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Saul at Rams Head Live!

During the loneliest times of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the world was stuck at home with no idea when we might see some semblance of normalcy, the saints at SiriusXM had a novel notion. Since music lovers could no longer go to concerts, why not bring concerts to the music lovers? From that simple concept, the Octane Accelerator Virtual Concert series was born. The inaugural event featuring three new hard rock bands: Saul, Any Given Sin and AVOID.

That performance was my official introduction to Saul. While I was familiar with a song or two of theirs beforehand, that was the night I officially became a fan. Less than a year later, I was scheduled to see them in concert, along with Any Given Sin and Nonpoint … until Nonpoint was forced to postpone the show — along with several others — after their vehicle and trailer were involved in an accident.

Finally, two months after that show was postponed and nearly a year after their virtual concert, the stars aligned and I was able to see Saul live. And they did not disappoint. While they only had time to play an abbreviated set, they made the most out of what they were given and set the tone for the rest of the night.


Alex Ovechkin and friends outlast Arizona

For the first 52 minutes of this encounter, nothing worked for the hometown Washington Capitals. Everything they threw at Coyotes rookie Karel Vejmelka was turned away, as the young netminder made spectacular stop after improbable save. 

Considering Arizona didn’t even register a shot on goal during the first 17 minutes of the contest, the game would have been an absolute blowout if not for amazing efforts of Vejmalka. Sure, one team came into the contest without a regulation loss while the other had yet to earn a win, but the 25-year-old’s 30 saves proved he was up to the task.

In the end, the better team won as Washington picked up a 2-0 victory, but it wasn’t the prettiest of showings for the boys in red. 

Alex Ovechkin finished the night with a goal and an assist, giving him 15 points for the season — tied with Connor McDavid for tops in the league. The 36-year-old Russian dynamo notched goal No. 739, bringing him within two of Brett Hull for fourth all time.

While Ovechkin continues to defy logic (and Father Time), this game marked the debut for 2019 second-round pick Brett Leason. In fact, because of injuries to Nicklas Backstrom, T.J. Oshie and Nic Dowd, the Capitals are in the midst of a bit of a youth movement these days.

Leason joined three other rookies in the lineup — Connor McMichael, Hendrix Lapierre and Martin Fehervary — a welcome sight for one of the NHL’s most veteran rosters. Another aspect of the game that will bring joy to the fanbase was the strong showing by goalie Ilya Samsonov earning his fourth career shutout. Samsonov improved to now 3-0-1 this season, with a 2.43 goals-against average and a .904 save percentage.


Rival Sons at 9:30 Club

They simply don’t make bands like Rival Sons anymore. The music created by this Long Beach, California-based band seems like it should be played in heavy rotation with the likes of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and Deep Purple, as opposed to whatever passes for today’s rock music.

And since Rival Sons has always had a throwback vibe, it’s only fitting that they’re currently touring in celebration of the tenth anniversary of their album Pressure & Time. Starting in September, lead singer Jay Buchanan and friends hit the road on a six-week, 30-stop trek as they played their critically acclaimed, second studio album cover to cover.

Considering the album has amassed more than 40 million streams over the last decade, the Pressure and Time Anniversary Tour is clearly designed to give fans what they want. And anyone who has seen Rival Sons in concert can attest, for as good as they are on vinyl, they’re even better live.


Kuznetsov, Capitals not interested in your narrative

Before the season even started, the Capitals were already doomed. Saddled with an old and expensive roster and unproven goaltenders, conventional wisdom suggested Washington would likely struggle to secure a playoff spot. 

Similarly, center Evgeny Kuznetsov was deemed an unwelcome distraction, who should have been shipped out of town months ago. Even if he only brought back pennies on the dollar, it was said, moving on from Kuzy was addition by subtraction. 

And yet, it was Kuznetsov – with two goals and an assist – who led the way for Washington in a 6-3 thumping of Nathan MacKinnon and the Colorado Avalanche at Capital One Arena.  

Although the Avs were widely considered a Stanley Cup favorite heading into the season (more narrative!), the Capitals took the lead early on a Kuznetsov breakaway and never looked back. Speaking of highly-paid centers, a hip injury has sidelined Nicklas Backstrom for the start of the season, which enabled rookie Connor McMichael to make his season debut. It was the 20-year-old’s second NHL game and he looked completely at home playing with a veteran-laden Caps squad. 

