Kicking off the last leg of her North American tour, Lindsey Jordan, known to fans as Snail Mail, sold out Metro last Thursday evening. The release of her first album Lush last summer was met with a huge relief after waiting two years after her EP Habit. As much as it killed me to wait that long to hear more of her sultry strains, I don’t blame her for the hiatus. After all, she was busy graduating from high school.
Although young, Snail Mail’s play with the audience was anything but amateur.
She knew how to tastefully work the crowd in an engaging yet reserved way. I even wrote: Wow, that smouldering stare into my notebook after gawking at her intense eyes that I was convinced were staring at mine. But I’m sure the girl to my right and the guy behind me felt the same way.
Jordan succeeded in making every person in the audience swoon for her.
Before Snail Mail took the stage, Chicago-native band Varsity kicked off the night with a mellow, almost subdued atmosphere. Lead vocalist Stephanie Smith’s honeyed voice was drowned out by the heavy bass drum and her own synth use, creating a slightly off, unbalanced sound. While the crowd trickled in during their performance, murmurs drifted as Varsity didn’t quite lure the hall’s attention. It wasn’t until they played their biggest hit “So Sad, So Sad” that a sea of bobbing heads synced with Paul Soltz’s banging head as he laid out the bass riff.
After Varsity’s set, the disillusioned scene was broken when an electric-blue, untidy head of hair emerged, attached to a body covered in mismatched tattoos and acid washed overalls— a staple wardrobe item for Lala Lala lead vocalist Lillie West. After a false start, Lala Lala jumped into a much stronger, more intense performance than the previous act, starting with “Water Over Sex.” The energy on stage was much more pronounced, as West pounded through guitar chords and harsh lyrics, sending the crowd chanting: I’m not even listening, you’re not even nothing. The bodies on stage moved more fluidly with the music than those of Varsity, giving a fun energy that the crowd naturally responded to. Lala Lala definitely succeeded in waking up the audience and got the young, excited crowd to jostle around in preparation for the main act.
After what felt like hours of anticipation, the petite girl recognizable by her bright red lipstick and matching guitar came out to a frantically-hollering crowd. I knew Lindsey Jordan was young (now 19 years old and only 16 when she released her first EP Habit), but it only really sunk in when staring face-to-face with this recent high school graduate.
Her entirely black outfit paired with her pale face and platinum chopped hair were not the only contradictions to her presence. Surprisingly, her youthful, innocent glow contrasted harshly with her confident, mature presence on stage.
She began her set with an extended instrumental intro of “Heatwave,” one of the most gut-wrenching experiences presented on the album, as it plunges into a crumbling relationship.
Jordan’s silky yet crackling voice filled each corner of the packed, humid hall. The absence of any sort of press pit near the stage actually made the performance feel even more intimate and homemade, as if she was pouring these tangible and relatable experiences of emotions onto close friends. Just looking around, I could see the sea of young adults swaying and bobbing their heads in agreement with her portrayal of the ups and downs of teenage years that they experienced all too recently.
The crowd was extremely interactive with the performance, especially during her more upbeat songs like “Thinning,” when the crowd’s screaming of every word overpowered her higher wails. A few bold folks shouted their attempts of courting the 19-year-old, with requests like “Please go out with me!” scattered between her words. Her flustered response was adorable to witness.
Though she was accompanied by her touring bandmates, it was clear Jordan was the star of the show, interacting with the crowd as her bandmates lied low in the background.
One of the most memorable moments of the night was when Jordan announced she was excited to bring some friends to the stage. Having just graduated from high school, I figured a few friends from back home in Baltimore came with her to her first show of the new year, but instead, two little girls ran out. As the members of Neptune’s Core, the pre-teens helped Jordan sing “Pristine.”
As cute as they were, it was hard to hear the girls over the chants from the crowd, especially during drawn-out phrases like: Don’t you like me for me?
The nature of Jordan’s pleading lyrics compelled the loudest sing-along the crowd could muster.
