Escape the Fate, Alasana, Motionless is White, Get Scared and Drive A
South Side Music Hall
January 24, 2011
Better than: taking my kid to Hot Topic.
The crowd at South Side Music Hall looked as if every secondary school in the area had bused in any kid who looked even remotely punk or gothic. It was a convention of hoodies and other assorted emo headgear, as a throng of well over 500 gathered together to worship at the altar of bangs and eyeliner.
And, for over five hours, five bands with surprisingly disparate styles rocked as the youthful crowd moshed, body surfed and stage-dived -- all without any major injury taking place, surprisingly enough.
Most in the crowd seemed to be drawn by the two acts at the top of the bill, Escape the Fate and Alesana, but there was plenty of music to wade through before either of those bands would make an appearance.
Things got rolling early when Los Angeles' Drive A hit the stage at about half past six. Hats off to Bruno Mascolo and the rest of this spry quartet for going at it full throttle when the venue was only about one quarter full. And Drive A's metallic punk was, by far, the least pretentious music of the evening.
Next up was Get Scared, a by-the-numbers emo act hailing out of Utah. Suffice to say, these guys were not Mormons. Lead shouter Nicolas Mathews dropped the F-bomb about 20 times each song. Sadly, though, most of their songs needed the expletives just to stand out; cuts like "The Deepest Cut" and "Voodoo" were fairly generic emo rants.
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Much better was Pennsylvania's Motionless in White. Even though singer Chris Cerulli came across like a Marilyn Manson wannabe, the band rocked pretty steady throughout its 35 minute set. One particular highlight came when Cerulli asked the crowd, "How many of you guys have heard of a movie called Twilight?" After the crowd laughed and booed, Cerulli added, "Yes! I know! Fuck Twilight!" The audience roared and the band launched into another dense mixture of emo and progressive rock. It sounds ugly, but Motionless in White can make ugly serve its purpose.
Next, it was obvious from the crowd's reaction that Alesana was a band that a lot of folks had come to hear. Led by Shawn Milke, this quintet from North Carolina was even denser than Motionless in White, playing a brand of emo condensed and folded into an avant-garde black hole. I am a big fan of noise, but the sheer volume and thickness of Alesana can become a bit or a burden to bear -- kind of fascinating, but headache-inducing as well. And perhaps the power of Alesana's performance was too much for some in the crowd -- after their set, a couple hundred teens and parents headed for the exit.
Then again, it was a school night.
Finally, at around 9:30, Las Vegas' Escape the Fate walked onto the stage. The funny thing about the music of Escape the Fate is that it's basically pure pop that's been gussied up with rock and emo trappings. Songs like "Issues" and "Gorgeous Nightmare" could easily be hits for Lady Gaga -- or even Britney Spears for that matter. Although loud and punctuated with screams and various other metal accoutrements, the songs of Escape the Fate are catchy, almost danceable little ditties that most soccer moms would not have trouble humming on their way to the next match in Plano.
That being said, Escape the Fate should be lauded for not succumbing to the standard emo agenda. These are just four fairly normal young men who write catchy songs and then decide to play them as loudly as possible. For the most part, it works wonderfully, as Craig Mabbitt leads the band with a manner that belies the typical "fuck everything" mantra that is so common in emo circles.
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And with kids body surfing on top of other kids, Escape the Fate ended the evening looking like the next Mötley Crüe.
God help us all.
Personal Bias: Like most parents at this show, I sat stage left amongst all the other elderly folk. But while most moms and dads were shaking their heads in disbelief that their sons and daughters had dragged them to the venue, I was thoroughly engaged by four out of the five bands on the bill. Only Get Scared didn't make some sort of impression, and both Escape the Fate and Motionless in White were borderline great.
Random Note: Backstage, a young girl gave Escape the Fate's Craig Mabbitt a DVD of his favorite episode of Family Guy. So impressed was Mabbitt of the girl's gift, that the singer took off one of his many rings, placed it on the young lady's hand and kissed her hand as well. Of course the girl cried uncontrollably -- but it was a genuinely cool thing for the dude to do.