Live Review: The Devil Makes Three on tour with The Huntress and Holder of Hands

Photos by Shaun Krisher. Full gallery at the bottom.

The brisk night of February 3 filled the Buckhead Theater with the amazing sounds of The Devil Makes Three and The Huntress and Holder of Hands. Leading up to the show, the parlor to the theater was filled with a calamity of different folk out on their Saturday night to fill their ears with bars full of great, seasoned sound. To quench the more traditional thirst found in Buckhead, drinks flowed as the patrons of the theater settled into their seats with some crowding the stage to get the best view in the house. Any remainders lingered near where the booze flowed to get their final cap before the show. Conversations all around could be heard reminiscing events of the long work week behind and throwing speculation on what would become of the week ahead. Overall, the scene was set for music to carry everyone’s worries away.

First up was The Huntress and Holder of Hands, a five-member group from Rhode Island consisting of an upright bass, cello, violin, bass guitar, and drummer with some variation including an acoustic guitar and ukulele. The group has a very mellow sound that has a very downtempo feel but also very folksy. The crowd was cold to them at first but warmed up to the group as their set progressed. The cohesiveness of the music, in my opinion, is what really drew in the crowd. While the music wasn’t very danceable or upbeat, the tightness around the set really made the music pleasant on the ears and enticing to listen to. They’re definitely not a house party band but a group worth taking a listening to.

The headliner for the evening was the solid trio The Devil Makes Three. Hailing from Santa Cruz, Cali., the band brought their take on folk to the stage at Buckhead Theater with not a single frown in the crowd. As was heard in the set by The Huntress and Holder of Hands, The Devil Makes Three played a very tight set with each member casually playing off each other to form a harmony to make angels cry. However, this time the music was super danceable.

The whole of Buckhead Theater turned into a country dance hall as Pete Bernhard filled the room with his peachy vocals and succinct guitar licks. Following his charge was banjo and guitarist Cooper McBean who gave their set that extra twang that one expects from good folk. Finally, add the illustrious Lucia Turino on bass slapping away any bad mojo with her slick beat. With them was their longtime friend and fiddler Chojo Jacques who killed it with his machine-like bow movements and “Johnny beat the Devil” fiddling. As a fellow violin player, fiddler in the country sense, I respect some good licks on those small strings.

Overall, The Devil Makes Three is a band not to miss. It is rare to find a band with such perfect harmony not only in their music but in their overall performance. Even if you dislike country, I challenge you to listen to one of their songs and not catch a beat.

Check The Devil Makes Three on their 2018 tour.

Photo Gallery – The Huntress and Holder of Hands

 

Photo Gllery – The Devil Makes Three

Live Review: Save Ferris New Sound Tour at Masquerade with Burns Like Fire

Review by Daniel Karasek. Photos (at the end of the article) by Shaun Krisher

The air was heavy with anticipation on February 25 for the Save Ferris, Baby Baby, and Burns Like Fire show in Hell at the new Masquerade located in Underground Atlanta. The crowd huddled in the warmth of Hell as a brisk breeze of winter air finally came to the city. Pockets of conversation could be heard about the coming show, with occasional chatter about the new Masquerade placement. Everyone seemed to dig the new setting for the seasoned Atlanta music venue. Many attendees were crowding the back bar to get their fix before the night of music debauchery. Others were already waiting by the stage for the opening act to kick start the night. It was the same old vibe of Masquerade we have come to love. As it turns out, Underground Atlanta pairs well with Atlanta’s underground culture that has made a home at the infamous Masquerade.

The first act of the night, Burns Like Fire, broke the ice with a cover of “I’ll Be There For You” (you’re welcome for getting that stuck in your head). Immediately the audience got riled up and sang along to the classic opening theme song from Friends. There was a buildup of energy between Burns Like Fire and the crowd that culminated throughout their set. The band was very cohesive with both their stage presence and sound, leaving a trail of broken necks in the wake of each song. Even with the recent departure of their bass player and vocalist Charley Ferlito, Web, Josh, and Parker put on a show to get any audience pumped up. As a punk band from Athens, it was a pleasure for them to take a bar break and shred some for their fans.