Although Snail Mail is not playing any encores on this tour, she performed “Stick” as her last song, which is the only song on her newest album Lush repeated from her first EP Habit released in 2016.
Her clear, strong voice and piercing words cut right through the chaos of our teenage years and the agonies of crushes, breakups, awkward encounters and everything in between. The power and authenticity that Jordan projected through the hall and buried under my skin was utterly emotionally draining, yet cathartic. I felt like I took a freezing plunge into our shared emotional struggles, and I left Metro with a sense of freshness and clarity of leaving my heart’s content in that overcrowded room.
The night after I wrapped up all my finals for the quarter, I was lucky enough to pick up a couple passes to Jay Som and Justus Proffit’s joint set at Schubas’. Full disclosure, I had no idea who the latter was before their joint EP, Nothing’s Changed. A couple singles from the both of them dropped over the summer and I found myself listening on repeat. They both have a penchant for unapologetically honest lyrics, and Jay Som’s electrified bedroom pop meshes perfectly with Justus Proffit’s more acoustic and introspective style. The EP itself was only a brief 5 songs, and left me wanting a lot more.
Opening the night was a local Chicago band Discus who played some cuts off their recent EP. Their bare bones, guitar driven songs were met with a lot of head nodding from the 20 people ambling around the back room of the bar. Despite the small crowd, their set was really fun.
Schubas’ has to be one of my favorite places I’ve seen music so far in Chicago. “Intimate” is a word that gets thrown around a lot when people talk about concerts, as some sort of way to describe the way a good artist can make any room feel small. It’s in that transcendent space where there’s no division between those on the stage and those in the crowd. Schubas’ back room was intimate in a very different sense of the word. There is no backstage, no expansive lighting or visuals to accompany the music, and no barrier with large menacing dudes patrolling the edge of the stage. When Discus finished playing, they hopped into the crowd to join the audience, and Jay Som and friends emerged from the crowd to set up their stuff. It all felt very informal and unrehearsed in the best way.
Jay Som and Justus Proffit mostly stuck to their music, save for a very sincere “thank you” from Melinda Duterte between songs. They played with three guitarists, giving many of the quieter songs from their EP a much fuller sound. With only 5 songs they had recorded together, they each played a couple of their own singles, reworked with the full band. They finished the set out with Justus Proffit’s “angel of mine” and one of Jay Som’s more popular cuts “The Bus Song.” It was really cool to see two artists with distinctly different styles come together on a project and strike the perfect balance between their two unique sounds.
Teens packed into Metro last Friday night to see local sweetheart Omar Apollo’s “BRB” show – his last in Chicago before making an all-too-predictable move to Los Angeles.
Hailing from Hobart, Indiana, Apollo has been no stranger to the Chicago music scene, accumulating quite a following over the past year with the release of debut EP Stereo. Proud of his Hispanic roots, Apollo sometimes incorporates Spanish lyrics over saucy Chicano instrumentals. He is also absolutely adorable, and therefore basically has to fend off fangirls with a stick.
Having seen him last month at Tropicalia Festival in Long Beach, this was not the first time Apollo had graced me with his presence and surprisingly amazing dance moves (apparently he used to take dance classes, as I learned from this Chicago Tribune article). I was thoroughly impressed with his performance at Tropicalia, but was curious to see what a hometown show would be like and eager for him to play a longer set.
The show in itself was honestly more like a mini-festival, with three acts going on before Apollo. First to the stage was Kenny Hoopla, a hip-hop artist with immense energy who claimed he had lost his voice, making his singing terribly off-key. Following was Role Model, seemingly your typical LA fuckboy with perfect hair and Dickie’s pants. Though his performance was good, many of his songs deal with the same oh-so-relatable content of hookup culture. In fact, it kind of came off as him flexing about how many times he has sex. Evanston locals Manwolves were the penultimate act, bringing some much-needed instrumentation to the show. Though their lyrics were simple, the talent of the band was undeniable, with an amazing trumpet player and solid guitar riffs.
