I’ve heard for years how special anniversary tours can be. They’re a way to bring back the nostalgia of the era for which they celebrate and they bring people together in a way that, quite frankly, no other tour like it can. I’ve only had this experience once: 2013 with Hawthorne Heights’ “The Silence in Black and White 10th Anniversary” tour and it was beyond anything I’d felt. That tour was amazing and was also the first time I had the chance to witness Famous Last Words live. HOWEVER, when I heard that Alesana was planning a tour on the West Coast for the 10th anniversary of On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax, I knew that I would find myself in that crowd, no matter what it took. On Frail Wings was my first foray into the world of post-hardcore and the use of 3 vocalists, rather than just one, was absolutely mesmerizing to me. That was in 2006, I was 16 years old and most of Alesana was fresh out of high school… the level of intensity, emotion and musical exploration that encompasses that album, still has me reeling to this day. On February 16th, 2017, I had the chance to witness the album performed, in it’s entirety, along with much more from the rest of the line-up.
What a Wreck:
What a Wreck is a duo, comprised of vocalist/guitarist Kyle Ward and drummer Jonny Brack. The entirety of their catalog was produced, mixed, mastered and engineered by Ward and the sound is reminiscent of mid-era Sleeping With Sirens. I wasn’t sure how their music would come across live but I have to say, it was rather impressive! I walked into the venue about 2 songs in and they had the small crowd moving! The sound was spectacular, Ward’s vocals were just as great live as they are in a studio setting and it sounded as though we were watching a full band! I believe they played the majority of their recently-released EP Outcast Sanctuary, which is a pretty great piece of music… be sure to check that out on BandCamp, iTunes, etc.
Local electronicore phenoms Young Medicine were up next. This was my 2nd time I’d seen them open for an Alesana tour and I knew that they know how to bring the thunder. They had a pretty large local following and it wasn’t hard to tell who was there to see them. The band kicked off their set with one of their most well-known songs, “She Makes Me Do Dirty Things.” The song has deep electronic elements ingrained in it and translated pretty well live. Vocalists Bret Liber and Josh Hurst sounded a great deal better than I remember from last time and I don’t know if it was that the sound was ran better or if it’s just a case of “practice makes perfect” but I’m glad that it happened. An unexpected part of their set was their cover of “You Are the One” (originally by Shiny Toy Guns) which had virtually everyone in the venue singing along because, let’s face it, who DOESN’T love that song?! They did the original a great justice and made sure to keep the line between “Young Medicine” and “Shiny Toy Guns” thin but uncrossed. The crowd participation came full circle when their latest single, “Living Fiction” kicked in and got the crowd off their feet. Another great surprise was how crisp and clear Peter Romano’s bass sounded this time around. Again, you have to contribute that to whoever was running the sound because they stayed on point with it all night. Overall, Young Medicine and What a Wreck kicked things off right and made their scene proud.
Admittedly, outside of their latest album, New Obsession, I had absolutely no idea what to expect from these guys on a live front. Vocalist Mark Pfromm (who I later learned is Chris Fronzak from Atilla’s brother) really got into character with his performance. He donned red, white and black make-up that covered his entire face, along with white contacts that gave him an eerie appearance. He refused to stay still and even gave the photographers there several great shots as he looked at each camera. Easily the heaviest band, in terms of overall sound, on the bill and they made sure to transfer every single ounce of energy to the crowd. While a good deal of the crowd left after Young Medicine’s set, it was clear that the rest was there to party and they got off their feet for Vesta on several occasions. Their set included “Witching Hour,” “I Can’t Sleep,” “Pretend” and more from their debut album. Without a doubt, they destroyed their set and were easily one of the most fun to watch.
From now on, I’m going to refer to these guys as the “Kings of Obscurity” because everything they do is just so… odd! Vocalist Grey Sorenson walked out donning American Flag tights and a fur vest, Drummer Tyler Baker Craig walked out with a shirt tied on his head, Guitarist Austin Heath walked out with really short shorts… you already knew that things were about to get strange. Kicking things off with the Pledge of Allegiance (as true Americans), things quickly got interesting when they started into their first song “Sevier County Killer.” which has a very country-western feel to it. Not country-western in typical sense but in the sense that it transports you back to a time where saloons, bar fights and in-house prostitutes were normal things to see on a daily basis. This is also the opening track on their new album, Remarkable, and it only gets stranger from there… believe me. Their latest single “The Sick Nasty” was up next and it seemed that a few people in the crowd knew it (myself included), singing along, off-key to the top of their lungs. Things took a heavier turn when it kicked into “Ray Gun,” which… according to the band, there’s just some problems they can’t fix. At some point during the shimmying, shaking and mic swinging, Sorenson busted the bridge of his nose open and hung upside down from the rafters while singing (which is something I always love to see!) The set concluded with the single that was released with their signing announcement, “Bone Dance” which has a real party-time feel to it. If you’re looking for something different, yet amazing… you need to get this band on your radar.