Baby Baby took the stage as the second act of the night. There was instant hype from the crowd the second that they took the stage, carrying over the tidal wave of energy started by Burns Like Fire. Except that tidal wave became a monsoon as Baby Baby jammed through song after song of pure rock. Their proclaimed genre of fun rock really fits the bill with Baby Baby as not an immobile body was seen in the crowd, just a bunch of rockers kicking it to the sweet tunes of the evening. The double percussion split between Grant and Colin adds in a crispy, crunch beat that pairs well with the popping bass riffs of Hsiang-Ming and guitar licks of their sassy front man Fontez Brooks. Not only was their sound on point, Baby Baby also puts on one hell of a show with it ending with Hsiang-Ming playing bass atop the shoulders of Colin with Grant pumping out killer beats and Fontez, shirtless, hyping the crowd with his savage guitar stylings. These guys are not an act to be missed.

For the headliner of the evening, Monique Powell graced the stage as the front for Save Ferris. Yes, THE Save Ferris. The one you haven’t heard of in a good while. To put this in perspective for those young ones out of the know, Save Ferris hasn’t toured or even released new music for over 15 years, with their last tour and most recent album release being fan backed. As soon as the band took their places on the stage the crowd went wild and kicked the already built monsoon of energy into overdrive. When Monique took the stage and filled the room with her classic vocals, everyone in Masquerade, and probably the surrounding area, turned an ear towards the stage at Hell. Monique’s stage presence is unrivaled. Her raw talent makes her a natural performer as she romps the stage egging on her adoring fans. The rest of the band comprising the new rendition of Save Ferris shined as well as they filled the room with guitar riffs, horn solos, and funky rhythms that could make statues tap a foot. When Save Ferris played tracks off their recently dropped album Checkered Past the entire crowd seemed to chime in. The bridge in their new track “Golden Silence” glistened with a slick saxophone solo by Alexander Mathias that filled the Masquerade with a jazzy-ska blend. The entire set was bumping up until the end where Save Ferris played an encore of “Come on Eileen”, their famous cover of the classic by Dexys Midnight Runners. The energy of the crowd continued until the very end of the last note, with even some wanting to hear more.

The night at Masquerade was lit. Both Burns Like Fire and Baby Baby are acts not to miss live as they put on killer shows, however Save Ferris was something special to see live due to the bands checkered past, coincidentally and justly the name of Save Ferris’s recently released album. Check out the tour dates for Save Ferris’s New Sound 2017 Tour here: http://saveferris.com

Live Review: Less Than Jake and Guests Pack Out the New Masquerade

Review by Daniel Karasek. Photos (at the end of the article) by Shaun Krisher

The night of February 24 was graced with the presence of The Attack, Bunny Gang, Pepper, and Less Than Jake at the Masquerade. This was my first show at the new Masquerade location. To be honest, it was my first adult adventure to Underground Atlanta as I haven’t been there since I was a kid over 10 years ago. On first impressions, the new location seems to be a great fit as the vibe of modern Underground Atlanta really blends well with the classic rock culture embedded in Masquerade. The stages are now split between three different rooms in the alley at Underground, much different from the traditional vertical stack where the stages got their name sake. I thought it would be jarring to not have the traditional Masquerade layout, but I was wrong. The open layout makes for a large yet cozy venue.

Now to discuss the show. To start the evening, Florida-based band The Attack rocked the stage with their unique sound that is true to the roots of punk rock. They really make their shows about their sound and not about their looks, which were also on point. The fast riffs of Brad Palkevich really got the crowd hyped while Tito Esquiaqui and Mikey Cortes held down the beat with their respective drums and bass. And we can’t forget the mad vocals of Charlie Bender blasting the world to get on his hype level. This band is a true punk band that any rocker can jam to.

Next on the set list for the night was The Bunny Gang, a rag tag group of dudes who jam out like no tomorrow. This was The Bunny Gang’s cherry pop for playing at Atlanta’s iconic Masquerade. Their self-proclaimed “Revolution Rocksteady” sound is truly a band not to miss when in town. It combines punk rock with reggae in a ska concoction that is smooth on the ears. Nathen Maxwell, the lead singer for The Bunny Gang, showed off his crisp chops as he rocked the stage. He has that rockstar persona with infectious energy that spreads like wildfire in a crowd. Backing him up were the killer keys of Levi Garrett and the hot horns of trombonist Keith Larsen as well as the rest of the motley crew. On asking for comment about the new Masquerade, Levi said “the venue had good sound” and Keith said “the venue was cool with the atmosphere”.