In anticipation of Apollo’s set, the crowd became very squished. Like it was hard to breathe. I honestly wasn’t expecting that given the type of music he plays – but like I said, the guy is highly coveted by fangirls everywhere. Sporting a colorful windbreaker, vintage Guess shirt, and a Gucci belt (subtle flex), Apollo came out to upbeat track “Ignorin” and immediately broke out into a salsa. I actually wrote in my notes: Those hips don’t lie. I still stand by this assertion.
As if he couldn’t get any more charming, he announced that his parents were in the balcony, holding a poster complete with baby pictures of Omar. Cuteness overload. He also stated that playing Metro had always been a dream of his, as he had been coming here for concerts since he was a kid. Apollo then performed some of his slower tracks, “Erase,” “Brakelights” and “Pram,” before attempting a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Little Green,” which was soon abandoned because he forgot the lyrics.
Despite this hiccup, the girls continued to scream and shout for him, like right in my ear. It was hard to ignore the effect he obviously has on his fanbase – I mean, these people worship him. Apollo performed “Heart” solo, showcasing his impeccable falsetto which possibly caused someone to faint in the crowd (although it was most likely due to the compactness of the crowd and/or dehydration). As Apollo watched this happen from the stage, a genuine look of fear came across his face. He ordered security guards to pass out an entire case of water, and asked everyone to say a prayer for the girl, adding “No more fainting okay, I got so scared.”
Another highlight of his set was “Algo,” for which he brought out rapper Drayco McCoy, who features on the track. After “Ugotme,” Apollo left the stage, but immediately came back on to perform my personal favorite, “Hijo de Su Madre.” As all three bands occupied the stage, confetti launched into the crowd and Apollo danced around crazily along with the audience. Everyone shouted along with the song, particularly for the lyric “You ain’t ever seen a brown boy like this.” He might just be right.
The third stop on Roy Blair’s first tour brought him to Wicker Park’s Chop Shop on Saturday night. The performance space in back of the restaurant filled with eager high school-aged kids, singing along to “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne and “Love It If We Made It” off of The 1975’s new album.
That being said, they ate up the teenage dream served by opener Jack Larsen, a native of Chicago. Swinging around a bottle of white wine and commenting on how beautiful the crowd was, all the girls in the crowd went crazy. This intensified when Larsen subsequently took his shirt off. He announced that this was his second live show ever, which makes a lot of sense. Larsen sang along to a backing track, and his mic was heavily autotuned. Though the whole ordeal felt a little too cringey for me, a good amount of the audience sang along and screamed his name accordingly.
Waiting then commenced for Roy Blair’s Chicago debut. Known for collaborating on the 2016 solo project of Kevin Abstract (of Brockhampton fame), Blair quickly acquired a niche fanbase. His popularity further proliferated with the release of his debut album Cat Heaven in 2017, leading to this string of sold out shows in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and San Francisco.
As the stage was prepared for Blair, it became clear that he has embraced the trend of more elaborate sets most notably seen from Tyler, The Creator (à la Flog Gnaw) and Travis Scott (à la Astroworld Tour). Blair’s stage design consisted of an Amberwood Drive street sign, skateboard ramp, and projected visual of a house. This made sense, as one of the central themes on Cat Heaven was the familial issues that plagued Blair’s childhood and adolescence.
As expected, the crowd went crazy when Blair finally walked onstage, accompanied by three band members. An intro track led into first song “Alex,” and the show moved pretty consistently from there. His energy was great, jumping around the stage during more angsty tracks “Family” and “Jane.” He premiered a new song, “Above Not Below,” which sounded pretty consistent with the tracks on Cat Heaven. Blair played through all of his album except for “Switchblade,” with his first single “Thunder” standing out as the highlight of his set. Blair seemed perfectly comfortable performing, and although he did interact with the crowd, it was not at all cringey. Blair and his band wasted no time getting back onstage for an encore, during which they performed “Hazel,” the last track on Cat Heaven.
