Review and Pictures: Tara Lakatos
The Of Mice &Men “Defy” tour hit the Trocadero in Philadelphia, PA on February 19, 2018. This tour is in support of their new album “Defy” that dropped on January 19, 2018, their first with bassist Aaron Pauley taking over lead vocals. This tour is packed with five bands, somewhat of a traveling mini metal festival. MSCW is touring in support of their 2017 EP release “Queen of Sin”, Cane Hill is touring in support of their 2018 release “Too Far Gone”, Fire From the Gods is touring in support of their 2017 release “Narrative Retold” and Blessthefall is touring on their upcoming album “Hard Feelings”.
The Defy Tour for me personally had a ton of amazing features and a few that fell flat. I’ll start with the flat. First, having 5 bands means shorter sets, less time to enjoy each bands potential. Even Of Mice & Men played less than an hour, for a headliner I usually look forward to around 90 minutes. Second, as a photojournalist, half of my job is photographing each band. The lighting for the tour was extremely dark, nearly black at times. Not only is the bad for photographers but I also feel as a concert goer that you have less of a connection with the band if you can’t see them. Quite a bit of my enjoyment of live music is the personal connection, the glare into the performer’s eyes. Without that I feel like something is missing. Now that is out of the way lets move onto what was amazing, the music.
MSCW (Moscow) led by Moscow (Tsaritsa) herself, a classically trained singer, model and fashionista with a heart of rock and metal. The band includes Jesse Korkola (guitar), Tommy Bradley (guitar), Mitch McCracken (bass) and Christian Lee (drums).
They played heavy hitting tracks off of their EP including “Black Widow”, “Queen of Sin” and “Heartbeat”. Moscow’s vocals were really strong, she did mostly clean vocals with a few metal infused growls throughout each song. Tommy is one of the most entertaining guitarists I have seen in awhile and can shred with the best of them. The songs were all musically tight and the showmanship was abound. The crowd was still pretty thin as they played since they went on early but everyone there was into the performance.
Next up Cane Hill out of New Orleans, LA. Led by Elijah Witt (vocals), James Barnett (guitar), Ryan Henriquez (bass) and Devin Clark (drums). I heard about Cane Hill a while back from my friend Kile Odell who engineered and co-wrote their self titled EP and did some engineering on “Smile” so I was looking forward to seeing them live.
They played a 7 song set mixed with old and new material playing “Time Bomb” from their self titled 2015 release and 2 songs from their 2016 album “Smile”. They performed “True Love” and “Ugly Model Mannequin” from this album both heavy bass driven tracks. “Ugly Model Mannequin” has a great groove and guitar riffs. From their newest release they played “Too Far Gone”, “Lord of the Flies”, “10¢, and “It Follows”.
Elijah moved effortlessly through clean and metal vocals on all of the songs. He tried amping up the crowd before several songs as many in the crowd had never seen the band before. The crowd responded with moshing and circle pits for several songs. Devin’s drumming was super tight and led the band all the way. The only track that was a little lack luster was “Lord of Flies” it’s a good song but I just felt like it was missing a little something. All in all in was a good performance and I am sure they gained some new fans.
FIRE FROM THE GODS
“Fire From the Gods” was my favorite of the night hailing from Austin, Texas. Ripping vocals, shredding guitars, booming bass and thunderous metal drumming. AJ Channer (vocals), Jameson Teat (guitar), Drew Walker (Guitar), Bonner Baker (bass) and Richard Wicander (drums).
This band is the most energetic, cohesive metal band that I have seen in quite some time. AJ captivated me from the moment he let out his first guttural scream for “Voiceless”. His clean vocals are super smooth and call out to be sung along with. They performed “Composition”, “Diversion”, “Evolve”, “In Spite of Doubt”, “End Transmission” and “Excuse Me”. Bonner and Drew had so much energy during the set exhibiting excellent musicianship along with jumping, spinning instruments and fun crowd interactions. Jameson, pulled off extreme shredding, head banging and backup vocals. If you haven’t heard of this band or given their record I spin I highly recommend it.