In the slot before the headliner was San Diego’s own Pepper, a feisty ska group very reminiscent of Sublime in their groovy sound. The band’s origin of Hawaii is obvious in their showmanship as they bring a little bit of the island culture to their show. The crowd lit up with noise as Pepper took the stage, and by the second song the walls of the Masquerade were even vibing to the music. The deep, gritty vocals of Kaleo Wassman really stood out to make the music shine. The vocals matched with the slick bass licks of Bret Bollinger and catchy beats of Yesod Williams made for one popping performance. When Kaleo and Bret broke into an acoustic duet of “Point And Shoot” the entirety of Masquerade joined in making for one hell of a singalong, in Heaven none the less. The band definitely lived up to the reputation built around their 20 year career.

As the headliner for the evening, Florida’s own Less Than Jake killed it. There was insane hype from the crowd from the moment they took the stage. To start the show, as Less Than Jake are known for their stage antics, confetti canons blasted the audience alongside the first notes that brought the audience into a roar of excitement. From note one, Less Than Jake showed why they have been kings of ska for nearly 25 years. Their second song ushered in a storm of crowd surfers that continued throughout the show. As the band continued into their set, the lead vocalist and guitarist Chris DeMakes remarked that he “never saw a better crowd” at Masquerade. The energy Chris and bassist Roger Lima put into each song was tenfold reflected by the crowd that night. They both definitely put the show in showmanship. Drummer Vinnie Fiorello kept the tunes in line with his highly danceable and contagious beats. Goldfinger and JR on trombone and tenor sax respectively added the pizzazz to the show that only horns can bring to the table, especially horns in such talented hands. The show these guys put on, riddled with the craziness and mischief necessary for a ska show, is a sight to behold. After a solid encore, Less Than Jake brought the night of great music to a close with more energy than they started their set with.

This great night of ska and rock had the Masquerade packed out. I’d recommend catching a show at the new Masquerade location, especially if any of these acts roll through again.

Photo Gallery – Less than Jake

Photo Gallery – Pepper

Photo Gallery – The Bunny Gang

Dillinger Escape Plan Hit the Variety Playhouse on their Farewell Tour

The Dillinger Escape Plan played at the Variety Playhouse on Friday, November 11th, touring in support of their final album, Dissociation. The Variety Playhouse is a beautiful WWII-era Art Deco movie theater cum music venue featuring a large balcony.  The Variety Playhouse just completed a top-to-bottom renovation after its recent purchase by Agon, which also owns the Georgia Theatre in Athens. After twenty years and eight albums, The Dillinger Escape Plan is breaking up amicably to pursue different projects. Their final album, Dissociation, continues their recent trend towards moodier, more cinematic music. Dissociation may be slow and evocative in places, but Dillinger Escape Plan still treads the line between order and madness. You hear more of Greg Puciato’s range as a vocalist. I’ve seen Dillinger several times at the Masquerade, and it was nice to see them at the Variety Playhouse with it’s larger stage and better lightshow. Cult Leader, from Salt Lake City, Utah, Carbomb, from New York, and O’Brother from Atlanta, are joining them on tour.  This tour of performances will finish up its American leg in Burlington, VT on November 17; Huntington, NY on November 18; and Hartford, CT on November 19, and then three shows in Canada, and then it’s off to Europe.

Cult Leader opened the night up. Three of the four members of Cult Leader played together as Gaza, a highly-respected grindcore band which itself dates back to 2006. Cult Leader released their first EP in 2014 on Deathwish records, and followed it up with a full length, Lightless Walk, and another EP, Useless Animal, both in 2015. They opened the night up strong, and I felt a lot of charisma coming off the front line of the band. The crowd was largely receptive. No one I talked to had seen them before, but enjoyed their set.

Carbomb played second, after their very impressive massive drum kit was assembled (two  snares, two kick drums, four toms, and twelve cymbals!) It was worth it, because their drummer is incredible. The whole band was very tight, frequently stopping a blistering mosh breakdown on a dime. Carbomb formed out of two other bands, Neck and Spooge, who were sharing a rehearsal space in New York. Their sound is distinctly New York Hardcore, but with a progressive slant on it. It’s a great angle.  The crowd loved it and the first mosh pit of the night made its appearance.