Given the fact that it was his first ever tour, this show was a sign of great potential for Blair. With the indication of a new project on the way, it won’t be long until he blows up – especially now that Matty Healy of The 1975 tweeted about him. Before coming back for the encore, Blair excitedly told the crowd this news; clearly still a fan at heart, yet on the verge of stardom.
The Bottom Lounge was sold out last Friday in support of Keys N Krates, a trio of electronic artists and live musicians from Toronto. Over the last 10 years, drummer Adam Tune, keyboardist David Matisse and turntablist Jr. Flo have created a live performance empire, combining hip hop, EDM and house. Despite having formed in 2008, the trio just released its debut album, Cura, earlier this year in February. I had the chance to see them at a festival in May, and was excited to check them out in a smaller, more intimate venue.
When I say “smaller, more intimate,” I mean it. From my spot 10 rows back, I could see the sweat on Tune’s face and had a perfect view of Flo’s energized, compulsive-looking headbanging. It perfectly with their bass-driven sound, featuring plenty of live playing and mixing. The music was sample heavy, and transitions between songs were drawn out displays of the group’s playing talent – not that I minded. In the middle they switched it up and gave the crowd some of the live remixing that had made them famous. This portion then flowed into selects from their album, including “Music To My Ears” feat. Tory Lanez and Glitter feat. Ambré Perkins. The build into “Something Wonderful” was the highlight of their entire set, starting out bright before turning dark and moody, and then finally dropping into the track’s chorus.
Watching the performance was just as much fun as listening to it. Keys N Krates chose to forgo visuals, instead giving enough energy to create a visual experience all on their own. The three artists genuinely were having a hell of a time, or at least looked that way. Their energy radiated onto the audience, who moved with every beat change and key shift. Let’s not forget there was a row of lucky fans standing behind them facing the crowd (for the entire show, I might add). The fans, with their selfie taking and Instagram story recording, were entertaining to watch at first, but they eventually faded into the background as the music took over.
The set as a whole felt like a return to the group’s roots. Playing in a tiny space, returning to live remixing, transitioning to their songs with long, improvised bridges – it all was nostalgic, chill and artistic. Ending with an updated version of their smash hit “Dum Dee Dum” just solidified how classic of a group Keys N Krates is. Their sound is timeless, and their performances are stellar regardless of venue or the music they play. The words “high quality” perfectly sum up the night.
I’ll admit, I thought of Seattle-based The Head and the Heart as one-dimensional before seeing them at the Chicago Theatre. As far as I knew, the group made strictly high school cross-country team montage music. The one song I knew well, “All We Ever Knew,” featured a classic buildup to an anthemy OneRepublic-like chorus, but it lacked in experimentation and lyrical content. I was pleasantly surprised with their versatility in this performance.
Opener Mt. Joy dropped their folky, relaxing debut album earlier in 2018. It’s the kind of album that fits well with a nighttime drive through the woods. The band delivered a similar tranquil sound in their set, incorporating lush, dreamy instrumentals into several tracks. A personal favorite was “Dirty Love”, which featured crackling cymbals and frontman Matt Quinn on the ukulele. They also craftily fit in a verse of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” to their track “Julia,” where keyboardist Jackie Miclau showcased her piano mastery. While the set mostly consisted of slow burners, “I’m Your Wreck” stood out for its sense of urgency in terms of tempo and intense strumming. The lights remained a faded blue color for the entire set, which matched Quinn’s raw, authentic vocals. One thing’s for sure, Mt. Joy did not hide behind gimmicks.
As The Head and the Heart took the stage, the crowd began to reflect the big “SOLD OUT” on the marquee. The smell shifted to the kind of wine your mom probably drinks as older fans took their seat. The crowd was on their feet from the moment they launched into “All We Ever Knew,” their first song of the night.
The Head and the Heart’s repertoire varied from stripped-down acoustic numbers to passionate alt-rock ballads. Frontman Josiah Johnson delighted with both his well-supported falsetto (Shake) and rich low notes (Down in the Valley). He also had a powerful moment with the audience where he took the stage alone and reflected on the band’s stream-of-consciousness creative process: “Most of these songs are written in our heads.” He followed this up with a vulnerable solo performance of “Oh My Dear” under black and white spotlights. I had mixed feelings when this moment was cut short with an abrupt segue into the up-tempo “I Don’t Mind,” where the rest of the band returned to the stage.
