Anything A Day To Remember does from here on is nothing more than a victory lap. The boys from Ocala, Florida, are now the kings of their hometown. For years, they’ve been the top dogs of the dwindling post-hardcore genre that’s often umbrella termed as Warped Tour or Hot Topic bands. But no matter the categorization, A Day To Remember is the monument of success for underground rock bands, and last night’s sold-out affair at The Bomb Factory was a testament to that. It’s just a shame that all five band members looked as if they were just going through the motions, but that happens after 15 years on the road.
All those years as a band is the theme for this tour, which includes Papa Roach, Falling In Reverse and The Devil Wears Prada. 15 Years In The Making was a happy, accidental realization by guitarist Neil Westfall, as he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last month, when the band was trying to find a theme for a tour that wasn’t directly supporting an album since the band’s last project was released two years ago. To commemorate that time, the band curated a set list that reaches back through its six studio-album catalog and touches on highlights from each point of the outfit’s ascending career.
As the opening notes of “I’m Made of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?” rang out, frontman Jeremy McKinnon’s vocal efforts felt half-hearted, which is ironic for a band that made its name off the 2007 album For Those Who Have Heart. McKinnon looked disengaged and the set felt oddly choreographed — it seems weird to see a group that refers to itself as a garage band have such a polished set. The band let confetti canons, streamers, cryo jets and crowd surfing do the heavy lifting of getting the crowd pumped, but as has been the case for almost a decade, A Day to Remember has such a large and loyal fan base they were off the rails just off the strength of the band’s presence. A bonus to the performance of that song from 2009’s Homesick was The Devil Wears Prada’s frontman Mike Hranica joining A Day To Remember on the song. It almost made up for Hranica’s band being relegated to a 6:30 p.m. opening slot time, which just felt odd and wrong for a band that in its prime was headlining Warped Tour main stages and in 2008 headlined The Door in Deep Ellum with A Day To Remember as the young, hungry openers.
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With such a rich catalog to choose from, a fan favorite like “2nd Sucks” got played early on, but the band failed to deliver on the song’s impact. When that song made its debut on the 2010 album What Separates Me From You, it was the band’s heaviest, most angry song to date and was a climax to most of the band’s set lists. Last night it felt like an obligation and an afterthought. In a genre that touts “brutal breakdowns,” the band has gone on to deliver heavier, more hard-hitting tracks like “Exposed” and “Bullfight” from 2016’s Bad Vibrations, but those songs didn’t make the cut last night. The only songs from the new album were “Paranoia” and “Same About You.” That’s fine though because what makes A Day To Remember special is its longstanding ability to seamlessly deliver songs that range all across the spectrum of angsty pop-punk, old school hardcore and legitimate power ballads. Those were represented by anthemic tracks like “Fast Forward to 2012,” “All I Want” and “The Downfall Of Us All,” the latter coming from the band’s four-song encore.
Even if the band made its name off genre-defying underdog anthems and cemented its legacy with shows that feel like Project X house parties, it’s hard to fault them for not being able to maintain that energy 15 years in. A Day to Remember has seen it all and done it all. In 2016, the band scored maybe the biggest victory of its career when a jury awarded the band a $4 million settlement of unpaid royalties from a lawsuit against its former label Victory Records. So how can a band that is thriving be expected to continue to play the role of angsty dark horse?
Jacoby Shaddix offered a glimpse how. He and his band Papa Roach delivered a stellar, high energy set that left Shaddix dripping sweat and looking exhausted — something A Day To Remember certainly didn’t achieve. Maybe it’s refreshing for a band that peaked in 2001 to play in front of an enthusiastic, packed crowd or maybe Shaddix is a veteran showman. Either way, the much older Papa Roach proved that there’s no excuse for A Day to Remember to deliver lackluster sets. Old footage of the band’s sets show McKinnon head banging with the crowd, two-stepping and rolling through the crowd in an inflatable hamster ball. None of that was present last night. It was just the Kings of Ocala sitting on their throne.