O’Brother, the penultimate act of the night, are very talented, if not a departure from the tone of the rest of the lineup. They remind me of Mogwai or Explosions in the Sky, but spacier. Some of their material is heavy, but nothing as screamy or bludgeoning as Carbomb or Dillinger Escape Plan. Nevertheless, the band threw themselves into their performance, and the singer was charming. Their band features a baritone guitar player (this instrument is halfway between the bass and the guitar) which thickens their sound considerably. Their arrangements were lush, but still allowed for some extended improvisation. O’Brother formed in Atlanta in 2006. They just released their third studio album, Endless Light, this year.

Before our headliner came out, the security guards warned me that they’d heard about them, and about how crazy their shows can get. If things got too bad up front, I wouldn’t be allowed to shoot for the full three songs I typically get. Dillinger is known for breathing fire, leaping from rigging twenty feet into the air into the audience and other antics. Fortunately, things didn’t completely devolve until after my photography was complete. The Dillinger Escape Plan took the stage, launching into Limerent Death, the first single from their latest album. They sprinkled in a number of their classic hits, like “One of us is the Killer” and “Sunshine the Werewolf” (A personal favorite!) Dillinger was formed in 1997 and went through some lineup changes in the early years. The man anchored at the center is guitarist Ben Weinman. Weinman is an intense performer, hurling himself and his guitar around the stage and into the crowd. No one in this band is a slouch on stage.  But Weinman is in all places at all times. The band played a full set followed by a 3 song encore ending with “43% Burnt”, from their debut EP, released 17 years ago.  

I met fans that drove five hours to see this show. These fans were 3 when Dillinger’s first EP came out. Most bands with this long of a history hit a rut, get a sound and run with it for their careers. Dillinger has never been afraid to reinvent themselves over and over.

Sumerian Records packs the Masquerade on their 10 Year Tour

Review by Daniel Karasek, Photos by Shaun’s Krisher (Photo gallery at the bottom)

May 19, 2006 – Atlanta, Georgia

The air was heavy with metal as the Masquerade filled with rockers ready for a night to remember. Outside, smokers gathered to regale each other with stories since their last meeting. Inside, the crowd started to fill heaven and bunch up around the stage. Merch vendors were hustling shirts and posters, selling out of their stock before the first band took the stage. The entirety of Masquerade was in motion for another great night at the venue that Nick Folio, the drummer for Bad Omens, called “his favorite venue in Atlanta because it’s legendary.” Sumerian Records had the spotlight with their 10 Year Tour featuring five of their signed artists including Bad Omens, ERRA, After The Burial, Upon A Burning Body, and Born of Osiris. Props to Sumerian for putting together one killer lineup that fans clearly approved of since the show was sold out.

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Bad Omens, hailing from the City of Angels, kicked off the evening with the spunk surpassing their maturity as a band. It’s amazing that they have only been signed with Sumerian since spring of 2015 and yet have the presence of a seasoned act. When they played their debut single “Glass Houses” the crowd was entranced by the power behind the jam with moshing and general mayhem spreading around like wildfire. Overall, Bad Omens is an act to keep your eye on.

Next up was ERRA, an act from Birmingham that takes pride in their intense live performances. Before they even took the stage, the crowd was hyped to see their performance, with one rocker, Daniel, remarking that “ERRA is dope.” Those three words hardly did ERRA justice. Their performance displayed their professionalism and talent that their fans adore. Their sound stood apart from Bad Omen, not in any better way, but as a different flavor of metal to mix up the night. ERRA really put their heart and soul into their performance to give their fans a genuine, polished set. ERRA is definitely an act not to miss next time they are in town.

_DSC6707As the middle act of the night, After The Burial kept the night going strong. The quintet from Minnesota boasts unparalleled, eight-stringed riffs and killer chord progressions that were definitely apparent in their performance. In the midst of their shredding, After The Burial took a moment to talk about their recent album Dig Deep that almost was canned when tragedy struck the band with the death of their founding rhythm guitarist Justin Lowe. However, the band said that they “put the pieces back together” and “reached down inside themselves” to finish the album, hence its title. They then followed up with “Aspiration” as a thank you to their fans for all of their support. It’s not often you see a band push through such tragedy and stay unified in their direction. Props to After The Burial for being an overall class act that won’t let anything hinder bringing their music to the world.

Following After The Burial was Upon A Burning Body, a five piece metal and hardcore hybrid from San Antonio. After paying their dues and taking strides in the underground, self-promotion scene, Upon A Burning Body has now taken the national spotlight as a full time touring band. Their set at Masquerade rocked the floorboards not only with the music, but also with the crowd matching Upon A Burning Body’s energy. There were circle pits for days during their entire set, from “Red Razor Wrists” to their closing songs “Texas Blood Money” and “Intermission.” The potential of this band seems limitless as they break ground as a defined, refined new voice in the metal scene.

Closing out the night was the trendsetting band Born of Osiris. Before their set even began, their merch booth was sold out of merchandise. Hailing from Chicago, this six-piece act exceeded the reputation they have for their critically acclaimed sound. They played both old and new songs, including “The Other Half of Me” from their new album Soul Sphere as well as “Follow the Signs” from their second album Discovery. Although the crowd seemed wiped after raging for After The Burial, the energy somehow, by the grace of Cthulhu, came back almost twofold. The moshing continued with the crowd showing their love for Born of Osiris. Props to Born of Osiris for being able to keep the night pumped, even though they played after four solid metal acts. Born of Osiris proved once again that they can hold the banner as a game changer in the metal scene. Definitely should catch them next time they visit.

Overall, the Sumerian Records 10 Year Tour killed it. The Masquerade was so lit I’m surprised it didn’t catch fire. It’s good to see the iconic venue hold up to its reputation despite it being on the verge of shutting its doors and moving to a new location. You should catch a show at the Masquerade before it’s too late.

Tickets for the remaining dates on the Sumerian Records 10 Year Tour are available at the website.



 

Napalm Death takes a Death March through Atlanta’s Masquerade April 10

On April 10, Napalm Death and the Melvins came to the Masquerade, co-headlining the Savage Imperial Death March Tour.  They’re all still at the top of their game, and packing in shows.  They’re doing 35 shows in 42 days, blazing through 22 states and 3 Canadian provinces. I’m tired just describing it, but this is par for the course for these two bands, each with their own reputation for playing long, intense sets and not taking many days off. The Melvins set a world record by traveling around the USA, playing all 50 states plus Washington DC in 51 days in 2012 (they released a DVD of this tour, made up entirely of mobile phone footage crowd-sourced from their fans! You can find it here).

“We have been talking about doing a tour like this for a long time, so we are thrilled it’s finally happening,” says Napalm Death bass player Shane Embury in an interview with Loudwire. “Having been long time fans and friends of the Melvins we are very happy to be embarking on this six-week tour of musical madness with them and Melt Banana. Expect the unexpected!”

There were a lot of old school metal fans out that night. Both the Melvins and Napalm Death have been touring since the early 80s (I just did a quick calculation and the combined touring experience of the bands on this billing is 90 years!).

Melt-Banana, a Japanese duo whose style is best described as “Noise/Punk/Something Not of this Earth/Seriously, What is That,” joins them on tour. Melt-Banana has been a cult sensation for more than twenty years, primarily in the United States and UK.  It helps that their songs are in English.  They formed in 1992, and were signed within 6 months when they gained the attention of legendary producer Steve Albini. They’ve had a drummer and bass player previously, but have functioned as a tight, efficient duo for most of their career.  Guitarist Ichirou Agata is known for his ability to draw “non-guitar sounds” from his guitar.  He does this with his unusual playing style, using pick scrapes, odd harmonics, and feedback as well multiple synths, distortions and other effects spread across two pedalboards onstage.  Yasuko Onuki matches his frenetic style with her own, and she drives the backbeat using a wireless MIDI controller in one hand as she sings into her mic in the other. The crowd was digging it.  Melt-Banana closed their set by saying “instead of playing 3 long songs, we will play 6 short ones,” and proceeded to play six spastic musical vignettes, each no more than 90 seconds long, like the musical equivalent of a bento box.

