Escape the Fate’s Robert Ortiz Talks New Music, Influences + More!

Photo courtesy of Eleven Seven Music.

Photo courtesy of Eleven Seven Music.

Overall, Escape the Fate have had a career filled with ups and downs.  The band has had enough lineup changes to rival Guns N Roses, and have still managed to tour and release albums consistently. The day had just started at Uproar Festival and the Ernie Ball Battle of the Bands winner had just taken the stage  when we had met up with Escape the Fate’s last original member, Slash look-a-like, and drummer, Robert Ortiz on the band’s tour bus for a quick chat about the band’s latest tours, their devout fan base, their influences, his love of Queen and of course, their new, upcoming album.  


 

The last time we saw you guys was at the TLA in Philly, and from a fan perspective – it felt as if the current lineup was the most cohesive it has ever been.

I’m not going to draw comparisons, but we’re pretty happy right now.  I’ll just say that much – to me, it’s never much about the lineup, it’s more about how we’re feeling.  Things go up and down.  Maybe in a year it’ll be like, “Fuckin’ Thrasher!” (laughs).  But we’ve been feeling good.  But y’know, that’s what was hard for us  because we weren’t too thrilled to be on the tour for various reasons and y’know – it ended up being okay.  We made the most of it, we had a good time.  And right now the band is really coming together and we’re working on new material which we are really excited about, improving the way we perform onstage.  When we’re not complaining about something, we’re working on something.  It’s an exciting time for us.  There’s always going to be a challenge and there are fans like you who’ve been around for several years, since the start – it’s hard to be a fan.  It’s hard to see it all go down but at the end of the day, if it’s working, it’s working.

In regards to what you said about the Pop Evil tour, in an interview with Alternative Press you had stated that the biggest struggle for you guys was that that particular tour was catering to mostly fans of “radio rock”, when you guys come from the Warped Tour scene.

Here’s the thing with that – and it’s cool because I get another chance to clarify this.  I don’t usually go on social media, if you see my twitter page – I’m just not into it.  But I did read a few comments on that and there was one guy, I remember him saying, “Well, if you don’t want to be doing that, then why the fuck are you doing that?”.  In essence, I don’t know if he meant it that way, but it was almost like he’s saying “You’re selling out.  If you don’t wanna do that then why the fuck are you doing that?” but it really is about expanding the band’s fan base, y’know?  Our label, our managers and even ourselves, we want to bridge the fan bases, we want to go and expand.  We can’t keep playing to the same people over and over again.  The idea is we play to those people every time and add others on top of that.  Those other people should be allowed to hear our music as well but - it’s not always fun and it’s doesn’t always work – that was the point I was trying to make.  So on that tour, it wasn’t necessarily the best fit with our two bands.  

[Pop Evil] are a great band, I’ve been watching them every night and they’ve been killing it and we’re doing great over here, but for some reason it didn’t mesh well and sometimes it doesn’t work and you get frustrated.  At that time, I was frustrated because I’m like “I’m going to be here for two months and it’s not working.”  When something else like touring with certain bands and different genres – you feel that working and then you’re getting mad because then it’s like “Why am I doing this that’s not working when I should be doing this that does?”

It’s hard to say, but you’ve gotta try different things.  You gotta have courage to just give things a shot.  If it works, it works that’s great and if it doesn’t – fuck it, you’ve tried it!

Personally, it seems as if you guys branching out is working because even the Uproar tour has a mostly a “radio rock” feel to it with bands like Godsmack, Seether and Pop Evil on the lineup, but one thing I noticed from the TLA show was that it was the furthest thing from a sold out crowd, but when you guys hit the stage it was if you guys had a sold out crowd – and most of the crowd was there for Escape the Fate and even left after you guys performed.  

You know, I’m not really gonna touch on that too much – but it does work and this tour alone is kind of an example of that with certain things.  The show in Syracuse at the State Fair, it was raining and it wasn’t a big crowd.  It was just, it was kind of weird and we’ve never been there, ever.  In my ten year career, I’ve never been there so for me it was like, “Holy shit, do they not like us?  Why are we doing this tour?”  and then today, walking in – literally I didn’t even know the doors were open – the first two fans in line, front row center, the first two fans ran up and hugged me and said “We love you and we’re here for you!” So it’s like that our fans are here and they are devoted.  I’ll repeat something I said in the AP interview which is I was used to a certain group of bands where fans would tell us, “We love you!  And we saw you with this band or that band and bands that you’re familiar with in Alternative Press and stuff and now it’s just like, “We love you and Seether!” and it me it’s just like huh?  When did that happen? (laughs) But it works dude, because it’s rock music. It’s rock music – certain people are going to get it, certain people aren’t.  But it’s all rock music and the idea is that certain people aren’t going to get it, but we’re going to give it a try.  

You mentioned that you guys are going to be working on new material – is there anything you guys are listening to that you’re using to help influence you in writing that new album?  

It’s always a bunch of different things.  It’s weird because all of our guilty pleasures – they’re crazy.  The rest of the guys listen to a lot of like, club music/dance because they like to party, so they do their thing.  I listen to a weird mix of music that makes me feel like a child (laughs), like stuff I used to listen to when I was a little kid.  I’m really pushing Thrasher, because – I don’t know if I want to call him a guitar virtuoso but his influences on guitar – he loves guitar – so some of his influences are those solo virtuoso guitar players like Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai and stuff like that.  He fucking shreds and everyday when we’re hanging out back here in the back lounge on the bus we’re just working on ideas and riffs and just laying out roadmaps and we always are recording things on our phones at any given moment, but he’s been playing all these solos and I’m just like, “Dude, you gotta do that.  You gotta fucking do that.”  So it’s kind of that drive to just play and impress yourself almost.  

