August Burns Red Burns Bright In Tennessee At The Start of 39-Show Tour
Band Photo: blessthefall (?)
Metalcore and deathcore have become polarizing genres within the sphere of heavy metal, although the fans of both are just as fervent as the other genres, if not moreso. The lyrical sides of these genres are quickly becoming known for their earnest natures, cutting out the bullshit that several other genres tend to lather themselves up in to define themselves.
Hitting Nashville on the night of November 4th at the wonderfully eccentric Rocketown was a group of bands that take the high road, headlined by August Burns Red and assisted by Blessthefall, Defeater, and Beartooth. It was an unusually early show, with myself and bunches of attendees still in the security line awaiting entry while Beartooth were playing, having started promptly at 6:30.
Rocketown is not your typical venue in many respects. They don’t serve alcohol, yet they have a whole food bar with low-priced selections from chicken fingers and pizza to various energy drinks, gummy snacks, or sodas. It’s not altogether unusual to see someone walking around with an infant child in their arms while at a show there, either. Just outside the large venue area, there is a TV lounge and game room, as well as a place for folks to just sit and read a book (and several older folks were doing so at this show.) They still have the full security staff and regulations that a normal venue would have, but they’re a Christian-run venue and skatepark that pride themselves on these eccentricities.
As the crowds filed in, Beartooth happily sloshed around on stage, getting everyone riled up early. At one point in the set, vocalist Caleb Shomo broke through the noise in-between songs to say a few things that he felt we needed to hear. He said that, because he only gets these 30 minute sets to show us his inner self, he wanted us to know that he and the band loved us more than we knew. While that statement may seem creepy in most contexts, it was clear that he was using it to segue into a bigger point: Many bands put themselves on a level above the fans, but Beartooth does not. In addition, in an endearing display of character, he introduced the song “I Have A Problem” by letting us know that we are all loved by someone, and that suicide is never a good answer to any problem we might have.
The crowd was entirely on the same page as Beartooth, and in an incredible display of solidarity and physical strength, the crowd hoisted up Shomo and one of the guitarists into the air upright by their feet and held them. The two actually played some of the song while braced by the hands of the crowd, ultimately falling to a crowd-surfing position and getting back on stage. The crowd could not get enough of them, and now Caleb and Beartooth will get not just those 30 minutes per show, but a permanent spot here in the this write-up to get their message out.
The set changes between bands were impressively short for a show of this size, which saw Defeater take the stage promptly within 10-12 minutes. The Boston-based band left nothing at the side of the stage and made sure to give a riveting performance despite numerous technical issues that forced one guitarist and the stage crew to mess with his foot pedal wiring quite a bit. Taken with the conceptual storyline behind the various albums, the audience connected well with the lyrics, despite their context being different time periods in several places. More brooding in their softer points than the other bands, Defeater brought out their nuances and put them in the spotlight.
During the set change going into Blessthefall’s performance, I was surprised to see an overweight man in a Wario outfit roaming the merch area in the back of the hall. It was unclear to me how this unlikely situation came about, but I appreciated the oddness of it and went back to prepping for the next set. Blessthefall were very much about showmanship and connecting with the audience, with vocalist Beau Bokan jumping into the photo pit, sometimes up onto the barrier to feel and sing with the audience. Blessthefall were also very much about spitting, with the guitarist on stage right shooting off a geyser of spit into the air nearly every other song. Another odd point of note was the band’s abuse of the sub drop, approaching comical levels. Nevertheless, they made the crowd feel good, so their mission was accomplished.
August Burns Red brought the show to a climax with their unique signature riffing, also making full use of the now-perfect show lighting and light fog. Unleashing a slew of songs ranging most of their albums, the band really drew attention during “Marianas Trench,” “Beauty In Tragedy,” and “Empire,” with vocalist Jake Luhrs commanding the crowd. When in position at the front of the stage, swinging his microphone while standing on the riser, Luhrs even seemed to channel a charisma akin to Freddie Mercury. “Animals” and the closer, “Composure,” were also two big songs for this crowd. Others included in the set were “Provision,” “Fault Line,” “Cutting the Ties,” “Back Burner,” “Internal Cannon,” and “The Truth of A Liar,” among others still.
The air was electric after the show, with the bands coming out to the merch area to talk with everyone. Personally, I wish I had stayed for that. You can catch this high-energy no-bullshit tour as it rolls through Oklahoma City tonight, or Dallas, Houston, or Austin, TX over the next three days. The tour has only just begun, with dates scheduled all the way through the month of November and on for half of December, right up until August Burns Red’s annual Christmas show in their hometown of Lancaster, PA.
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