Friday, July 5, 2013

Live Review for TRAPT's opening band SUPER bob

July 3, 2012  was quite an interesting night. Me and my friends Stephen and Brandon, along with my brother Devan, all headed to Charlotte for a Trapt concert in Amos' Southend Bar. We were excited; it was Devan's first concert and the rest of us had been itching to go to another show. I was excited for Trapt, but I had heard that the opening bands were nothing to ignore either. However, I remembered being pleasantly surprised when I saw Carl Dylan and IAMDYNAMITE open for heavy rockers Sum 41 after hearing very little about them, so I decided not to research these opening bands very much for the same reason. I decided to listen to two songs from each band and I didn't research any more or less than that. The first band I will be reviewing are the rap-rock hellions SUPER bob.

SUPER bob from let to right: Drew Recny, Matt Santoro, Adam Smith, Chris Faircloth
Immediately upon their entry to the stage, I recognized the devious quartet. With their crazy hair styles and numerous amounts of tattoos, they were very distinguishable. Considering that they are a rock band, this is a very good thing. Frontman Matt Santoro, sporting his black-and-red dreadlocks, (which I think by the end of the show, everyone came to love) approached the audience with varying questions, such as the typical pump-you-up type of questions like "Are you ready to make some noise tonight?" and other unexpected, humorous and sarcastic questions like "Who here likes Taylor Swift?". He had a great stage presence; I told Stephen before they even started playing that he reminded me of the famous punk vocalist Iggy Pop. When they started playing their first song, the entire audience was captivated. I will try to paint the picture that is SUPER bob the best I can, but you must see them in action to truly experience it. Imagine the most energetic band you could ever see, and then try to picture something better than that. Bassist Drew Recny laid down thumping rhythms flawlessly while spinning around like a top for almost the entire song. Guitarist Adam Smith, with his beautiful PRS guitars, played catchy industrial-chug metal riffs remiscent of Wisconsin Death Trip-era Static-X and industrial metalheads Powerman 5000. Holding the entire band together was drummer Chris Faircloth, who played super-tight disco beats that made the entire crowd move. These guys looked liked the real deal on stage; a true rock band. Adam Smith is a viking and towers over the crowd; not to mention he makes the best facial expressions in rock history.  Matt spit unapologetic, machine-gun fire pace lines that set the audience on fire, with a voice similar to Sonny Sullivan of nu metallers P.O.D. Standouts in their performance were songs "Super Fly", "Freak", "Cali", "Hollywood", and their rendition of LMFAO's "Sexy And I Know It", which they absolutely tore up and made their own. Honestly their cover was better than the original, by far. They explained very often during their show that they were thankful for the packed audience, and that they "had the best job in the world"; it was obvious to many that they really were passionate about what they were doing. I would not be afraid to say that SUPER bob is unlike any other live act you will ever see, and they are likely to be one of the best, if not THE best live act you will ever see. I have never heard a band before that was able to channel the spontaneity of bands such as System of a Down and the rap-rock angry style of Rage Against the Machine with such fierce velocity and professionalism. They're everything Limp Bizkit wishes they could be and much more. Go out, see them live, and buy their eponymous 2011 release today!
Us with Matt Santoro and Adam Smith. Amazingly genuine and humble people.
[Spencer McCoy Photography 2013]


Thursday, July 4, 2013

TRAPT Live Review

On July 3, 2013 some friends and I went to see the hard rock band Trapt live at Amos' Southend Bar in Charlotte, North Carolina.  I have been a big fan of the band ever since about 2002, when their music videos for  "Headstrong" and "Echo" were all over the television screen. I kept up with their progress as musicians for the most part; I had their eponymous debut album and had listened to their next release, 2005's Someone in Control, and I had become a fan of their stylistic change that was found in 2008's Only Through the Pain. These guys have always been able to channel strong amounts of emotion into their studio recordings; of course vocalist Chris Taylor Brown gives his all when belting out their lyrics of confusion, heartbreak or defiance, but the powerful guitar riffs and pounding drum rhythms really helped give the songs life. With their latest two albums, No Apologies (2010) and self-produced Reborn (2013), the band went back to their roots (and on Reborn, expanded on it) to create some of the best songs they've ever written. Needless to say, I think that it was about time to see these guys. It was also going to be my brother Devan's first concert, and my friend Stephen's first heavier band to see live. Along with us three was my lifelong friend Brandon who is a huge fan of the band like myself.
Band Photo for 2013's Reborn.