The Melvins played next, and the crowd was ready to start moshing. These guys are classic metal and are still drawing new, younger fans. King Buzzo, the lead singer and guitarist played a cool aluminum guitar that gave a distinct edge to his sound, and an explanation for his name. The Melvins took their time and ran through hits from their entire 30-year career.  You can only pack so much into a 90 minute set, though.  King Buzzo prowled the stage in a wizard’s robe decorated with eyeballs, while drummer Dale Crover and bassist Steven McDonald helpfully wore shirts which read “Drums” and “Bass” in glitter.  The Melvins got their start back in 1983, and have cultivated an underground following of influential artists.  Maybe you don’t like the Melvins, but many of your favorite rockers sure do.  Their sludgy sound laid the seeds for Seattle’s grunge rock scene.  Progressive metal bands like Tool and Mastodon also consider the Melvins an important influence.  They produced a high intensity set that demonstrated what a finely tuned gigging machine they’ve become.  There was a sizeable mosh pit and crowd surfers bobbed on the surface to fall into the photo pit.  

Napalm Death closed the night. Melvins frontman Buzz Osborne adds, “Napalm Death sounds like a gorilla on LSD firing a machine gun… and I mean that in a good way. We’re happy to be heading out with the ultimate grindcore pioneers.”  Sometimes a band doesn’t sound like their name.  Napalm Death is not that band. While none of the original members from 1983 are still in the band, the current lineup had all found their place in the band by 1991.  It’s crazy to think you might start a band with your friends, everyone with whom you started that band leaves at some point, and that band is still going strong a quarter-century after the fact.  One thing that has not changed over the years is the absolute face-flapping loudness and intensity of this band. Grindcore came into existence because these guys birthed it.  Their live shows are equally intense.  Napalm Death blasted through their set, from the first downbeat to the last dissonant feedback.  For a full 80 minutes, vocalist Mark Greenway ran from one end of the stage to the other, from the drum riser into the photo pit to goad the audience, and then back to the drum riser. The audience met his energy in kind, and it was hard to find a place in the room untouched by the chaos in motion. Apex Predator – Easy Meat is their 15th and most recent release.
The Savage Imperial Death March tour continues through May 8, and you can see the rest of the dates here.

Coheed & Cambria bring down the house at Atlanta’s Tabernacle

The Tabernacle played host to Coheed and Cambria on Monday, March 14 as they tour supporting their new album, The Color Before the Sun. Though the crowd started a little cold for Silver Snakes, with the exception of two die hard fist pumping fans, their come on hard, driving intro proved that there couldn’t have been a better choice to open tonight’s show. The bassist has more energy than any bassist I’ve seen outside the thrash metal scene. He rides the music like waves, but never stops below a slow simmer of energy. The grabbing hook of Silver Snakes is their seamless transition into electronic styles and back, it’s unexpected and well done. Silver Snakes saved their best for last and by the end had the crowd, which had doubled in size, enthralled. It is my hope that those guys made some new friends tonight. At any given point, I only counted an average of five cell phones during their set.

I The Mighty followed Silver Snakes. Their style is a blend of heavy, moshing thrash and plaintive emotional sung harmonies.  They have a very broad dynamic range, going from barely there whispers to full out thrash between measures. They kept up a high energy set, nothing dragged and the audience loved it.  I the Mighty is so tight because the singer and guitarist have been playing together since high school.  They have a new album coming out,
Connector, and have been trickling singles out over the last few months on Spotify and soundcloud.

Glassjaw has been around since 1993, through some lineup changes around the core of the band: singer Daryl Palumbo and guitarist Justin Beck.  They had a decent following in the late 90s post-hardcore scene, but they were never my cup of tea. That’s okay, though, because I heard plenty of people eager to see them before the show.  The singer and bass player were energetic, prowling the stage and engaging the audience.  I thought the guitar player was a little bit subdued for the music, wearing a heavy raincoat (for some reason) and standing still the entire time. They are showcasing some new material on this tour, their first actual tour, aside from a few performances here and there at major festivals around the world (Again, they’re not my favorites, but don’t think they don’t have a big following) in preparation for an as-yet-untitled forthcoming album.  You can hear their latest song, on their soundcloud page.  Their latest EP is 2011’s Coloring Book.

