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.
Although I had heard New Found Glory before, it was 2002's Sticks and Stones that cemented their spot as one of my favorite bands, where they have remained for the last decade. I've lost track of how many times I've seen them live - probably more than any other act - and they have never disappointed. While their self-titled 10th anniversary tour was memorable, the small club really brought the Sticks and Stones tour to the next level. Of the many times I've seen them, their performance at The Met in Pawtucket, RI on December 5th may very well be my favorite.
Opening the show was Candy Hearts, a band with a direct connection to New Found Glory. Guitarist Chad Gilbert produced their new EP, The Best Ways to Disappear, and released it on his Bridge Nine imprint, Violently Happy Records. It was their first show on the tour (replacing Seahaven, who opened the first leg), and they were visibly excited to be there.
While New Found Glory would later bring the audience back to 2002, Candy Hearts transported audiences to the '90s with their brand of female-fronted indie rock (think Lemuria). Although vocalist/guitarist Mariel Loveland was front and center, it was drummer Matthew Ferraro whose performance stood out the most. The crowd of enthusiastic pop punk defenders were unsure of how to react, but the band seemed to win many of them over by the time their 25-minute set concluded with "Flashers Flashing."
When I saw The Story So Far on the Glamour Kills Tour earlier this year, the audience was so rambunctious that the barricade literally couldn't hold them back. At this small venue with no barricade to speak of, the crowd lost all inhibition. The reaction to The Story So Far was nearly as big as that of New Found Glory (the band from whom their name originates, interestingly enough), with countless fans stage diving and piling on throughout their performance.
The band opened with fan favorite "Daughters" and went on to play about a half hour's worth of material from their full-length debut, Under Soil and Dirt. Highlights included "Roam," "Mt. Diablo" and set closer "Quicksand." The set seemed short, but they made their sparse time count. They sounded good, vocalist Parker Cannon in particular, but the real highlight was watching the crowd go hard. As young, hardworking musicians with a rapidly growing fanbase (and a coveted spot secured on the 2013 Warped Tour), I believe The Story So Far are on their way to being a big part of the future of pop punk.
New Found Glory came onto the stage, appropriately, to the Back to the Future theme before kicking up the power to 1.21 gigawatts for "Understatement." They blew through Sticks and Stones in about 40 minutes, without much talking between songs. The album is the perfect mix of tempos, allowing fans to relax (relatively, at least) between the fast-paced songs. The sold out, 600-capacity crowd sang along at the top of their lungs with every word of the 12 tracks between stage diving, crowd surfing and moshing. It was particularly neat to hear the songs the band doesn't get the opportunity to play as often.
Upon completing the album, they returned to the stage for an encore that represented the rest of their formidable discography, including such fan favorites as "All Downhill from Here," "Better Off Dead" and an old song, "2's and 3's." The set was relatively short by headlining standards - in total, it was just over an hour - but it's hard to complain when that time was put to such good use. It was truly a treat to see New Found Glory in such an intimate setting with no separation between the band and their fans. Both parties had nostalgic fun, soaked in sweat and singing along. (Gilbert commended the rare high volume of female stage divers and remarked that the venue smelled like a stinkbomb.)
Gilbert prefaced closer "Hit or Miss" by addressing the recent "hiatus" confusion. He assured the crowd that he and his four bandmates love New Found Glory more than anything and stated, "We plan on being a band forever!" This comment received one of the loudest reactions of the night, and it's no doubt that the band is serious. With the same line-up for 15 years and counting, and the members only in their early- to mid-30s, New Found Glory shows no intention of slowing down anytime soon. I'm already looking forward to the 20th anniversary in Sticks and Stones in 2022.
Taking Back Sunday's 2002 debut, Tell All Your Friends, is undeniably important to our beloved music scene. The instant classic seemed to resonate with every dejected teenager who listened. (As a hopeless romantic myself, I recall pouring over the heart-on-sleeve lyrics in my formative years.) With a combination of raw energy, chemistry, brutally honest lyrics and complementary dual vocals, the band captured lightning in a bottle. A decade later, they are releasing that lightning on the TAYF10 Tour, on which they're performing the album in its entirety. I caught the November 20th stop at Lupo's in Providence, RI.
The brief but strong line-up kicked off with The Menzingers. The band put out what is, for my money, the album of the year, On the Impossible Past, but this was my first time experiencing them live. Musically, they're not a far cry from the Americana rock of The Gaslight Anthem with a dash of Alkaline Trio, and their performance was as strong as those comparisons. Their half-hour set mostly consisted of cuts from On the Impossible Past - including my two favorites, "Obituaries" (with which they opened) and the anthemic "Casey." They closed with an older favorite, "I Was Born."
Bayside has become one of my favorite bands without me even realizing it, due to their impressive consistency. I've loved them since their debut album (Is it too early to star campaigning for a Sirens and Condolences anniversary tour in 2014?) and have seen them a many times over the years. They never disappoint; every album they put out and every show they put on is solid. This performance was no different.
It was essentially 45 minutes of fan favorites, including "Blame It On Bad Luck," "Duality," "Masterpiece," "Sick Sick Sick," "Carry On" and closer "Devotion and Desire." Frontman Anthony Raneri mentioned how Bayside came from the same Long Island scene as Taking Back Sunday and thanked them for paving the way and everything else they had done for them, whether they realized it or not, in the last 10 years.
Unlike most full album shows, Taking Back Sunday opened with the "greatest hits" portion before getting to the album. I prefer this approach, as it makes the album feel like the main event - which it is. They played 8 songs, including "MakeDamnSure," "A Decade Under The Influence," "Liar (It Takes One To Know One)" and "El Paso." Longtime friend of the band Neil Rubenstein was in attendance and lent his voice to the latter. He also stuck around to perform the backing vocals he recorded on Tell All You Friends; a welcome addition to an already-exciting line-up.
Although they had already witnessed half a set from Taking Back Sunday, the audience erupted as soon as Lazzara came in with "So sick, so sick of being tired..." from Tell All Your Friends opener "You Know How I Do." They loved all 90 minutes of the band's performance, but the single loudest moment of the night came during "Cute Without the 'E' (Cut from the Team)" when the instruments dropped out for a chill-induing crowd singalong of "Why can't I feel anything from anyone other than you?"
