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Grandson at The Fillmore

Life on the road, even in pursuit of your wildest dreams, isn’t easy. For singer-songwriter Grandson, going from a pandemic to touring globally impacted the musician’s mental health and made him realize he wasn’t really alright. The result of his painful self-reflection is the multi-platinum artist’s second full-length album, I Love You, I’m Trying, which dropped May 5.

“This album for me was, first and foremost, an acknowledgment that I’ve had a problem with my mental health for a while that I’ve been kind of running away from, or pushing down in some ways,” he said.

On the heels of the album release, Grandson embarked on a two-month-long North American trek, featuring special guests K. Flay and DE’WAYNE, to bring this extremely personal new music to fans for the first time.

Jordan Benjamin, also known as everyone’s favorite Grandson, received a harsh reminder of just how challenging life on the road can be when his tour bus broke down en route to The Fillmore in Silver Spring, Md., on Memorial Day. This unforeseen circumstance put the headliner’s status for that evening’s show in jeopardy. Thankfully, everyone was able to get to the venue, but not until much later than originally anticipated.

That caused Grandson to miss a midday meet-and-greet with fans as well as soundcheck. Basically, Grandson and friends arrived in time to unpack and setup whatever needed to be on stage and not much else. And yet, as a testament to the musician’s prowess and professionalism, as soon as the 29-year-old took to the stage, everything else became an afterthought.

“Drones” and “Something To Hide” are two of the lead singles from the new album, so it made sense that both tracks featured early during the set. And while many in the crowd might still be learning the words to these tracks, the audience was clearly into the new music which proved a worthy conduit for the artist’s powerful voice and emotionally charged performance.

Grandson’s energetic live show and dynamic stage presence have rightly earned him praise as a captivating performer. But these live shows aren’t just about him, they’re about each and every person in the building. During his time on stage, Grandson seems to also be cultivating a community. He actually pauses the show to implore those in attendance to introduce themselves to other nearby concert-goers. He wants everyone to have fun, but he also wants everyone to be respectful. To that end, there are three rules at a Grandson show (which have been lightly edited to keep them radio friendly):

1. When Grandson yells “jump,” please get airborne.

2. When singing, please do so loudly.

3. If someone falls, please help them to their feet.

Mosh pits and crowd surfing are fine, and at times are even highly encouraged, so long as those in attendance carry themselves (and crowd surfers) in a respectful manner. At the end of the day, Grandson wants his shows to be the most inclusive rock show imaginable.  

With everyone on board, the rest of the evening featured Grandson’s unique blend of alternative rock, rap and electronic music as he bounced around his catalog. Tracks like “I Love You, I’m Trying,” “Bury Me Face Down” and “Darkside” illustrate his thought-provoking lyrics and solidify his reputation as an artist unafraid to confront controversial subjects.

Grandson’s debut album Death of an Optimist focused on social injustice in hopes of sparking conversations and inspiring change, while his newest album focuses on his personal struggles. On both fronts, his music clearly resonates with a younger generation seeking to express their frustrations with the world around them.

As his career continues to flourish, Grandson shows no signs of slowing down — figuratively or literally. After finishing up a spectacular 25-song set, Grandson rallied behind the venue to make things right with the fans who had paid for the missed meet-and-greet opportunity. Sure, it was well after midnight on a rainy Monday night/Tuesday morning, but this passionate performer wasn’t ready to call it quits just yet so his dedicated fanbase were treated to an impromptu jam session.


Avatar at The Fillmore

Five years ago I had the pleasure of experiencing Avatar in concert for the first time as the toured with In This Moment and Of Mice And Men in support of the Feathers and Flesh Tour. As soon as they began their set that night, I knew I had to photograph the Swedish metal band. The sheer amount of stage presence and theatrics packed into any given show by Johannes Eckerström and friends is a concert photographer’s dream come true.

Heading into the final week of a 26-stop tour in support of their ninth studio album, Dance Devil Dance, Avatar steamrolled their way into town showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

From the first note of “Dance Devil Dance” to the final roar of “Hail the Apocalypse,” Avatar took the audience on a wild and intense journey through their unique brand of metal over the course of nearly two hours. The 18-track setlist spanned their impressive discography, with a healthy balance of the old and new.

“As far as title tracks go for albums, this might be our most clearly intended mission statement,” said charismatic frontman Eckerström. “Heavy metal is rock and roll, and rock and roll is dance music. There’s no reason why a metal rhythm section shouldn’t make you want to move your hips as much as a punk one or a soul one or reggae one. As far as the devil part, I’m having fun with the symbolism in a way that probably pisses off both sides — religious people and people who feel some affinity for Satan.”

