Wayland: A Concert Review

December gets pretty packed over at Wicked Lil Pixie. Not to mention that I am usually elbows and assholes into an edit between holiday event breaks. But that doesn’t sate the need I have been feeling to do reviews. So, why not review the last concert I went to?

photo courtesy of Nico Zammuto*

photo by Nico Zammuto*

There could be one reason, which I will offer up in the spirit of full transparency. I’m a fan of Wayland. I have seen then more in the last year and a half than any other concerts put together during my “concert hiatus.” Still I feel my familiarity with their show gives me a different perspective on the concert this past weekend.

To give you an idea on just how much I wanted to make the show, I will lay it out for you. It was my 22nd anniversary. My wife had asked if I would mind her going to her mother’s holiday party with her, though (spoiler alert) I think she was going to regret missing this show. It was colder than sin and half as fun in Wisconsin that night, and on the road to getting worse. It was about a 40 minute drive to the place. And finally I was on my cane from the unfortunate fight I had with a patch of ice that shifted my knee out of joint. So hobbled, cold, dressed in my Band Camp shirt and Reno hoodie, and I went to the bar.

The opening acts were all good. I may do reviews on them later, especially Left of Reason. They have a weird karmic link with Wayland for me that isn’t that unusual, but I have little belief in coincidence. Sufficed to say, they were all solid and fit into the styles of music for the night. To large of a divergence from the style of the headliner is jarring for me. This wasn’t.

photo by Nico Zammuto*

photo by Nico Zammuto*

During the show, I would check Twitter from time to time between songs. Watch for my wife texting me that she was heading home from Milwaukee. And of course, to see that Wayland was making an appearance at Toys for Tatas at Silk Exotic. Easily the same 40 or so minutes away from the club as I had driven. That let a schedule looking somewhat like this:

7:00 National Anthem at the Janesville Jets game
??? Appearance at Silk Exotic for Toys for Tatas in Madison
11:00 take the stage at the Back Bar (back in Janesville)

And y’all thought I was insane going from 5am until after the concert was over. These guys were swinging for the fences just in the scheduling. And totally nailed it.

When they hit the stage, the show took on a different tone from the first three bands. Even more surprising, was that it took on a different tone for me than previous Wayland shows. Everyone was out and in place other than Mitch, the lead singer. Once they dropped into the song, he came out on stage, leading with his voice. Even more so than his singing, there was the power and presence. As if building up the energy f0r the show at the last minute, he paces. Quickly. It’s like seeing a lion or a tiger at the zoo stalking along the glass. A contained energy that seems to be on the edge of breaking out.

photo by Nico Zammuto*

photo by Nico Zammuto*

Now this isn’t to say that he was bouncing around like a teen with ADD jacked up on Monster energy drinks. Because during the ballad style songs he would level, being still and letting the lyrics and music do the heavy lifting. Like when he was solo on the stage singing a new song they recorded called “Follow.” Though someone in the audience called it “the stalker song.” Mitch replied with, “If she turns around, it’s not stalking.” And with a smile on his face said, “Yeah, it’s the stalker song.”

Keep in mind that whole exchange wasn’t a heckler. It was more of an in-joke. Something for those fans who have seen them live. A lot. On stage or over YouTube is the only way to have heard Follow as it hasn’t released yet. Which is how they do it. I saw that in the changes to the song Reno from the first time they played it on WJJO at a Sound Lounge from when it released. Writing it on the road means revising it on the road. Perfecting it. Though I can’t really see much that could be changed with Follow. It is a strong song with a compelling story.

