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Chthonic: The Final Battle At Sing Ling Temple

The ornate and historic Sing Ling Temple, located on a hillside in the scenic mountain town of Puli in Nantou County, Central Taiwan, played host to Taiwan’s top extreme metal band, Chthonic, this past Saturday. The temple is of special historical significance to Taiwan, as it was the site of a battle between Taiwanese troops and KMT soldiers following the 228 incident, in which many thousands of Taiwanese were massacred by the KMT over 40 years ago. Chthonic has since made the temple, along with local folklore and the Taiwanese fight for recognition of their independence, a central focus of their music and lyrics.

Fans began lining up hours in advance of the concert’s 6:30 p.m. start time, climbing the steep hillside steps leading up to the bright orange thatched roofs and delicate masonry of the temple proper to the staging area just behind it. A film crew, documenting the concert for a future DVD release, lugged hundreds of kilograms of gear, including a large swing-arm camera that dipped and dove over the heads of the fans throughout the show, up the stairs in temperatures that reached an unseasonably high 30 degrees plus.

Crew members, international music press from around Asia and Europe, including a representative of Metal Hammer magazine (UK), and a few lucky friends and fans looked on as Chthonic battled and overcame sound problems early on during their sound check. Special guest vocalist, the affable and approachable Randy Blythe (Lamb of God), lounged in the shade of a ring of trees surrounding the staging area, clad in a black Misfits T-shirt, wraparound shades, backwards baseball cap, and camouflage shorts, awaiting his call to the huge steel stage constructed for the occasion. The stage came complete with poly casts of huge stone sculptures of mythical beasts usually found guarding the front gates of temples in Taiwan, and a large backdrop featuring the Chthonic logo, all designed by local artist, photographer and art teacher Oink Chen. More...

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Black Dahlia Murder Jam Packs Small Austin Club

The dark, dank halls of Red 7 summoned the youthful masses to see two leading groups of today’s breakdown-heavy metal scene. Speaking of dank, weed grinding death metallers, Cannabis Corpse complimented The Black Dahlia’s core-meets-death sound with a more traditional, Florida death metal offering. Although Red 7 didn’t overcrowd the bill with locals—The Black Dahlia Murder, All Shall Perish and Cannabis Corpse were afforded long set times—a lone local band warmed up the PA system. I didn’t catch this group’s name nor can I “breakdown” their performance. What I can say, though, is their bouncy, burlesque sound proved the ideal style for the night’s lime-lighted acts.

In the case of Red 7’s lighting system, the colored-coded adage listed above denotes strict figurative usage. Fluorescent light bulbs could have been a fitting source of light for Cannabis Corpse and equally illuminated the group. The stoners blazing blunts at the front of the stage meant even lesser light for photography. Those out of range from smelling the sweet leaf might have thought, “Wow, they’re using dry ice! Nice fog effect!” Rolling audio brutality into symmetrically shaped jibs, the Virginia-based band force-fed the crowd a meal of slamming grooves, katana-bladed guitar tones and slick bass solos.

Andy 'Weedgrinder' Horn pushed out screams owing to George Fisher’s vile-natured highs and Chris Barnes indecipherable lows. Instead of utilizing known fill-in words such Tom G. Warrior’s famous “Heeey” or Rob Zombies “Yeaaah,” Weedgrinder threw out quick, fitting phrases such as “get high.” Led by the Hall brothers--Municipal Waste bassist, Phil “Landphil” Hall and drummer Josh 'HallHammer' Hall, the quartet’s frenetic head banging super-charged Mary Jane horror film scenarios songs. “Blazing” through material from such Cannibal Corpse parodied albums as “Tubes of the Resonated” and “Blunted at Birth,” set highlights included “Sentenced to Burn One,” “Dead by Bong” and set closer “Skull Full of Bong Hits.” More...

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Goatwhore Celebrates "Reign In Blood"

Just northwest of New Orleans is our capital city of Baton Rouge. Lately, they’ve been getting plenty of good metal shows like Crowbar, Thou, and now Goatwhore, who played a special set for this this show. Four bands came together to celebrate the 25th anniversary of one of the cornerstone albums of the metal world; Slayer’s album "Reign in Blood" which was released October 7th, 1986. To add to the festivities, there was Slayer cookie cake and I made some slain cupcakes with fondant knives piercing the spicy chocolate cupcakes that bled strawberry syrup. Confections aside, the show was more like a party than a concert. Even some regular New Orleans folk made the trek out for the occasion. I was able to film Goatwhore’s set which can be seen in two parts below. More...

