by Ora “Tre” Brasel
When I headed out to Plush for the Thrash & Burn Tour I had a lot of reservations about whether or not I could last a whole day and night of non-stop metal. Little did I know that those reservations were soon to be thrown into the pit and stomped to a bloody pulp for even having been in my head in the first place. Despite not having any previous knowledge the bands on the line-up, and only having a handful of metal bands that I could really say that I knew or listened to with any regularity, this event brought with it the realization that I really need to start paying more attention to this very engaging world of music. Between the passion of the people attending, the constantly brilliant music throughout the day and the kindness I received from J. Costa, singer of Thy Will Be Done, during my interview with him, it truly opened a portal into the world of metal that made me feel as if I truly belonged here.
There was an impressive number of people in attendance for such an early start time (3 pm), and on a Tuesday no less. It turned out that, in addition to the nine bands that made up the main stage, local bands were also playing throughout the day in the Rain portion of the Plush complex. Sadly, there wasn’t any line-up roster that I ever managed to see stating what bands were playing and when. It wasn’t too much of an issue seeing that there really wasn’t a lot of time between bands setting up on the main stage to check out the locals. Besides that, Rain was packed to the point of claustrophobic the one time I did ventured inside.
Thy Will Be Done was the first band to hit the stage, and I was very interested in seeing them since I would be speaking with one of their members later in the day. When they appeared on stage they all turned their back to the audience amidst the darkness in some sort of almost prayer-like ritual. Then when their music exploded into life, they went into an almost triangle like formation with the singer in front and the guitars and the drummer positioned in the back. Immediately it was easy for me to gravitate towards their sound because it had a lot of similarities to metal I was accustomed to listening to like Slayer and Black Sabbath. At one point they even made a comment about certain people saying that they don’t listen to those bands anymore because they are sell outs, but they didn’t care- “We still listen to them, and you should too!” They played several tracks off of their most recent album In Ancient Of Days and, despite being the first on deck, had a very large group of people who were watching them and banging their heads accordingly throughout. At times they managed to add in some humor alongside their heavy thrashing rhythms, and one point were requesting that the crowd clap along with the music since it was a metal show and they needed to be acting alive because, after all, this wasn’t a Jonas Brothers concert. So with the combined aspects of a very heavy, almost classical thrash with various vocal styles used, and a little humor thrown in, Thy Will Be Done ended up being an awesome way to get the day started. Actually the only thing that seemed out of place about the set was the fact that they were in the opening slot, because their talent level seemed like it could easily of been put further on in the show. According to J. Costa (singer) they were a last minute addition to the tour when the band Red River Revival pulled out. Lucky for me, because I got to see a great band as well as meet some of them in person to find out what a nice bunch of individuals they all were. But more on that later!
The next band, Periphery, was probably where I thought the only really lacking moment of the day came from. They did provide a bit of a change-up from many of the other bands on the bill by throwing in vocals that would be considered to be of the progressive style of things, which basically means they were sung more instead of growled or yelled. There was some yelling, and more abrasive vocals were used as well as the other progressive style, but it just seemed an awkward combination to me. The crowd didn’t seem to be impressed either, and most of them had noticeably went back into where the local bands were playing during Periphery’s set.
Next came Oceana out of St. Petersburg, and judging by the audience chatter before they played and their response during the set, it was apparent that they are well liked here in Jax. Their singer is a gigantic mass of an individual who certainly seems a proper fit to deliver their style of post-hardcore music perfectly. A little more of a punk type vibe mixed in with extremely heavy metal is the best way I can try to explain their style given my limited knowledge of all things metal. They seemed to really want the crowd to become an ocean itself consisting of a whirlpool of bodies spiraling around to the musical madness they were creating. At one point I took my eyes off of what was going on behind me for a split second to put my camera back in it’s case, and the crowd of people moshing expanded out too quickly resulting in about three people falling on me, causing my hand to smash into a steel pole. At first I thought it might be pretty serious as it bled a little and was blue all around that spot, but soon enough the feeling in it came back enough for me to know it wasn’t broke or anything like that. So aside from a little bit of pain, I went back to business as usual and, most importantly, carried on with having fun as quickly as I could. This was another powerful set that was already starting to help cement the fact that I was meant to have a truly great time at this show.
Originally I was supposed to be meeting up with J from Thy Will Be Done after Oceana’s set, but evidently some sort of small riot happened outside in the back between security and some fans, so he didn’t make it back in when we were to meet up. Luckily I had his phone number and we planned via text to link up after the next act, Lansing, MI’s metal-core act For the Fallen Dreams. I worked my way down into the audience once again to snap some pictures of the band, and to get a first hand look at how the audience felt about them. At first it seemed as if the audience would be a bit sparse, but two songs later it was more full than it had been for Oceana. The intensity of this band was something to watch as they almost encouraged people to make attempts to get up on the stage, which of course was driving security nuts. However, this certainly paid dividends in getting a great audience reaction. About three songs before they finished I ended up having to get out of the crowd myself and go get some ice for my hand to see if I could get the swelling down a bit. I watched the rest of their set from sidelines, and had a great time watching the fans consistently try to get on stage and fall in the process, sometimes quite hard onto the concrete. I have to say these guys placed the bar just a bit higher than Oceana had done before them, and I was hoping it would keeping going higher with each band from then on out.