Lazzara made his way into the crowd about halfway through the album and remained their for a handful of songs. He allowed the crowd to sing with him, danced atop the bar and eventually made his way up the balcony, all while his microphone chord zigzagged around the venue. (He's known for his mic swinging, after all.) Lazzara actually sounded better during the former half of the set, but he seemed to enjoy revisiting Tell All Your Friends - and fans sang along so loudly that it was hard to notice.
After finishing the album, the band members returned to the stage to celebrate guitarist Eddie Reyes' birthday, which was the day prior. Reyes sat back as a male dancer came out and stripped down to his underwear in front of him. The entire band, Reyes included, watched on in amusement. The group proceeded to perform of two Tell All Your Friends-era b-sides, "Your Own Disaster" and "The Ballad of Sal Villanueva." The latter may be my favorite Taking Back Sunday song, and I never thought I would have the opportunity to see it performed live. You'd never know they were rarities; most fans sang along at the tops of their lungs. It was the icing on the cake after an excellent show.
Lazzara remarked that he saw the crowd going off for all three bands, which further proves how good this line-up is. Revisiting Tell All Your Friends proved to be fun and nostalgic for both the band and its fans. The members of Taking Back Sunday relished in the audience's excitement and reciprocated with their own enthusiasm. As someone who has loved the album for a decade and counting, the TAYF10 Tour did justice to the classic.
As an unabashed proponent of the genre, I'm happy that the line-up of Yellowcard's current headlining tour (dubbed the Southern Air Tour) runs the gamut of pop punk. We Are The In Crowd reside on the poppier end of the spectrum, and The Wonder Years represent more of the punk influences, while Yellowcard land somewhere in between. I saw the tour at the House of Blues in Boston, MA on November 18th, where the sold out audience was receptive to all thee acts. It was a real testament to the solidarity of the scene (and to Hopeless Records, the label that all three groups call home).
The show began with up-and-coming pop rockers Sandlot Heroes. Like the majority of the crowd, this was my introduction to the band. I only caught the end of their set (damn you, House of Blues, for advertising the incorrect start time), but they did not seem to be letting this big opportunity go to waste.
We Are The In Crowd soon followed with a half hour set largely consisting of cuts from their debut album, Best Intentions. The dual vocals from singer Taylor Jardine and guitarist/vocalist Jordan Eckes sounded great; the two voices complement one another nicely. At one point, the band called for the crowd to come up to receive high fives from Jardine, to which the crowd responded with an influx of crowd surfers during "Lights Out." It served as a good primer for the abundance of audience physicality that would follow.
The Wonder Years may have been in the supporting slot, but they commanded the stage as if it was their own show - and the crowd responded accordingly. The last time the band came though Boston on the Glamour Kills Tour, they sold out a nearby 1,000-capacity venue, and it seems that many fans returned to witness another strong performance. (The also officially announced their return to Boston for the GK Holiday show next month. See you there!)
From the moment they stopped on the stage (to Phil Collin's "In the Air Tonight") to the closing of "Came Out Swinging" 45 minutes later, neither the band nor the crowd let up their intensity for a second. They played most of the "hits" from their two most recent albums and threw in an old favorite, "Won't Be Pathetic Forever," and a rarity, "Me vs. Highway," for good measure.
They had a tough act to follow, but Yellowcard's performance showcased why they are the headlining act. The band demonstrated their impressive showmanship with an hour and a half-long set. Frontman Ryan Key noted that the size of the band's crowds have doubled in their last year of touring, as demonstrated by the venue's 2425-capacity crowd.
Both the band and the audience seemed to enjoy themselves (with the exception of a fight in the crowd that prompted Key to stop in the middle of a song.) Violinist Sean Mackin recently battled thyroid cancer, but you'd never know it by looking at him. He was his normal, animated self, even performing his signature backflip.
The setlist was a healthy mix of material from each of their albums since Ocean Avenue (fingers crossed for a 10th anniversary album tour next year!), with an emphasis on their latest, Southern Air. They performed most of the singles you'd expect - "Awakening" (which made a great opener), "Way Away," "Always Summer," "Hang You Up," "Lights and Sounds," et al. - as well as a couple of curveballs. "Holly Wood Died" made a rare appearance, and I was happy to hear the intense guitars and drums of "Rivertown Blues."
Later in the set, Key remarked that he and his bandmates had noticed a lot of bands covering modern songs, and although they've never been ones to follow trends, they thought it would be fun to put their own spin on a current hit. With Key on acoustic guitar and accompanied by Longineu W. Parsons III's percussion, the duo performed a rendition of Mumford & Sons' "I Will Wait." It was an interesting take, but I would preferred a more upbeat cover (or another Yellowcard original).
The band left the stage after performing "Southern Air," but the fans knew it wasn't over. They came back for an encore which consisted of "Sing For Me," "Here I Am Alive" with Jardine reprising her guest vocals from the album and closing the night with their hit, "Ocean Avenue" to send everyone home happy. Yellowcard are veterans of the scene, and this tour, which attracted both older and younger audiences, further proved that they still have plenty of fight left in them.
Rock and Shock is an annual horror convention that takes place every October in Worcester, MA. Its ninth incarnation occurred on October 12-14, and I was on hand for all three days. Perhaps the biggest draw this year was former Kiss drummer Peter Criss, who had his own private signing room. Other celebrity guests included Danny Trejo (Machete), Tony Todd (Candyman), Doug Bradely (Hellraiser), Sid Haig (The Devil's Rejects), Bill Moseley (The Devil's Rejects), Derek Mears (Friday the 13th remake), and many more.
As the first day of the festivities, Friday typically involves a lot of exploring. One can get lost in Rock and Shock's massive vendor room. (Unlike many conventions, which take place in hotels, the DCU Center is a large, open area that allows for plenty of room to walk around.) The massive list of dealers included filmmakers, artists, crafts, movies, music, toys and just about anything horror-related you could imagine. The convention also boats rooms for celebrities, Q&A sessions and film screenings.
I stopped in at the Women in Horror panel, which featured Heather Langenkamp (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Lisa Marie (Ed Wood) and three members of the New England Horror Writers organization. It was interesting to get the female perspective on what is often a male-dominated genre and to see how it varied between actresses and authors. A later panel had Tyler Mane discussing his work on Rob Zombie's Halloween films, in which he portrayed the iconic Michael Myers. Despite his intimidating stature, Mane came off as a nice, funny guy.