Alright folks, I’m not going to lie to you. I LOVE Coheed and Cambria. They’re probably my favorite band of all time. So I can sit here almost all day and talk to you about how incredible their music is, how in-depth and well thought out the story behind the music is, how crazy the lead singer’s hair… blah blah blah. Like any other Coheed and Cambria fan, my interest in the band is rampant, hysterical, and un-ending. That’s why I’m not going to sit here and talk about the band, because while the band may be who makes the music, and who plays the songs. Coheed and Cambria is not what makes a Coheed and Cambria show… that job belongs to the fans.

The call and response from band to audience is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s not as simple as the guy playing the least amount of notes telling us to clap our hands, and we the people obeying. No, this participation is premeditated without practice. If you’ve ever wanted to be in a movie scene when the school breaks out into the same choreographed song spontaneously, this is where you want to be. With the rise and fall of each song and chord, everybody in the sea of fans shifts and sway in a way all their own, that always fits with everyone else. You don’t have to be in the middle of the small ocean of bodies to feel the tides change. You can feel it in the explosive energy when the band lays it on thick with floor toms, bass, and power chords, or in the absolute chorus of voices when the band drops out completely and the “Children of the Fence” cry “MAN YOUR OWN JACKHAMMER!”.

In short, if you go to a Coheed and Cambria show, whether it’s your first time or you’ve been going for years on end, whether you’re on the floor with hundreds of others, or in the balcony. Expect to see, no, to FEEL a spectrum of emotions from the entire building. Coheed and Cambria are not the show, YOU are the show.

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Waka Flocka Flame sells out Atlanta’s Center Stage Jan. 16

The pit was packed on Jan. 16 at Atlanta’s Center Stage for Waka Flocka Flame, an act featuring Russ and Kelechi out on their Flockaveli 1.5 tour. The crowd turned up on the dance floor to mosh and grind their way through the night. The air was thick with the heavy perfume of Mary Jane before the party even started.

Kelechi, the opening act, hails from Marietta, Ga. He started his career as SUBMiT, but changed his stage name to Kelechi, his given name, as a means of embracing his Nigerian heritage. While most concertgoers see opening acts as an opportunity to pregame or grab a T-shirt before the lines get long, Kelechi had many fans in the house singing along to his music. His single “WANT,” gained the attention of Mountain Dew’s music magazine Green Label Sound and earned him a trip to SXSW in 2015. His DJ, Ukan, did a great job keeping the set moving along, and he was clearly having a great time with the sold out crowd, rapping along with Kelechi from time to time. He exited the stage via the photo pit to exchange fist bumps and high fives with some fans. 

Up next was Russ, a prolific producer, rapper, and member of the DIEMON crew with 11 albums to his name. He is not your typical Atlanta rapper. Russ isn’t yelling “Shots! Shots! Shots!” in your ear; instead, he wants to sit down and have a long conversation with you over a bottle of liquor. His music will take you to the darker, more quiet corners of the block party. His productions are smooth and highly listenable. I wish that the polish and attention he brings to his studio productions carried through to his onstage performance. The stage seemed big for him. The crowd was full of his fans, and I heard lots of people singing along to his music, but I wanted to see more charisma and command from him. Nevertheless, at the end of his performance, admirers were clambering to get close to him, take his picture, and ask where they could buy his jacket (You can get it on his website here).

After a brief intermission, Waka exploded onto the stage with a large group of friends and fans. At that moment, the whole energy of the place shifted. The dancing in the crowd turned into moshing. Onstage, people were taking lots of selfies and passing around bottles of Patron.  People in the crowd held their phones in their outstretched arms towards the stage, to have the rapper take a selfie with their phones. Waka barely stopped moving to stop to talk to the crowd. He didn’t have to. He leaped and moshed from one end of the stage to the other for almost the entire set.

Girls begged to be pulled onto stage. Girls begged -me- to pull them onstage. That was weird, because photographers are usually invisible. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Everyone there wanted to be close to him. Those not lucky enough to be pulled into the party onstage got their chance when he leaped into the audience and wandered out into the crowd for a few songs. The lights on stage and in the house went down, and he was lit by nothing but the ever present cell phone flashlights and cameras as people clambered to document him and their closeness to him. Later, he took a ‘break’ by heading back to join DJ Whoo Kid at the DJ Booth to take shots and spin hits by his friends and collaborators.

