quickly selling out its 933-person capacity.
Based on their name, I expected unknown openers RDGLDGRN to be hipster fodder, but their 25-minute opening set left me impressed. Their name is read as Red Gold Green, with each member adopting one of the colors as a monicker, as well as a matching wardrobe and guitar. Their intriguing mix of hip hop and indie rock, like a cross between Bloc Party and Gym Class Heroes, is far better than it sounds on paper. (And I'm not the only one impressed; Dave Grohl is reportedly playing drums on their upcoming debut.) They've only played a handful of shows in their young career, but you'd never know it based on how tight the performance was. Frontman Green even convinced a surprisingly large portion of the audience to dance along with him.
"We're Fake Problems, The Starting Line's favorite band!" is how vocalist/guitarist Chris Farren introduced his band to the crowd. Although the comment was obviously facetious, I wouldn't be surprised if it were true. Fake Problems remind me a of a mash-up between The Gaslight Anthem and The Matches, and their 40-minute set reflected that showmanship. The majority of the audience were unfamiliar with the band but seemed to enjoy the performance nonetheless.
The Starting Line frontman Kenny Vasoli entered the stage with a paper in hand. He proceeded to read an insulting, negative review of Say It Like You Mean It by AllMusic's Kurt Morris before crumpling it up and throwing it to the side. The band then kicked in with album opener "Up and Go." The loudest singalong of the night, unsurprisingly, came a few songs later from the band's breakthrough single, "The Best of Me," but the crowd was also eager for each of the other 12 tracks. Vasoli seemed impressed with the audience's knowledge of the deep cuts and mentioned that they were the loudest crowd of the tour. "I don't know what we did right with this record, but I'm really glad you guys love it," Vasoli stated. "This means a whole lot."
Following an hour of Say It Like You Mean It nostalgia, the fans chanted for "Ten more years!" rather than the typical "One more song!" The band returned for a 5-song encore. It featured two cuts from their two other albums ("Making Love to the Camera," "Are You Alone?," "Surprise, Surprise," "Birds") and an old favorite, "Greg's Last Day," to close out the show.
More importantly that just sounding good - which they did - all five members of The Starting Line appeared genuinely happy to be playing together again. (Although he wasn't a member of the band for the album, Brian Schmutz's keyboard playing added a new dimension to the old favorites, and he also provided backing vocals.) They made no mention as to whether we will see or hear from them again soon, but it would be a shame if we did not based on how strong of a tour they put together.
I've never been known for my memory. It usually takes several conversations before I learn a name. I have trouble remembering what I had for breakfast this morning, let alone anything beyond that. But I distinctly recall the first time I heard Killswitch Engage's Alive or Just Breathing. Sitting at my kitchen table doing menial middle school home work, I put a CD that I friend of mine told me I had to hear in my Walkman and pressed play.
Immediately I was blown away. I was inspired by the uncharacteristically positive lyrical content and loved the perfect chemistry of singing and screaming. The album had a profound impact on me, opening the door to heavy music by allowing me to realize that Slipknot was not, in fact, the best band in existence. I still consider Alive or Just Breathing a masterpiece of the metalcore genre. Although other artists had pioneered the sound, I believe that Killswitch Engage perfected it.
I could hardly contain my excitement when witnessing the triumphant return of original vocalist Jesse Leach at the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival earlier this year, but I was even more ecstatic to learn that the band would celebrate the tenth anniversary of Alive or Just Breathing with a tour in which they perform the 2002 breakthrough album in its entirety. I attended the December 19th stop at Pearl Street in Northampton, MA - the closest to a hometown show on the tour.
Although the crowd was primed for Killswitch Engage to come right out with Alive or Just Breathing, they instead teased the audience by opening with two post-Leach songs: "A Bid Farewell" and "Rose of Sharyn." Regardless of frontman, Killswitch's live show remains both entertaining (thanks, in no small part, to guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz's over-the-top stage antics) and musically sound. Leach was great with the songs originally performed by his successor, Howard Jones, but it was his own material for which the longtime fans yearned.