To an extent, I knew what to expect. I had seen many Youtube videos and I knew that they generally delivered high energy, solid performances. The focus of the band has almost always been on the singer Chris, so I was eager to see how the rest of the band played their parts in the live show. I knew that the band experienced some lineup changes (Atreyu's guitarist Travis Miguel stepped in for the band this year, and  Dylan Thomas Howard replaced drummer Aaron "Monty" Montgomery in 2012.) so I was a bit nervous about how they would fit into Trapt's sound. Aaron Montgomery was a phenomenal and lively drummer, and previous guitarists Simon Ormandy and later, Rob Torres, both had created memorable guitar hooks that were perfect for the band's message and aesthetic. I am glad to say that I was pleasantly surprised when I got to see how the band functioned as a unit. 

Trapt in all their live glory, playing the song "Echo".
[Brandon Mast Photography, 2013]
Trapt appeared on stage last at the show, following the hard rock outfit Candlelight Red, who did a great job preparing the audience for their arrival, along with rap-rock hellions Super Bob and radio rock band Era 9. Frontman Chris Taylor Brown asked the audience "Who's going home with you tonight?" which immediately resulted in the upbeat punk number from 2008's Only Through the Pain and an excited roar from the audience. Adrenaline was high as Chris' voice soared high above the audience, and drummer Dylan Howard produced thunderous, fist-pumping beats. Guitarist Travis Miguel and bassist Pete Charell provided for the meat of the sound, chugging away at heavy power chords with a big, thick sound reminiscent of rock peers Breaking Benjamin and Rise Against. All of this together provided for an exciting introduction for anyone watching; if anyone was getting tired at this point, Trapt sure as hell woke them up. As the band finished "Who's Going Home With You Tonight?" Chris asked the audience how they were doing and got them more pumped for the show. He then proceeded to explain the meaning of the next song and why they were performing it (2005's "Waiting") which became a ritual before each song of the night. This was especially comforting for me personally; my friends and I think that in doing this, Trapt really helped the audience connect with the true meaning behind each song lyrically rather than just with the upbeat tempos and changing song structures. As they tore through each song in their setlist, the audience seemed to get more and more into it and involved, and the band seemed to grow more lively and on-point; even more so than their in-studio counterparts.  The energy feedback from the band and the audience was vibrant; Brown said that Charlotte was "the best crowd we've had this whole tour", which was also echoed by Super Bob's frontman Matt Santoro. Highlights from the live show were Only Through the Pain's "Black Rose" and "Contagious", Reborn's "Bring It", "Love-Hate Relationship" and "Living in the Eye of the Storm", and finally during their encore, mega-hit "Headstrong" and ballsy rock behemoth "Stand Up" from their first and second albums, respectively. I would have expected that, as adventurous as the dynamics of Trapt songs are, Chris' voice would get tired but that wasn't the case; he belted every high note and held it until it rose into oblivion, and then almost effortlessly broke into the next verse. It's obvious to us that them being on the road for over ten years has definitely made them masters of the stage.

Us with vocal powerhouse Chris Taylor Brown of Trapt.
[Spencer McCoy Photography, 2013]
After Chris and the entire audience were done screaming every single lyric to "Headstrong",
my friends and I headed outside for the chance to get to meet the band. We ended up getting our wish and got to talk to each member. Travis Miguel stated that he believes that Atreyu's hiatus will end in time, so Atreyu fans should not be discouraged. He stated it was hard at first to transition into Trapt's style when he was used to the hardcore scene he had been a part of, but he did a phenomenal job live. Drummer Dylan Howard explained he had been playing for "about twenty years" which is definitely believable considering his prowess behind the kit. Bassist Pete Charell was very humble and easy-going, despite being one of the most solid live rhythm players I've seen. We explained to frontman Chris how well they all did live, and I personally told him how much of an inspiration he is to me as a musician, which he responded with a fist bump, infectious smile, and a pose with us for a photo. We were very thankful to have seen these guys live, and to later meet them; even more impressive was how genuine they are as people. All in all, it was a truly great experience, and if you are not a fan of Trapt already, they will make you one. 