Kicking off the evening with an intense flurry as “Dance Devil Dance” quickly ignited the crowd, instantly set the tone for the night. At 6-foot-4, Eckerström commands the stage with his captivating presence and soaring vocals, and the title track for the new album and the tour was a fitting showcase on both fronts. As the setlist progressed, the band effortlessly transitioned between relentless headbangers and haunting melodies. The infectious “Chimp Mosh Pit” had audience members embracing the primal energy, unleashing a frenzy of moshing and crowd surfing.

The haunting “Bloody Angel” provided a moment of respite, allowing the band to showcase their melodic prowess and display their versatility. Each softer moment during the track was matched and then some by Johannes’ guttural screams, Tim Öhrström’s mastery of the drums and thrashing guitar riffs courtesy of Jonas Jarlsby, John Alfredsson and Henrik Sandelin.

The highlight of the night came with “Puppet Show,” a song that truly showcased the band’s unique brand of music. Midway through the song, Eckerström vanished from the stage … only to reappear moments later up in the balcony of the venue. What was he doing up there, you ask? Anything he damn well pleased, which on this night translated to making balloon animals and then performing an extended trombone solo. Eckerström’s theatrical presence brought the song’s dark narrative to life as he captivated the crowd in a way unlike any other metal show.

For the encore, Avatar returned to the stage to the thunderous applause of the crowd. The band’s current hit single, “The Dirt I’m Buried In,” stirred the crowd into a frenzy while “Smells Like a Freakshow” injected a dose of adrenaline into the room. The night culminated with the explosive “Hail the Apocalypse,” a track that encapsulated the essence of Avatar’s powerful and dynamic sound and proved a fitting ended to a fantastic night of metal courtesy of one of the most engaging and entertaining acts in music today.


Wage War at The Fillmore

Wage War rolled into town as part of The Manic 2023 tour, along with supporting acts nothing,nowhere. and Spite, and captivated an enthusiastic crowd during a killer set at the Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland, May 16. From the moment the lights dimmed and the first note of “Relapse” resonated through the venue, it was clear this was going to be a memorable night.

Within seconds of taking the stage, Wage War’s raw power and intensity captivated the audience, which erupted into a frenzy with bodies colliding as fans let loose to the band’s relentless energy. There was such an an overwhelming prevalence of crowd surfers that security removed the photographers from the pit after just one song as a safety precaution. While that’s obviously less-than-ideal for concert photographers on assignment, it illustrates just how raucous the environment became in an instant.

Last year, vocalist Briton Bond, guitarists Seth Blake and Cody Quistad, bassist Chris Gaylord and drummer Stephen Kluesener were honored as one of SiriusXM’s “Future 5 of 2022,” and it’s easy to see why.

Throughout the set, Wage War flawlessly blended their heavier tracks — such as “Stitch” and “Low” — with melodic interludes, showcasing an impressive versatility as musicians. Songs like “Gravity” and “Godspeed” allowed the crowd to catch their breath momentarily, while still maintaining an undeniable heaviness that kept the energy levels high. The hooks were infectious, and fans could be seen singing along with genuine passion.

The energy throughout the 19-song, 90-minute set was electric and the band fed off of it, delivering a performance that was both relentless and captivating. The stage production was also impressive, with an intense light show and smoke machines that enhanced the atmosphere. The strong visuals added an extra layer of intensity and excitement to the already explosive performance.

After concluding their initial set, the Ocala, Florida rockers returned to the stage to deliver a stripped-down rendition of “Johnny Cash” that was easily the highlight of the night. While their entire album The Stripped Sessions is a fantastic change of pace, the tribute to “The Man in Black” is definitely the standout. Hearing Bond and friends perform the acoustic track in person was worth the price of admission alone.

As the final notes of the band’s massive hit “Manic” reverberated through the venue, it was readily apparent Wage War had left an indelible mark on everyone in attendance. The band’s ability to seamlessly blend heavy aggression with melodic hooks and emotionally charged lyrics is what sets them apart from their peers. Clearly their particular brand of music, regardless of whether you care to characterize it as metalcore, hard rock or something else entirely, resonates with audiences. Don’t believe me? Then feel free to crowd surf your way to one of their shows the next time Wage War is in town.


Corey Taylor at Santander Arena

Like a shark patrolling the ocean or a bus with Keanu Reeves on it, Corey Taylor simply cannot be stopped. You get the sense he’s got so many irons in the proverbial fire because, simply put, Taylor needs a creative outlet at all times.

So when he finishes an extended tour with Slipknot and everyone else is ready for some well-earned rest and relaxation, Taylor turns his attention to Stone Sour. And if/when the same thing happens with Stone Sour, the pride of Des Moines, Iowa happily focuses on his solo music.