Violinist and vocalist Charity Rose Thielen blended well with Johnson on her backing vocals and knocked it out of the park on closer “Rivers and Roads,” where she displayed her strength in the alto register. Her dyed red hair and rose-red top served as a refreshing departure from the sea of plaid that engulfed the Chicago Theatre. When this was coupled with red lighting on the closer “Rivers & Roads,” it amounted to a red-splosion.
You could sense the chemistry between the bands too; not only do they make similar styles of music, but both groups seemed to really appreciate being onstage with one another. When The Head and the Heart performed “Lost in My Mind”, Mt. Joy joined them onstage to provide accompaniment in the form of shakers and tambourines. Johnson also shouted out Mt. Joy multiple times during transitions, describing them as “just as sweet as you would imagine.”
Unlike the up-and-coming Mt. Joy, The Head and the Heart are veterans of the indie subgenre, having been making music for the better part of the new millennium. Look for both groups to continue releasing quality music, though, as The Head and the Heart plans to drop a new album in 2019 and Mt. Joy’s sound is sure to reach new heights with their next projects. For those as not as familiar with the indie genre, listening to these two groups can serve as a solid introduction. Basically, you can’t lose.
The Head and the Heart
MT. JOY SETLIST
THE HEAD AND THE HEART SETLIST
Armed with a guitar and a turtleneck sweater, Kamran Khan kicked off his set with atmospheric songs that got the crowd swaying more than anything. Khan, frontman for the British band Fake Laugh, was flying solo tonight, opening for The Japanese House while also playing bass in her backing band. While unfamiliar with Fake Laugh before the show, I quickly became a fan not just of their music but also of Khan’s humility and graciousness while on stage. He moved around the stage fluidly, transferring his constant high energy to the audience. I especially liked his songs “Better For Me” and “Short of Breath.” His voice is smooth and calming, and, like Amber Bain’s, fills a room effortlessly.
Shockingly, Amber Bain, the lead singer of The Japanese House, has never been to Japan. The name actually stems from a house she stayed in with her family when she was 6 years old, where she pretended to be a boy named Danny for an entire week. She later found out that the house was called The Japanese House, and belonged to Kate Winslet.
Bain’s music is just as whimsical as her band name suggests. Ranging from the catchy “Face Like Thunder” to the brooding “Against The Tide,” her music either had the crowd banging their heads and jumping or simply swaying softly. Lincoln Hall was a perfect venue for The Japanese House’s performance. The sense of intimacy was almost surreal, and the crowd was completely enthralled by her performance. A testament to her incredible stage presence, the crowd was almost completely phone-free. Unlike most concerts, where I feel at times as if I’m watching an artist through the many phones in front of my face rather than in person, the crowd was involved in every single song, rarely taking out their phones to take snapchat videos or endless photos.
At times, the bass was so heavy I felt as if I was vibrating along with the entire room. The disco ball on the ceiling reflecting the stage lights made Bain’s white blonde hair appear almost silver at times, adding to the otherworldliness of the show itself. One of my favorite moments of the show was when she played an unreleased song off her newest album, called “You Seem So Happy.” The song had a noticeably different vibe from her first project, Pools to Bathe In. Unlike the calming and at times haunting melodies from her first EP, “You Seem So Happy” was unfalteringly catchy and upbeat. By the end, members of the audience were singing along, leading Bain to remark “You guys seem to know the words better to a song you’ve never heard before than I do!”
Another highlight was the acoustic version of the title track from her latest EP, “Saw You In A Dream.” This version, in my opinion, was even better than the original. Her voice was fragile yet beautiful, and I was completely entranced. Bain closed the show with “Leon,” a song from her 2016 EP Swim Against the Tide, and after she left it felt as if I could still feel echoes of her voice in the room. I’m incredibly excited for the release of Bain’s first full album on March 1st, and for her next visit to Chicago.