Towards the end of his enduring 90 minute set, some of the crowd started to filter out early to beat traffic. When you’re as big as Waka Flocka is now, you’re bound to get some folks at your shows that aren’t true believers. Those people may have gotten out of the parking deck faster, but they missed something very special when Waka had all the lights turned off, to be lit only by everyone’s cell phone flashlights and lighters while he spun a freestyle about his childhood and the hardships he’s faced to get to his place now. When he was done, he handed off his microphone, walked off stage without a word and headed downstairs.

Backstage offered no rest for the wicked, though, because there were fans and hangers-on waiting for him, to be in his presence and to snap photos of and with him. And Waka has a presence, even off stage. He’s tall, lean, and handsome, with an attractive smile. The dressing room after the show was a mellow environment; fat blunts were passed around alongside bottles of liquor and delicious-looking cupcakes. Selfies were taken, assessed and re-taken, and there was a friendly conversation and laughter throughout the dressing room. I wandered out of the haze around 2 a.m., past the crews sweeping up the bottles, flyers and other post-concert detritus. I’m sure the party carried on, as Waka basked in the success of his concert and album release.

Black Dahlia Murder slays Atlanta’s Masquerade Dec. 11

The Black Dahlia Murder are on tour supporting their new album Abysmal, and played a well-attended show at the Masquerade on Friday, Dec. 11, 2015. The crowd got more intense as a full night of down-tuned riffs, blistering vocals and double bass blast beats carried on. The members of Black Dahlia Murder assembled the tour lineup themselves with bands from a variety of labels to showcase a spectrum of brutality from the old-school thrash they grew up with to the off-kilter time signatures and breakdowns of contemporary mathcore.

Artificial Brain opened the night. They are a five-piece death metal band from Long Island, NY, and are touring in support of their debut album Labyrinth Constellation. The crowd was strong and attentive for the opening act. You see fewer people staring at their phones during the opening acts at metal shows than you do at indie shows. The vocalist, Will Smith (no relation), thanked the audience for coming out early, reminding them that they “could have still been at home, taking bong rips and playing Fallout.”

Entheos put on an excellent performance, with high energy, compelling and complex guitar parts over tight, percussive double bass mosh. The musicianship in Entheos is exactly what you’d expect from the former drummer of Animals as Leaders, the bass player from The Faceless, and the guitarist from Animosity. Chaney Crabb prowled, kicked and leaped, never stopping for breath as she pounded out her growling lyrics. Entheos just released their self-titled 3 song EP.

Iron Reagan played next. Although they only formed this year, the members of Iron Reagan are all veterans of bands like Municipal Waste and Darkest Hour. Their sound is old school thrash metal and the crowd loved it. Six-string guitars made their first appearance of the night as the guitar players in Iron Reagan reminded all in attendance that you don’t need “low” to get “heavy.” The crowd got good and warmed up as the mosh pit reached critical mass.

The penultimate act, Goatwhore, came on stage bedecked in studded black leather gauntlets, boots and jackets. Hailing from New Orleans, Goatwhore has spent 16 years grinding out death metal, steeped in Jack Daniels and the sneering attitude southern metal is known for, with a touch of bluesiness in the fast, tough-guy riffing. Vocalist Louis Falgoust controlled the crowd with his presence, and loomed over the mosh pit, directing its activities with his gestures.

The Black Dahlia Murder headlined the night, playing hits from their extensive catalog. By the time they took the stage, the audience was frothing with energy. Crowd surfers fell into the photo pit and reached for the band, only to be carried off to the sidelines by the venue security. A gigantic moshpit swirled with shirtless bodies, and every surface in the room resonated with death metal. Even the stage security was singing along. The night closed when the audience’s thirst for savagery was quenched.

The energy of a death metal show is hard to describe if you haven’t been. The music may be merciless, but the crowd is supportive and friendly. It’s a community that welcomes others, and attempts to police itself of bad elements. It’ll be interesting to see where shows like this will go when the Masquerade closes. Is there a venue that’s large enough to handle the bigger crowds of international touring acts, but still accessible enough to allow niche acts a place to play to larger audiences? Time will tell how this void will be filled.