Then, there’s that stuff I will always listen to – all of the rock music, and those bands find their way into our sound.  I don’t know – there’s no direct influence right now but rather just a mix of a bunch of different things now and then for an idea of where we want to go.  

Then there’s bands like Avenged Sevenfold – I love that band – they’re an influence on the whole band actually.  We love what they do and the newest record – you can hear their influences pretty clearly (laughs).  It’s hard when you’re so entrenched and you have an idea of what you want to sound like.  Then it’s like “Fuck, is that too much like this?”  Because then It’s really an homage, it’s a good thing.  Like “I want to sound like Metallica.”  Well you do. so then you did a good job.  I think it’s great.  The Hail to the King album is a great album.  I love it, I listen to it not every day – but when it came out I did! So I think it’s good they’re an influence on us, though I feel our mix is a little more eclectic.

Craig is so much on one side and then I’m so much on another side and that’ll kind of mesh into the sound that we make.  That’s what Escape the Fate’s always been – this weird, discombobulated assortment coming together to form the sound.  And y’know, we’re not opposed to writing songs with other people – that’s something we’ve always done.  It’s always about learning and bettering your craft by seeing how other people do their craft.  We’ve been talking to Josh Todd from Buckcherry who we wrote “Ten Miles Wide” with and he’s down to write again – just jam and have a good time.  We’ve talked with a bunch of different guys to just jam with – some of it might make the record, some of it might not.   It’s really just about having fun at this point.  That’s what we want to do.  We want to get to our roots, we want to get in a room and jam and feel the music out.  It’s really kind of going backwards for us so we could move forward.  We really want to get back to what it was like being teenagers , whether we were teenagers together, we all had the same mentality which was work it out, jam, work really hard and give it everything we got.

What I noticed on the last two albums – specifically the self-titled album, was that there was that meshing of sound where it sounded like the old-school Escape the Fate, and then there’s songs like “World Around Me” that I used to call “the new Bohemian Rhapsody”.

Well, that’s blasphemous to me!  But yeah, there’s always gonna be a mix.  Sometimes, we may want to write an opus one day and the next day we may just want to write a straight-ahead rock track.  And then the next day?  Fuck it.  Let’s fucking shred and try to be metal as fuck so that people can’t talk shit on us so that we can show them we can do it – we don’t always want to, but we can so fuck you!  That’s always been our mentality and we’ll continue with that mentality going forward.  

You mentioned the “Ten Miles Wide” collaboration with Josh Todd.  Is there anyone you would like to collaborate with in the future that you haven’t worked with yet?

I don’t know, man. Y’know, you have dream artists that it would be awesome to get to play with them.

Who are the dream artists?

Y’know, same as Avenged.  Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, all those type of guys – Slash, Axl.    That’s the kind of stuff you dream about and everything but to me it’s really gotta be like a natural thing because if you get a bunch of people in a room – it may or may not work.  That’s why bands have dynamics. There’s usually the front guy and then there’s the quiet guy who is the one creating everything.  It’s just a mix and it’s gotta be natural.  I would love to just jam with those guys just to see what it would be like.  But no in particular comes to mind other than those dream artists.  

Maybe something like Escape the Fate ft. Slash ft. Myles Kennedy?

Oh my God!  Now you’re just toying with my emotions.  Slash and Slash Jr. in the same band? Fuck yeah!  I’d be down for that.

Now are there any dream artists that have unfortunately passed on you would have loved to work with? 

Immediately I think of Michael Jackson.  I think that guy just got it.  He’s another guy who would always write with different people and try different things.  He would just write tons and tons of albums and be influenced by everything – rock, R&B, whatever it was.  It would be cool just to get in his head and see how he worked in the studio and what works in his head and how he translated that.  The difference between him and everybody else was that what he heard in his head came through tenfold – not on paper but in the sound.  He would just capture it, whereas most people – as inane as it sounds, can’t quite capture it as well as he did – especially in rock. 

Him or – actually, I would have loved to see what it was like to work with Freddie Mercury.  That guy, he’s – I don’t know man, fucked up in the head.  How did he do that?  How did that guy just make such ridiculous, over the top music sound cool?  Like if you listen to Bohemian Rhapsody or half their music for that matter, I would be like “That’s stupid, that’s cheesy, how can anyone take that seriously?” but then when he puts it in context – like “We Will Rock You”.  Like really dude, you wanna write a sports song?  That’s stupid.  “We Are The Champions”? What is that?!  Then you take a step back and realize that’s fucking genius, that’s the most amazing thing ever.  So I would like to see how he just delivered that and how he sold it to the rest of the band, how they connected as artists.  Him with his band members, Brian May and the rest of them so I would love to just see that firsthand.  

There’s always the joke, “Freddie Mercury wrote an entire rock opera about his bicycle and made it totally fucking work.”

Exactly!  A song about a fucking bicycle – that’s insane.  And I would listen to that and I grew up on fucking metal.  I grew up on thrash metal like fuckin’ Metallica, motherfuckin’ ripped up vests, long hair, flipping off all other bands – that’s what I grew up on and Queen was still cool.  A song about bicycles were still cool – well a “Bicycle Race”, for that matter.  But I would just like to see it, but not just that but in the studio – like how does he capture it?  

Like when I’m playing, I get lazy.  I’m not a clean drummer, producers hate me.  Quite frankly, I suck most of the time because I get in my own head and I can’t like, have an idea – like I know what we worked on trying to do but I want to do something else in that moment I’m like “Ooh, I wanna try this,” and I end up fucking up.  So I wanna see how much they care about “the take”  and capturing it or did they just rehearse it and then just record it like “Well, that’s good enough, let’s move on,” Did they not want to overthink it?  Did they scrutinize it?   Queen would be like quintessential to figuring that stuff out because they’re unique.  I can talk about ‘em all day. 

Last question – new album, new singles, any release dates?  How is it coming along?

Sometime next year for sure.  We’re going to go into the studio probably sometime after Christmas.  We’re gonna get home after this long, almost three month journey of touring, take a little bit of time with our families, stay at home and come up with some ideas and get back together and put them all down and see what we can come up with.  We’re also going to do Soundwave in Australia in February of next year – that’s an awesome tour and I’m excited.  So that will probably be right in the middle of our album, so we gotta go somewhere else and then come back to tour.  So if you ask me, I want to write until then, go tour so we can get in playing shape, and then come back and record.  The label is probably going to tell us “Well you gotta record it all this week”, but they don’t understand.

So to all the fans out there – come out to a show, stick around and see what the journey of Escape the Fate brings in the next year.  

 

 

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Rockstar Energy’s Uproar Festival Hits Camden

Here in New Jersey, we’ve been pretty lucky this summer.  The weather has been phenominal – nothing more than a couple of low 80 degree days that made this summer very relaxing and refreshing.  Of course, the one day when a mostly-outdoor music festival rolls into town, Mother Nature decided to wake up and make it the most sweltering day of the summer.  At Uproar Festival Camden, a few thousand concert goers had to find a way to beat the heat with little time in between sets.

One of the best things about Rockstar sponsored tours is that they give smaller bands that may not be as well-known a chance to play with a huge main lineup.  Every year, the festival hosts an online Battle of the Bands competition where fans attending the festival can vote for a local band in their area for the opening spot on the tour date closest to them.  Not only do they get to play the show, the grand prize finalist gets a dream prize package – a record deal, $10,000 worth of band gear, a feature in Revolver Magazine, a professional photoshoot with Lisa Johnson, autographed memorbilia, and of course, a year’s supply of Rockstar Energy Drink.  While I had unfortunately missed the opportunity to check out our tri-state area’s  local shot (I was backstage interviewing Escape The Fate’s Robert Ortiz), I was able to catch last year’s Battle of the Band winner, Sons of Revelery, amongst other bands such as Three Years Hollow and Within Reason.

Escape the Fate easily drew the most crowd reaction, as the Festival Stage plaza filled to the brim with fans trying to catch a glimpse of the performance.  They ended up performing some of their most recent music.  Of all of the bands that performed, they were the only group that got the crowd to form a pit.  However, when the size wasn’t big enough for the band’s liking, causing a taunt from singer Craig Mabbitt, “If you’re too tired to get moving, there’s some lawn you can rest on over there.”

One fan even got a special dedication from the band.  The band dedicated their single “Gorgeous Nightmare” to Kari Magenheim – also known as “Deena”, an independent wrestler from local federation 3WB.  Some of the biggest ETF fans in the crowd were also the smallest in size – a young boy sat atop his father’s shoulders with sunglasses reading “Stay Metal” on the lenses – though he probably shouldn’t have been present for the following set.

Buckcherry were next to hit the stage and lived up to their debauchery-filled, vulgar party rock – opening with the single “Lit Up” and singer Josh Todd prompting the crowd to chant “Cocaine”.  Though the content of the band’s music hasn’t changed much over the years (they just released an EP entitled Fuck, and even played the album’s title track), Todd’s stage presence certainly has – appearing far less inebriated than when we saw them at the Bamboozle Festival.  Rather than opening up mosh pits, their music got most of the ladies in the crowd dancing – especially with “Crazy Bitch” as the closer.

The festival stage closed up and then it was Pop Evil’s turn.  They took the main stage with an action packed set with tons of crowd involvement.  The arena was filled to at least 1,000 concert goers who were actively singing along and raising the horns to songs like “Deal With the Devil” and “Last Man Standing”, and swaying along to the ballad “Torn to Pieces – which made us wonder – where was this crowd for their show across the river at the TLA?  Notably missing from their (short) set was “Boss’s Daughter” – which is a shame, because it would have fit perfectly with their other high-impact songs.

The band that stole the show by far was Skillet – who changed up the “Hottest Chicks in Hard Rock” scene by not only having one – but two female members – drummer and singer Jen Ledger and rythm guitarist Korey Cooper (accompanied by her husband and frontman, John).  Not only do these girls have undeniable talent, but they bring the stage presence to back it up.  The band brought in classical elements by having a celloist and a violinist accompany them on stage, which brought a haunting draw to their show.  Between the acoustic intro and rising pillars during “Awake and Alive”, the plumes of fog during “Monster” – Skillet put on an engaging show for fans familiar and new that we are definitely looking forward to seeing again.

Seether made their return to the Uproar stage after their Uproar 2011 run opening for Avenged Sevenfold.  Their sound doesn’t disappoint – they are tight and on-point throughout the majority of their songs and sound exactly like how they do on the record.  They stuck mostly to their popular singles, such as “Remedy”, “Breakdown”, “Rise Above This”, “Country Song” and “Fake It”.  However, for a band I enjoy as much as Seether, their set fell a little flat.  One thing that fans that have come to expect from Seether is that they don’t put on a visually spectacular stage show – they go on stage, play their songs, and get off stage.  When it got around to playing their breakout hit “Broken”, there was some hope within members of the crowd that Jen from Skillet would come out and join singer Shaun Morgan for Amy Lee’s verses of the duet similar to what they do when they play shows with other female-fronted bands such as Halestorm.  Alas, the song came and went with no surprise guests.

Since their return, Godsmack have caused quite a bit of controversy.  Singer Sully Erna admitted that during the band’s hiatus, they were close to breaking up for good.  Then, their set at the Mount Airy show was cancelled due to “production issues”, regardless of the fact that every other band was able to perform.  However, they did allow fans from the Mount Airy show to redeem their tickets at the box office for Tuesday’s show.  However, with a sold out orchestra section, this left some fans extremely unhappy that they were unable to watch their favorite band from the seat they paid $250 for.  To open their set, a screen dropped from the stage and a short film of the band’s history played with AC/DC’s “For Those About to Rock” as the soundtrack.  For casual fans, this may have been the highlight of their set – whereas for hardcore Godsmack fans – this was a primo performance from the band.

Unfortunately, due to venue restrictions, we were unable to shoot this show.

The Rockstar Uproar tour is heading to a city near you – visit rockstaruproar.com for more information, tour dates and tickets.

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The Carnivores Tour Leave Their Mark On A Special Night in New Jersey

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Earlier this year, the announcement of this summer’s Carnivores Tour brought excitement to many mainstream rock fans.  The tour brought together three of the arguably most important bands of the millenium.  AFI were a staple for fans in the mid-2000s “emo” alternative scene, with many of their singles making it onto the once popular Guitar Hero game series.  Thirty Seconds to Mars launched into alternative stardom around the same time as AFI following the release of their infectious single “The Kill”.  Linkin Park are one of the few lone survivors of the early 2000’s nu-metal movement.  So how have these bands that have been around for just shy of two decades manage to not only stay relevant, but create such a hype for one of the biggest tours of the summer?  The answer is in their stage presence and their musical evolution.

AFI took the stage and were presented with a half full crowd due to a time misprint on the tickets – tickets stated that the show started at 7:00, when AFI took the stage at 6:30.  This still didn’t stop a handful of diehard AFI fans from sneaking up to the front row of the seated venue and singing along to every lyric.  The lack of crowd did not hinder the band’s performance, however.  Singer Davey Havok took the stage with a very theatrical and perfectly rehearsed stage presence to which most female fans whipped out their cell phones to get the perfect shot of the frontman.

Though the band had released their ninth studio album, entitled Burials, only two songs (“17 Crimes” and “I Hope You Suffer”) from the album made the cut for their short, nine song setlist.  The majority of the setlist contained their popular singles “Girls Not Grey”, “Silver and Cold” and “Love Like Winter”.  The rest of the crowd had finally filed-in by their last song – the hit single “Miss Murder” – the familiarity of it caused a positive reaction throughout the crowd.

Thirty Seconds to Mars have come a long way since the release of The Kill – they fought a $30 million lawsuit from their label, EMI, documented it and the recording of their album This Is War in their award-winning film, Artifact, launched an interactive livestreaming service called VyRT, broke a Guinness World Record for the most shows in a single album cycle, went on a tour that was entirely free for fans to promote their latest release, Love Lust Faith + Dreams, not to mention Jared Leto sweeping this year’s award season for his critically acclaimed role as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club.  Go ahead, take a chance to catch your breath.

Thirty Seconds to Mars have a stage presence that can only accurately be described as infectious.  Leto’s onstage persona is much like Jason Lee’s character in Almost Famous - he works to connect the crowd with the music from the very second he steps on that stage.  He works hard on stage to assure that everyone is getting the full Thirty Seconds to Mars experience and have the best time possible.

Concert-goers who may be unfamiliar with the band were at least expected to sing along to the repetitive “oh-oh-ohs” that are found in many of Mars’s songs.  During their opening song, “Up In The Air” – he made the entire arena get up off their feet and crouch to the ground – only to bounce back up and lose their minds once the bridge kicked in.  “This Is War” was set off by fists pumping and chanting – only for dozens of water balloons to be released into the crowd.  During “City Of Angels”, the arena was lit by a sea of cell phones and lighters.

In order to break up the set (and for the crowd in the upper levels to get a good view),  Leto grabbed his acoustic guitar to perform a short acoustic set.  However, before heading up toward the lawn, he jumped down from the stage to ask for a common courtesy from some front row fans that felt that chatting and sharing a beer was more important than the show unfolding in front of them.  “We’re giving it our all up there, I would appreciate if you guys gave us your attention.” he advised.  Once he made his way up to the 300 Section, he addressed this further, “I think I’ll spend the rest of the show up here – you guys seem to be having more fun than the people down there,” he said, calling out the front row duo.

` From there, he asked for requests – and the crowd screamed for Hurricane – to which he shot back, “You bunch of perverts,” in reference to the song’s very NSFW music video.  He then transitioned into “Alibi”, a soft, hopeful ballad from the This Is War album.  Then came the moment the casual fans were waiting for – The Kill.  There is something about an acoustic set that brings a sense of unity to the crowd.  The relaxed setting made the chorus of fans singing along much more chilling, from the “Crash, crash, burns” of Hurricane, the “Way-ohs” of Alibi, and the chorus of The Kill.

Tomo Milicevic and Shannon Leto joined Jared back onstage, breaking into an instrumental cover of Pantera’s “Cowboys From Hell”.  To close out the set, they gave fans yet another unique experience of being picked to join them onstage.  A crowd soon rushed toward the stage with fans on shoulders, carrying signs in hopes of joining them in the “Closer to the Edge” dance party.  “No! No! No! No!”  Leto lead the arena in a chant before heading off the stage.

Linkin Park took the stage in their typical, high-energy fashion, opening with the lead off single from the new albu, The Hunting Party, entitled Guilty All The Same featuring legendary rapper Rakim.  Since Rakim was not present at the show, Mike Shinoda, the band’s frontman and rapper took over the mic for Rakim’s verse.  Within the first three songs, they covered the all the bases of their career – The Hunting Party era – their heaviest album to date, “Given Up” from Minutes to Midnight – one of their biggest commercial successes to date, and “Points of Authority” from Hybrid Theory – the album that started it all.

As usual, the show was filled with non-stop high energy that we’ve come to expect from Linkin Park shows.  What was different about this tour was that band seemed to be even more cohesive onstage.  Normally, we comment on how happy Mike and Chester look to be performing in front of the fans – but this time it was a little different – that look of enjoyment we’ve come to recognize could be seen on every single band member’s face – even the typically stoic “Big Bad” Brad Delson’s.

 For a band like Linkin Park with an extensive album catalog – it’s difficult to fit all of the fan favorites and hit singles within one setlist – but somehow they found a way to fit the vast majority of them in there by shortening them (see: “Runaway”) and by mixing them into medleys, such as the ballad medley featuring “Leave Out All The Rest”, “Iridescent” and “Shadow of the Day”.  One of the more special medleys was the mix of “Wretches and Kings” and “Remember the Name” – in which Mike Shinoda got a solo moment to perform the Fort Minor tune.

Songs from The Hunting Party included “Rebellion” (which features System of a Down’s Daron Malakian), “The Final Masquerade” and “Wastelands” – which was remixed by Shinoda halfway through the song into a more EDM-style tune.

Throughout the show, there were several EDM-rave-style interludes by both Mr. Joe Hahn and Shinoda – showing the evolution of Linkin Park and how they’ve managed to stay relevant for the last fourteen years – they adapt to the trends.  By constantly evolving, they have been able to keep people’s interest and develop a legion of dedicated fans along the way.

One of these fans is Sal Spurge, a Staten Island native who has seen Linkin Park in two countries and ten different states.  Over time, he’s formed a close enough relationship with the band that they even talk about him in interviews.  Monday was a special night for him right from the start.  It was his 50th Linkin Park show, he had a front row seat waiting for him and a meet and greet pass all lined up to go.  Throughout the meet and greet, the band let him know how much they appreciate him being so dedicated to them and thanked him for all the support over the years.  “The things they were saying made me want to cry a little bit,” his younger cousin commented.

To make the night even more special for Sal, during “Numb” (which had the nice touch of Mike Shinoda rapping Jay-Z’s verses from Collision Course), Chester Bennington jumped off the stage and sang the song duet-style with Sal from his seat.  

“Give it up for Sal!  This is his 50th Linkin Park show! Five – zero!” Mike Shinoda exclaimed, “Sal’s been with us since the first time we played New York.  We played Roseland Ballroom – we were f-ing opening up the show in 2001!”

“Thank you Sal,” Chester added.

The night was not over yet, though –  Linkin Park closed out the show with a five song encore – including their breakout hit “Crawling”, “New Divide”, “What I’ve Done”, their latest single “Until It’s Gone” and wrapped everything up with the crowd favorite “Bleed It Out”.  But before they could let everyone leave, the band had one more surprise in store.

DJ Steve Aoki had nominated Mike Shinoda for the Strike Out ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, but Mike decided to make sure that Sal’s 50th show would be a chilling one to remember by bringing him up onstage and having both of them doused by Chester.  Mike would later tweet that he and Sal would be donating to ALSA every month for the next year.

 

Overall – The Carnivores tour is the ultimate “can’t miss” tour of the summer.  Each band brings their own unique sound and stage show to make it entertaining and exhilarating from start to finish.

To make a donation to ALSA, please visit http://www.alsa.org

Linkin Park are also using their charitable project Music For Relief to help aid those suffering from the Ebola epidemic in Africa.    Please visit http://www.musicforrelief.org for more information.

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Small Crowd? No Problem! Pop Evil, Escape the Fate & Crew Tear Up Philly’s TLA For Loyal Fans

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It’s the beginning of May – it’s a rough sell for tickets to a rock show on a Tuesday night. Philadelphia college students are packing their bags to head home for the summer, high school students are preparing for finals and SATS, and those who work in the city are sitting in rush hour traffic to go home by the time six o’ clock comes around.  One would normally expect disappointment showing up to the TLA filled at only half-capacity, but it proved to make for a better show.

Every fan there was sporting their favorite band’s teeshirt and watched in comfort as the bands hit the stage.  The two opening acts – Glamour of the Kill and Avatar were generally unknown to most members of the crowd (with the exception of those who’ve been to Warped Tour or have a Sirius XM Octane subscription), but they fit the bill perfectly.

 Glamour of the Kill took the time to thank their new “brothers” Avatar and Pop Evil and their old family in Escape the Fate.  The post-hardcore quartet was perfect for the type of genre the crowd was used to – after playing songs from their new album Savages, the band had made it clear they were evolving from the typical “Warped Tour hardcore” into a hybrid of the former and pure hard rock.  Fans in the front row who were familiar with the group were excited to see them open, screaming the band’s name as well as several “We love you!”s in their direction.

Once Avatar hit the stage, there was an air of uncertainty with how they would perform.  Most of the crowd had no idea who they were other than the first impression of what they saw walking onstage – a group of Swedish men with long hair, face paint, makeup and marching band style uniforms.  It was safe to say that no one knew what to expect.  Once they started playing, singer Johannes Eckerström instantly had the command of the crowd.  He made sure the band put on an unforgettable performance – even if that meant reminding the crowd, “We are Avatar from Gothenburg, Sweden!” every couple of songs.  The roar of the crowd every time he repeated this, however, could easily convince an outsider that these guys had been touring the U.S. for years.  Crowd favorites included “Smells Like A Freakshow”, “Paint It Red” and “Hail The Apocalypse”.

