Discovering the Waterfront 10-Year Tour (01/15/15)

Yesterday marked the beginning of Silverstein's 10-year anniversary tour for its second record, Discovering the Waterfront. The London Music Hall (in London, ON) had the privilege of being the first venue of many to host one of the biggest tours of early 2015, and it was the perfect setting and way to kick off a tour like this.

The first band on the bill was California's My Iron Lung. Playing a style of post-hardcore/screamo similar to Touché Amoré, My Iron Lung brought a lot of emotion and passion to the stage. The band played a handful of songs from 2014's Relief as well as two songs from 2012's Grief before closing with "Here's to the Collaborative Effort Made by All Things Under the Sun," which was the most impressive song of the set.

New Jersey's Major League, hot off the release of its second full-length record, was next. Opening and closing the set with the first and last track from There's Nothing Wrong With Me, Major League's set was heavily loaded with newer material that was recorded after the departure of the original vocalist last year. Brian Joyce, who was always in the band as a guitarist, fills the role as lead vocalist quite nicely and gives the band a more mature sound. That being said, the band did play "Homewrecker" from 2012's Hard Feelings and seemed particularly energized while playing that song and the closing "Rittenhouse."

The next band to take the stage was Ohio's Beartooth. Similar to Major League, Beartooth played a plethora of newer songs – and almost ran through the entirety of its debut record, Disgusting. The crowd really started to get into it as bodies were moving (or flying) everywhere, presumably because Beartooth was the heaviest band of the tour package. Excited fans were constantly overstaying their welcome on stage after crowd surfing or before stage diving, but it didn't phase the band; if anything, those interactions were encouraged, as most of those fans received a high-five or the mic for a few seconds.

After taking no more than 10 minutes to set up, Hands Like Houses played next. Playing a unique style of experimental post-hardcore, these five blokes from Down Under rocked the house. Vocalist Trenton Woodley certainly has some pipes; I had chills during several songs because of the notes he was consistently hitting that I didn't think were possible in a live setting. The highlights of the set were "Don't Look Now, I'm Being Followed, Act Normal" and "Introduced Species" – but I think the best part of the set was the fact that the entire band brought a lot of energy and smiles with them across the globe.

Even though Silverstein was headlining and was the whole reason this tour was possible, these locals had some big shoes to fill; every supporting band put on an impressive set and they each seemed to get even better as the night rolled on. Silverstein was up to the task, though. The band played a song or two from nearly every album in its catalogue as well as the newly released single, "A Midwestern State of Emergency," before getting into the whole reason why everyone was here: to see Silverstein play Discovering the Waterfront from start to finish. Experiencing that album live in its entirety was something special and the entire venue was jumping and singing several times throughout the set, but even more so during the last 11 songs.

When Silverstein's set ended, I left with a huge smile on my face – and I'm sure everyone else did, too. Every band that played brought something new to the table, which was a nice change from the typical "four bands playing metalcore" tour package. This was only the first date of many, so you still have a lot of time to plan a trip to see this tour.
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Transit - Joyride (2014)

As I pulled into the city to the Glamour Kills Holiday Festival last weekend, I turned to my friend and said “I basically paid $29.50 only for The Wonder Years,” but I was only half-joking; at 8 PM I decided to go watch Transit. I hadn’t even finished making my way into the crowd when I heard Transit start playing the title track off of 2011’s Listen & Forgive. I completely lost it and rushed my way in because I was immediately reminded exactly why I fell in love with the band. Like a lot of people, I dismissed the release of Young New England last year before the bad reviews could even come pouring in, but when Transit played the new Joyride songs so fittingly live last week, I thought I should actually buy this one – so I did.

“The Only One” opens with strong drumming and has that familiar touch of Transit groove. It is very poppy and repetitive, but it is so easy to love. “Saturday Sunday” comes right after and it’s more repetitive than the former. I would even call it a filler if I had not so shamelessly sang along to it live. Before I even got into the next songs, I already had a general sense of how the rest of the songs were going to be like. Poppy, light and with a hint of cheese. “Rest to Get Better” and “Sweet Resistance” proved that prediction; however, with those two, Joyride finally starts to gain some weight. Both songs are just as feel good as “Saturday Sunday,” but they actually seem to be about something.

That problem is high-lighted in “Nothing Left to Lose,” a track that I know you could play at a friend’s backyard party and no one would ask you why you are not playing J. Cole’s new album instead. Yes, the music is feel good and more along the lines of Listen and Forgive, but what else is there to it? Why does this album matter?

