Hello, rockers and rollers! Welcome to the last chapter in what has been an amazing tale for me. This will, unfortunately, be my last column in La Prensa, but I’ve enjoyed every word I’ve written for this landmark newspaper, and I’m sad to see it go. During my years spent in San Antonio, La Prensa was my go-to for local news and anecdotes. It’s been an honor to contribute a small part into the Mexican Spaghetti Western-style epic that is La Prensa. A special thanks to Amanda Lozano, for believing in me and my writing. Be sure and check out my new project SOUTH TEXAS SOUND PROJECT on Facebook! It’s where I will be forming my new music project and where you can find exclusive interviews, concert pics, and more from concerts in South Texas!
If you weren’t at Concrete Street Amphitheater on May 13th, you may want to question where your life is headed. The energy in the Pavilion was electric as Papa Roach, Nothing More, and Escape the Fate celebrated the end of the Crooked Teeth Tour, leaving it all on the stage one more time for their South Texas fans. There was singing, there was bouncing, there was drinking… there might have even been a birth in-between bands. The crowd went from strangers to family by the end of the night, proof that the healing waters of rock music are the medicine we need right now.
Escape the Fate is an animal. Picture a cornered honey badger with a lip ring, sunglasses, and a chip on his shoulder. That is the ferocity that Craig Mabbitt and Co. bring to the stage. Though Papa Roach is unquestionably the most well-known and seasoned group on the bill, these bands could have played in any order and the show would still have had an incredible energy. ETF played several songs from their latest effort, I Am Human, such as “Broken Heart”, as well as some fan favorites like “This War is Ours” and “Gorgeous Nightmare”. While the band has grown and matured past the emo image of yesteryear, they maintain an alternative hard rock sound that mixes in screamo and occasional breakdowns, a recipe for an intense opening set. Everyone loves to see a band have fun onstage, and the chemistry the band shares with their audience and each other was on full display. Smiling, laughing, and shooting the bird, the band was on cloud nine their entire set, and when they said good-night, they were right. It was just the beginning of a very good night.
Writing good songs is difficult, but performing those good songs nightly with passion and raw emotion… that takes a whole different level of talent and dedication. Nothing More has firmly established their place among the most gifted bands of their generation. The San Antonio natives have garnered much praise for their latest album, The Stories We Tell Ourselves, including three Grammy nods, but the litmus test for a great rock band has always been the live show. Seeing the band live is like seeing a tiger uncaged, free to roam the land, both majestic and deadly. When they are unleashed onstage, the band takes no prisoners. The soaring vocals (and chiseled abs) of frontman Jonny Hawkins are primal and magnetic. Guitarist Mark Vollelunga is a sonic wizard, a DJ with a six-string, and along with his cohorts, bassist Daniel Oliver and drummer Ben Anderson, provides the colossal, frantic rhythms that keep the audience singing, screaming, and grooving along, song after song.
Opening with “Christ Copyright”, Hawkins jumps around the stages shirtless and shoeless, banging on a set of junkyard drums and spitting the lyrics like a cobra with a six-pack. Songs from their latest album like “Do You Really Want It” and “Go to War” give way to their modern classics like “Jenny” and “This is the Time (Ballast)”. Then, before the big finale, Hawkins rides the “Scorpion Tail”, a steampunk-esque robotic behemoth that is part machine, part synthesizer. As he rides and rocks on the funky hunk of metal, the crowd loses it. By the time the band left the stage, anticipation was at a fever pitch, and the goods vibes and brotherhood that bring large groups of people together to enjoy the concert experience was palpable.
