–by Jeff Quirin
–photos by Greg Artime/ Artimeg.com
If there is one thing to know about metalcore, it’s that there’s a great love for, and emphasis on, breakdowns. When the tempo slows, the guitar gets heavy, and the pit goes crazy. At Pop’s on Friday night fans of the genre were treated to four bands in a row that delivered countless breakdowns over the course of the evening.
When you get to Pop’s down in Sauget, IL it’s simultaneously unassuming and pretentious. On the one hand, it’s a fairly bland building that looks about like any other night club set amongst industrial parks. There’s a distinct scent on the air that reminds you that this isn’t an affluent area. On the other hand, once you get inside, it’s one of the best music venues in St. Louis. A wide-open floor with a big stage for anyone who wants to get a little sweaty being shoulder to shoulder while moshing, swaying, jumping, or whatever activity the band on stage commands. A nice little balcony for those who want to stay above the fray and enjoy some beverages with their tunes. For the indecisive, or those who want a bit of both, there’s a middling option of standing up against the bars where there’s some airflow, but you’re a step away from the action.
As a genre, metalcore has spread across the globe and many bands based outside the states make their way across them in tour buses every year. The Metalcore Dropouts tour, headlined by Fit for a King and The Devil Wears Prada, are no exception.
Getting the party started was LANDMVRKS (pronounced Landmarks). The French band sprinted through their six-song set at a breakneck pace hitting tracks on all three albums. Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was the instant recognition and response that came from the first song, “Lost in a Wave”. Singing along, moshing, jumping as if it was the biggest song on the radio. Not the response you typically see for an opener, but a welcome one singalong what the rest of the would have in store. Their combination of styles set them apart from the other bands. Definitely got the obvious metalcore vibes, but the sprinkles of punk and hip-hop give them a unique vibe. Some of the songs even gave me a little Rage Against the Machine feel, but I think that was mostly in the frontman Florent Salfati’s vocal presentation.
Bringing the concert back over the Atlantic was Counterparts. The Brendan Murphy fronted band from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada brought the heavy early and often starting with their opener, “Love Me”. From there they worked through their extensive library with “Bound to the Burn”, “Monument”, and “The Disconnect”. You wouldn’t have known it’d been 12 years since they last played Pop’s with the response the crowd gave them. Get the pit going? Yes! Make it bigger? Right away. Crowd surf? Let’s go! I came to the show not knowing much about them. I left it searching for more on Spotify.
At times Texas almost seems like its own country (and students of history know it once was). Fit For A King, hailing from Tyler, Texas, brought their flavor of metalcore to the stage next. For as much as the crowd knew and responded to the previous bands, they doubled down for the third band’s songs. After opening with “Annihilation” they moved through nearly 15 songs in their set hitting some of their best tracks including “Breaking the Mirror”, “The Price of Agony”, “When Everything Means Nothing”, and “God of Fire”. While they’ve been back since 2012, vocalist Ryan Kirby recalled a show from that same year where no one showed up to see them play. That hasn’t discouraged them from stopping in St. Louis on their tours since. My big takeaway from their performance was their stage presence. They know how to work the crowd into a frenzy and had no problem making it happen.
To bring the night home, and the show back to the Midwest, Ohio based The Devil Wears Prada took the stage. Where the previous bands brought out groups of up to five, they came out with a crew of six. Vocalists Mike Hranica and Jeremy DePoyster traded off and shared singing and screaming duties. They started their set with “Exhibition” and ran through a further 13 songs spanning their library back to the aughts. Songs that stood out to me particularly were “Salt”, “Dez Moines”, and “Hey John”. The two biggest occurrences of the night happened during their set. A fan ran up on stage with the band and it took three security guards to wrangle them off the stage and out of the building. Shortly after that, following a call for crowd surfing, someone was dropped to the floor and the band stopped playing to make sure they were ok. They also brought on two different people to scream parts of two songs. Not sure who they were, but they hit their parts well.
My final takeaway is that fans of metalcore show up and know how to have a good time. Regardless of who they are, where they come from, or the style they play, people show up and participate. I know I’ll be on the lookout for when any of these bands bring their breakdowns back to St. Louis.