Blessthefall may have been the most anticipated band from the crowd’s perspective. Before entering the photo pit the one of the tours crew warned security to get ready because the crowd was going to get wild. They weren’t wrong, the crowd actually lost its mind when they came out.
Blessthefall is out of Scottsdale, AZ and is comprised of Beau Bokan (lead vocals), Eric Lambert (guitar/vocals), Jared Warth (bass/vocals), Elliott Gruenberg (guitar) and Matt Traynor (drums). They are touring on a soon to released album with a new record label, Rise Records. For them, the new label means a chance to be reborn and leave behind what they felt was an underrepresented last release with Fearless Records.
Blessthefall started the night with heavy hitter “You Wear a Crown but You’re No King” from there 2013 release “Hollow Bodies”. Guitarist Eric Lambert handles the metal, bone crushing vocals, while Beau handles all of the clean vocals. They at points mesh to harmonize the metal vocals to form an extreme powerhouse. “Walk on Water” was another super heavy track off of their 2015 release “To Those Left Behind”. This song features heart pounding guitar riffs from Elliott coupled with a great bassline from Jared.
The highlight of the night for me was their newest song “Melodramatic” off of their upcoming release “Hard Feelings”. Matt’s drums are in the spotlight on this track and Beau’s vocals were really good. This song is definitely in the realm of a metal anthem. I’m looking forward to the rest of the album. Beau was super interactive with the crowd all night mentioning at one point that the stage was too high and that he preferred to be closer to the crowd. He encouraged crowd surfing and sat on the edge of the stage to high five all the fans flying over the barrier.
OF MICE & MEN
Last but definitely not last Of Mice & Men. This group took a hit when lead vocalist Austin Carlile left the band in late 2016 due to his ongoing battle with the debilitating disease Marfan Syndrome. The band is now led by Aaron Pauley (vocals/bass) who has been in the band since 2012 as the bassist and clean vocalist. The line up is rounded out by Philip Manansala (guitar), Alan Ashby (guitar) and Valentino Arteaga (drums). I’ve only had the pleasure of seeing Of Mice & Men one other time at the Welcome to Rockville Festival in 2015. I, like most others were wondering how the realigned band would do performing both old songs and new songs off their brand new release “Defy”. I read a few mixed reviews on the album, mostly people comparing the vocal differences between Austin and Aaron. While expected to me this isn’t a fair comparison since their vocal stylings are completely different.
The band in my opinion did themselves a great service by gearing the first half of their set list towards songs off of “Defy”. Six out of seven songs were off the new album, starting out of the gate with “Defy”. This was a great choice since the band is defying the odds and kicking ass. I think they have an advantage by Aaron already being a vocalist in the band, he is killing it at pulling double duty. The band themselves is a tight as ever, Aaron’s bass is blazing, Philip’s guitar work is as intricate as it’s been, Alan’s rhythms are cohesive and in control and Valentino drums with precise, reckless abandon.
Aaron’s testament to how well he can handle the older material was apparent on “Bone’s Exposed” which is off of their 2014 release “Restoring Force”. The crowd went into a frenzy during this song, they were high energy for the entire set but this song induced nearly all of the crowd to participate in moshing. They played a few other older songs including “Would You Still Be There”, “You’re Not Alone” and “The Depths”. They also pull off a really cool cover of Pink Floyd’s “Money” featuring great solo work by Philip.
While Of Mice & Men has morphed over the last year they have not lost their live edge, their new album is just as heavy hitting and their fans are still in love with them. Most of this tour has been sold out and for good reason. I wish some of the sets would have been longer and that I could have seen their faces through the darkness but all in all the concert was worth it. The tour is running in the U.S through March 8th then Of Mice & Men are headed to Australia and Europe. Give them a chance if they are headed your way.