Finally, Leach screamed "The time approaches!" for the the bombastic opening of "Numbered Days." For the next 45 minutes, the sold-out crowd was treated to Alive or Just Breathing from front to back. The album contains some of the band's most well known hits, such as "My Last Serenade" and Fixation on the Darkness," but I was more interested in hearing the deep cuts. I was particularly excited for "Rise Inside," the album's lengthy closer. A longtime favorite of mine (I even named my crappy band in high school after it), I never thought I'd see the song performed live. I don't think the band had ever played it before this tour, but they nailed it.
Upon completion of the album, the band did two more Jones-era songs, "My Curse" and "The End of Heartache." Although that's where the show ended at the other stops of the tour, the band came out for a special encore for their loyal homestate friends. It featured "Take This Oath" (the studio version of which features a guest spot from Leach) followed two cuts from their self-titled debut, the instrumental "Prelude" and "In the Unblind." It was nice to cap off the night with an old song. The only thing missing was a taste of the new material the band is working on.
The venue was a bit of an odd choice. Although the band collectively hails from nearby Westfield, they had never played at Pearl Street with Leach before. (They played there once with Jones. Dutkiewicz did note that he was born in Northampton.) I expected the show to be an a venue where they cut their teeth as a young band, but Pearl Street served its purpose well. It was exhilarating seeing the band at such an intimate club.
Killswitch's longtime friends in Shadows Fall provided direct support. It was drummer Jason Bittner's first show back after being diagnosed with acute Pancreatitis a couple of months ago. He's a beast behind the kit, so it was great to have him back where he belongs. I'm used to seeing the band at the significantly larger Palladium, but they really thrive in smaller venues. Case in point: vocalist Brian Fair didn't even last one song before going in the crowd. I was hoping for more old songs, given the nature of the tour, but their half-hour set offered a mix of material, including opener "The Light That Blinds," "Destroyer of Senses" and "Still I Rise." They closed with their thrashy rendition of "War," which Fair described as the world's fastest Bob Marley cover.
Acaro warmed up the pit earlier in the night with a tight performance. They have been making a name for themselves in the Massachusetts metalcore scene for a few years now, and this may be the tour that finally gets them known beyond New England. Vocalist Chris Harrell knows how to command an audience. He even did a stage dive during the band's closing song and then crowd surfed his way back to the merch booth when they were done. It's also with noting that drummer Jason Fitzgerald previously played with members of Killswitch Engage and Shadows Fall in the legendary Overcast. Once Beloved, featuring Diecast guitarist Jon Kita, served as local openers to set the tone for the evening.
Killswitch Engage's Alive or Just Breathing 10th anniversary tour proved to be nostalgic not only for the performance of the album, but it also brought to mind a time when the metal scene was dominated by Massachusetts natives. It was great to witness a night full of passionate musicians who are in it for the right reasons and do it well. With Killswitch back in full force, I hope to see another resurgence of that integrity.
Glamour Kills' past holiday celebrations have been restricted to one- or two-day events in the New York area, but this year's A Very GK! Holiday Festival has been spread throughout the country with different line-ups at each date. I was happy to find a stop at the House of Blues in Boston, MA on December 14th. With a stacked line-up of eleven bands (arguably the best of the four shows) with truncated sets, the day felt a bit like a winter Warped Tour.
It has been fascinating to witness The Wonder Years' rise to success. From seeing them play at a local church just four years ago to selling out a 1,000-capacity club earlier this year, they have quickly risen in rank, becoming crown jewels of the pop punk scene. Although they were in Boston recently in support of Yellowcard, they returned to the venue less than a month later as the main draw. With more than a thousand people in attendance, it's the biggest crowd I've seen them headline, and they had every last one of them in the palm of their collective hand.
Although the show was a joyous occasion, it was the same day as the tragic Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut - not too far from the venue or some of the performers' hometowns. The Wonder Years frontman Dan "Soupy" Campbell took time out of their 45-minute set to make a brief but passionate speech about the events, and the crowd was nothing but respectful.
The band's setlist was different enough from the Yellowcard tour but still consisted of the "hits" from Suburbia and The Upsides that fans have come to expect, along with "You're Not Salinger. Get Over It." The songs were performed noticeably faster to fit in as much material as possible. After concluding with "And Now I'm Nothing," Campbell and guitarist Casey Cavaliere lead an acoustic rendition of "Living Room Song" reminiscent of a campfire singalong. (I was hoping for "Christmas at 22," given the spirit of the event, but no such luck.) They were joined by the rest of the band to close the night with "All My Friends Are In Bar Bands." Friends from the supporting acts - members of A Loss For Words, Transit and Hit the Lights among them - came out to sing the song's anthemic conclusion.
