Show 10/20/08 at House of Blues Dallas
Unearth, Protest the Hero, The Acacia Strain, Whitechapel, and Gwen Stacy
Venue acoustics: 10/10
Venue Metal-ness: 1/10
Show Overall: 8/10
Let me just say: House of Blues is not for metal shows. If the décor were not patchwork quilts and signs that read “no moshing”, we might be able to work things out. Every really awesome metal show I’ve been to shares these characteristics: there were no “no moshing” signs that weren’t brutally defaced, there was not a huge top-shelf bar next to the pit, and there was a true (and justified) fear of actually sitting on the toilet seats. Sadly, House of Blues, this isn’t going to work out. It’s not you, it’s me.
The show opened with Gwen Stacy – no, not Peter Parker’s first love. These kids have a lot of heart and a lot of hair products. There was a small following screaming along within the rest of us standing idly by. It was… nice. Nothing you didn’t see coming – angsty kids screaming to easily digestible beats, predictably spaced breakdowns, and soft echoing vocals before the final breakdown.
Whitechapel was next up and was a pleasant surprise. Only two years old and named after the London town that Jack the Ripper frequented, they’re definitely not about love, hope, and happiness. Brutal double-base and heavy, chuggy guitars complete with satanic growls and painful screams were greeted by a slightly bigger and angrier mob, most wielding “metal claws” and mouthing along to the indecipherable lyrics.
As everyone that wasn’t wearing black filed to the front, The Acacia Strain took the stage. I was NOT a fan prior to this show. Though they are hateful, narcissistic, judgmental, and unnaturally energetic for their age, Acacia rocked my face off. Against my will I was soon swaying to an irresistibly rhythmic aural forecast of the bloody end of the freakin’ human race, as were most of the rest of the critical bystanders by the end of the set. Yeah, it was pretty awesome.
One band before Unearth – Protest the Hero. In case you care, they’re over Warped Tour. It was just as I expected… only worse. The Ontario band is allegedly post-hardcore/metalcore, but Protest turned out to be the biggest buzzkill on the tour. What a joke. Just to be fair, after suffering through the set I went home and gave their album a listen. I see what they’re going for, but after being together since they were 12, they still can’t pull it off without heavy editing. The guitarists gave their technical songs valiant effort, and the singer tried really hard, even delivering vibrato (kid, you’re not Bruce Dickinson, please don’t do that),but whoever wrote the songs likely had something much grander planned. Their rabid fans didn’t mind much, though. Tightly bound in girl-pants, they spent the entire set climbing atop one another screaming at the top of their lungs to the swooning lyrics. Someone give Protest a smiley-face sticker, just don’t give them the slot before the headliner on a fairly solid ticket of metalcore. Did I mention they were definitely, positively, soooo over Warped Tour?
After waiting by the stage through an hour-long setup and having to sit through Protest, most of Unearth’s most loyal were just beat down. By the time Massachusetts-based Unearth took the stage, it literally took the appearance of a beer bong glittering in a solitary spotlight atop an amp to get the crowd going. In spite of it all, Unearth delivered their signature earth-shaking American metalcore performance, performing songs such as “My Will be Done” and “We are Not Anonymous” from The March, released only 6 days before this show, all the way back through III: In the Eyes of Fire (2006) to The Oncoming Storm’s (2004) great concert staples like “Endless”. Founding guitarists Buzz McGrath and Ken Susi shined with their insanely technical and well-executed solos, which likely comprised about a fifth of the time on-stage.
The crowd was loving it all, screaming along to every word (even from the album released only six days before), or at least the ones around me were. When I felt it safe to turn around, there was a quite successful circle-pit going, which never seems to really work out in most Dallas shows I’ve been to. House of Blues staff eventually let people crowd-surf. It was nice of them to get into the spirit of things, though they didn’t approve at all of Unearth handing out beer from their beer bong without checking wrist bands first…
After over four hours of hardcore, thrash, and good ol’ American metal, everyone left seemingly satisfied, merch in hand with ears ringing and various battle wounds throbbing. House of Blues, you’re obviously here to stay, and I’m sure we will meet again. So loosen up a little, will ya?
Written for RadioUTD, archived at radio.utdallas.edu, and partially published in The Mercury Fall 2008.