What makes Rock and Shock so interesting is that, as the name suggests, it combines music and horror. In addition to the convention experience at the DCU Center, there are concerts each night down the street at the famed Palladium. Friday night combined the opening night of two separate tours - the Misfits' Halloween tour and one headlined by Shadows Fall. As such, the crowd was an interesting mix of music fans young and old, varying between push pitting, hardcore moshing and slam dancing.
The first band I caught was God Forbid. It has been a while since I've seen the New Jersey metalcore act, but I'm happy they're still doing their thing. Up next was western Massachusetts' own Shadows Fall. Frontman Brain Fair has been playing at The Palladium for about two decades since fronting metalcore pioneers Overcast, so he wasn't afraid to sing along with fans on the barricade or even crowd surf on top of them. They opened with "The Light That Blinds" and played for about 45 minutes, closing with "What Drives the Weak." The set spanned their career, ranging from material from this year's Fire From the Sky to the title track from 2000's Of One Blood.
I know the modern incarnation of the Misfits is only a shell of what they once were, but they are one of my favorite bands. The current line-up consists of original bassist Jerry Only, who now handles vocal duties as well, Dez Cadena of Black Flag fame on guitar and former Murphy's Law drummer Eric Arce. Needless to say, it's not the same horror punk progenitors from 35 years ago, but they're bona fide punk rock legends nevertheless. (I met them at a signing earlier in the day and was pleased to find how friendly all three of them were. They happily signed and posed for photos with everyone who came through.)
With the stage shrouded in smoke, the Misfits came out playing the title track to their latest effort, The Devil's Rain. While the thunderous opening lends itself to an atmospheric intro, the song was unknown by the majority of the crowd. It was followed by two additional new cuts, "Vivid Red" and "Land of the Dead." I don't mind the new material, but I was surprised by how much they played. The new songs are longer, and they seemed to test some of the crowd's patience at times. It didn't help that the band played them in blocks, rather than interspersed throughout the set.
Following the Michale Graves-era "Scream," the group finally revisited their classic Glenn Danzig era with "Hybrid Moments." With next to no speaking except introducing song titles, as well as plowing through older material in double time, the band was able to jam-pack a lot of tunes into their half and a half set. They went on to play many other old favorites, such as "Die, Die My Darling," "We Are 138," "Where Eagles Dare," and "Skulls," in addition to other newer songs. Cadena took over vocal duties for "Death Ray" and a cover of Black Flag's "Rise Above." Appropriately, they ended the night with "Halloween."
No one can replicate Danzig's signature croon, but Only proved to be a suitable live replacement. Even without the range of Danzig or Graves, he was able to perform the songs satisfactorily. The live mix left a bit to be desired, however; the guitars were lost in the muddled mix, making some songs difficult to recognize. Regardless, I was happy to see Only carry on the band's legacy.
Saturday is always the most active day of any convention, and this one began with an impromptu screening of I Am Nancy, a documentary by Heather Langenkamp about the legacy (or lack there of) of her A Nightmare on Elm Street character. In it, she attempts to discover the reasoning behind audiences' fascination with Freddy Krueger rather than Nancy Thompson. With filming largely taking place at conventions, it was an appropriate viewing. It's lighthearted and fun for the most part, but it gets heavy toward the end, particularly with Wes Craven, his daughter, Jessica, and fans who identified with Nancy in times of need.
I later returned to the screening room for a showing of Ricky Laprade's Villanelle, a locally-produced, independent horror/thriller. It begins as a familiar tale: a disgruntled, alcoholic cop (Rich Tretheway) moves from the big city to a small town, where he finds that old habits die hard. It puts an interesting spin on the story with the introduction of a mysterious woman (Gillian Williams) who was left for dead by a serial killer. The film's cinematography is stunning, particularly during the haunting dream sequences. Not unlike a music video, the atmospheric footage is set to serene music. These scenes slightly hinder the pacing, but they're so visually stimulating that it's hard to mind.
The highlight of Rock and Shock came from the cast of Holliston: Adam Green, Joe Lynch, Corri English, Laura Ortiz and Gwar's Oderus Urungus. Much like how Holliston goes against the grain - the FearNet show follows the classic sitcom formula but is ripe with genre references - the crew put a twist on the typical convention panel. After answering fan questions, they performed a live reading of a script that was written exclusively for the convention. Not only did it contain lots of local references (Green is a Massachusetts native), but it also gave fans the chance to participate.
Twisted Sister vocalist Dee Snider, who is a regular on the show, was scheduled to be in attendance but had to cancel at the last minute, so a fan was called upon to do his best impersonation. A female fan was also recruited to play the role of Maureen Lipschitz, Adam's ex-girlfriend who gave him genital warts. Some celebrity guests also made cameos: Rock and Shock creator Kevin Barbare read the exposition and impersonated Michael Caine; Derek Mears reprised his role from the show as Officer Duffy; Bill Moseley had an energetic stint in a commercial for Crazy Max's Discount Mart; Sid Haig played an exaggerated version of himself; and Tony Todd played himself as Horrace Pinker in a remake of Shocker(!).
I've seen a lot of cool things at conventions over the years, but the Holliston reading may very well have been the best. While the show is funny on its own, the reading had both the audience and the cast in stitches. It was refreshing to see something new at a con, and I hope other guests take notice. Also noteworthy is the fact that the Holliston crew all signed autographs and posted for pictures free of charge, which is practically unheard of at conventions.
Rhode Island-based production company Woodhaven Productions hosted a free signing of their own, this one featuring Eric Roberts (The Dark Knight), Christy Romano ("Even Stevens") and Jonathan Silverman (Weekend at Bernie's), among others, to promote their upcoming films Infected and Self Storage. Everyone was very kind. Saturday was capped off by the world premiere of Glenn Ciano's Infected. I actually worked on the movie for a couple of days, so I may be a bit biased, but I enjoyed it. It's a zombie(-esque) movie, highlighted by performances from Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs) and William Forsythe (The Devil's Rejects). Both are great actors, so it was a treat to see them share the screen.
It was a long day, so I sat out that night's concert, headlined by the almighty Gwar. If you've never experienced a Gwar show, I highly recommend you remedy that as soon as possible. Rumor has it that they threw Danny Trejo and the Holliston cast into the meat grinder and even covered Kansas' "Carry On My Wayward Son." Needless to say, I'm still kicking myself for missing it. They're not a band I listen to very often, but their blood- and semen-soaked live show is unparallelled.