The crowd had lost their minds once Escape the Fate hit the stage.  The thinness of the crowd did nothing to stop crowdsurfers from making their way over the barricade.  The band’s newest lineup, featuring former LoveHateHero guitarist Kevin Thrasher and former Motionless in White guitarist TJ Bell, is probably their most cohesive and cooperative they’ve had in years.  There was a sense of true brotherhood onstage rather than the animosity that has been seen in the band in recent years

However, noticeably missing from the stage this week was bassist Max Green.  Green had rejoined the band back in October following recovery from a heroin addiction.  Prior to the show, fans had been reassured that he was missing shows due to a family emergency.  Unfortunately, it was announced Friday that Green would be once again leaving Escape the Fate, citing personal reasons (not involving drugs).  Glamour of the Kill frontman and bassist Davey Richmond has been taking his place for the time being.

Many of the songs performed that evening were from the band’s latest release, Ungrateful, including “Picture Perfect”, “Live Fast, Die Beautiful” and the radio hit “One For The Money”.  A small, yet active mosh pit had opened up toward the back of the crowd for the majority of their set.  The band also had great interaction with the crowd that night, some of which included TJ Bell calling out a couple in the crowd who was making out during the set to introduce “10 Miles Wide”.

Pop Evil had been making their rounds around the country ever since their sophomore album, War Of Angels hit the record stores.  After songs such as “Monster You Made”, “Purple” and “Boss’s Daughter”, it became clear to rock radio listeners everywhere that these guys were versatile musicians.  This tour followed a sold-out stint with Corey Taylor’s hard rock project, Stone Sour. Their set Tuesday night covered songs from their trilogy of albums, but there was a strong focus on their latest release, Onyx – featuring songs that recently broke into heavy rotation “Trenches” and “Deal With The Devil”.   Other notable songs included “Hero” and the ballad “100 in A 55″ from their debut album, Lipstick On The Mirror. 

The band was tight and played flawlessly, not taking up too much time to talk with the crowd.  However, singer Leigh Kakaty did take the time to thank the fans for still being true to the music and taking the time to go to a rock n’ roll show on a Tuesday night.

Pop Evil and Escape the Fate continue to coheadline this tour throughout the United States throughout the month of May.

Glamour of the Kill’s new album Savages will be available for purchase on May 13th (or even earlier if you can make it to a show!)

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Linkin Park “Burn It Down” at The Joint in Las Vegas

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It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen Linkin Park live here in the States.  In 2012, they embarked on the Honda Civic Tour with Incubus.  However, after that, the band took a break when singer Chester Bennington became Scott Weiland’s replacement in Stone Temple Pilots.   This past weekend, they performed a special trilogy of three shows one of which for the launch of Harman’s Infinity One speaker for this year’s Consumer Electronics show.  In Los Angeles, they held a charity event for Philippines Typhoon Relief.  In between these two major events, the band found time to perform to packed house at the Hard Rock Hotel’s oversold venue, “The Joint” on Friday, January 10th, 2014.

            Opening with the instrumental, “Wake”, the band began to take the stage.  The venue erupted with screams of anticipation when lead singer Chester Bennington came out to the stage screaming in a much different way – performing their explosive hit “Given Up”, with his voice stronger than ever. The song set the vibe for the entire night, as the band delivered a completely high voltage show.   Onstage, it was clear the band was happy to be back in front of the fans – especially with the permanent smile plastered on Mike Shinoda’s face as he performed.

            Songs performed from their latest release, LIVING THINGS included “Lies, Greed, Misery”, “Lost in the Echo”, and  “Castle of Glass”, which seemed to resonate much better with the crowd than the album’s predecessor, A Thousand Suns.   Naturally, their hit singles caused the most reaction – especially when  Jay-Z’s verse in “Numb/Encore” was teased as part of the outro.

During songs such as “What I’ve Done”, “In The End” and “Bleed It Out”, a chilling chorus of singing fans overpowered the vocals of the band.  When it came down to the encore – which consisted of “Faint” and “One Step Closer”, every person in the venue from floor to balcony was on their feet.  After a show like this, we can only hope Linkin Park will be back with new music to take on the road to continue melting our faces.

 Just before the new year, Linkin Park have released a single with popular EDM DJ, Steve Aoki, called “A Light That Never Comes”.  This single is available now on iTunes.

For more information on Linkin Park’s Music For Relief fund for Typhoon Haiyan victims, please visit http://www.musicforrelief.org.

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Stone Temple Pilots, Filter Rock Starland Ballroom’s Grand Reopening

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On October 29, 2012,  Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc throughout the Mid-Atlantic coast.  One of the worst hit areas was Sayreville, NJ – where hundreds of homes were destroyed by the surge of the Raritan River.  One of the most devastating losses to the Central Jersey music  community was the destruction of the local rock club, Starland Ballroom.   The venue had been flooded out with six feet of water, destroying the entire interior including their sound, heating/cooling, plumbing and lighting systems. Instead of shutting down for good,  the venue and AEG Live, like most of the East Coast, decided to rebuild and show Sandy that they were Stronger than the Storm.  Completion of the reconstruction took ten months, with approximately 70,000 hours put into rebuilding – many of which were overnight sessions.

On September 6th, it was finally time for the new and improved venue to make its debut.

The wooden floors and bars were replaced with much more durable and flood-proof polished concrete.  The sound system, which in the past would sound distorted and muddy, is now clear as day.  The flow of foot traffic in the venue moved much more fluidly, and with a freezing cold air conditioner blowing all night, patrons were able to breathe easily in the packed club.  In between bands, a projector screen would roll down with the graphic saying “Tonight is history!”

The legendary venue has been around since the 1980s (then known as Hunka Bunka Ballroom) and has housed concerts to thousands, including iconic acts across all genres – such as David Lee Roth, Justin Timberlake, Slayer, Steve Vai, Jefferson Airplane, and many more.  But for its grand re-opening, 90′s alternative rock band and New Jersey natives Stone Temple Pilots took the stage with their friends in Filter for a night of rebirth and celebration.

Filter took the stage with a dynamic presence, opening with their Crystal Method collab, “(Can’t You) Trip Like I Do”.   Their sound differed slightly from that of STP, with a much more industrial sound.  The band has been on tour since February promoting their latest release, The Sun Comes Out Tonight on their new label, Wind Up Records.  The crowd seemed to be remotely familiar with their music, such as their popular singles “Take A Picture” and “Hey Man, Nice Shot” which got the whole room singing.  Later in the set, singer Richard Patrick announced that he was now sober for ten years, and that he wanted to meet fans by the merch booth to make up for lost time to cocaine and alcoholism.

Earlier this year,  Stone Temple Pilots went through a very public split from original singer Scott Weiland and recently announced that Chester Bennington from Linkin Park would be his replacement and they planned on moving forward with new music. The Starland show was only Chester’s second show with STP, which made some fans leery on how good the performance would be.  However, when the band took the stage, those fears were pushed to the side as the room erupted as they went into “Down”.    “I love you Chester!” was a common exclamation by front row fans reaching over the barricade to grab hands with frontman.  Regardless of the drastic member change, the band was as tight as ever.   Chester’s renowned & exemplary stage presence complimented that of the DeLeo brother’s perfectly, delivering a high energy rock show.   Hits such as “Vasoline”, “Big Empty”, “Interstate Love Song” and “Trippin’ on a Hole in a Paper Heart” brought a sense of nostalgia through the crowd, who were not shy when it came to belting out the lyrics.  Nonetheless, their new single, “Out of Time”, which will be on the new EP High Rise featuring Bennington, was received well by fans due to its consistent radio play on modern rock radio.

For a long time fan, singing with Stone Temple Pilots was a dream come true for Bennington, “It’s like Christmas for me up here”, he claimed.  Following “Sex Type Thing”, he added “That song changed my f***ing life. For f***ing real,” followed by an embrace from guitarist Dean DeLeo.

While Starland Ballroom is back up and running, many people and towns are still having trouble rebuilding and making ends meet.  Starland Ballroom has launched several charity auctions to help those in their community via CharityBuzz.  Many of Starland’s upcoming acts will be donating proceeds of ticket sales to Hurricane Sandy relief.  For a full list of concerts, please visit www.StarlandBallroom.com.

Stone Temple Pilots feat. Chester Bennington’s five-song EP, High Rise will be available on October 8th.  Filter’s new album The Sun Comes Out Tonight is available now.

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Orianthi Shreds Faces at Webster Hall’s Marlin Room

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For the last few years, Orianthi has been on two world tours with legendary hard rocker, Alice Cooper.  Instead of playing sold-out arenas across the globe, Orianthi showcased some of her unique solo material to Webster Hall’s Marlin Room for a special show. 

Openers included local acts Call Security and Brand of Julez.  Call Security had an excellent stage presence – capturing the attention of a crowd of heavy metal fans to a more Mumford and Sons pop-type sound.  Brand of Julez was much more accustomed to this type of crowd, playing nothing but pure, head banging hard rock for their set’s entirety.

When Orianthi took the stage, Alice Cooper band members Chuck Garric and Glen Sobel accompanied her.  Instead of her typical “Gore-ianthi” stage get-up, she was donned in a feather fedora and an embroidered tunic as she came out screaming for her title track “Heaven in this Hell”.   With a smaller band behind her, it became clear that her new music showcased her impeccable guitar playing as opposed to the Glam Nation tour when she was promoting her first album, Believe – which had a more mainstream pop direction and a full band behind her.   However, that didn’t stop her from playing some of her best rock n’ roll tracks from that album – “Think Like a Man”, “What’s It Gonna Be” and “Bad News”.

 The rock n roll didn’t stop for the whole night, especially when she went into “A Song for Steve” –  a mind-blowing instrumental she wrote for virtuoso Steve Vai when she was sixteen years old.   She closed with “Sex-e Bizzare”, and had a surprise in store for her encore.

When she graced the stage once again, she performed her breakthrough single, “According to You”.  Though it is her most well-known song, nothing got the crowd moving like her surprise guest.  To close out the night, the King of Shock-Rock himself, Alice Cooper joined his band mates onstage for a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady”.  The room erupted, and front row fans bowed against the stage screaming “We’re not worthy!” a-la “Wayne’s World”.

Following the show, Orianthi met with fans and signed copies of her new album, Heaven in this Hell – out now on Robo Records.

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Marianas Trench “Face The Music” in New York City

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It’s been a crazy journey for Marianas Trench over the last two years.  After releasing their third album, Ever After, they broke into the US market after a sold-out tour with Canadian pop-punkers, Simple Plan.  Shortly following the tour, the album went gold.  Trench continued to tour the US, playing small clubs and outdoor festivals, but had much more success in their native Canada, where they completed two sold-out arena tours.  As the Ever After album cycle comes to a close, Marianas Trench embarked on The Noise Tour Powered by Journey’s Shoes which made it’s way to a sold-out Irving Plaza on Thursday night.