Akenya, a Chicago native, took the stage to the shouts of her friends. “Jack, is that you? I love you girl!” she screamed, her excitement apparent. Akenya’s easygoing attitude translated into her performance as she effortlessly shifted from lighthearted, bubbly runs to fast-paced rap. Her voice was gritty at one moment, and airy the next, holding onto whistling notes that seemed impossibly high pitched.
“Decay,” a song about Akenya’s personal battle with Lyme disease, was definitely a highlight of the set. Her voice felt raw and rich, and the strength in each and every word was apparent. Her delicate musical runs and impressive vocal range were on full display. In addition, she donates all proceeds from the song to children suffering from Lyme disease. Another highlight was her song about unrequited love, a soulful ballad where she not only sang but also played the keyboard. Although most of the audience was unfamiliar with Akenya at first, she had the entire crowd rapt with attention as her set closed.
After Akenya’s set, a rather eclectic crowd soon filled Bottom Lounge. A teenage boy wearing a ripped black shirt, eyeliner, and a tattoo choker seemed equally excited as the middle-aged man with a spiky blue mohawk and glittery eyeshadow. As AlunaGeorge took the stage, I was entranced. In an all-white outfit, complete with a chiffon train flowing from her hair and a clear jacket, Aluna Francis looked ethereal.
She opened her set with “Champagne Eyes,” the title song of her latest EP, and immediately the crowd began screaming the lyrics and moving to the beat of her electric guitar. What struck me most was that Aluna almost did not seem present; it was rare to see her not dancing, and when she was singing her eyes were often closed. She was completely in her own world, yet at the same time was working the crowd. When Aluna took one of her copious dance breaks, the crowd did the same; it was easy to get lost in her music.
The variety in her setlist was surprising. She played songs from 2013, 2016, and 2018, yet the crowd knew all of it. She wasn’t afraid to play lesser-known songs and often took breaks to explain their personal significance to her. Crowd favorites included “Body Music,” “Your Drums, Your Love,” and “Kaleidoscope Love,” all released in 2013. When she sang “Outlines,” I felt like I was in a dream. The hazy pink and blue lights combined with the bedroom set behind her, which included a fluffy white teddy bear, created a surreal feeling. Aluna closed the night with “Hurting,” a collaboration with SG Lewis, and “You Know I Like It,” a collaboration with DJ Snake. The energy in the room was palpable, and it was difficult to find a person not dancing. I doubt anyone in the audience will be forgetting this performance anytime soon.
I was especially excited for up and coming artist Ieuan’s concert on Sunday. After mistakenly ubering all the way to the Elbo Room the day before thinking that was when the concert was, I texted Ieuan repeatedly to ensure I was going to the right place, at the right time, on the right day. I’ve been fortunate enough to know Ieuan for a few years now, so finally being able to see him perform was an amazing experience. As both a phenomenal singer and performer, Ieuan is the artist to keep your eye out for.
The Elbo Room is a small venue. The top floor is a bar, and the basement is where the concerts take place. I walked down, texting Ieuan and asking him where to meet. He responded, “Behind the black curtain, but don’t let anyone see you, I’m hiding!” So I walked into the tiny curtained-off space and we caught up while he drank his pre-concert tea and diet coke.
His fans were young, and there were only about 30 people in the venue. However, Ieuan remarked that he didn’t care that there weren’t that many people because he knew these were the fans that really cared and would know all the words, so he could just have fun on stage singing with everyone.
Ieuan put on a fun, energy-filled performance, starting with “Midnight In the Bay” off of his first pink era album. Each of Ieuan’s albums are color-coded and themed, with him changing the filters on his social media pictures accordingly.