Inferring from the title, this album was never meant to be received as anything more than fun and light. With that, Transit has delivered. Despite that and the fact that Transit has never been particularly strong lyricists, the band previously evoked so much out of just that one “I just wish you would have called” line in “Long Lost Friends” off Listen & Forgive. Hell, even the Young New England title track’s hook (“Boston never drinks alone”) has more heart than a lot of songs on Joyride.

“Ignition and Friction” seems to correct this problem underlined by the previous songs. It still has a really catchy hook, but seems to have a little more old Transit heart in it; however, then we go into the next two, “Fine by Me” – which is barely saved by its catchy chorus – and “Loneliness Burns,” which is so generic and cringe worthy that not even the piano intro could save it. The persistent problem with tracks like the latter then is not that Transit has gone more pop, as you can still make good pop-rock songs and be respected. The problem is that some of these songs, though enjoyable, come off as more contrived than natural. For example, “Summer Dust” and “Pins and Needles” – the growers that follow after – are still each tirelessly just another Joyride song saved by a catchy chorus.

“Too Little, Too Late” is sandwiched between the previous songs and, despite being a bit cheesy, it finally took more than mild emotion out of me. Yet it is the closing track, “Follow Me,” that finally evokes something strong. Just when I was getting tired of listening to Transit save mediocre songs with catchy choruses, I came to realize that the best was saved for last. The intro is sweet, but it is everything that comes after the 1:36 mark that really impresses. The song is still definitely very fitting of Joyride, but it feels far more emotionally provoking than any other on the album. The music and lyrics finally sync up to tell a story and it matters. It was also the track that saved this album for me.

Last Sunday, half the crowd left to go watch Man Overboard as the remaining Transit fans squeezed up to the front. Transit closed with “Skipping Stone” and more heart was given in that last old song than the remainder of the set. Joe Boynton was so high off the crowd afterwards that he stayed on stage to try to give everyone that extended their hand forward a high five. You want that Transit you saw close the stage last week and you want to give that heart back to them at the next show.

Music does not have to be a strong visceral release all the time. Sometimes all music needs to be is catchy and empty, especially when all you’re trying to do is get drunk in someone’s backyard. Joyride definitely succeeds in giving that light summer anthem feeling, but what are we as fans if the only thing we push the bands we love for is to keep writing catchier hooks?

Links: Facebook
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Gallery: Go Down In History Tour (11/19/14)

On November 19, Four Year Strong came to Pittsburgh along with Transit, Such Gold and Seaway to play a show at a small venue called Rex Theater. Doors opened up around 6 P.M., and Initial – a pop punk band from Indiana, PA – took the stage shortly after. Initial, to my surprise, was a kick-ass opener for the other bands, but all the bands brought a lot of fun energy to the stage as they performed. During Four Year Strong's last song, the band openly invited anyone to come up on stage to sing along and join in on the fun. Check out a few pictures of the show below.



Such Gold


Four Year Strong

Links: Initial - Seaway - Such Gold - Transit - Four Year Strong
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Knuckle Puck - While I Stay Secluded EP (2014)

You really need to know how to take advantage of the cheese if you want to make it as a band in the pop-punk scene. When I say cheese, I don’t mean any of the pop-punk troupes – like “I hate this town” or “My friends over you” or something to do with pizza – that are so easy to parody. What I’m talking about is intrinsic lightheartedness that comes with most pop punk – the feeling that makes you want to get in the pit even when it is full of 16-year-old fans and you think you’re getting too old to jump to this stuff.

All good pop-punk bands that have made it have learned how to use that element of cheese and refurbished it into something stronger. It is really difficult to do this successfully, especially with the resurgence of talent from every direction. Then there are bands like Knuckle Puck, which just proudly announced its signing to Rise Records yesterday. With this, these guys proved that their longevity in this scene is yet to be seen and it is contributed by how they know how to use that particular element and make it their own as noted in their recent fall release, While I Stay Secluded.

“Transparency” jumpstarts the EP. It is still very much Knuckle Puck and, honestly, quite generic-sounding pop punk – but it is done exactly right. Everything from the background vocals to the rhythm changes and to the lyrics sending out a strong criticism about social media are crafted carefully into place.

“Oak Street” and “Alexander Pl.” follow; they are both good, but they fall a little flatter compared to how strong the opener was. No severe harm is done, though, because then “But Why Would You Care?” picks up the pace. Surely, it has already easily become a crowd favourite with its angsty lyrics that are honestly a bit too juvenile, but it works in context of the song. The end sounds familiarly like The Story So Far and even if it was not intentional, it sounds like a short, nice homage to a band that has already made it.