Prior to The Wonder Years, Boston's own A Loss For Words took the stage. I have seen these guys play at venues of varying size all over the state, so to finally see them on the grandest stage Boston has to offer was exciting, and the band members were visibly enthusiastic as well.
In addition to the standard favorites (opener "Hold Your Breath," "Wrightsville Beach") and an unexpected inclusion ("The Lost Cause I Used To Be"), they also covered Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody." It seemed like an odd choice at first, but frontman Matty Arsenault can nail virtually any song, and his passion remains unparalleled. (His R&B side project, Class of 92, also played a surprise song - a cover of Miguel's "All I Want Is You" - earlier in the night.)
While guitarist Nevada Smith was in London with his new bride for the holidays, Lynn Gunnulfsen, young frontwoman of the Arsenault-managed Paris, filled in. She meshed with the group well, and it was interesting to hear some female back-ups. Speaking of vocals, Transit's Joe Boynton lent his voice to "Stamp of Approval," returning the favor for Arsenault's earlier guest spot during Transit's performance of "Stay Home."
Transit ages like a fine wine. On record, they evolve with each release, and I'm always left impressed by their live show no matter how many times I see them. The band teased the audience by speaking of their recent recording sessions for their new album but didn't offer any new tracks, instead sticking with the standard favorites.
The set featured many cuts from the band's latest effort, Listen & Forgive, along with some older tracks. Although fans enjoyed the entire set, it was the older, more upbeat songs - "Please Head North" and "Stay Home," specifically - that received the rowdiest response from the crowd.
I'm a fan of The Dangerous Summer, but I'm not sure why they were booked to go on after Hit the Lights. The Dangerous Summer sounded great - no drama there - but their performance elicited little response from the audience. However, I loved seeing them close with "Work in Progress," as it puts a perfect exclamation mark on the end of their set.
Hit the Lights, on the other hand, always brings an excited fanbase, and this show was particularly special because it featured both current vocalist Nick Thompson and original singer Colin Ross. Although they only had 30 minutes, they made the short time count with seven cuts from their first two full-lengths - and nothing from their latest album.
Ross sang the first three songs ("Three Oh Nine," "These Backs Are Made For Stabbing," "Save Your Breath"), while Thompson went back to his original duty as guitarist. Thompson then took the reins for the next three tracks ("Stay Out," "Back Breaker," "Count It") before being joined by Ross as they shared vocal duties for the catchiest song about killing someone, "Bodybag."
I haven't really sat down and listened to With the Punches enough, but their live show was enjoyable regardless. Bursting with energy, they crammed as many songs as possible into their 20-minute set. Obviously not used to such a disconnect between the stage and the audience, vocalist Jesse Vadala spent a good portion of the set at the barricade, allowing kids to crowd surf their way up and sing along.
I've lauded Brian Marquis before, and his performance only reinforced my praise. I've seen him in numerous smaller venues since he began his post-Therefore I Am solo career, but it was an entirely new experience to hear him through a big sound system. He threw in a new song, which sounds just as good as his old material. As is the case with most acoustic performances, some audience members where obnoxious with their chatter, but most were respectful.
Hostage Calm played earlier in the day - a bit too early, if you ask me. They had enough fans singing along to warrant a later set time, and even Campbell came out to sing on "On Both Eyes." Also underrated are I Call Fives, who played right before them. I have no idea why they aren't as big as, say, Fireworks or Man Overboard. For my money, their catchy pop punk jams are on the same level.
The line-up also featured State Champs, who received a surprisingly warm reception considering they went on at 4:50 (and covered P.O.D.'s "Alive"), Kid Jerusalem and local battle of the bands winner Premier. Some attendees stuck it out for all 7+ hours.
The show was originally scheduled to take place at The Royale, a smaller (but still relatively large) venue in Boston that allows stage diving. Although that most likely would have to a more fun show experience, the change was necessary in order to allow all of the bands to play. Besides, it's hard to complain after seeing such a strong line-up. A Very GK! Holiday Festival in Boston is a late but strong contender for the best show of the year.