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Amorphis Plays Sold Out Show In Helsinki

When I woke up on Friday morning I knew it was going to be a fantastic day, regardless of the pouring rain, and the new found hole in my only unpacked shoes. After all, it is not often that one has the privilege of being able to attend a sold out Amorphis show at Helsinki’s historic venue, Nosturi. The venue is in an old cargo building, atmospherically located right on the sea. Truly, a perfect place for the mythic Kalevalan inspired music of Finnish metal heroes, Amorphis.

The air is tense as I walk up to the dark building; people are lined up in a queue that stretches from the doors of the venue all the way down to the docks where black water churns ominously. Some people arrive at the door only to realize the sign proudly proclaims “Sold Out!” They mutter “Vittu! Perkele! or Saatana!” (essential Finnish Phrases! ) and dejectedly walk away. More...

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Kyuss Lives! Again in Austin

Edgar Allen Poe died broke and mad—his creative genius never realized until after his death. It seems Kyuss’ influence wasn’t felt until after its demise. Fortunately for the group, these desert rockers didn’t have to literally die to make an impact. Sixteen years after disbanding, Kyuss has returned and judging by the massive gathering inside Stubb’s 2,000-plus-capacity amphitheater, their popularity has snowballed during this time.

I have nothing for comparison because I didn’t catch Kyuss during the first part of the nineties—their active years. If the few patrons I spoke to were a microcosm of the Kyuss live experience, most of the thirty-something crowd were also unable to catch them the first time around. Waiting fifteen years and wishing the group would get back together may be cause for such a large gathering, but the group’s status as the forerunners of the stoner rock movement, a hot trend in the modern rock scene, probably has something to do with the turnout.

The popularity of Josh Homme’s bands, Queens of the Stone Age and Them Crooked Vultures may have also led many to hear Homme’s trademark guitar play in Kyuss. This would explain, in part, the large number of younger fans. Some of these youngsters came with their parents, as seen by the fans standing next to us. Homme wasn’t on hand and the group came out as Kyuss Lives!, but this didn’t seem to affect attendance numbers or crowd reaction.

New comers MonstrO warmed up an unassuming crowd. Consisting of Torche, Danzig and ex-Blood Simple members, these Georgians (and one Floridian) were a good fit for Kyuss Lives! stoner rockin’ style. Performing in front of the headliner’s backdrop, which depicted a silhouette of a hawk or raven soaring in the shadow of a multi-hued sun, MonstrO kicked out six or seven tunes of a varying nature.

Bevan Davies' drum play produced a big thud. It’s no wonder he has pounded skins for Danzig. The group’s grainy guitar sound brought to mind Kyuss, an influence bassist Kyle Sanders made known during an interview prior to the show.

Some of MonstO’s songs referenced early nineties grunge, ala Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. The song “Pyro” related an obvious Alice in Chains groove (William DuVall of Alice in Chains produced their current, debut album), while Charlie Suarez nailed down the melodious, skyward voice of Chris Cornell. MonstrO didn’t bring down the house, but their half-hour performance surely gained them a bigger fan base. More...

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Opeth and Katatonia Play To Music City

Their latest and most polarizing album, “Heritage,” just released to the world (and reviewed here,) Opeth began their fall North American tour with support from the well-established Katatonia. One of the first shows was in Nashville, TN just this Wednesday, the 28th, and the crowd didn’t react as divided as the internet let on that it would. The Cannery Ballroom turned out to be the perfect size for the show, with the crowd filling up all the way to the back.

Both bands had a very passionate crowd, eager to find a spot and keep it the entire show. When Katatonia came on, they walked out to fairly loud cheers, kicking things off with their concoction of chugging and atmospherics. During the set, the band was bathed in a dark red crimson light, with only faint hues of blue lights hitting them from the front, mixing with the music to make for an altogether dark experience. More...

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Opeth Stops By Philadelphia For A Sold-Out Show

Opeth’s latest album “Heritage” has divided the band's fan base in a way not seen since 2003 with “Damnation,” and even back then, it never got as heated as some of the discussions on “Heritage” going off in various forums, blogs, and web sites. With Opeth’s 10th studio album released just a few days prior, the band made a stop in rain-soaked Philadelphia on the first U.S. headlining tour in support of “Heritage.” With fellow Swedish act Katatonia as direct support, the Trocadero was sold-out for the show. What fans got was from both bands was a few solid hits and a mellow atmosphere that caught many off-guard. More...

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Wolves In The Throne Room Destroys Philadelphia

When Wolves In The Throne Room entered the tiny stage in the basement of Broad Street Ministry in Philadelphia on Thursday, September 15, a newfound sense of anticipation filled the suffocating air. The room became packed, like a busload of metal heads were suddenly dropped off outside the church just a few minutes prior. The smoke from the stage sucked out the oxygen, giving off a sudden wave of heat that resulted in heavy sweating and panting. The first notes of “Thuja Magus Imperium” echoed through the amps, and what transpired was an hour of gripping black metal that mingled well with the three other acts on the card. More...

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ProgPower USA XII: Day Two

If you attend Progpower, make sure you opt for the VIP gold badge over the regular. This will get you in to the “Insider Sale” where you will be able to purchase CDs of all of the bands that will be playing at next year’s festival. Gold badge attendees this year were treated to this sale in the vendor room long before the doors opened to regular attendees. Among the CDs on sale were some albums that previously had not received a US distribution, such as Amaranthe's debut.

When the doors finally opened, everyone was eager to get in and out of the bright Atlanta sun for another twelve hours. Being such an exclusive event, you could instantly strike up a conversation with any stranger you meet and be on the same page. With social barriers down, everyone was talking with everyone, discussing albums, bands, and previous ProgPower festivals.

UK-based progressive-symphonic band Haken was first up for the day, though the place was only half full about ten minutes before the band’s set. Clearly, the after-parties of the night before had been great. The venue eventually filled up in time for Haken’s second song. It was to be an exciting set, although a bit short. Seeing guitarists Richard Henshall and Charles Griffiths, as well as keyboardist Diego Tejeida rip some masterful solos did the trick on kicking hangovers from the night before. More...

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ProgPower USA XII: Day One

Friday began early in the day for the ProgPower crowd when US-based Creation’s End took the stage at around 2:40. Italian Guitarist Marco Sfogli got the crowd warmed up with some serious movement on his fretboard. Rhythm guitarist Rudy Albert and bassist Joe Black pulled on their best game faces for the early crowd. Vocalist Mike DiMeo had a nice stage presence and belted it out there. The set was a bit short, but as an opener, it had to be. Nevertheless, the band opened the day well without a hitch.

After the band wrapped its set, the reunited US band Sanctuary, featuring Warrell Dane and Jim Sheppard from Nevermore, was immediately in the lobby for a signing. Unfortunately, the band schedule and the signing schedule (both published in the very cool ProgPower program book given to attendees) did not see eye to eye. The bands reached a half-hour to forty-five minutes behind schedule throughout the day, so the signing sessions often took place during a band’s set. This made for tough decisions like: “Do I stay through the end of Voyager’s set or do I go get Ihsahn’s autograph?”

Darkwater had taken the stage shortly after. The Swedish group was well-received and performed their variety of progressive melodic metal to a crowd that obviously appreciated, judging by their reaction to Evergrey the night before. The band had an aesthetic that begged to be watched closely as the purple lights fell on them for certain songs. Just after, I met with Red Circuit’s keyboardist, Marcus Teske, for an interview in the adjacent club, Vinyl. For the ProgPower show, Vinyl was converted into a merchandise room with everything a progressive fan could want. I was to go broke a few hours later because of this. More...

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ProgPower USA XII: Kick-Off Day

For the long-running USA metal festival, ProgPower USA, metalheads typically have no problems driving or flying from all across the country. Where else can you see sixteen mostly international bands, all of whom are pushing their own abilities and the boundaries of metal, over a two-day period? Now in its twelfth year, ProgPower takes place in Atlanta, Georgia at the Center Stage venue. Run by Glenn Harveston, who is first and foremost a fan, the festival spans the days of Friday and Saturday, September 16th and 17th, but officially kicked off on Thursday. The Swedish band Evergrey also performed an all-acoustic show at The Loft on Wednesday.