At this point I managed to catch up with J. Costa. Here are a few of the questions I asked him regarding the tour, his band, and some of his personal preferences about music and touring.
EU: So how have the first few shows of the tour been going for you all so far?
JC: Wow! First few shows have been amazing. To be honest with you they have all been going really well, we are only the first set, and we really open up the package, but we normally get a good crowd reception.
EU: Have you all ever played Jax before?
JC: Umm, we have been to Jax before. I believe we played Fuel with Dying Fetus. This is really only our second time here.
EU: Your band is from Providence, RI. Do you all have a good scene for your style of music there?
JC: Up there we have a lot of our venues shutting down right now, but other than that what we still have is a strong scene other than that.
EU: Has there been a good working relationship amongst all of the bands on the tour?
JC: Oh yeah! It has actually been way better than we expected. When we first started the tour, you know there are a couple of days where really you are maybe not sure or know how people might react to us, but there has been a lot of camaraderie.
EU: Where do you generally get your best audiences?
JC: Wow, you know what, right now outside of our hometown area, we seem to do really well in the lower south. Texas was great and Vegas was ridiculous.
EU: Is there any particular or favorite song that you like to play in your sets?
JC: Yeah, uh I don’t know if this is how anyone else feels, but there is one we do called ‘The Subversion of Sleep,’ that one for me is like- wow!
After our chat, I managed to get back inside and onto the floor just in time to get into proper position for at the next act, Veil of Maya. These guys are out of Chicago and totally bring the death-core side of things up into your face in full effect. The crowd seemed as if they were quite versed with a great deal of the lyrics, and considering that people not as acclimated with the music such as myself aren’t able to decipher the lyrics very easily, this almost proved their fan’s knowledge of them. This was one of the bands that I really thought brought the most energy and really got my batteries charged back up after an already exhausting day of rocking out. Even though I got recharged for them, they managed to do a great job at draining the juice out of the batteries they had just filled up.
Luckily the next band up was the Christian metal-core band, My Children, My Bride. This act seemed to have one of the most different types of audiences down in the pit, composed of quite a few girls in the front area with a swirling sea of people skanking out to the music and moshing into one another just behind. Towards the end of their set people seemed to continuously climb over one another to get onto the stage to try to spit some lyrics along with the singer, and a few times they even managed to do so. It was crazy to see and to think that with each band the audience seemed to be getting wilder and wilder despite many of them being there the entire day.
Despied Icon was the next in line to come out to try their best at pushing things up another level. With the combination of two different singers coming at you with their two different styles of screaming and low growling, exhaled pig squeals, these guys were quick to make it apparent that they fit perfectly into the day’s events. They continually demanded the crowd to react to them and not to get tired on them despite it being a long day. The audience seemed to answer the call each time even though it had indeed been a very long day with still two more acts to go.
Once Despised Icon wrapped their set, we had quite a wait until Emmure came to the stage. They kept teasing the audience by testing the lights, or starting to play the guitars, bass or drums like they were ready to start. It was clear that they were building up the anticipation of the audience and it worked. Once the lights finally went down, people were going insane at a fever pitch. Despite seeing things get pretty crazy throughout the day none of it came close to matching the response that this band evoked from the crowd. About ten seconds into their set I had to quit attempting to take pictures at all, as the whole crowd had turned into a sea of jumping bodies bouncing into one another. Every song was shoved down the audience’s throat with a force unlike any other and they all seemed to beg for more. Playing a combination of older songs off of previous albums, and a healthy amount of songs from their upcoming album Felony, it didn’t really seem to matter to their fans what it was, because they wanted all that the band could throw at them. When it got close to end of their set, the band announced they had time for two or three more, how many do you all want? To which the audience roared out “FOUR!”
The last band of the night was the groove-metal band DevilDriver out of Santa Barbara, CA. It was somewhat unfortunate to see them to come to the stage with only a quarter of the audience left. Emmure had taken the sap out of everyone and many were simply too exhausted to continue on. Despite the lackluster audience before them, DevilDriver still played on just like the place was completely full. There were plenty of fans who continued going just as crazy as they had all day, which managed to put a smile on front man Dez Fafara’s face.
And so ended my first true foray into the world of modern metal music. The Thrash & Burn Tour left an impression on me that will surely continue on for quite some time. And if my judgment is correct, it did just the same for most everyone else that came out to experience it.
Thrash & Burn Tour featuring Devil Driver, EMMURE, and many others at PLUSH 8/4/09
by Ora “Tre” Brasel