With Slipknot set to headline several massive music festivals this summer — to include Welcome to Rockville, Inkcarceration Festival, Rock Fest and Download Festival — Taylor embarked on a brief five-stop tour as a tune-up for his soon-to-be hectic summer. The first stop of this abbreviated road trip was Santander Arena in Reading, Pennsylvania, where we had the pleasure of seeing Taylor, along with stunt/dance troupe Cherry Bombs, starring his wife, Alicia.

Anyone expecting the front man to take to the stage with a custom mask, prison jumpsuit and eight of his closest friends was in for a rude awakening. Instead, this was Taylor in a much more relaxed environment and mindset.

Taylor and friends kicked off their set with “HWY 666,” the lead track from his debut solo album, CMFT. Up next was “On The Dark Side,” a cover of John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band’s 1983 hit followed by another Taylor original, “Samantha’s Gone.” Reading, Pennsylvania was also treated to the first-ever live performance of “Beyond,” the soon-to-be-released single from the forthcoming CMF2. According to Taylor, the band just recently recorded a video for the track and the single could be released as soon as May 15th.

By this point, the show felt less like a concert and more like a garage band jam session as the five gentlemen on stage bounced around from old stuff to new stuff and everything in between. And yet, halfway through the set Taylor informed the enthusiastic crowd, “We decided we don’t play enough Slipknot on our solo set, so we’re busting out some stuff just for you tonight.” To remedy the situation, Taylor and the rest of his band — drummer “Diamond” Dustin Robert, bassist Eliot Lorango, guitarists Christian Martucci and Zach Throne — launched into “Before I Forget” and then the 2008 stripped down single, “Snuff.”

“We’re not up here with tracks. Not with computers. We’re just five dudes. And look, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not for us,” Taylor said during a brief moment that allowed the band, as well as the audience, to catch its breath.

Later in the set they circled back to a few more Slipknot hits, “Duality” and “Wait And Bleed,” which represented one of the highlights of the night. In response and as a token of appreciation, a pit formed as the crowd clearly fed off of the high-energy performance.

“You might be excited. But we’re up here shitting ourselves,” Taylor said with a laugh.

Add in a handful of Stone Sour tracks — including “Absolute Zero,” “Bother” and “Through Glass” — if for no other reason than to prove that Taylor loves both of his children equally and what started out as a cold and rainy Tuesday night ended as a instant classic for those in attendance.

“I’ve been doing this since I was 13,” Taylor started. “I have played to no one and I have played to everyone. The one thing that remains the same — I will give you everything.”

“As long as you’re with me. I will never stop coming here to play for you motherfuckers,” he added.

Because all good things must eventually come to an end, Taylor closed the night with “CMFT Must Be Stopped,” which is completely fitting for a performer who seems incapable of slowing down without some sort of outside intervention.


Cherry Bombs at Santander Arena

With Slipknot set to headline several massive music festivals this summer — to include Welcome to Rockville, Inkcarceration Festival, Rock Fest and Download Festival — frontman Corey Taylor embarked on a brief five-stop tour as a tune-up for his soon-to-be hectic summer. The first stop of this abbreviated road trip was Santander Arena in Reading, Pennsylvania, where we had the pleasure of seeing Taylor, along with stunt/dance troupe Cherry Bombs, starring his wife, Alicia.

The Cherry Bombs have carved out a fascinating home for themselves somewhere between macabre and cabaret, with a show fittingly titled, “Macabaret.” They are a hard rock dance troupe that utilizes fire, aerials and various other daredevil arts to captivate audiences to such hits as:

“Highway 666” by Corey Taylor
“Cold Heart Bitch” by Jet
“More Human Than Human” by White Zombie
“Renegades of Funk” by Rage Against The Machine
“Du Hast” by Rammstein
“Wherever I May Roam” by Metallica

One moment these amazingly-talent ladies are performing fast-paced dance choreography. The next they’re dangling from the venue’s ceiling. With such an enjoyable playlist and eye-catching visuals, the show is unlike anything else in the genre of music. The entire performance is an absolute credit to Alicia and the rest of her supremely talented “girl gang.”


Shinedown at Bryce Jordan Center

On the week when “Dead Don’t Die” became their 20th number-one Active Rock single, Shinedown stormed into the Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pennsylvania, and delivered a performance that showed exactly why they’re one of the most accomplished bands in rock music today.

Within seconds of taking the stage, it was evident that singer Brent Smith, guitarist Zach Myers, bassist Eric Bass and drummer Barry Kerch were a well-oiled machine. After appearing from within a giant futuristic-looking video board, the quartet displayed a commanding stage presence made all the more impressive by the sheer size of the massive stage itself.

