31Jul

The Weeknd at FedEx Field

It’s Abel Tesfaye’s world; the rest of us are just living in it.

And judging from the massive and elaborate set for his current “After Hours Til Dawn” stadium tour, that world is very much of a post-apocalyptic variety … not that anyone appears to mind. That was evident as a boisterous sellout crowd eagerly awaited the arrival of one of the biggest names in pop music today.

By the time The Weeknd took to the stage in a plastic mask and hit the first note of his opening track, “Alone Again,” it was absolute pandemonium in Landover, Maryland. If the last decade has taught us anything, it’s safe to say The Weeknd knows how to capture the attention of his ever-growing audience. Whether he’s performing during halftime of the Super Bowl, boycotting the Grammys or releasing smash hit after smash hit, people seemingly cannot get enough of the Toronto native.

Although COVID-19 concerns delayed the tour for nearly two years and opening act Doja Cat was forced to withdraw due to issues with her tonsils that required a second surgery, none of that mattered on a warm summer night down the road from our nation’s capital. For nearly two hours, The Weeknd delivered a highly-energetic and captivating set that spanned his entire catalog, including “Can’t Feel My Face,” “Starboy,” “The Hills,” “Blinding Lights” and so much more.

Since his last tour, The Weeknd has shifted from arenas to stadiums. In such a massive venue, a lesser artist runs the risk of alienating concert goers who might feel acres away from the stage. But the sheer size of it all — the set, the stage, the catwalk that ran the entire length of the football field, the army of dancers who appeared to be on loan from The Handmaid’s Tale — made it virtually impossible to not feel immersed in the pure spectacle of it all.

30Jul

A Day To Remember at MECU Pavilion

For nearly two decades, A Day To Remember has provided the soundtrack to whatever I’m doing wherever I’m doing it. Inexplicably, I had never managed to see them live though, so when they announced their massive North American tour for 2022 I knew I needed to rectify the situation.

As luck would have it, the Ocala, Florida, based band kicked off their “Just Some Shows” tour in Baltimore, along with Beartooth and Bad Omens. And if opening night was any indication, this is going to be one helluva tour. My only question is how on earth lead singer Jeremy McKinnon, lead guitarist Kevin Skaff, rhythm guitarist Neil Westfall and drummer Alex Shelnutt are going to go this hard for this long if they’re playing essentially every night from now until the end of October?

Baltimore was treated to a high-energy, 20-song set that included the live debut of their new single “Miracle,” which was released one week earlier, and seemingly every other fan favorite from their extensive catalog — including “The Downfall Of Us All,” “Mindreader,” “Resentment” and so much more.

“Miracle” represents ADTR’s first new music since the band released You’re Welcome, their seventh studio album which dropped in March of 2021. Judging by how many people in the crowd sang along with McKinnon, it’s safe to say it’s yet another smash hit from a band showing absolute zero signs of slowing down anytime soon.

13Jul

D.C. United names Wayne Rooney new head coach

After a listless D.C. United squad failed to remotely challenge Nashville SC in front of the first sellout crowd of the season, it felt as if the season — not even halfway completed — was already lost. Without a serious infusion of talent and money, the former pillar of Major League Soccer was destined to remain a small-market club in a town desperate for better.

One match later, an emphatic 7-0 drubbing at the hands of Philadelphia, management seemingly came to the same conclusion. D.C. United co-owner Jason Levien reached out to a familiar face and convinced one of the franchise’s most famous players to come back to his unofficial home away from home.

With that, Wayne Rooney becomes the ninth head coach in franchise history. Three years after Rooney made a hasty retreat from our nation’s capital back to England, the 36-year-old superstar returns in an effort to once again make the black and red relevant.

During his first stint in town, Rooney admirably served as a team captain/savvy veteran as he lifted D.C. United from the dregs of the league (21st overall in 2017) to qualify for the playoffs in both 2018 and ’19. Now he returns to a club in even worse shape than before in an entirely new role — that of a relatively inexperienced manager. For the last three years, Rooney has been with Derby County — initially serving as a player/coach before transitioning full time into a managerial role.

Rooney’s time with the Rams was far from ideal, as the club faced financial problems which ultimately caused Derby County to be relegated to England’s third division. That said, Rooney received praise for handling such an adverse situation and the development of several of the clubs younger players. After turning down a chance to manage Everton and accepting D.C. United’s offer, England’s all-time leading scorer won’t lose sleep over the possibility of relegation. But he will once again find himself game-planning against teams with much greater talent and resources at their disposal.