Versus is a band that seeks to bring awareness to those who have (or have had) suicidal thoughts or suffer from any form of mental illness. They want you to know that you’re not alone, you’re never alone and that there is always someone out there who cares. Their message, self-proclaimed as the “Versus Movement,” translates in a very real, very tangible way live. They’re getting ready to release their debut album, The Cardinal, which spreads these messages across 11 songs and is one of the most emotional albums you’ll ever hear. I spoke to vocalist Joe Taylor before the show and got a real feel for what the message means to him, connecting on a personal, as well as, a professional level. As far as the level of emotional power that an opening song conveys, when they opened with “Anne” (off of their debut EP, The Black)… I’ve never felt a more powerful track. You could tell that so many people in the crowd were already beginning to connect with the message and it brought the band, performance and atmosphere to life in a very different, very important way. They roared through a set containing their 2 newest singles, “No Safety” and “Stone Heart” as well as an older track, “Life in Shade,” the title track to their album (which kicked the intensity of emotion in the room up to 11) and the closing track on the album “Zig Zag.” Through each track, you could tell that there was a lot of personal connection with the band and the level of emotional intensity seemed to grow through each note. Versus, on a live front, is a band unlike any other… they have to be seen and felt to be believed… but you’ll walk away with a great understanding of who they are and why they do what they do.
Admittedly, prior to their signing to Artery Recordings, I hadn’t heard much about For the Win. Occasionally, I’d seen friends talk about them or something but I’d never delved into their catalog. For a band that has a primarily pop-punk sound, they were incredibly surprising. It became apparent from the start of their set, just WHY they were co-headlining this tour. They knew how to get a crowd moving, their lyrics were insanely catchy and they just created an atmosphere of good vibes. However, when they kicked into “Dancing Shoes,” I was blown away because I never expected a band with their type of sound to get as heavy as they did. It was a privilege to watch them perform, as you could tell that they knew what they were doing. Vocalist Kyle Christensen had an incredible stage presence, as did the rest of the band. Their new album, Heavy Hearts, is out April 14th and available for pre-order on MerchNow.
Nostalgia filled the air as we neared the main event. The lights dimmed, making the entire venue go almost pitch black and then we heard the all-too-familiar voice stating: “Black engulfs the dying light, as he falls, on frail wings of vanity and wax” as the band slowly made their way onto the stage. I don’t need to tell you that the band played On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax in its entirety but I will give you some highlights. Unclean vocalist Dennis Lee has a way with theatricality during his performances, seemingly becoming an entirely different person, and with each breakdown, each explosive entry in their musical journal… he made sure that the crowd could feel it. As the set progressed and the band tuned their instruments, Dennis treated us to a lot of different stories about the era that the band was in when OFW was released. Throughout the entirety of the set, you could hear, see and feel the energy being transferred through each passage. Everyone (or seemingly everyone) in the venue seemed to know just about every song and, though the crowd was fairly small compared to the last time I saw them, it created an intimate atmosphere of togetherness that made the experience all the more intense. You would think that, after watching 6 other bands, that your energy would be spent but… there’s something about being familiar with a song, a band or both that keeps those energy levels high. The set ended with “Nero’s Decay” and fans began to chant “one more song” and, oh… what a song they chose. Shawn jokingly asked the crowd if we would be mad if they just played the entire album over again… Dennis wasn’t having that, stating that he’s “getting too old for this shit” as he laughed and played it off. They, then, started the opening riff of “The Murderer” and it was as if a wave of energy was sent over the crowd, specifically aimed at that moment… there was a lot of moshing, headbanging and screaming going on from the crowd before they ended their set, leaving everyone with a feeling of satisfaction and exhaustion.
When it takes me nearly a week to recover from a concert, you know it was a good one. Overall, this was, BY FAR, the best show I’ve ever seen. It’s always a good time seeing Alesana but these other bands they took along with them really blew me away, each for different reasons. The openers were incredibly impressive, as well, and really got the hype levels off the meters! The bottom line is: If you didn’t get the chance to witness this tour, on either the West Coast or East Coast legs… you really missed out on something special. I want to thank all of the bands, Stratgazer Productions, Aftershock and anyone else who made this tour possible because they really pulled it off.