 I will post a review for opening bands Super Bob, Era 9, and Candlelight Red soon.

For more information on Trapt, go to:

Friday, June 28, 2013

Revisiting an old friend...

       ...Figuratively, of course. Or is it really? Music is something that affects people in different ways. There are certain songs out there, certain artists that you feel extra attached to. You have different memories, feelings, and the like attached to certain songs and artists. I can't help but think the first decent song an artist ever created leaves a certain strong feeling of nostalgia and wonder. 
    This is sort of how I'm feeling about this song. When I first started learning guitar my freshman year of high school, I didn't really expect it to become a heavy part of my future. I didn't really think about that at all when I was learning the infamous riff of Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water". I felt a great sense of accomplishment when I learned my first full song; as I finished playing Sum 41's "Makes No Difference" I remember that feeling that was unlike anything else. Even then, I didn't really think music, and my guitar, would become a friend. When I was upset, I turned to it. Breakups, family issues, stress; they all could be, at least in the moment, forgotten by playing guitar. I really first started writing lyrics towards the end of 2010.

I didn't know anything about making songs of my own. I started with the lyrics first; I kept writing and writing and writing and I eventually had about 45 pages of lyrics, with no music devoted to any of it. Some of the would-be songs I had melodies in my head developed for, but most of them are just really bad poetry really. One day while I was sitting in the basement of my old house, I remember coming up with this super-simple acoustic thing. I liked it a lot though, and eventually I developed some lead rhythms over it as well as chords that marked a transition in the song. For once, I realized I was starting to write something that maybe wasn't completely terrible. 

I really started to feel it....It was unexplainable how the process works, but I just sort of listened to what I was playing, and let my heart open up and create the words. It all happened really quickly. I was excited to see that most songwriters sort of do this; I recall watching Elliott Smith and Sum 41 videos where Elliott and Deryck (jn individual videos, obviously) mentioned how it worked for them in similar ways.

I came up with this concept of low self-esteem. I was battling with self-esteem at the time so it just seemed to come natural to me to write about it. I don't want to go much deeper than that into the meaning because I'd rather people take what they want from the song once it's recorded, but I ended up with the hook:

"But I'll tell you your light

Is radiating so bright
And I'll warn you, I'd lie
If it would make you see that I don't want to be invisible"

This marks the time that I become a chorus writer. Ever since this first half-way decent songwriting session, I have almost always written the chorus to the song before any other written words. Verses are so much more challenging. I finished the song rather quickly, in a couple of days. I didn't know much about music at all and my musical ear was still developing, but I felt that what I had was good enough to put out there and show people. I'm glad, looking back now, that this Audacity-and-RockBand-microphone-recorded product was labelled "Invisible Man (The Mask) [[DEMO]]" because I realized that despite the four or five downloads and about 120 or so plays, it was a pretty horrible song in its entirety.

I didn't realize at the time but a lot of my guitar parts were out of key and the lyrics gradually became of less and less quality through the song. After its release and initial small hype, I sort of ignored the song until I listened to it again yesterday (June 27, 2013) for the first time in about two years. After deleting the song from my online music-hosting sites, I re-taught myself how to play the guitar parts and went to working on it again.

Now with a fixed first verse and a new verse and alternate chorus, I think I'm actually happy with this song. I'm ready to re-record and put it out there again. If any of you guys remember listening to this song, first off let me say I'm sorry because it was awful but this finished product will be much much better. I'm excited to see how the recording process unfolds.

My page that the song will be posted onto is located here: