Messy United drop points to lowly Inter Miami

You might have heard, the Greatest Of All Time is coming to Major League Soccer. Lionel Messi made the announcement himself, informing the world that he will be joining Inter Miami. What he failed to mention last month though was exactly when he would arrive. The mere thought of Messi debuting in Washington, D.C. was enough to sellout the venue, as more than 19,000 fans packed into Audi Field hoping the playmaker would make a surprise debut now that the summer transfer window is officially open.

While Messi did not make a cameo, those in attendance were treated to an entertaining matchup — as DC United and Inter Miami played to a riveting 2-2 draw.

The first half was largely forgettable, as neither team created much in the way of a sustained attack. The most exciting moment of the first 45 minutes featured United defender Andy Najar slotting home an apparent first half goal … only for the match officials to nullify the play because striker Christian Benteke was deemed offside.

Midfielder Benjamin Cremaschi scored in the 59th minute to give Miami a lead on the road for the first time since April 29 against Columbus, their lone away win this season. United forward Taxi Fountas was relieved to tie things up just six minutes laster with his sixth goal of the season, after failing to convert several quality chances earlier in the match.

Miami regained the lead three minutes later on a Noah Allen free kick that managed to allude the swarm of players camped out in front of the net. Fortunately for United, forward Nigel Robertha returned from a three-month injury absence and recorded his first goal of the year on his first touch of the game in the 77th minute. A match that was sluggish to start was suddenly captivating on both sides of the field.

Benteke had one last point-blank chance to secure victory in the final stages of the match, but his wayward header was off the mark forcing the black and red to settle for a draw against a completely beatable opponent. How beatable? Miami is now winless in their last 10 matches. They hold the worst record in the Eastern Conference and have the second fewest points in the entire league.

Re-enforcements cannot get here soon enough for the men in pink. When Messi does finally arrive, he’ll bring with him several prominent sidekicks in former Barcelona teammates Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, as well as ex-Barcelona and Argentina coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino.

Locally, this game marked the final home appearance for midfielder Lewis O’Brien, whose loan from Nottingham Forest expires July 16. Despite weeks of negotiations, United was unable to extend the deal with the Premier League club. O’Brien has excelled at ball-carrying, distribution and decision-making during his time in town. United will need to sign at least one new player during the summer window to fill the void created by the loss.


Falling In Reverse at Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena

Before there was Falling In Reverse there was From Behind These Walls. When originally established, the band was first called From Behind These Walls, a fitting moniker for a group formed while lead singer Ronnie Radke was incarcerated for assault, from 2008 to 2010. The name didn’t last long though, thanks to a potential copyright infringement, so the group became known as Falling In Reverse.

Those early days resulted in more than just a band name though. During an episode of “Talk is Jericho” with Fozzy frontman Chris Jericho last August, Radke explained how the experience of going to prison resulted in social anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. While his prison sentence forced Radke to overcome an addiction to opiates, it also made him struggle in group settings.

“I couldn’t be with more than one person at a time,” he said. “If there was more than two people in a room, it made me feel very crazy. Social anxiety, it was insane man.”

Fortunately for everyone involved, Radke is in a much better place these days as Falling In Reverse tours globally in front of thousands of their hardcore fans on a nightly basis. Once the curtain dropped on this night, Radke — along with lead guitarist Max Georgiev, rhythm guitarist Christian Thompson, bassist Tyler Burgess and drummer Luke Holland — took to the stage at Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena and delivered a mesmerizing performance, July 3.

They kicked off the show with “Zombified,” the hugely-popular track that became a mainstay on SiriusXM Octane and countless other hard rock music stations in 2022. As a nonconformist who has never shied away from controversy, Radke feels right at home speaking his mind. With middle fingers in the air, the lead singer shared his not-so-surprising stance on cancel culture.

You better shut your mouth and bite your tongue

‘Cause you don’t wanna piss off anyone

We’re traumatized by the damage done

Welcome to America

‘Cause everybody’s talking, bitch

Oh no, they’ll never let go

Of something you said ten years ago

They’re canceling, canceling you

This was followed up by performances of “I’m Not a Vampire,” “Losing My Mind” and “Fuck You and All Your Friends,” at which point it became apparent Falling In Reverse shows aren’t intended for those who are easily offended. Thankfully, everyone in the near-capacity venue got the memo and happily sang along throughout the entire evening.

It’s been six years since Falling In Reverse last released an album, and yet, the band has had no shortage of success recently. In addition to “Zombified,” two other singles earned ample rotation in ’22 — “Watch the World Burn” and “Voices in My Head.”

On that note, seeing “Watch The World Burn” live is worth the price of admission alone. Radke blazed through the rap portion of the track at breakneck speed without missing a proverbial beat and, on this night, singer Alex the Terrible of Slaughter To Prevail joined the party as the two lead singers brought the house down.

Voices in My Head” was up next and the crowd was officially in a frenzy. They then closed out the night with “Popular Monster,” the signature track that the current headliner tour is named after. The band’s energetic and visually stunning show moved at such a rapid pace that by the time it ends, concertgoers couldn’t help but feel physically and emotional spent as they headed for the exits. And really, that’s what live music is all about.  


Ice Nine Kills at Chesapeake Employers Insurance Arena

If you’re a fan of horror movies, you owe it to yourself to see Ice Nine Kills in concert. The horrorcore band has carved out a name for themselves by penning songs dedicated to the genre, which is fantastic to begin with. But the entire ordeal is enhanced when experienced in person as the band pays tribute to their favorite cinematic hits with a wink and a nod. And sometimes a bloody shovel.

On this night, frontman Spencer Charnas took to the stage and immediately assumed the role of Patrick Bateman, the investment banker-turned-serial killer portrayed by Christian Bale in the 2000 cult classic American Psycho. In an amusing nod to the movie titled “Hip to Be Scared,” Charnas used an axe to murder a colleague, tossed the decapitated head aside and even worked in a fitting Huey Lewis and the News reference for good measure.

Up next, the band put their creative spin on Cabin Fever and The Evil Dead with two of their more popular tracks, “A Rash Decision” and “Ex-Mørtis.” Before long, a giant inflatable shark (Jaws), bloodthirsty clown Pennywise (It Chapter One) and Freddy Krueger (A Nightmare on Elm Street) were all prominently involved in the evening’s festivities. When it was all said and done, INK’s 50-minute set featured a mix of tracks from their 2015 album, Every Trick In The Book, 2018’s The Silver Scream and 2021’s The Silver Scream 2: Welcome to Horrorwood. With so many tightly-constructed tracks accompanied by incredibly-enjoyable visuals, it’s apparent why Ice Nine Kills shows are a cut above the rest.

To that end, their musical offerings have become so popular that Ice Nine Kills’ unique brand of content is no longer limited to the stage. They’ve collaborated with Z2 Comics on a series of graphic novels (Inked in Blood and Inked in Blood II: Once Upon A Crime) and created a horror convention, Silver Scream Con, that debuted last August in the band’s home state of Massachusetts.

Because Ice Nine Kills is so spectacular live, this was actually my second time covering them in the last year. To see my images from the first show, click here.


Ed Sheeran at FedEx Field

Ed Sheeran is such a massive star that he can get Ed Sheeran to open for him. Who else in the world can say the same?

When Khalid was involved in a car accident earlier in the week, the four-time Grammy winner was put in a difficult position during his most recent stop on the Mathematics Tour. With Khalid unable to perform at the FedEx Field show, in Landover, Maryland, Sheeran called an audible and filled in as his own opener.

That meant, before Sheeran could continue headlining his first North American Stadium Tour in nearly five years, the 32-year-old singer/songwriter had to first warm up his own crowd. So, he took to the stage in a plain, white t-shirt and black jogging pants for a stripped down 30-minute selection of tracks from his newest album, Subtract, which was released May 5.

“He is recovering, and we wish him the best,” Sheeran said of Khalid during his impromptu opening set. “I’m going to say this after every song because if people don’t know who was going to be the opening act today, people are going to be walking in like, ‘This show isn’t what I thought it was. I thought there would be more fireworks.'”

Once the opener finished his allotted time, there was a brief intermission before Sheeran was back on stage for his more standard headliner performance, which included the aforementioned fireworks, pyrotechnics and more during a beautifully captivating 25-song set that spanned nearly two hours.

The main event kicked off with “Tides,” the opening track from the 2021 album, Equals, which tells the story of how everything changed in Sheeran’s chaotic life after he became a dad. From there, the superstar temporarily traded in his acoustic guitar for an electric and tore into a rendition of “BLOW,” a high-energy collaboration with Chris Stapleton and Bruno Mars, that was accentuated by giant pillars of flames erupting from the floor as Sheeran raced around every inch of the stage.

After spending two weeks in a New York courtroom defending himself in a copyright dispute earlier this year, the British musician was clearly thrilled to be back on the road performing in front of his enormous fanbase, and they were equally (no pun intended) as thrilled to see him performing live once again.

During “I’m A Mess,” the Halifax, West Yorkshire native utilized his rotating circular stage to ensure every concertgoer in every corner of the stadium saw his smiling face. On this night at this show, there clearly wasn’t a bad seat in the house.

Sheeran took a brief moment to introduce his loop station, a device with pedals he uses during each performance to create what the audience hears at a given show. There are no backing tracks at an Ed Sheeran show — rather everything is created live, recorded on the fly and then eventually deleted. With that quick tutorial out of the way, the artist and the loop station dove into another popular track, “Shivers.”

Being back in town was special for Sheeran, who said it made him think back to the first time he played at the 9:30 Club back in 2012. That show was a sentimental favorite of his, so much so that he reached out to the iconic establishment earlier this week hoping to swing through for a last-minute pop-up show. Alas, the venue was unavailable, so the nation’s capital had to settle for just the two helpings of Sheeran on this night.

Other highlights from the evening included:

A third of the way through the set Sheeran performed “Eyes Closed,” a touching tribute to his friend Jamal Edwards, who died suddenly from a heart attack last year, followed by “Give Me Love,” which concluded with the entire stadium singing along a cappella style. He then performed “Visiting Hours” for the first time on the current North American tour.

End Of Youth” featured ample pyrotechnics and flames in an impressive and beautiful display. A classically trained violinist by the name of Alicia Enstrom accompanied Sheeran on stage for “Galway Girl,” which was very clearly a crowd favorite.

Up next was the “sing-along portion of the evening,” which Sheeran jokingly summarized by saying, “The songs coming up are the ones your grandmother knows.” The man’s music has been streamed more than 40 billion times, so yes, it’s a safe bet granny knows the words to “Thinking Out Loud” and a few more of his smash hits.

Sheeran took to the stage for a third and final act — this time rocking a customized Washington Commanders jersey — as he played “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You,” “Shape of You” and “Bad Habits” to the delight of the euphoric masses. The final few notes of “Bad Habits” were punctuated with a firework display so grand that it could be seen blocks away from FedEx Field. As the clock approached midnight and tens of thousands of fans headed for the exits, more than a few people made the case that they had just witnessed the best concert the venue has ever hosted. After all, two Ed Sheeran shows for the price of one is a deal that’s difficult to beat.


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.

HomerMcFanboy background image