Keep in mind that many of the folks who are coming to the shows have seen them before. They’ve bought the CDs. Many of them could sing the songs from memory. I have several in my writing playlists, so I know I can. The band knows this. Reno is currently the #1 requested song on WJJO, the rock station in Madison, WI. During their performance of it, Mitch was kind of taunting the audience to sing it. He held out the mic towards the audience at the pivotal line of “one road out of Reno.” Several times. It was more of a party with friends than a concert from your favorite band.

photo by Nico Zammuto*

photo by Nico Zammuto*

Though when the section came during several songs for a guitar solo, it was clearly a rock and roll show. Tyler and Dean had the solid beat and baseline going. The foundation with which a really great song can be built on. That allowed Phill, the lead guitarist to pull out the stops on a devastating guitar solo. Halfway through what was his best playing of the night it struck me how much it was like opening the doors to the stable on a wild horse and saying, “go play.” Watching the notes run and jump their way through the song. When Mitch pointed him out at the pause in the music before the end of the song, it seemed like even he was taken aback by it.

There are two final notes I have from the show. Two things that really set this band above others like them. Aside from the writing, the stage presence, the work ethic and their talent, there is more that sets them at the head of the pack. With all of their gifts, it could all fall apart if it wasn’t for one simple fact – they perform like they are a team. If something if off on the sound, even during a song, one of the others will catch the eyes of the sound tech and get them to adjust without breaking the song.

But there is something else that has less to do with their concerts, their music, and more to do with their fans. Much like other entertainers in other genres have done, they engage their fans. They stick around after the show to take pictures, have drinks, help the fans get the shirts and CDs they want. Autograph things for them. Hell, I’ve seen one fan with tattoos of their autographs signed on her shoulders. Around the Wayland logo Tyler had drawn on for her. And on December 7th, their table was packed at the end of the night.

I had picked up my shirt right after the last song. It’s my way of tracking how many shows I’ve been at. In addition to my way of supporting the band and keeping them on the road. I honestly feel that this crazy tour schedule (dubbed Always on Tour) of theirs is working for them. It was a really good show before. This week was a killer show. A face melter. I figure there were as many people packed in that bar as there was when they played Redneck Reunion Fest there a couple months back.

I considered sticking around to say hello to them if nothing else. My Warrior Wall at home already has a signed photo and signed guitar from them. (Got the guitar from the Band Camp VIP pass.) So I left it up to those I went with. I just knew that if I made my way up and into the people around the table, someone would knock my cane out from under me. And after four hours on my feet, I didn’t know how well that would have went. I did get a bit of a grin heading out to warm up the truck for the others watching the fans who were up there and the band interacting.

For me that is what makes a concert more of a show. There are good concerts, but then there are shows. And this was a show. In all the right ways. Totally five star rating, well worth seeing live. And they are really best seen live.

WickedStar5

*Full photo accreditation: Nico Zammuto is one of Wayland’s biggest fans. And she was up at the front of the stage, taking pictures. Doing everything I cannot. She graciously agreed to allow me the use of her photos (which I found due to the band posting one of them). You can find all of her photos on her Facebook page. Including some of the other bands. Especially the holiday surprise Left of Reason brought out for their last song.

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An Open Letter to @WJJO

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Many of my posts over the last year or so have been about music. Something about setting up a playlist for a story I am working on just clicked. It kept my mind focused while writing, and gave a real cohesion to the project. At the same time I became more involved in the music scene around my home town. I went to more concerts than I had in decades. I went to a couple of Sound Lounges at WJJO, the local rock station. I petitioned the help of morning show newsperson (and fellow zombie fanatic) Dee in coordinating a rock playlist for Under the Hood. And I went to remotes the show did. Beer, swag and music? What’s not to love, right?

rockfestAt one of these (a scavenger hunt of all things) I won a pair of day passes to Rock Fest in Cadott, WI. This past weekend my wife and I took our day up there, getting a hotel room to avoid camping on site. This was an extraordinary idea, but I will get to that later. In short, we chose to go Thursday. The first two days had the bands I was most interested in, but Thursday had both Aranda and Halestorm. And while I had seen Aranda at the Acoustic New Year (I wasn’t kidding about hitting the local music scene), I had yet to see Halestorm live. And what with me using a couple of their songs on the second Hood Series project, it made sense that I should go to see them.

umbrella-rockfestI was a little concerned by the fact the weather report was showing a heat advisory, with the index pushing close to triple digits, and thunderstorms starting around the same time Halestorm was supposed to take the stage. And no, the irony wasn’t lost on me there. But as I had sat in the rain during Bratfest to see Wayland, I figured I could easily do the same for Halestorm. Also, we were paying for the hotel either way. So I packed an extra full set of dry clothes (just in case) and we drove up.

The drive was fairly uneventful. We stopped for gas and sodas. As we got closer, we stopped for coffee. My wife, getting her directions mixed up, told me to turn the wrong way for McDonalds. She loves their coffee. Me, not so much. But we were “up nort” as some of the folks up that way put it. Still, as we were going the wrong way anyhow, we stopped in to the cheese, liquor and antiques shop behind the gas station with the Arby’s in it. They claimed to have espresso. Surprisingly, they did and it wasn’t that bad.

rockfest-lightsWhy do I bring this up? I discuss this as only my wife can turn me the wrong way for coffee and wind up finding a vintage blowtorch and wrench for her steampunk costume. I am not even kidding. McDonalds would have been cheaper. Though, in her defense… the pieces she picked up were really awesome looking.

Getting to the motel at around 1:00, they had told us we could get our keys early so we can get in after the concerts. Of course they just allowed us to check in early since the room was open. Which was awesome. We got to unpack the truck, rest a bit and then head out to the show. They opened the gates at 3:00, so we had some time.

aranda-pointsIt was a pretty easy process to get in, get out wristbands and park for the day. And so we stood in line to get in. It was at this point I noticed the majority of the people were either in shorts and no shirt or women wearing bikini tops. That made the notice at the gas station that women had to wear something over their bikini tops make more sense. It made things painfully evident that the crowd was looking pretty similar to the crowds we used to get at Festa Italia. Crowds that I think we have lost the ability to draw in, but are working on bringing back.

Also, it honestly made me feel even more old than the grey in my beard did. 😉

aranda-singsRobin took her camera and went into the photo line to go up and take pictures when Aranda took the stage as the opening act. I stuck behind on the lawn with the camera bag. I figured the less space we took up there, the better chance she would have to take pictures. Turns out I was probably right. It was just before this we figured out that we should have brought camper chairs. In the immortal words of Rick Perry, “Oops.”

She came back to where I was standing on the lawn with a number of excellent shots. She wasn’t sure, but she thought that Gabe might have been hamming it up for the camera a bit. Which of course made for some of the best shots. During the rest of their set we picked up some water, grabbed drink tickets for the day and sat in the Leinies Lodge to listen to the rest of the set.

aranda-playsFast forward a couple of beers, several waters and Dickey’s BBQ later and we are spending a half hour between All That Remains (which was a pretty hard core set as well, much different than Aranda, but still good) and Halestorm sitting in the truck for the AC. No clouds on the horizon yet, so we may get lucky. Once heading back in to the festival to grab another drink before Halestorm takes the stage though we get hit by the wind. I don’t mean a breezy day wind, either. I am talking a “we’re not in Kansas anymore” kind of wind. Nothing damaging. At least not to structures.

halestorm-hitting-itThe storms avoided us, but what it did do is kick up the pollen. And around these parts, at this time of the year, that can totally mean snake weed. Not sure the scientific name, but it is a white ditch weed that had been used back before pharma-days to treat snake bites. In my case, it kicks me on my ass. Seriously, it is like zombie-boy kryptonite. By the time we were into Seether’s set I was in the middle of my worst allergy attack in a decade.

That said, Halestorm’s set was pretty awesome. Right before playing American Boys/Rock Show, she picked out a kid (probably around 8 or so) in the front area with his parents rocking out. Seriously, the kid was throwing up the horns and everything. Arejay brought out the “big sticks” during his drum solo. I swear it was like he was kicking the shit out of his kit with a pair of escrima fighting sticks.

joe-rockingRobin hung out and took a bunch of pictures (likely for longer than she should have, but that’s the reason you bring an SLR with huge ass lenses to the show). She didn’t get a picture of the “big sticks” but plenty of shots, including a couple with Lzzy playing in front of the drums, managing to get both her and Arejay in some shots. And most importantly, I was able to sit and watch them play the two songs on my Hood Series playlist for book two. Two of the three theme songs I set for my pissed off villain in the book.

Like putting the paddles to the muse.

lzzy-hornsEven with the allergy attack kicking my ass all the way to Sunday… (hell, I’m still recovering) I had a hell of a time. The people at WJJO have reinvigorated my muse and my love of music. Live music. There is a difference between good music and a band that puts on a show. And honestly this is one of the best prizes I have won from various contests and drawings. Ranks right up there with the Kindle Fire that is an invaluable tool for doing my reviews.

If you’re in the Wisconsin area (Madison specifically) and are into rock and roll, this is the station to listen to. It is also one of the places to check out for live music in the area. They book it, promote it and keep it going. Listen to them, support them, because art isn’t just photos, paintings and storytelling. It’s cupcakes, decorated and flavored to your theme or book. It’s live music, especially if it is a show and not just a band.

And to the staff over at JJO, I can’t thank you enough. See you at Band Camp!

In This Moment…

I know, I owe a recap with photos of the conference in New Orleans, but this is one that has to be done while it is fresh in my mind. Also, with the ringing still in my ears it is the majority of what’s dancing through my noodle this morning. A Tuesday night show featuring In This Moment and no less than three other bands. Say what you will, but for the $15 ticket to get into the Majestic, it was a steal. And that is about as PG13 of a review of the night as I can give. It goes downhill from here folks. You’ve been warned…

In a stunning display of technology fail, I forgot to charge my phone on the drive home to pick up my son and head back into the downtown area for the show. I managed one blurry photo of my zombie totem Darrell the sniper at his first concert before my phone died. Luckily the band took a group photo that I hope they don’t mind me attaching. I can see where I am, but only because I knew where I was standing. And where I was standing was not too close to the pit. I’m not that demented, and while I like my neurosurgeon, I’m not buying him another summer home. 😉

The day started with lunch provided by my parents. Every couple of weeks my father calls to go to lunch, but my mother was with him this time. They not only paid, but my father told me there was nothing too important going on at the Italian Workman’s Club meeting that night. In short, giving me the green light to leave work, get some writing time in, and then make the show. Lunch and a hall pass, even in your 40’s its nice to have parents that “get it.”

During the day I sent my son a text. I told him they were playing and it was fifteen bucks, did he want to go. His reply was, “What time?” Now I know there may have been more enthusiasm that didn’t translate in SMS, but in my mind the proper response from a 21 year old would be, “Fuck yeah!” Baby steps… baby steps. (Yes, I understand it is going out to a concert with your middle aged father and not your friends. I’m not an idiot.)

Lacking in time after getting home, changing, picking up my son and then heading to the Majestic we were left with Taco Bell for dinner. Not exactly 5-star, but it is something that surprisingly fits into my nutritional schedule for the diet. Also, it’s fast. Parking downtown is… well… parking downtown. I decide to pay for the ramp across the street from the Majestic. The first sign of the night to come was when we were going around the ramp construction to get to the club.

I told my son, “I think this is the direction.” I was waiting for him to notice that the brick-to-the-head clue was Chris Howorth standing outside the tour bus parked at the back entrance to the club. It was either that or the zombie outbreak I wrote about in Under the Hood was actually happening and I left my multitool at home! Seriously, the outfits and the blackened eyes… no mistaking the band.

Grabbing our tickets and getting in line, I was ready for two opening acts. This was according to the web site for the venue. Getting in we found out they added a third. And at least one of them was a local band. I’m fairly sure the first two were locals. While the first band had some issues with the singer’s mic, the music was good. Unfortunately my Instagram Memory fuzzed out the name of the group and I didn’t go up to grab an EP before I left.

The second group started the pit in the front tier of the floor. Serious amount of roar coming from both the singer and the lead guitar. And the drummer? The dude transformed from a goof setting up the stage to a skeletal masked rocker when they came out to play. Seriously, it was as solid of a transformation as I’ve ever seen on stage. Unfortunately they said this was the last show they would ever play. Not sure the story behind it, but they definitely put on a show.

