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August Burns Red, Blessthefall put security to test

December 5, 2013

By Jordan Gonzalez

By 6:30 p.m., the line at the Cleveland House of Blues was already wrapping around the left corner. Hundreds of macho young men wearing short sleeves, shorts and other summer attire made up the majority of the crowd, along with almost as many girls donning their band hoodies and colored hair. With their energy drinks in hand, the loyal fans shivered in the cold and chattered non-stop as they anticipated the upcoming show featuring Christian metalcore kings August Burns Red, Blessthefall, Defeater and Columbus, Ohio-based Beartooth.

The crowds were so big many fans missed most of the opening act by Beartooth as they filtered in. Beartooth put on a powerful hardcore performance full of driving beats and heavy bass-drops. While a little generic, the crowd none-the-less enjoyed their set, and an early mosh pit got things going early on.

Boston, Ma.-based hardcore band Defeater was by far the most surprising set. They are like the wild cousin of Touche Amore and La Dispute (they’re somewhat heavier than both) with hardcore rhythms and riffs followed by patient bass lines and a balanced mix of screaming and spoken word screaming from lead vocalist Derek Archambaul. They kicked off their set with the painful “Bastards,” a fast-paced and melancholy ballad about a child from a broken family. That was followed by the unpredictable “Dear Father,” which at its heavier parts drew some mild-moshing and several fist pumps. While some of their middle songs were calmer, they closed with the desperate “No Savior” and “Cowardice,” both brutal songs about losing one’s faith, which provided an interesting contrast to the positive and Christian lyrics from August Burns Red.

After a 15-minute break, Blessthefall took the stage with a vengeance, not having played in Cleveland’s HOB for several years. Immediately the entire dance floor was jumping and fist pumping and the majority of the fans knew all the lyrics. As if he was leading a surprise attack, clean vocalist Beau Bokan and unclean vocalist/bassist Jared Warth created a sense of near-panic in the fans, who moshed and jumped almost non-stop throughout their 10-song set. They kicked off their set with their latest hit “You Wear a Crown But You’re no King” from their newest album “Hollow Bodies,” which seems much heavier than past Blessthefall albums.

By their third song, “The Reign,” Bokan challenged the crowd to a high-fiving contest, putting the yellow-shirted security guards to work catching throngs of teenagers high on adrenaline. Throughout the rest of the set, which really never calmed down, fans continued to mosh and crowd surf. Bokan kept it fresh spraying water and walking down into the crowd occasionally to the delight of the fans. And despite their latest music being much heavier, they have a nostalgic metalcore feel with their mid-2000s mop tops and ultra skinny jeans.

But the majority of the fans were there for August Burns Red of course, and even after three metal/hardcore bands they had plenty of energy left in their sweating bodies. August Burns Red is one of the supreme metalcore bands for many reasons, including their incredible talent, excellent songwriting, technicality and diverse music. But it’s their brutal and relentless live show that separates them from other bands.

Blessthefall had raised the bar high for the concert but ABR shattered it. After the traditional chants of “ABR, ABR” from the fans, they burst out from the backstage with “Provision,” from their latest album “Rescue and Restore.” The mosh pits were rougher, the fan’s jumping was higher and the fans screamed out the lyrics louder. Their entire performance was mesmerizing. Lead vocalist Jake Luhrs was sweating within a few minutes into their grueling 16-song set. ABR’s lead guitarist (JB Brubaker) and rhythm guitarist (Brent Rambler) killed it, tearing through complex riffs and guitar solos as if it was easy. Bassist (Dustin Davidson) mixed it up with slick basslines and strong bass drops.

They played all their hits, from “Marianas Trench” to “Meddler,” with songs from “Rescue and Restore” mixed in-between. Throughout their set ABR kept it fresh with salsa-dancing to the flamenco-like parts of “Internal Cannon,” a gorgeous drum solo by ABR’s extremely talented drummer Matt Greiner, and a metal version of Frosty the Snowman (from their genius Christmas album “Sleddin’ Hill,” which is like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra on drugs). It’s really not fair to pigeonhole ABR as metalcore since their music is so diverse and melodic.

August shows are truly a unique experience. They just don’t stop, and they sound flawless, with each member perfectly in sync with the other. While the idea of not having a clean vocalist might seem exhausting to some, Luhrs knows how to keep the shows fresh with his random antics and heartwarming messages.

August Burns Red fans match the band in passion, which is saying a lot coming from a band like ABR. When they ran out of steam they’d stumble to the back, get some drinks and water and get right back in the chaos, which included perpetual moshing and lots of crowd surfing. Even the fans on the balcony were head banging and fist pumping.

“Let’s make [the security guards] work hard,” Luhrs said before the final song, but his request wasn’t necessary. The fans had been doing that the whole night (the press had to flee early due to too much crowd surfing).