Sunday kicked off with the festival premiere of another movie I worked on, Blood Was Everywhere. The indie slasher was the first production in which I was involved from beginning to end, and I'm proud of the outcome. The reaction seemed largely positive, and we sold quite a few of the brand new DVDs at the event as well. I missed the screening, however, as I had the chance to speak with the lovely Heather Langenkamp. You'll be able to read the full interview soon over at HorrorNews.net, but we discussed the A Nightmare on Elm Street franchise, I Am Nancy, Cabin in the Woods and more. Langenkamp was a total sweetheart.
Speaking of interviews, I was also the subject of an interview on Sunday. A young filmmaker by the name of Kyle Kuchta is making a documentary about horror conventions entiled Fantasm: Season of the Con. A mutual friend, the infallible Kristy Jett, put the two of us in touch, so I briefly spoke about what the shows mean to me. It was fun being on the other side of the camera for a change, plus it gave me an opportunity to reference Halloween III's Silver Shamrock song.
Rock and Shock regulars Insane Clown Posse couldn't make it this year, but they sent their Psychopathic Records labelmates Blaze Ya Dead Homie and Anybody Killa on Sunday. I didn't bother going to that show, but there were plenty of juggalos eager to see it.
There are many great horror conventions out there, but none that feature full-blown concerts each night. If horror and music were part of a human centipede, Rock and Shock would be the middle section that binds them together. You really can't find a better bang for your buck. Add in the unique experience brought by Holliston's script read, and you have one hell of a fantastic weekend. I look forward to seeing them try to top it for next year's tenth anniversary.
I've probably seen over 1,000 artists in my lifetime, but not a single one of them compares to Slipknot's live show. The band holds a special place in my heart, having single-handedly opened the door for my love of heavy music. Even if you're not a fan of their music (although I'll argue that their musicianship is miles ahead of any of their nu metal peers), you cannot deny the unparalleled showmanship - and chaos - of their concerts.
The band recently wrapped a headlining run on the summer's Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival 2012, and I was in attendance at the August 3 stop at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA. Prior to hitting the road, frontman Corey Taylor stated that if the tour didn't work, it could be the end of the band. At the show, however, he made a promise to the crowd: "This is only the beginning." It's safe to say, at least from the outside looking in, that the tour was a success, and this is not the latest we've seen of Slipknot.
The setlist was essentially a collection of greatest hits, heavy on material from their first two records. Not only was it crowd pleasing, but it was also appropriate considering they just put out a greatest hits album, Antennas to Hell. Following the "742617000027" intro, the band opened with "(Sic)," the first track from their self-titled debut. The thousands of maggots (that's Slipknot fans, to the layman) in attendance screamed along. The loudest singalong of the night came in the form of their Grammy-nominated lead single, "Wait and Bleed."
I was surprised by the absence of Iowa singles "My Plague" and "Left Behind," opting instead for deeper cuts such as "Gently" and "Disasterpiece." The set still included such staples like "The Heretic Anthem," "People = Shit" and "Spit It Out." During the latter, Taylor told everyone to get down on the ground until he unleashed the battle cry of "Jump the fuck up!" The result was push-mosh pandemonium.
Toward the end of the set, Taylor revealed to the crowd - whom he addressed as family - that the main reason the band was there was to celebrate the life and music of Paul Gray, the band's bassist who unexpectedly passed away two years ago. (Original Slipknot guitarist Donnie Steele is filling in on bass, but he was not on stage. Gray's bass, however, was showcased on a stand next to the drum set.) They dedicated "Duality" as a tribute to their fallen brother, as Gray's band number, #2, was set as a backdrop to the stage. The fans were nothing but respectful.
The night concluded with "your new national fucking anthem," as Taylor calls it, "Surfacing." The nihilistic, angst-ridden closer had every maggot singing along with their middle fingers in the air. During the song, Joey Jordison's drum kit came off of its riser and spun around at a perpendicular angle. With only an hour and 10 minutes, he didn't have time for a full-length solo, but this was a nice way to allow one of the genre's best drummers do a bit of showing off. (His full gravity-defying solo, as seen on past tours, rivals that of Blink 182's Travis Barker.)
With eight masked men sharing the stage - a lead vocalist, two guitarists, a drummer, two percussionists/backing vocalists, a DJ and a sampler/keyboardist - anarchy is guaranteed. Still, it's amazing that, at the third-to-last stop of a five-week tour, the band still brought this level of intensity to the stage. Sometimes the stage wasn't enough to hold them all, as a couple members made their way through the crowd, much to the fans' excitement.
Appropriately, Slayer took the stage just as the sun set. Shrouded in darkness, they illuminated the stage with pyros in front of amplifiers stacked in the shape of inverted crosses. With their large and dedicated fanbase, the band easily could have headlined the festival on their own. (It was obvious that some old school fans were only there for the trifecta of Slayer, Anthrax and Motorhead.) They have been at the forefront of the thrash metal genre since hitting the scene some two decades ago, and now they make it look easy. Iconic axeman Kerry King and touring guitarist Gary Holt (of Exodus) took turns effortlessly shredding through solos.
They opened with "Disciple" and did not let up for an hour, with the exception of briefly leaving the stage after "Angel of Death." It did not last long, however, as fans knew they weren't done yet. They came back for an encore that included "South of Heaven" and "Raining Blood." I've never witnessed head banging as hard as fans did to "Raining Blood;" some people must have gone home with whiplash.
Motorhead are undoubtedly influential, and bands of today could still learn a thing or two from them. They are only a trio - one that has existed for over 35 years, no less - yet their performance is positively boisterous. They are living proof that you don't need a bunch of down-tuned guitars to be heavy. At the ripe age of 66, frontman Lemmy Kilmister's guttural yet melodic vocals remain unique. His bass often acts like another guitar, complimenting Phil Campbell's fretwork nicely. Meanwhile, Mikkey Dee keeps the pace on drums. Dee showed off his skills with a drum solo during "The One to Sing the Blues," a song they don't often play. The 50-minute set was well received, particularly closer "Ace of Spades."
Asking Alexandria was the first band on the main stage, so people were still filing into the amphitheater. The British metalcore band have developed quite a following for themselves in just a few years. Frankly, I don't see the appeal, but it's worth noting that they seemed to have the most vocal female fans out of all the bands that performed. Regardless, their half-hour set was good for what it was.