Accompanying him was Chicago-based DJ Mielo, with whom Ieuan performed the remixed version of “Pretty When U Cry.” Ieuan interacted with the crowd regularly, at one point yelling out, “Make some noise if you’re emo!” before playing “Saint California.” Fans were equally as interactive, with some waving their phone lights during “Nicotine.” Ieuan even dropped his mic during my personal favorite song, “Ramona,” but shook it off and exclaimed, “I’m just so clumsy, gotta keep swimming!” During “Love it When U Love Me,” he jumped between both sides of the stage, having the crowd sing the words. During his final song, “Honey Lavender,” Ieuan referred to the song reaching one million views thanks to the furry community by asking if there were any furries in the crowd. There weren’t any.
Be sure to check Ieuan out, his music is gonna be huge soon!
I got Mike Hranica’s hair sweat in my mouth. This was the not the first time that hundreds of droplets of The Devil Wears Prada’s lead singer’s sweat flew into my face, and it wouldn’t be the last.
On November 23rd the metal band The Devil Wears Prada performed the entirety of their album With Roots Above and Branches Below at Chicago’s Bottom Lounge as part of the album’s 10 year anniversary tour.
Before the headliner’s long-winded set, noise punk band ’68 started the night with a loud bang and a little confusion. “Experimental” barely begins to describe the duo’s unusual sound and methods, and some of vocalist and guitarist Josh Scogin’s antics included climbing on top of the drummer’s setup and conducting a casual conversation with him as if they were the only two in the room. Their performance was engaging to say the least, and Scogin even carried the drum set off stage piece by piece as the drummer continued to play during the final song. While some of the leather-adorned crowd stood with arms crossed in confusion, most of the audience cheered and laughed at the dissonant sound effects and infectious energy of the duo. Their vibrant youthfulness and experimental methods mixed well with their old school punk sound, and fans of the genre should definitely give them a listen.
More in line with the headliner, metalcore band Fit For A King brought the “heavy” to the stage in the next set. The four piece’s sound lies somewhere between emo and deathcore, and their mix of melodic vocals with mosh-inducing breakdowns really captured the entire audience.
“When I count to three you know what to do! If someone falls down, you pick them up!” lead singer Ryan Kirby commanded the crowd just before the breakdown of “Pissed Off.” The floor shook in the crowded space of Bottom Lounge as the down-tuned guitars exploded through the speakers and the mosh pit opened up in middle of the venue. Crowd surfers took off as Kirby released a series of growling deathcore vocals, and fans screamed along with the lyrics.
Fit For A King’s set multiplied the energy in the confined and boiling hot space of Bottom Lounge with both catchy, clean hooks and grueling breakdowns. During their final song, the walls began to drip with moisture, and the familiar stuffiness, crowd surfing, and circle pits of a heavy metal show set up the night’s headliner in a perfectly brutal way.
I had attended two Devil Wears Prada shows before, and neither of them could prepare me for the excitement of this one. A few years back, they had headlined another show at Bottom Lounge, but Hranica’s performance had been sloppy at best. His vocals were strained, and his eyes bugged out as he stumbled around the stage. At one point, he staggered into the front row directly on top of me where I was drenched with the infamous hair sweat as myself and a few others barely supported his tattooed frame from falling. However, this show was different since I was reporting, and it was an anniversary tour.
Rather than opening with the anniversary album, the metalcore outfit from Chicago riled the crowd up with fan favorites such as “To the Key of Evergreen” and “Born to Lose.” It happened during the latter song. The main riff and dual breakdowns in “Born to Lose” are some of my favorite moments in all metal, and I was intent on capturing the adept guitar playing of Kyle Sipress. So of course, I failed to notice the forever shirtless Mike approaching the crowd where I had positioned myself for shooting. In one swift flip of his shoulder-length hair, I was sprayed.
That being said, Hranica sprinted across the small stage with the energy of a man half his age, and when “Sassafras” (the first song off With Roots Above and Branches Below) began, the entire venue swelled with energy, as if the audience was possessed by a beast. Minimalist blue and green lights flashed behind the five-piece band, and fancy effects took a backseat to the music itself. Like many anniversary tours, this show was for the devout fans who knew every word to every song. It was heavy metal, pure and simple.