Jacoby Shaddix and Papa Roach have gone through a great many musical evolutions and reinventions since they started together in 1993. Their brand of rock/hip hop that helped usher in a new era of rock music known as “nu-metal” has slowly grown and expanded into a more mature and encompassing mastery of the modern hard rock genre. They’ve become a mainstay, influenced countless other bands, and have continued to challenge themselves both in the studio and onstage. That tenacity and dedication to their craft has rewarded the with a loyal fanbase that has supported them for more than two decades. Onstage, they are non-stop entertainment, a rock-n-roll Ringling Bros. that promises fun for children of all ages. (Warning- this actually wasn’t a show for children of all ages)
Coming out of the bullpen with the self-titled track from the Crooked Teeth album they’re supporting, the band soon had everyone singing along to their classics like “Getting Away With Murder”. While some of us may only remember the words to hits like that from more than ten years ago, the fact is that P-Roach has put out several albums since then, and their setlist reflected that. That didn’t stop them from playing virtually half of their debut album Infest, the triple-platinum phenomenon that gave us the smash hit “Last Resort”. Still, whether taking it back to their early days or playing newer tracks like “Born for Greatness” and “American Dreams”, the sincerity of the band and the way they interacted with the crowd gave us a sense of familiarity. They were the rock stars onstage, but they very well could have been the drunk guys behind you, yelling and spilling beer on everyone. That camaraderie and connection to the audience makes their live show a very personal experience.
Being the last stop on the tour usually means that bands pull out all the stops, and Papa Roach had surprises in store for Corpus Christi! From various grunge and rock cover snippets to the anthemic piano intro to “Still D.R.E”, we were treated to a impromptu jam session that had us singing along and grinning from ear to ear. Then came the tears, as the band gave a touching tribute to Chester Bennington by playing some of “In the End” by Linkin Park. Shaddix shared some personal stories and thoughts on the late singer, lamenting the loss of such a bright star and genuine human being and encouraging others to try and understand the plight of our earthly brethren. He encouraged us to realize we can’t possibly understand what others go through, and to try and help those around us who could use that hand from above. “In the End” segued into “Forever”, which was dedicated to both Bennington and Chris Cornell. We dried our eyes and sang along, one voice that appreciated, understood, and attested to the difficulties and unspeakable pains of the human experience. This was one of the most powerful moments of the evening, in which we shed the things the made us different coming thru the doors, and focused on what made us all human, what put us all under that pavilion in the first place.
After the encore, the band returned to perform a passionate rendition of “Scars”, barely audible over the cheers and singing of the crowd. We had bonded over the last 3 hours, so at this point, this performance resembled a drunken karaoke performance, but with a thousand people onstage. When we finally got to hear “Last Resort”, everyone was on 11. Blown vocal chords, singing the wrong lyrics, holding the waist of a stranger because we were too drunk or stoned to realize it wasn’t the person we came with, we gave the band everything we had left, and they reciprocated the act. Like all good rock shows, we were left feeling that everything was going to be ok, that nothing was outside the realm of possibility. In this day and age, that alone is worth the price of admission.
Seeing any of these bands live is an opportunity worth pursuing, but to see them together on one bill was a rare treat. Each had their own appeal to the audience, and let’s be honest… they might all be rock bands, but they’re all on different ends of the spectrum. That, however, might be the most genius part of putting this bill together. You see, each band had it’s own creative space, it’s own energy, and it’s own way of bringing us together. Being different doesn’t mean you have to separate yourself from the other wonderful things life has to offer, whether you’re talking about music, culture, or religion. This crowd had people old enough to be grandparents, and children who probably should have been in bed for school, but they were all smiling, laughing, and carrying on. A 6-year old and a 60-year old, side by side, throwing up the horns and singing along. This is the effect rock music has on us, especially in a live setting, performed by world-class musicians who don’t ego-trip and allow themselves to share the joy of music with their fans. Now, more than ever, we as a country are in need of a place where we can leave the bullshit at the door and just come together and enjoy something as simple as a concert, music being played for you in a live setting. No agendas, no politics, leaving ourselves unguarded and vulnerable, emotionally and mentally. That catharsis gives us the strength to carry on in a world that seems too busy being screwed up to acknowledge our existence. 2018 is not a place where anyone needs to feel alone, disenfranchised, or misunderstood. Papa Roach, Nothing More, and Escape the Fate understand that, and we love them for it. There’s an open invitation for all to come and be a part of something that doesn’t want to judge you or change you. Pick up a ticket, walk into the crowd, and find your family.