Earlier in the day, the venue's parking lot was rocked by the Jagermeister Stage, which boasted some of the best current and up-and-coming metal acts. Also in action was the Sumerian Stage, which featured local winners of the Headbang for the Highway Battle of the Bands, in addition to Upon a Burning Body and Dirtfedd.
The second stage was headlined by none other than Anthrax. The thrash metal legends would have fit in better on the main stage, but they seemed to revel in the intimacy of the outdoor stage. Classic vocalist Joey Belladonna rejoined the band a couple of years ago, and it's great to have him back. You would never guess that he's 51 years old based on how he moves around on stage, truly commanding the crowd's attention. He even grabbed a videographer's camera and ran around with it for the majority of a song, all without missing a note. The band made every second of their 40-minute set count, packing in fan favorites such as "Madhouse," "Indians" and "Caught in a Mosh," in addition to their well-known covers of Joe Jackson's "Got the Time" and Trust's "Antisocial."
As I Lay Dying showed the bill's newer metalcore acts how it's done. The band places a bigger emphasis on crafting well-written songs rather than formulaic tracks with obligatory mosh parts. Their 35-minute set spanned from early fan favorite "94 Hours" to their latest single, "Cauterize," from their upcoming effort, Awakened, and concluded with "The Sound of Truth." Energetic frontman Tim Lambesis also called for a wall of death before the band kicked into "Confine," which made the crowd go wild.
The Devil Wears Prada were more enjoyable live than on record, with frontman Mike Hranica bouncing around on stage throughout the entirety of their half hour set. I think the loss of keyboardist James Baney, who recently left the group, benefited them, as it is one less cliche in their sound. The stage also featured the breakdown-heavy Whitechapel, upcoming Christian metalcore group I the Breather and hard rock locals Dead Season, who kicked off the day's festivities.
Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival 2012 was a resounding success. It may have featured less notable second stage names than past years, but the overall line-up was a big improvement over last year, in my opinion. The festival serves as metal's answer to the Warped Tour, but the fewer bands and structured schedule makes it easier to digest. I look forward to seeing how they try to top it next year.
"All we ever wanted was a cool, dry place to rest our bones / Not to drift along with this current forever, not to have to sink alone."
Not only were the above lyrics, taken from A Loss For Words' "Wrightsville Beach," the most enthusiastically chanted singalong at the Warped Tour's Acoustic Basement at the Comcast Theatre in Hartford, CT on July 22, but the stage also gave the words new meaning. The Warped Tour was founded on in-your-face punk rock, but sometimes it's nice to take a break from the loud music, blistering sun and throngs of people. Of course, you'll still want to enjoy music with like-minded individuals, so the Acoustic Basement the perfect getaway.
The stage, the brainchild of Brain Marquis, is a brand new addition to the Warped Tour. There are other sponsored tents that feature sporadic acoustic performances, but this is the first one dedicated solely to regularly scheduled artists. The stage is actually two large tents - it had to be expanded, as one wasn't enough - with a small platform for performers. Some of them are on the tour as solo acts, while others are taking on double duty with full band electric sets on other stages as well.
Typical for Warped, the Acoustic Basement changes locations each and every day. On this particular day, it was situated a bit too close to one of the main stages, and the noise could be heard during quiet moments. Thankfully, the tent is equipped with a good P.A. system to drown out the external sound. Refreshingly fast paced, each musician performed for about 20-30 minutes, with only 10-15 minutes in between each.
Geoff Rickly was a late addition to the tour and took the stage early, but he brought a handful of dedicated fans. (Unfortunately, some passersby didn't know who he was; I actually heard someone look at their schedule and say, "This is Gee-off Ricky.") Since putting Thursday to rest late last year, the frontman has been focusing on solo material as a creative outlet. He is happily independent, stating that he has no need for a label or management. Instead, he has a mailing list and will free music to anyone who signs up. The independence seemed to invigorate Rickly, and the new songs - including one that began as a United Nations track - sounded great. He also threw in covers, such as Buzzcocks' "Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)," and a couple of Thursday cuts, ending the set with an acoustic rendition of the band's "Turnpike Divides."
Owen Plant brought a distinctly different vibe to the stage. One half of The Sunshine Brothers, Plant uses his Jamaican ancestry to infuse reggae into his brand of folk. He made good use of two microphones, layering one with delay effects. I'm not familiar with his songs, but the music and the atmosphere created by it were chill.
Acoustic Basement mastermind Brian Marquis took the stage next. Combining elements of acoustic, folk, blues and country, his solo material is quite a departure from his work in Therefore I Am - but it's equally impressive. He played a mix of original material and eclectic covers, ranging from Bruce Springsteen's "Terry's Song" to Ryan Adams' "To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)," which can be found on his new EP, Beneath the Cover is Earth.
Chuck Ragan's foot-stomping performance hardly left time for him to breathe between songs. As far as acoustic material goes, it was positively rambunctious. His gruff vocals and guitar were joined by Jon Gaunt on fiddle and Joe Ginsberg on upright bass, giving his performance a fuller sound. I was hoping for a Hot Water Music song or two, but Ragan didn't so much as mention his recently reunited band. (He did, however, play "Cursing Concrete" from his folk side project Rumbleseat.) Regardless, the original material sounded great.
Make Do and Mend were excited to be back in their homestate. Frontman James Carroll and guitarist Mike O'Toole's all-too-short performance largely consisted of material from last year's acoustic EP, Part and Parcel. The release seemed to go under the radar, but I think it's excellent. The acoustic songs translated well live, including their cover of Touche Amore's "Home Away From Here," a unique take on a great song. The set concluded with a rendition of "Night's the Only Time of Day," featuring a brief interlude with the chorus of Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe."
Koji is perhaps the most humble person in the music industry today. His authenticity oozes from the stage. In addition to his usual material, such as his rousing cover of the Bob Dylan/Old Crow Medicine Show tune "Wagon Wheel," he showcased some new songs from his forthcoming album. He didn't play his typical closer, "Spring Song," opting instead end with one of the new songs. Not only does it not have a title yet, but Koji stated, "I barely know the words, but I understand its meaning." That goes to show you how genuine he really is.
The largest crowds of the day came for the stage's final three acts, beginning with Transit. As with their electric set, singer Joe Boynton and guitarists/vocalists Tim Landers and Torre Cioffi gave it their all. They may not have hit every note perfectly, but they more than made up for it with passion - plus they had a large audience singing along. They played five songs from their latest album, Listen & Forgive, before closing with an older track, "Outbound."
Bayside frontman Anthony Raneri brought the biggest crowd, which spilled out from the pair of tents. He began the set by professing his love for Connecticut and revealing that he was there with the rest of the band just before Warped started to record something (although he would not say what). He then went on to play "Don't Call Me Peanut," the first of a few Bayside favorites. He also performed one of his solo songs, "Sandra Partial," and his cover of Smoking Popes' "Megan," which tops the original.
A Loss for Words was the stage's final act. As a local band, I have seen them many times over the years, and they never disappoint. I am constantly impressed by Matty Arsenault's voice; I rank it among the best in pop punk, even after having already performed with the full band earlier. He puts those pipes to good use during these acoustic performances and maintains his stage presence as well. Accompanied by guitarist Marc Dangora, the pair played a half an hour's worth of crowd pleasures, including the aforementioned "Wrightsville Beach," the fan-requested "Face to Face" and their covers of Acceptance's "So Contagious" and The Temptations' "My Girl."
Not only did the Acoustic Basement provide refuge for lucky music fans, it also showcased genuine talent from real humans. There were no rock star attitudes, no gimmicks, no egos, no auto-tune. Everyone was there because they wanted to be, and the performers all took the time to express their honor to be a part of the stage. It was great to see all of Marquis and company's hard work pay off. As an added bonus, the stage was done at 6, so even after having spent the entire day there, I had a few hours left to catch other acts (although I gladly would have stayed for more).
Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman would be crazy not to bring back the Acoustic Basement next and every year. In addition to those artists highlighted above, performers such as John Nolan of Taking Back Sunday, Mike Herrera of MxPx, Kristopher Roe of The Ataris, Vinnie Caruana of The Movielife/I Am the Avalance, Man Overboard, Into It. Over It. and more have graced the stage on other dates. I hope this is the first of many successful years for the Acoustic Basement, as it has the potential to become a crowd-drawing staple of the Warped Tour.
Even as I become increasingly jaded with each passing year, I always look forward to the Vans Warped Tour. No matter the circumstances, I end up having a blast and finding more than enough excellent bands to watch. The one aspect I do not look forward to, however, is the weather. You see, the tour has a long-standing history of bringing torrential rain and/or record-breaking heat to Massachusetts. But when the weather forecast for the July 19th stop at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, MA was in the the 80s, I knew I was in for a good day.
This year's festivities kicked off for me with All Time Low on the Kia Soul Stage - the main stage, that is. The magic of Warped Tour allows arguably the biggest bands on the tour to play shortly after doors open. Despite the early set time, they had a good crowd and put on a fun performance. In the opening three songs that I caught, Jack Barakat amassed four bras on his microphone stand. (Ladies: aren't those things expensive?) Barakat was particularly exciting to watch, not just because he made sexual hand gestures and wore a shirt that said Boner on it, but because of his high energy. Frontman Alex Gaskarth remarked that it may already be the best show of the tour. I'm sure bands make this stock comment all the time, but so many have said it about Boston-area shows that I have to believe most are genuine.
Following three songs, I rushed over to the amphitheater to catch the latter half of Man Overboard's set on the Tilly's Stage. They were fun as always. The crowd was into it, particularly with the closer, "Love Your Friends Die Laughing," which remains a perfect singalong song. Immediately after their set wrapped up, Senses Fail took the other side of the amphitheater, the Kia Rio Stage. The band is a former main stage act, but they seemed to enjoy the slightly more intimate stage while still bringing a good crowd. They played mostly fast paced numbers, including one of their new songs, "War Paint," which is one of their best yet. I also stuck around for the first few songs from We Are the In Crowd, who brought a fairly diverse crowd in terms of gender and age.
I then went over to the Monster Energy Stage for Every Time I Die. I was expecting a huge crowd, but I think going up against local favorites A Loss For Words cost them slightly. The audience was rambunctious regardless. The band's set was essentially an abridged version of the performance I saw at New England Metal and Hardcore Festival a few months back, but I have no qualms with that. It was an excellent burst of energy, and frontman Keith Buckley remains an absolute beast on stage.
I chose to see Yellowcard over Bayside because they frequent the area much less often. I also had to miss buzz band Dead Sara. Nevertheless, I do not regret my decision. Even the band commented that it might be the best show of the tour after only two songs. Frontman Ryan Key then told all of the people who had never crowd surfed before to lose their crowd surfing virginity on the next song, which resulted in a sea of kids making their way to the barrier during "Five Becomes Four." I was happy to see that violinist Sean Mackin looking healthy despite having recently undergone surgery to treat his thyroid cancer; he even busted out a backflip. The band closed with "Ocean Avenue," which may have been the biggest singalong I witnessed (and participated in) all day.
Back at the amphitheater, Memphis May Fire's large crowd filed out as Vanna took the stage with an equally impressive audience. Given that it was their homestate, the band received a warm welcome. They even played an older song they don't normally do, "A Dead Language for a Dying Lady," and vocalist Davey Muise crowd surfed during the singalong at the end. The performance featured guest spots from a couple of friends, including Matty Arsenault of A Loss For Words on "Safe to Say."
As I left the amphitheater, I caught Miss May I's opening song. I think their new album, At Heart, is step in the right direction for the band. With a bigger emphasis on riffs rather then chugging (although there's a fair share of that as well), it shares more in common with the metalcore acts that came before them than their peers. However, the stage was adorned with large stacks of obviously empty amplifiers, presumably to create the illusion that they are super heavy. Frankly, it was a bit silly.
But that was not nearly the weirdest thing I witnessed that day. As I arrived at the main stage, the crowd was being sprayed with white foam. It was the end of Blood on the Dance Floor's set, and it was worse than you could imagine. Even if we ignore the misdeeds they've been accused of committing and the fact that they have underage girls singing about sex, there is no excuse for what I'm fairly certain was lip synching. At they very least, they were using backing tracks. I understand that they draw kids - in fact, it was actually disheartening to see the size of their audience compared to some of the more deserving acts. I think the line-up this year is great, but "bands" like this are the reason that people say Warped Tour is a joke these days.
New Found Glory's set was delayed due to technical difficulties, but that certainly did not slow them down. They came out in customized, matching basketball uniforms and opened with "Hit or Miss," during which vocalist Jordan Pundik went to the barricade to sing along with fans, eventually ending up in with them. Later in the same song, Chad Gilbert passed his guitar off to Alan Day of Four Year Strong and went down to sing with the crowd as well. They played most of their uptempo hits and even threw in a cover of Green Day's "Basket Case." I thought it was an odd choice for a band with so many singles and fan favorites to spend three precious minutes on a cover, but it was such a solid choice that no one seemed to mind. With their spirited performance (which also included a shirt canon!), New Found Glory epitomizes Warped Tour. Perhaps I'm biased, considering they're one of my favorite bands, but it was my favorite set of the day. By the time they were through, the bad taste left by Blood on the Dance Floor was but a memory.
Since I missed their regular set earlier in the day, I was eager to catch A Loss For Word's acoustic performance at the Acoustic Basement. You can read more details the stage and its performers in my write-up on the Warped Tour stop in Connecticut, but the band brought so many of their homestate fans that they were overflowing from the two large tents.
Perhaps it was due to the fact that they were in their homestate, but Transit deserved to be on a bigger staged based on how many people they drew to the tiny Ernie Ball stage. As their family watched on from the stage, the band played a rousing set featuring material both old and new. It culminated with "Stay Home," during which vocalist Joe Boynton essentially boogie boarded across the crowd on a plastic board before standing atop it, singing and diving off.
Fireworks were up next on the same stage, so much of the crowd stayed put. (Although Four Year Strong were playing at the same time, so some filtered out.) I was happy to hear my two favorite songs from the band - "The Wild Bunch" and "Detroit" - as opener and closer, respectively. Both songs elicited excited crowd participation. Interestingly, the band was joined by a new member who played guitar and keyboard as needed.
For my money, I Call Fives just put out one the year's best summer records, their long awaited self-titled full-length debut. The end of the day was drawing near, and the band drew a modest but enthusiastic crowd. Those who missed the performance will be kicking themselves in years to come when they're playing big tours.
With an 8pm slot on the main stage, Taking Back Sunday was essentially the day's headliner. Frontman Adam Lazzara seemed less concerned with hitting notes and more interested in entertaining himself with his sassy personality and, of course, microphone swinging. That said, the band didn't sound bad. They seemed to enjoy themselves, as did the audience, which may have been the biggest of the day. I was surprised by how many songs written without John Nolan they performed. Naturally, the audience was most interested in Tell All Your Friends material, with "Cute Without the 'E'" receiving a louder reaction than closer "MakeDamnSure."
This year's Warped Tour line-up was good for both nostalgia and promising up-and-coming acts. It covered the entire spectrum of the scene in terms of both genre and time - past, present and future. Per usual, it had a little bit of something for everyone. I had such a blast that I knew I had to go back for the Connecticut stop a few days later. And, of course, I'll be back again next year.
The New England Metal and Hardcore Festival has been a staple of the Massachusetts music scene for 14 years now. I attended the third day of this year’s festivities at The Palladium in Worcester, MA on April 22. The two prior days featured such acts as All That Remains, The Black Dahlia Murder, DragonForce, The Acacia Strain, Overkill and tons more, but the sold out final day touted the highly anticipated return of Killswitch Engage.
I arrived just in time to catch Recon on the second stage. It was their return show and first with new vocalist Rob Fusco. Recon's music is more straightforward than Fusco's past projects (Most Precious Blood, One King Down), but he seemed to have fun. The crowd kept a healthy mosh going for their 20-minute set. In fact, the second stage was virtually a non-stop mosh pit - with the occasional stage dive - throughout the day.
On Broken Wings’ music is chock full of mindless breakdowns, but it’s always fun to see them in their homestate of Massachusetts, where kids go hard. The moshing was mostly respectful, despite encouragements for violence. The band has been laying low for a while, but they just recorded some fresh material and played one of the new songs. Longtime staples “I Do My Crosswords in Pen” and “Listless” really got the crowd going.
After their opening song, Stick to Your Guns frontman Jesse Barnett remarked how he couldn’t believe that he hadn’t seen one person jump off the stage yet. That’s all it took; the next song, “What Goes Around,” was a frenzy of stage diving. It continued throughout the remainder of their half-hour set, until the stage became a sing-along pile-on for closer “This Is More.” It was good to hear Josh James (of Evergreen Terrace and Casey Jones), the latest addition to STYG, doing some back-up vocals as well.
I’m not familiar with Sleeping Giant, but they were headlining the second stage (and my other option was Chelsea Grin), so I stuck around to check them out. It got surprisingly personal. Before “Eyes Wide Open,” vocalist Tom Green revealed that he was molested by his babysitter at the age of 4. The trauma in turn ruined his first marriage and affected his children. Despite the abuse, he said that he still believes in God (which received a lukewarm response). Green spoke about his religion a few times throughout the half-hour set, getting dangerously preachy at times, but he was so passionate and genuine that it was hard to mind even from an atheistic standpoint. Performing is his way to work out those demons, and members of the audience clearly shared that mindset.
With the second stage wrapped, I headed downstairs for the main stage. The vibe is completely different there. Where is the upstairs of The Palladium provides an intimate show perfect for a couple hundred tightly-packed kids, the main room is a full-scale concert hall that holds over 2,000 people. As such, most of the hardcore bands played upstairs, while the metal groups were downstairs.
I got to the main stage right before another Christian band, For Today, went on. I had just checked out their new album and enjoyed their August Burns Red-esque metalcore sound, so I was interested to see them. They delivered a solid set, and it too was not without a little bit of preaching. Frontman Mattie Montgomery proclaimed that if you feel broken, there is always hope in Jesus Christ. The band was joined by Matthew Hasting of fellow fellow Christian group MyChildren MyBride for "Devastator.” At one point, Montgomery went onto the barricade to sing; it’s always nice to see musicians bridge the gap with fans.
I have never made my disdain for Emmure a secret, and their live show certainly did nothing to change my opinion. I will say this: there were a lot of kids into them. More power to ‘em. I just don’t get it.
Vanna went through some line-up changes only a couple of months ago, but it didn’t seem to impact their live show. They always get a good reaction in their homestate, and Metal Fest was no exception. They kicked it off with the “Let’s Have an Earthquake,” a great opener. Matt Lanners, vocalist of The Greenery (who played the previous day), later came out for a guest spot. I was happy to learn that the band still plays “A Dead Language For A Dying Lady,” despite it being from two vocalists ago, and the audience loved singing along. They closed with “Trashmouth,” at the end of which the band members dove into the crowd.
