It was rather appropriate that I Prevail should name their tour Rage On The Stage and then have it ‘wrestling themed.’ Especially since the bands on said run are all heavyweights in their own right in the melodic(see pop) hardcore scene and have been battling for supremacy therein. Two of these bands I had seen before. I actually covered the last I Prevail show and gave it a rather glowing review despite my preconceived notions and prejudices. We Came As Romans, The Word Alive, and Escape The Fate, I knew more by reputation and perhaps a few fleeting encounters at festivals. And though these bands deserved my respect as competent musicians and successful groups, I walked into MTelus Theatre with a great deal of fear that it was going to be a veeeeeery long night of rather predictable music and dreadful fashion statements from the crowd.
The venue was almost at capacity for the night’s spectacle, and I was actually surprised that it didn’t officially sell out given the bands on the tour. Hell, the evening’s first band Escape The Fate, probably could have sold this place out in their heydey a few years ago, and yet sadly, post-split with a high profile douchebag singer will test any band’s fanbase. Yes, the mighty have stumbled but people certainly haven’t forgotten about them. A more than sizeable crowd amassed and sang along, and admittedly I totally sang along to their last song, “This War Is Ours.” It’s damn catchy. What became an ongoing trend for the evening was audibly being able to decipher which songs were older based on the “slight” shift in how they styled their sing/scream/breakdowns. Basically, they were heavier. Hats off to the boys, they put on a tight show and guitarist Kevin Gruft is one hell of a musician.
I had a chance encounter with The Word Alive many moons ago when I myself was on tour and had a day off in Cologne, Germany. TWA was supporting Parkway Drive that evening so I stopped in between brothels to see how these cats fared on that side of the pond. The short answer is they fared as good there as they do here, so OK. The Word Alive did give an energetic show but I did feel that Escape The Fate had got more of a reaction from the crowd. It was at this time of the show that I started to realize how pretty much every song played was going to follow some sing/scream/breakdown variation and frankly, TWA’s sing/scream/breakdown variations were the least engaging.
Not to be outdone, We Came As Romans needed to show everyone that their sing/scream/breakdown variations were superior. Only this time, the singing would be done by a second singer and the breakdowns would have a techno backbeat. Unlike Escape The Fate, it seemed that WCAR’s new material was actually the more aggressive incarnation just before the auto-tuned singing choruses came in and messed everything up. Screamer David Stephans is a talented and engaging frontman who I enjoyed watching work the crowd while I really wish clean singer Kyle Pavone would lift some weights. I surmised that pretty much every song from any of the bands could have conceivably been on any album from any of the other bands on the bill. I never want to hear another breakdown again, but…
The only saving grace of watching I Prevail’s set was that there was reportedly going to be a wrestling ring on stage and maybe some stupid yuks between tracks. Well, there sure as shit was a wrestling ring and the yuks came strong and fast. The band was introduced to the stage via a custom Bruce Buffer (UFC ring announcer) recording which I found both splendid and hilarious. The wrestling theme was a funny constant throughout the show. From playing a cover of Stone Cold Steve Austin’s theme, to inviting a fan onstage to shit talk the crowd in the pro wrestling style (a pre-recorded voice which sounded like wrestler John Cena actually did the shit talking), the antics provided a brief respite from the repetitive music and seizure-inducing light show (the light show was actually spectacular).
Unfortunately, amidst their first sing/scream/breakdown composition, it became apparent that their clean singer was not joining the band onstage. Said singer was having vocal issues and was recuperating at home. Clean singing for the evening was instead handled by one of the guitarists who actually did a pretty stellar job. For me, the show really came off the rails though when they started playing hardcore covers of club hits “Get Low” by Lil Jon and “Shots” by LMFAO. I believe I used the phrase “Millennial-Core Wank Fest” to describe the moment.
If you can read between the lines of my jaded recounting of the evening, somewhere in there I meant to say that all these bands are very talented and give great performances for their audiences. I, however, am not that target audience. If you like these bands and have never seen them live before I’m sure you’ll have a blast.
For full photo set click here.
Written by Paul Ablaze
Photography by Danny Donovan
*edited by Danielle Kenedy