Review by Greg Maki
For some people, a vacation is a time of relaxation, of escaping the real world and the responsibilities that come with it. Some visit with friends and family. Others travel to new and exotic locations around the world.
Me? I take a break from my day job to cover four concerts in five days, in two states and the District of Columbia.
Saturday, Sept. 19 — Carroll Park, Baltimore, Maryland — The Shindig Music Festival
Like most places in Baltimore, if you venture a couple blocks in any direction, lock your doors and look out. But Carroll Park is a rare large green spot within the city and an ideal location for a daylong music festival. This is the third year for the Shindig, and the promoters decided to crank up the volume this time, opting for a lineup of hard rock and metal bands as opposed to the more eclectic rosters of years past. Even within that framework, no band on the bill sounds like any other, providing a relatively diverse mix of styles.
Standout sets come from Crobot, which manages to be both bluesy and full of energy (not an easy combination to pull off); Reverend Horton Heat, whose psychobilly sound sets him far apart from every other act on the bill; Anthrax, the only band of the day worthy of the title “legend,” and, perhaps surprisingly to some, the most relevant today of the Big 4 (which also includes Metallica, Slayer and Megadeth); and Maryland’s own, Clutch, which plays a set that leans heavily on material from its upcoming new release, Psychic Warfare (Oct. 2).
Chevelle arguably receives the biggest audience response of the day. I’m always amazed by how well the trio goes over at festivals, then I consider its long string of hit singles and it makes sense. Among the day’s acts, it’s a list matched only by headliners Godsmack and Stone Temple Pilots. Still fronted by Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, STP churns out ‘90s hit after ‘90s hit and sounded great doing it, though the crowd reaction is strangely muted throughout most of the 75-minute performance. Godsmack brings the day to a bombastic close, even throwing in a cover of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out,” though I’ll admit that with my grueling schedule to come, I’m not there to see it.
Anthrax set list: “Madhouse,” “Caught in a Mosh,” “Got the Time,” “Antisocial,” “Fight ‘Em ‘Til You Can’t,” “Medusa,” “In the End,” “Indians”
Stone Temple Pilots set list: “Sex Type Thing,” “Wicked Garden,” “Vasoline,” “Big Bang Baby,” “Pruno,” “Crackerman,” “Coma,” “Sin,” “Out of Time,” “Big Empty,” “Plush,” “Interstate Love Song,” “Down,” “Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart,” “Piece of Pie,” “Dead & Bloated”
Sunday, Sept. 20 — 9:30 Club, Washington, D.C.
It’s my first trip to the 9:30 Club in two and a half years, and it’s refreshing to see the once desolate area in the midst of something of a revitalization. Inside, the venue is as topnotch as ever as headliners Three Days Grace sound fantastic and bring an arena-style production to the intimate stage, with the drums on a large platform across the back and beautiful, almost blinding white light (that’s the photographer in me talking).
Frontman Matt Walst, now in the band almost three years, gets better each time I see him and seems to own his role fully now. Songs from this year’s release, Human, such as the opener “I am Machine” and “Painkiller,” hold their own with the band’s many, many hits. Crowd favorites include “I Hate Everything About You,” “Animal I Have Become” and the set-closing “Riot.”
Attendance shows Three Days Grace has not climbed to where it was in terms of popularity before Adam Gontier left, but it has nothing to do with the product the band is putting out there.
As the opener, Pop Evil is a little underwhelming, playing a set lacking in energy due to the inclusion of slower tracks “Torn to Pieces,” “100 in a 55” and the current single “Footsteps.” Shorter sets need to be more up tempo; this band has the material to do that but chose not to in favor of sticking to the hits.
Tuesday, Sept. 22 — The Fillmore Silver Spring, Silver Spring, Maryland
Kicking off its “Black to the Future” tour (on the same day the pope arrived in nearby Washington, D.C.) in support of its third album, the superb Meliora (review), Ghost is on fire tonight and the eager crowd is, too. Songs from the new record–they play eight of them–are strong live, something the band was very conscious of while writing and recording.
The instrumental “Devil Church” gives frontman Papa Emeritus III a chance to change out of his papal attire and perform the second half of the show in the suit he wore for the August acoustic appearances. (One song is performed acoustically here.) The Nameless Ghouls are more energetic onstage than I remember at previous shows (their current attire allows for more movement than the robes they wore previously), interacting with each other and relishing the riff-heavy nature of the new tunes.
Highlights from the 100-minute set include everything from Meliora, the old favorite “Ritual,” the epic “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen” and the band’s adopted, unofficial theme song, “If You Have Ghosts,” originally by Roky Erickson.
Ghost set list: “Spirit,” “From the Pinnacle to the Pit,” “Ritual,” “Con Clavi Con Dio,” “Per Aspera ad Inferi,” “Majesty,” “Stand by Him,” “Prime Mover,” “Body and Blood,” “Devil Church,” “Cirice,” “Year Zero,” “Jigolo Har Megiddo” (acoustic), “He Is,” “Absolution,” “Mummy Dust,” “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen,” “If You Have Ghosts,” (encore) “Monstrance Clock”
Wednesday, Sept. 23 — Starland Ballroom, Sayreville, New Jersey
My five-day tour ends at a place new to me, Starland Ballroom, which I learn was flooded in 2012 by Hurricane Sandy and closed for several months after that. It’s in fine shape now, and the HardDrive Live tour has drawn a nice crowd. Following local New Jersey act Ronin, Wilson storms the stage with a full-throttle performance.
Tremonti, led, of course, by guitarist Mark Tremonti of Alter Bridge and Creed fame, is up next with a 75-minute set featuring a strong mix of songs from its two albums, 2012’s All I Was and this year’s Cauterize. Mark may not be the dynamic frontman yet, but he makes up for it with strong vocals and true guitar heroics. These songs are pure metal, and the band is a tight unit.
More established as a band, Trivium is the big draw of the night, and they waste no time getting to the more vocally dynamic material of their upcoming album, Silence in the Snow (Oct. 2), opening with the title track. Crowd participation is high throughout, especially on “Strife,” “Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr” and “Anthem (We are the Fire).”
I’ve always thought of Trivium as a young band, but as frontman Matt Heafy says, they’ve been together since 1999 and they’re about to release their seventh album. They are a veteran act now, and they’ve grown into a powerful force in heavy music. The metal world could do a lot worse than having Trivium as one of its leaders..
Tremonti set list: “Cauterize,” “You Waste Your Time,” “All I Was,” “So You’re Afraid,” “Flying Monkeys,” ”The Things I’ve Seen,” “Radical Change,” “Dark Trip,” “Brains,” “Providence,” “Arm Yourself,” “Decay,” “Another Heart,” “Wish You Well”
Trivium set list: “Silence in the Snow,” “Down from the Sky,” “Becoming the Dragon,” “Strife,” “Pull Harder on the Strings of Your Martyr,” “Built to Fall,” “Until the World Goes Cold,” “Throes of Perdition,” “Anthem (We are the Fire),” “Black,” “A Gunshot to the Head of Trepidation,” ”Blind Leading the Blind,” “Dying in Your Arms,” “In Waves”