Every Time I Die opened with “Underwater Bimbos From Outer Space,” the first track on the new album. It was the perfect way to set the pace for the energetic, 45-minute set. Everyone running around the stage at all times mixed with the inherent aggressiveness of the music made for quite an intense live show. There was even a fan in a beer can costume moshing and crowd surfing. With a new album to support and five others to also choose from, the band’s set was a mixed bag. They threw in “The Logic of Crocodiles,” from their full-length debut, for the old school fans. Frontman Keith Buckley asked for as many high fives as humanly possible during the second to last song, “We’rewolf” - which spawned an army of fans crowd surfing their way to the front. The band then closed with “Ebolarama.”
Killswitch Engage’s Alive or Just Breathing played a large role in developing my taste for heavy music, so to say that I was ecstatic to see their first show back with original vocalist Jesse Leach would be an understatement. I am happy to report that the show did not disappoint, and Killswitch Engage is officially back.
The band entered the stage, appropriately, to the tune of Peaches & Herb's "Reunited.” They started with a bang as the pulsating “Numbered Days” kicked in and continued on through “Self Revolution” and “Fixation on the Darkness.” At this point, I thought that perhaps the band was surprising fans with a complete performance of Alive or Just Breathing (as those are the first three tracks). Unfortunately, that was not the case - but the hour and a half set was still more than worthwhile.
Leach dedicated the next song, “Rose of Sharyn,” to former vocalist Howard Jones. The situation is awkward from the outside, so it’s great to see them being respectful about it. Leach took it a step further later when he confessed that “The Arms of Sorrow” is his favorite Killswitch song, and he didn’t even write it.
The band played a few more Howard-era songs in addition to the old favorites. They exited the stage after “The End of Heartache,” but fans knew that it wasn’t over yet. It wasn’t long before they returned to play “My Last Serenade.” As an added surprise, they ended the night with a heavy rendition of Dio’s “Holy Diver.” They famously covered it with Jones, but Leach did the iconic song justice as well.
Jones had great power as a frontman, making his performance seem effortless. Leach, on the other hand, gives it his all, with raw passion shining through. The debate as to who is better will rage on amongst fans, but I, for one, am happy to see Jesse back. The band seems rejuvenated and even more energetic than usual. The experience was perfectly described by eccentric guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz as “fucking amazing.” (He went on to confess that he woke up with the biggest boner that morning.)
The beautiful thing about this music scene scene in general is how it unites people, regardless of race, gender, beliefs, etc. The New England Metal and Hardcore Festival takes it one step further; it allows metal heads, hardcore bros, scene kids and mall goths alike, from the old school to the new school, to come together under one roof and enjoy some good music. It's no wonder that the festival continues to be a smashing success each year.
A rock band and a comedian touring together may sound random, but Guster and Jeff Garlin proved to be a perfect match. The band and the comedian actually have a history together, including a series of podcasts from 2006. More importantly, they have an admiration and appreciation for one another. I caught one of the sold out shows in Guster’s hometown of Boston, Massachusetts at the Paramount Center on April 20.
Mat Edgar warmed up the crowd with a brief stand-up routine. The 26 year-old Californian spent his ten minute set discussing such popular topics as growing up, experimenting with psychedelic drugs, Facebook and sex. He was funny for an unknown comedian - but things were about to get even more hilarious.
After bursting into laughter and giving up on introducing himself over the P.A. system, Jeff Garlin made his way onto the stage. Garlin is best known for his role as Jeff Greene on Curb Your Enthusiasm, but he began his career as a stand-up comedian. Clearly, he’s still got it.
Garlin’s routine was hysterical, even cracking himself up on a few occasions. What really made the performance, however, was his interaction with the audience. From calling out texters to inviting people on stage for improv to dealing with hecklers and late arrivals, it was priceless.
After performing for close to an hour, Garlin was joined by the members of Guster for a rendition of Neil Diamond's oft-covered "Solitary Man." Garlin can’t exactly sing - his staccato vocal delivery was reminiscent of William Shatner - but he injected his sense of humor and had fun with it.
Garlin was worth the price of admission alone, but the majority of the audience was there for Guster. I am admittedly not familiar with a large portion of their back catalogue, but I was highly impressed by their performance.
The band performed acoustically, allowing each member to showcase their talents. Vocal, guitar, bass and piano duties seamlessly switched between members Adam Gardner, Ryan Miller and Luke Reynolds, while drummer Brian Rosenworcel kept the percussion going. The quartet was joined by a two-woman string section, adding an elegant depth to the lush, acoustic melodies.
The show was nicely split up with a half hour of performance, then a half hour of requests and finally another half hour of performance. The request segment was my favorite part of the night. They took suggestions from fans via a suggestion bowl, Twitter and straight from crowd.
Jeff Garlin acted as emcee during this portion. The first request was an odd one; a fan wanted Guster to back him while he sang “Mona Lisa” to his wife. The band obliged, but Garlin took the opportunity to smash a cake in his face mid-performance. (It was Reynolds’ birthday.) Garlin would later apologize endlessly for this act.
The last of the requests was from a man in the balcony who wanted to hear “Window.” The band said that they have a rule that they play that song where the person who requested it is sitting, so they traveled up to the balcony and played it while surrounding him.
For a band who has been around for so long, it seemed refreshing to mix it up with something different. They openly enjoyed having the opportunity to play deep cuts. They had only ever played "Empire State," for example, a handful of times live, but they were happy to revisit it.
Other highlights of the set included performances of "Homecoming King,” which features a shout-out to Massachusetts; “Satellite,” with the band members’ great harmonization coupled with fans singing along; and the closer “This Could All Be Yours.”
Following the latter, the band returned to the stage for the encore about which the audience was forewarned. As a tribute to Levon Helm, who passed away a day prior, they performed a beautiful cover of The Band’s “The Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down.”
Guster’s set may very well have been the best sounding set that I have ever heard. The band’s excellent musicianship, along with the the benefit of a nice theater and a good sound guy, made for an impressive experience. With eyes closed, it was like listening to a studio album.
I would love to see more tours that combine music and comedy in a manner similar to Guster and Jeff Garlin. It brings together different audiences, giving everyone a unique experience. Perhaps the best part? Zero wait between sets!