When Smith sang “the story is just beginning” during the chorus of “Diamond Eyes (Boom-Lay Boom-Lay Boom),” the band’s opener for the evening, it served as not-so-subtle message of what was to come for the roughly 15,000 fans in attendance. At various points throughout the nearly two-hour spectacle, sparklers cascaded down from the rafters like a waterfall. Plumes of fire erupted from the catwalk. Pyrotechnics featured early and often. As someone experiencing Shinedown in person for the first time, it’s safe to say the visuals absolutely lived up to the exceptional soundtrack of the evening.

State College marked the fourth stop of the “Revolutions Live Tour,” with the Jacksonville, Florida, based band performing 21 shows across the country in support of their latest album, 2022’s Planet Zero. While this particular tour is new, the band and their particular brand of music is well established. All seven of their studio albums have earned platinum or gold certification, along with 15 platinum and gold singles, providing an abundance of quality music to choose from on the road.

For their second track of this particular show, Shinedown dove into another uptempo track, the aforementioned “Dead Don’t Die” before slowing things down with a beautiful rendition of “I’ll Follow You” that featured Bass on a neon piano that was lowered from the ceiling.

With more than 6.5 billion global streams and 10 million albums sold, Shinedown’s body of work speaks for itself — which is just fine with the band. They’ve got much more important things on their mind than patting themselves on the back. For this tour, Shinedown has partnered with the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention to donate one dollar for every ticket sold.

As Smith said during the show, they’re not shy about talking about mental health. They’ve been ambassadors for suicide prevention for more than a decade to bring out awareness and lesson the fear of the topic.

“A lot of people don’t want to talk about people who have suicidal thoughts. Don’t be afraid to speak up. Give them reassurance. Give them love. You can potentially save someone’s life,” Smith said before diving into the band’s next single, “Symptom of Being Human” roughly halfway into their extensive set.

May 27th will be the 20th anniversary of their debut album, Leave A Whisper. In honor of that impending occasion, Smith and friends took it all the way back to the beginning with an inspired performance of “45” which had the entire building swaying and singing along. Another joyous sing-along moment came when the front man was off stage, taking a well-deserved break while the rest of the band delivered an acoustic rendition of “Don’t Look Back In Anger” by Oasis that would make the dynamic duo of Smith & Myers proud.

As the show began to wind down, the boys once again embraced the softer side of rock, with a medley of “Daylight/Get Up” followed by “Simple Man.” As the band paid homage to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s smash hit, Smith’s powerful voice reverberating throughout the venue, accompanied only by Myers on an acoustic guitar. They then closed out the show with “Monsters” and “Cut The Cord.” After 20 songs over an hour and 45 minutes, Shinedown ended the way they began — with fireworks, flames and explosions — literally and figuratively leaving it all on stage.


Ice Nine Kills at Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena

Let’s not beat around the proverbial bush, an Ice Nine Kills show can absolutely be hazardous to the health of the uninitiated. That’s because the Boston-based band has a bit of an obsession with horror movies, so it’s commonplace to see a butcher knife, chainsaw or an outright massacre during their set. Consider this a disclaimer that “graphic” images are involved any time a camera is pointed in the general direction of an Ice Nine Kills performance.

Frontman Spencer Charnas and the gang began their set by paying a gory tribute to feature films such as Steven King’s Pet Sematary, Eli Roth’s torture-heavy Hostel and Mary Herron’s American Psycho with their opening three songs, which meant unsuspecting concert-goers might have looked up as the lead singer took to the stage with a microphone in one hand and a bloody shovel in the other and immediately had a question or two.

By the time Charnas assumed the role of Patrick Bateman, the investment banker-turned-serial killer portrayed by Christian Bale in the 2000 cult classic, it was readily apparent that no one has more fun on stage than the well-dressed gentlemen of Ice Nine Kills. Over the years they have carved out a unique niche for themselves and are simply slaying it these days.

Their full 50-minute set featured a fun mix of tracks from their 2018 album, The Silver Scream, and 2021’s The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood, and included crowd favorites such as “Stabbing in the Dark,” “The Shower Scene” and “A Grave Mistake.”

Ice Nine Kills setlist // inspirational movies

Funeral Derangements // Pet Sematary
Wurst Vacation // Hostel
Hip to Be Scared // American Psycho
Ex-Mørtis // The Evil Dead
IT Is the End // It Chapter One
Stabbing in the Dark // Halloween
The Shower Scene // Psycho
A Grave Mistake // The Crow
Farewell II Flesh // Candyman
The American Nightmare // A Nightmare on Elm Street

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