Aside from all-star forward Taxiarchis Fountas, there is a serious lack of talent on the current roster. Levien and friends broke the bank, paying a reported million dollars per season (three times more than the previous coach earned) to entice one of the biggest names in world soccer to pick up the phone. Hopefully the new manager received similar assurances from the ownership group that their notoriously tight pursestrings will be loosened as Rooney embarks on his latest reclamation project. Otherwise, 18 months from now, D.C. United might once again be faced with life after Wazza.

29Jun

Memphis May Fire at Union Transfer

In conjunction with the release of their seventh studio album, Memphis May Fire embarked on a 30-show, cross country tour with the help of some notable friends. Along with From Ashes to New, Rain City Drive and Wolves at the Gate, the Texas-based quartet hit the road for the SiriusXM Octane Presents The Remade In Misery Tour.

In the main event of the evening, Memphis May Fire wasted no time diving into their hourlong performance, starting with “Blood & Water,” the opening track on their seventh studio album, Remade in Misery, which dropped on June 3. Matty Mullins, Kellen McGregor, Cory Elder and Jake Garland clearly put a ton of time and energy into their latest record, which is littered with numerous singles that’ll be featured on hard rock charts in the coming weeks and months.

While Memphis May Fire will always be known for their hard rock/metalcore sound, the coolest moment of their performance was when they paused to dedicate one of their slower tracks, “Miles Away,” to the men and women who willingly serve in the military and, in Mullins’ words, truly understand what it means to pack up, leave your family behind and follow orders.

28Jun

From Ashes to New at Union Transfer

From Ashes to New were up next and, considering the band was started in Pennsylvania in 2013, it’s safe to say that they were just as excited for the opportunity to play a hometown show as the crowd was to see them live. While From Ashes to New — which is Danny Case (lead vocals), Matt Brandyberry (rap/clean vocals), Lance Dowdle (lead guitar) and Mat Madiro (drums) — have released three studio albums, they also spent much of their pandemic-induced downtime creating a series of Quarantine Chronicles EPs. In short, they have plenty of new material for fans and it showed with their lengthy setlist for the evening.

From Ashes to New’s well-polished performance included several highlights, including their newest single “Heartache” which was recently released. Before diving into “Scars That I’m Hiding,” Brandyberry earned a loud and warm ovation when he said to the crowd: “All the hard work of the last decade means something or if I’m in a popularity contest. You fuckers save me every single night.”

One of the more humorous moments of the evening came when Case exclaimed, “This one goes out to all of you” as he strummed the first notes of “Crazy” on his acoustic guitar. Anyone familiar with the reputation of Philadelphia sports fans completely understood where he was coming from.

27Jun

Rain City Drive at Union Transfer

While Rain City Drive might not necessarily be a household name just yet, it’s safe to say you’ve probably heard of them and are familiar with several of their singles over the years. That’s because, until last year, they were known as Slaves and they’ve been a mainstay on hard rock stations for years.

While Matt McAndrew (lead vocals), Colin Vieira (bass), Weston Richmond (lead guitar), Felipe Sanchez (rhythm guitar) and Zachary Baker (drums) might go by a new name these days, they smartly played a set featuring their biggest hits to remind the packed venue this isn’t their first rodeo. Their setlist for the evening included many of their most well known hits, such as “Waiting On You,” “Talk to a Friend” and “Dreams.”

That said, the standout song from Rain City Drive’s performance in Philadelphia was “Blood Runs Cold,” their upcoming single which will be hitting Octane’s airwaves in the not-too-distant future.

27Jun

Wolves at the Gate at Union Transfer

Before they were announced as part of the SiriusXM Octane Presents The Remade In Misery Tour, I wasn’t very familiar with Wolves at the Gate. After seen them live, I now consider myself a fan.

Christian metal group Wolves at the Gate, which is comprised of rhythm guitarist/clean vocalist Steve Cobucci, bass guitarist Ben Summers, unclean vocalist Nick Detty, drummer Abishai Collingsworth and lead guitarist Joey Alarcon, set the tone early with a high-energy set that raised the bar for everyone taking the stage that evening.

For any hard rock fans who were unfamiliar with Wolves at the Gate, diving into “Peace That Starts the War” and “Lights & Fire” back to back at the top of their set was a brilliant introduction to their sound. As the band took a quick breath midway through their allotted time, Cobucci won the crowd over when he shared, “My kids are 5-years-old and have never seen me play, but they’re here tonight.”

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