Elsewhere on the ice, Caps goalie Ilya Samsonov made his first start of the season and looked shaky early, allowing two goals on the first seven shots he faced. Thankfully for the home team, he settled down as the game went on and finished with 24 saves. 

Nick Jensen, Anthony Mantha and Nic Dowd each scored their first goal of the season and Alex Ovechkin sealed the win with his 734th goal, an empty-netter from roughly 140 feet away.

Kuznetsov is now tied Ovechkin for the team lead in points with six (two goals, four assists). Ovechkin (four goals, two assists) has a goal in each of the team’s first three games this season. 



The COVID-19 pandemic affected everyone differently. Some people spent their newfound free time learning to bake bread. Some plowed through every binge-worthy television show they could find. And then there’s NEEDTOBREATHE.

Turns out the South Carolina-based rock band made the most of their newfound time – releasing not one, but two albums since the pandemic shut down everything and everyone. Last June, NEEDTOBREATHE dropped their seventh studio album, Out Of Body, and then they surprised everyone by releasing Into The Mystery this past July. 

This came about last fall, when the five members of NEEDTOBREATHE quarantined together in a house in Columbia, Tennessee for three weeks as they wrote, recorded and produced their eighth full-length studio album.

“Normally this would take us three years to do, and we’re gonna try and do it in three weeks,” said front man Bear Rhinehart in the trailer for the band’s upcoming documentary, titled “NEEDTOBREATHE: Into The Mystery.”

Armed with an abundance of new material, the Grammy nominated band hit the road for the first time in two years as they embarked on a 38-city tour, which included a stop in Washington, D.C. 

Their performance at The Anthem that night sent a clear message to the more than 6,000 fans in attendance that they were ready to make the most of their allotted time as they dove headfirst into a two-hour set that included 26 total songs. That show and this band were, as their song says, “What I’m Here For.”


Switchfoot at The Anthem

With apologies to friends and loved ones, more than anything during the pandemic, I missed live music. The venues, both big and small. The abundance of emotions and energy from those on the stage as well as those in the crowd. The opportunity to support artists who create the content that resonates so deeply. 

Having all of that abruptly taken away for a year and a half was a gut punch I never saw coming. And now that society is slowly returning to some semblance of normalcy, live music sure does feel like what the doctor ordered. (Well, that and vaccines. But I digress.)

I don’t know for sure, but it feels like the members of Switchfoot were in the same boat. They took to the stage at The Anthem Sunday night as if they were making up for lost time, and then proceeded to put on an amazingly captivating performance. Let me say without hesitation or reservation – nobody is having more fun than these guys these days.

Switchfoot kicked off their high-energy set with “Where I Belong,” which was fitting after the pandemic robbed us all of concerts and the track clearly clearly connected with the more than 6,000 fans in attendance who agreed with the sentiment. From there, they went right into one of their biggest hits, “Meant to Live” before launching into “Float” with a disco ball, amazing lighting and multiple bubble machines adding to the moment.

By the time they finished their 45-minute set, Switchfoot had absolutely crushed another memorable performance and reminded everyone how the Grammy Award winning band has been able to deliver consistently for more than two decades.


Any Given Sin at Baltimore Soundstage

At its core, Any Given Sin is a hard rock band for the people.

The music created by lead singer Victor Richie, guitarist Mike Conner, bass player Rich Stevenson and drummer Mike Showalter is embraced by a rabidly passionate fanbase, known as Any Given Sinners, who earn regular attention and praise from the folks at Sirius XM’s Octane channel.

Following in the footsteps of popular singles such as “Dynamite,” “Another Life” and “Insidious,” Any Given Sin released “The Way I Say Goodbye” in early 2021. They also signed with FM Music Management and Mascot Records, which is why it’s a safe bet if you haven’t heard of them yet, you will in the near future.

Before embarking on a 14-city tour with Nonpoint, Saul and Dropout Kings, Any Given Sin made a special stop at the Baltimore Soundstage in the band’s home state. After Relentless Souls, With Satellites, Breakforth and Crashing Atlas got everyone warmed up, Any Given Sin tore the house down with a high-energy hourlong set.

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