The show lineup, as announced on ProgPowerUSA.com, is as follows:

Thursday - Powerglove, Vanden Plas, Evergrey
Friday - Creation's End, Darkwater, Voyager, Eldritch, Mob Rules, Ihsahn, Sanctuary
Saturday - Haken, While Heaven Wept, Red Circuit, Labyrinth, Forbidden, Therion

On Thursday morning, I had packed and left Nashville, TN, driving four hours to get down to Atlanta, which was further away than I thought. Upon reaching the venue, I was instantly impressed. Center Stage has air conditioning, several bar areas, a spacious interior, and seats as well as a pit area. By metal’s standards, this was the music venue equivalent of a Four Seasons hotel. I met with Swedish melodic metal kings Evergrey for a very entertaining interview before the show. Immediately after, I also met with the well-spoken and well-trained video-game metal iconoclasts, Powerglove.

During sound check, the speakers in the lobby were playing what was coming off of the sound board, which meant that guests checking in or buying tickets were treated to Evergrey and Vanden Plas warming up. The Evergrey sneak preview was definitely notable, because the band was warming up material from their album, “In Search of Truth,” which they were to play through from start to finish in their first set. This was the first time they had done such a set, and as I learned in the interview, not expected to be done again in the near future. More...

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Big 4 Dominate Yankee Stadium

Never in my life have I been so eager to make the 3½ hour drive from Boston to Manhattan. And as a lifelong Red Sox fan, Yankee Stadium is not a place I like. But to catch one of just two Big 4 shows in the U.S., I would have worn a Yankees jersey if I had to. Well maybe that’s going a little too far.

Me and two comrades in metal piled into my Toyota Matrix at 8 a.m. Wednesday and sped toward what we knew was going to be heavy metal nirvana. We checked into our hotel, grabbed a quick bite and hopped the D train from mid-town up to the Bronx where we were greeted by a glorious scene: a sea of black T-shirt clad warriors filing toward metal mecca. Thousands unfortunately missed Anthrax as they were stuck outside the security gates in massive lines that moved at a snail’s pace.

Too bad because the native New Yorkers set it off proper.

“It’s a beautiful day for metal,” Anthrax vocalist Joey Belladonna boomed, welcoming the crowd to the historic day. “I can’t believe we made it into this building. They never let metal in here.” Well they sure did this day. More...

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haarp, Drone Throne, And A Hanging In New Orleans

Siberia had a good crowd for this Monday night show. But it wasn’t an ordinary event either; it was co-owner and bartender Daphne’s birthday bash. The always heavy haarp, Drone Throne, and A Hanging came out to play during the party. The notoriety of the lineup was noticed by the local newspaper, a surprise I found while looking at the weekend's entertainment, in which it got a short write-up and included a picture of haarp’s guitarist Grant Tom playing at the same bar of this night’s show. I was able to get footage of all of the bands, the bellydancers, and some fun interludes with band members and regular concert-goers. You can watch the two videos below. More...

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St. Vitus Dance Of Doom Snow Blinds Austin, TX

Doom metal pioneers Saint Vitus returned to the state capital of Texas. Earlier in the year, the cult icons played SXSW as part of the “Metal Alliance Tour” with Helmet, Crowbar and other masters of the down beat. Many of the group’s hardcore fans, however, were shunned by SXSW in lieu of badge and wristband holders. St. Vitus original and hippie prototype, guitarist Dave Chandler cursed SXSW in between a song, confessing his displeasure with SX’s unfair practice. August 20, 2011 went down as a night not for industry elitists, but for true fans of stoner/doom and rock-n-roll in general.

Sabbath still provides, at least, a base for all hard rock/heavy metal bands of today. Some bands owe their entire existence to Black Sabbath. In fact, so many of these bands exist, even 40 years after the birth of Sabbath, that we have categories for these bands. Still, these bands seem a small part of the metal contingency when compared to the masses of black and death metal bands. In a town known for death metal blast beats and machine-gun-delivered punk vocals, it was nice to finally slow down the tempo.

While figure heads of the doom and stoner/doom movement, Saint Vitus deservedly took the lead, Austin’s masters of slow banging rounded at a lineup that was true to fans of this style. Mala Suerte came up first. These guys have a huge sound that borrows heavily from Sabbath and Cathedral, although they create tones with harshness owing to sludge. Singer Gary Rosas possesses a Lee Dorian-type stage swagger, dancing around the stage like an enthralled Dionysus follower. The group played a five-song set that elicited a strong crowd response. More...

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Macabre & Withered In San Antonio

After leaving a trail of dead bodies across North America with Exhumed, Cephalic Carnage, and Withered, the minstrels of murder — Macabre came to San Antonio as the headline act. While Exhumed and Cephalic Carnage didn’t follow in their “nefarious” footsteps, Withered stayed in tow, leaving their native Peach state for a just a few more days.

Without the four-band-touring ensemble, the Korova club (named after the milk bar in “A Clockwork Orange”) overloaded the bill with local talent. All the bands that played were good, but as small clubs so often do, the local bands seemed to snatch a few minutes from the headliner.

The club opened at 7 P.M.—and unheard of early time for a club. The serial killer artwork and memorabilia that lined the walls known as “Sinister Art Exhibition” was sort of given the opening time slot, even though serial killer-obsessed patrons could bring in all the madness anytime throughout the night. Without a band to contend with, the owner of said art pieces became the featured act.

In some circles, San Antonio wears the title “Metal Capital of the World.” This distinction rings true, in part, when observing Korova’s location next to another metal club, Bonds 007. Of course, the droves of metal heads that come to shows, especially death metal shows, may have something to do with that dubbing. San Antone’s famous river walk sits on the other side of the Korova, which offers outdoor recreation to kill time before your favorite band hits the stage.

Frequenters of live extreme metal should know Withered. Over the past couple of years, the group has never seemed to stop gigging. I saw the them open for Danzig and Watain, so this was the third time I’ve seen Withered in the past year. With each performance, I gain more and more respect for this band.

Withered plays an eclectic mix of death, black and doom metal that keeps their music dynamic. Whether slow or fast, each part is catchy, although sometimes redundant. Even though the group had been in a van for three weeks, they seemed at the top of their game. If Withered opens a bill and you have never heard of them, make sure to check out these guys.

Macabre took its time setting up. The group had technical difficulties due to a PA system and other issues. The same PA caused sound problems throughout the set. While standing at the bar, I couldn’t hear Corporate Death’s intros to each song. The bar could not have been more than 100 feet away. The gruesome details he emitted from his wireless microphone came out as a jumbled mess of half-words. I didn’t have this problem while standing just a few feet from the stage. Of course, at that distance I could hear everything he said without the use of his mic. More...

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Summer Slaughter at Chicago's House of Blues

The House of Blues once again had issues with their guest list coming in too late. And of course that meant that I missed the first three acts and therefore have absolutely nothing to say about Within the Ruins, Fleshgod Apocalypse or As Blood Runs Black. Despite me giving an otherwise positive review to the new Fleshgod Apocalypse album, I had to wait in the front foyer while they played.

Thankfully, I was able to get into the venue by the time that Oceano began playing. Even though I hate ripping on hometown bands, Adam Warren sounded like he was choking on something throughout the entire set. Outside of their vocalist sounding hoarse the entire time, there was nothing remarkable about Oceano. They're yet another generic deathcore band that does nothing to stand out. I seriously can’t tell the difference between them and about twenty other deathcore bands that I've heard.

After Oceano finished playing, I was thankfully treated to Powerglove, a video game music cover band. I'll be the first guy to admit that I'm a complete and utter nerd and I've been a gamer since the Sega Genesis, so I naturally loved this band. And given that there is a TON of video game music that needs a metal remix, I'm hoping to see Powerglove have a long and prosperous career. (They still need to cover Grabbag from Duke Nukem 3D.)

And even for non-gamers out there, Powerglove put on a VERY good show. Between having a contest to bring the band the head of a stuffed animal and tossing blow-up swords into the audience, they were clearly one of the best band's there in terms of sheer theatricality. I'm really looking forward to seeing this band do a longer set in the future. More...

