SAN FRANCISCO - I was particularly excited to review this show. I knew well in advance what each of these bands were capable of bringing to the stage. I had seen Blessthefall and August Burns Red a couple times before this show. I had seen Caleb Shomo’s (vocalist of Beartooth) work in the now defunct Attack! Attack!, and I had heard nothing but amazing things about Defeater.
The lights go down and Beartooth takes the stage. The show began amidst a few minor technical difficulties, but the five-piece still played each song with incredible vigor and intensity. Vocalist Shomo jumped into the crowd during the song “Pick Your Poison”. The band stated during their performance that they weren’t used to playing bigger venues with barricades. It was different for them, so to break the separation between the band and the crowd, several of the members positioned themselves in the crowd, bringing the madness to the floor. I just wish more people had been there at the start to witness them. The crowd was a bit weak for most of the set. (If you get a chance to see Beartooth, do NOT blow it!)
I was supposed to interview the next act, Defeater, that night. Unfortunately, a few of the members were out sick so we cancelled the interview. Even for being sick, WOW these guys could push through it. They brought a lot of energy into every song that they played. Defeater reminded me of an old-school hardcore punk band. Very gritty, screamed vocals behind fast guitar and drums. An aspect of their music that has always stuck out to me has been the way that they craft their lyrics. Each song means something, and has a significant value not only to the other songs on the record, but to the fans. People in attendance were screaming the lyrics to the songs when it came time for the gang vocal parts. Still though, even with the intensity of Defeater, the crowd was still sub par.
Then, Blessthefall appears. Suddenly, all hell breaks loose. This is one group that continues to amaze me performance after performance. It literally seems someone has lit a fire under their asses, and the only way for them to escape the flames is to run around maniacally on stage and into the crowd. And play really well. From the second the first note struck and the gang vocals for the song “You Wear A Crown But You’re No King” beckoned for the crowd’s participation (the line is “watching your empire fall!”), the crowd erupted. They literally feed off the energy from the band. That’s the energy we’re looking for. The amazing thing about Blessthefall, though, is that every show is like this. Every fucking time.
Finally, the moment that everyone is waiting for. Red lights appear across the printed screen backdrop that houses three words: August Burns Red. A loud bass note booms and rumbles throughout the crowd. The band run on stage, followed closely behind by vocalist Jake Luhrs. ABR launch straight into “Provision”, the first track from their newest album “Rescue And Restore”. The energy level has successfully passed the red bar. The band reached into their extensive catalogue spanning six studio records (not including the Christmas album). Every song was a pleasant, heavy-hitting surprise. Kids were airborne for the entire set; the crowd surfing didn’t cease once.
There was something else that made me smile when watching August Burns Red power through their hour and ten minute set: they truly looked happy. They would exchange smiles with each other and the audience. Here are five guys who took a chance on their dreams, visibly and genuinely enjoying what they do every night.
But the hands-down best part of the night? The middle of August Burns Red’s song “Empire”. There’s a soaring gang vocal portion in the bridge of the song. When the song peaked and reached the portion that called for crowd involvement, every single person sang. I got a chill throughout my entire body. If that moment wasn’t living, breathing proof of the power of togetherness that music generates, I don’t what is.