The next song, “In My Room,” also sounds like another band closely tied to Knuckle Puck: Real Friends. It makes sense considering how both bands are from Chicago, they're friends and are likely to bounce off each other's energy subconsciously. It is good, but again, compared to the strength of the previous track, it falls flatter.

Then there is “Bedford Falls” to close off the EP, and it flawlessly harnesses Knuckle Puck’s distinctive charm. I did not dislike that the previous tracks reminded me of related bands, but this song is so clearly Knuckle Puck – and yet it is also much better and newer. The rhythm and vocals change pace frequently. There is so much range and the simple and relatable lyrics are only the cherry on top of an already great song. It is easily some of the band’s best work to date and it shows the well-deserved move onto a bigger label.

In the new year, Knuckle Puck plans to finally release its first full length. It is yet to be seen if the band will hold its own, but Knuckle Puck has consistently impressed thus far. I have been using the poor cheese analogy lately for a lack of a better word, but what I’m really trying to say is this: the special thing about this band is that it has retained its local band freshness with each release while still producing something even more provocative.

Who knows what Knuckle Puck will release next year or how a bigger production will shape the sound of the members, but for now they seem to know what they are doing – and they are not disappointing.

Links: Facebook
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The Ghost Inside - Dear Youth (2014)

Arguably one of the biggest metalcore/melodic hardcore bands of the current scene, The Ghost Inside has been a band I've followed closely ever since its tour with Parkway Drive and Set Your Goals in early 2011. The first two albums, Fury and the Fallen Ones and Returners, garnered a lot of praise from critics and fans (myself included). After signing to Epitaph in early 2012, the band released Get What You Give – the consensus on which was a bit less clear than for previous releases, but I was a big fan of the slightly more commercial sound. Now, two years later and after two more appearances at the Vans Warped Tour, The Ghost Inside is set to release its fourth full length, Dear Youth.

Vocally and instrumentally, Dear Youth is the most diverse The Ghost Inside release to date. The first four tracks ("Avalanche," "Move Me," "Out of Control" and "With the Wolves") showcase the band's knack for crafting melodic riffs, mammoth breakdowns and undeniably catchy choruses, as well as having a bit more of an emphasis on clean vocals. The increased use of cleans could have been predicted after there was singing on a few tracks on Get What You Give ("Engine 45" and "Dark Horse"), but I don't think anyone expected nearly every song on Dear Youth to rely on cleans to some extent. The biggest surprise, though, is "Phoenix Flame." Featuring a plethora of cleans and strings, "Phoenix Flame" stands out as the most unique song on Dear Youth – and of the band's entire catalog – as it can almost be described as a ballad.

The Ghost Inside has certainly not toned down the aggression, though, as the breakdowns on Dear Youth are more crushing than ever. "Out of Control," "Mercy" and "My Endnote" feature a few of the more straight-up heavy breakdowns, complete with one-liners that fans will surely scream at the top of their lungs before wrecking havoc in a live setting; furthermore, "My Endnote" is like the "Deceiver" of Dear Youth as it's fueled by anger – and it even features a bit of a callback lyric. The breakdowns on some tracks like "With the Wolves" and "Dear Youth (Day 52)" still pack quite the punch, but they also contain appealing guitar work reminiscent of the material heard on August Burns Red's Constellations.

Following the title track is "Wide Eyed," an engaging track that has a little bit of everything. It opens with pounding and skillful drumming that doesn't let up, it's very melodic, it features a spectacular guest spot from Jason Butler (letlive.) and it ends with an earth-shattering breakdown. A few tracks later, we come to another standout song in the form of the closer. "Blank Pages" has a very climactic vibe to it because of the instrumental buildups, but the biggest factor is due to its chorus being the same as the intro of Dear Youth's opener, "Avalanche." The re-run of the intro rounds things up nicely, concluding the album on a positive note.

This is still The Ghost Inside and not much has changed other than the obvious progression of the band; these guys are still playing a similar metalcore/melodic hardcore style of music that they were playing when they formed A Dying Dream a decade ago. That being said, they've added some extra goodies (the clean vocals have really worked wonders for this five piece) to their already excellent style of songwriting to keep things fresh and fans on the edge of their seats. Even longtime fans that think they know the band like the back of their hand will be surprised with Dear Youth – and they'll be impressed with it too.

Links: Facebook
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