A lot of head banging and a lot of “fuck you” lines were in their music. At the same time, they were tossing shirts, guitar picks and drumsticks out into the audience. Clearing out the leftover merch is my guess. It left me wondering why these “blue collar rockers” (their term) were hanging it up. There has to be a reason for a group saying “fuck you” to The Man is leaving the stage. I didn’t see any animosity between the musicians, so that tells me there’s a story there. Without knowing it, I suppose I’ll have to make up my own. Sounds like a short story exercise.

The last band before In This Moment hit the stage (whose name I am also drawing a blank on) and seemed to drop the energy that had been building a bit. Until they played Let The Bodies Hit The Floor. During that song the floor seemed to go back to shaking from all of the jumping. Overall they were a good band, just not as high energy as the one before them. They did close with a song called Zombie Town, so I can cut them a lot of slack. 😉

They were definitely more fauxhawk than dreadlock. Their singer also had a deep baritone voice (for a fairly lithe guy too), but didn’t really do the primal screams that every other band was doing that night. It left me wondering if this band was traveling with In This Momemnt (as they were from Denver and not local) or if they were put on the ticket that night by the venue. Again, without knowing the story, I am left with having to make up my own. We’ll see if I get around to that short story.

So, after the stage prep (which was extensive), In This Moment was hitting the stage around 11:00 or so. At this point I had been on my feet four straight hours. Those new to this blog thinking, “So?”… I had spinal surgery several years back. I have a limit, and pressed past it last night. But, after hearing Blood on the radio I knew that it was going to be part of the playlist for the next book for my Under the Hood characters. Seriously, I bought the song on iTunes before getting on the train for New Orleans on the 7th. I held off on buying the full album.

In hindsight, I’d love to say it was because I knew I’d be going to the show. I’d love to, but I had no clue. Getting up that morning I hadn’t even planned on it. Once I was there I did pick up the CD from the merch booth. And a zombie themed shirt they had there. Hey, all the money goes to the band and who doesn’t need another zombie shirt. Right? All that aside, I’m not above spending some at the merch booth to ensure touring bands are touring. Local or not, it plays into supporting the Make Good Art initiative.

By the end of the night Maria was shouting for everyone to be moving and jumping up and down though. I knew I was lucky I was still standing. In my mind that immortal 20 year old was jumping up and down.  And for an encore they played an old song that is totally going to see use on the next playlist. It may not be in line with the new protagonist’s style, but it is totally in line with his mentor’s. Welcome to the Gun Show is one of those songs with a strong primal scream of a voice to the lyrics that embodies a lot of what goes through my head in the violent scenes. They always seem to be tempering the violence in them with as much discipline as they can, but do their best when they let it all go.

Philosophically my favorite part of their set was when they prompted to crowd to let out a yell of their own. Maria wanted to hear all of that which was pent up inside everyone. Everything that makes going to these live shows such a release. All that stress, anger, rage… whatever. All burst out from everyone at the same time in three simple words. “Hell. Fucking. Yeah.” At this point I should say I don’t shout in public any more. Ever. If you hear me shouting in public, it’s for a reason. A good one. But I have to say I was living vicariously through everyone else’s shout.

I had expected to hear one from my son. I know he has no problem saying those words in front of me. Next time. 😉

I would have loved to stuck around to meet the band, maybe gotten the CD signed, but we both had work in the morning. As it was I didn’t get to sleep until nearly 2 in the morning. Up at 6:00. Yeah, it was totally a 2 cup of coffee morning. And was so worth it. I may be an old man. Close proximity to the pit is a dangerous endeavor for me now. But at the same time there’s an energy to a show like that you need to experience to reproduce. It was that energy that kept me going and thinking of it kept me moving the entire day afterwards.

Even though it is too blurry for use, I’ll end with the one photo I managed at the show. Darrell my zombie totem at his first concert…