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Times of Grace and Underoath in Nashville

"Be vigilant in truth and love," is not a lyric you’d expect to hear from a metal band, and especially not at a live show. You’d think it would have a way of stopping mosh pits, but that wasn’t the case when Times of Grace and Underoath came to Nashville, bringing along the bands Stray from the Path and Letlive. On the night of August 9th, the "Illuminatour" was to be a high-volume lesson in believing in yourself.

Amidst a record high-temperature summer, fans waited outside the venue well before the doors opened. More...

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Emmure Strikes Out At The All Stars Tour

I sadly arrived late for the show and missed all, but seven of the bands playing. Granted, I've never listened to the openers, since the majority of the bands were hardcore; a scene that I'm familiar with, but not a part of. This lead to an incredibly awkward experience, since I was immersing myself in a completely different culture.

After finishing up an upcoming interview with In This Moment, I entered the Congress Theater to watch Iwrestledabearonce. Having been chafed by Krysta Cameron's rabid parakeet screams when I saw the band play with The Dillinger Escape Plan, I was hoping that she may have improved as a vocalist during the past year on tour. Sadly, she's just as annoying as ever in a live setting, while the actual music remains unfocused, disjointed, and truly unfunny. Comedy metal can indeed work and Iwrestledabearonce should quit it with the funny sound effects and instead move on to having the humor come from their lyrics and stage presence. GWAR and Cannabis Corpse manage to be genuinely funny in an over-the-top way without annoying me because they don't bombard me with cheesy sound effects every ten seconds. It's a shame that Iwrestledabearonce still don’t comprehend taste and only make music for their own amusement instead of that of their highly annoyed audience.

In This Moment were up next and I have to say that ITM put on a great show. Maria's voice simply works better in a live setting than it does in the studio and it's a shame that they went from headlining to only playing five songs after only a few short months. Much like my experience with Warbringer and Job For a Cowboy, In This Moment won me over in the live arena. The fact that they put on such a great performance was sadly probably wasted on playing for a hardcore crowd who didn't appreciate their music, since much of the audience had left the venue during their set.

Next up was For Today, who I'd never listened to before, but managed to put on a good show despite being pretty generic modern hardcore. While the band doesn’t break any new ground or do much to stand out, they don't annoy me as much as most contemporary hardcore does. If I were more into the neo post-hardcore scene, I'd probably give the band a few more listens. Still, they're good for what they are and anyone into contemporary hardcore should give them a shot. More...

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Riffs Not Riots Charity Gig In Vancouver, BC

The Riffs Not Riots show was an effort by the Vancouver metal community to showcase local talent while emphasizing that while we love our violent music, we don’t condone violence in our streets. The show was a way of protesting against the riot that devastated Vancouver shortly after the Canucks’ loss against the Boston Bruins in game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

The MetalUnderground.com-sponsored event took place on July 13th, 2011, at the Fortune Sound Club, strangely located in the heart of Chinatown. Proceeds went to Canucks for Kids Fund, a nonprofit charity run by the Vancouver Canucks NHL organization. The crowd was a mixed group, ranging from hipsters to an old guy in a fishing cap (he had to be at least 60 or 70) who rocked out until closing. Somehow, the anti-riot theme of the show toned down the moshing as most of the audience just stood and soaked up the tunes. More...

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Sevendust Brings The Heat To Nashville

Sevendust coming to Nashville is a rarity, despite the show with Disturbed and Korn at the beginning of the year. If you’re keen on Sevendust history, you’d know that lead vocalist Lajon Witherspoon is Nashville-born. However, in 2002, his brother Reginald was shot and killed here, and the band had been reluctant to play many shows here throughout the last decade. It seems things are a bit more relaxed in the Sevendust camp these days, and Nashville opened her arms to welcome them back again.

There’s a general rule of thumb on lines for shows. For a major band, the line will double in length every twenty minutes about an hour before the doors open. For The Cannery Ballroom on the 21st, that line stretched out quite a ways as fans lined up to get in. Sevendust had brought tour-mates Adelitas Way, Seven Day Sonnet, and Violence To Vegas. It was to be a packed show in a hotbox of a venue. More...

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