It had been over a year since we last saw Marianas Trench in the Big Apple.  On April 24th, 2012, the band had taken over Santos Party House for the kickoff of their first stateside headlining tour.  However, the show was cut short due to illness.

Despite the imminent threat of severe storms, that didn’t stop die-hard fans from camping outside the venue for hours on end.  Some started queuing at 11 A.M., which has become a regular ritual for Trenchers.  As the line started to stretch around the block, the doors opened and the show began.

Opening acts included DJ Protector, Ghost Town, and Air Dubai.  While Ghost Town had a large fan base within the crowd, their performance seemed much more suited for Warped Tour with their elements of “screamo”, electronic and pop-punk.  Air Dubai were very interesting to watch with their very danceable “hip-pop” style music – comparable to the Bruno Mars/B.o.B “Nothing on You” collab.

 Marianas Trench took the stage with their epic title track, “Ever After”, followed by Masterpiece Theatre and Fix Me hits, “All to Myself” and “Shake Tramp”, respectively.  Genuine smiles filled with surprise could be seen on each band member’s face as the crowd belted out the chorus to the latter, which was their first breakthrough hit.

The show setup was the band’s way of bringing their large-scale arena tour into a small, 1000 persons capacity club in New York City.  Interlude videos played in the background to bring the vision of the fairytale concept of Ever After to life and to tie the different elements of the show together.

One of the most unique characteristics of this band is their exceptional knowledge of the technical side of music, as displayed by their use of harmonies and lack of use of back tracks.  For their performance of “Truth Or Dare”, they showed off their virtuosity by singer Josh Ramsay taking over the drum kit as drummer Ian Casselman took center stage with quad-drums in tow.

The band kept the show pretty fast-paced, getting fans on their feet and dancing with songs such as the swingin’ track, “Stutter” and the very energetic “Cross My Heart”.  Ramsay jumped into the crowd for the hit single “Haven’t Had Enough” and the crowd began to push forward in an attempt to get a closer glimpse of the frontman.

Some of the bone-chilling ballads performed included Beside You, a song that serves as a beacon of hope for many fans.  As Ramsay belted out the lyrics to “Porcelain”, he touched his heart when he saw a flurry of pink paper hearts being held by the crowd.

One of the most intimate and touching moments of the night was the encore, where Ramsay broke out his acoustic guitar for a special performance of  “Lover Dearest”, a love letter he wrote to heroin while he was in rehab when he was seventeen.  The entire band then joined him onstage for their dynamic closing song, “No Place Like Home”.

Before the night ended, Josh had announced the band had recently signed with Cherrytree Records, and that they’ll be back in the States much more regularly. Judging by the momentum Marianas Trench has made in such a short amount of time, with the new representation behind them, the only way they’re going is to the top.

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HardDrive Live 5 Leaves New York City Headbanging

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For the last couple of weeks, our concert schedule had been completely flatlining, with no signs of coming back to life any time soon.  However, when HardDriveLive 5 made it’s way to New York City, it was as if everything had suddenly kickstarted.  It was a high energy show from start to finish, with some exciting and refreshing performances from some familiar and some fresh-faced bands.

The first band to take the stage was Stars in Stereo.  The group is relatively unknown and is seemingly just starting to break into the hard rock scene.  They started their set as fans were still piling in, but they definitely caught some attention.  While their music was unfamiliar to most (their debut self-titled album dropped on April 9th), their energy had expelled into the crowd, getting people to clap and headbang along to the beat of the music.  An electrifying cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer” had left the crowd in amazement. All in all, Stars In Stereo is definitely a band to keep an eye one, because this band has the potential to be huge.  Singer Bec Hollcraft may just be the next female hard rock superstar.

Next up on the lineup was Young Guns.  The British quintet had just recently broken into the American hard rock scene as their latest single “Bones” has received a significant amount of airplay on Sirius XM’s Octane and expanding to commercial rock radio.   While they were very active on stage, they did not seem to have as much of a grip on the crowd. While each song had a different sound to it, it was very confusing and difficult to find a common element to their sound to unify the entire set.

A lot had changed for Halestorm since we last saw them on their solo tour.  This past February, they made music history by becoming the first female-fronted band to win a Grammy in the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal category. With this quantum leap in their career, one would think that they would possibly lose the genuine emotion that they put into their music and live performances.  However, it seems as if every time you see Halestorm, their live show just gets better and better. They kept to a heavier setlist – including hits like “Freak Like Me”, “Love Bites (So Do I)” and “I Miss The Misery”.  The setlist was shorter as compared to others on this tour, because the band had a special surprise in store for the fans.  The only time they had slowed their set was for the heartwarming ballad, “Break In”, and all of a sudden, screams erupted throughout the crowd.  For the first time since the Carnival of Madness tour, Evanescence songstress Amy Lee joined Lzzy Hale on stage for a duet.  It would be a very tough act to follow for Bullet for My Valentine.

As the lights in the venue began to dim, Queen’s “We Will Rock You” began to blast through the speakers.  The crowd already had begun to sway and shove as fans tried to push their way toward the front.  Bullet stormed the stage, opening with “Breaking Point” and the band instantly had crowd in their control.  With songs like “Your Betrayal , “Riot”, “Temper Temper” and “Scream Aim Fire”, they kept the head banging and moshing going all until the very end.

It’s bands like these that are keeping the spirit of hard rock and heavy metal alive, and HardDrive Radio did an excellent job of bringing the experience to the fans.

You can catch the rest of the HardDrive Live 5 tour throughout the month of May.   Following this tour, Halestorm will be touring with artists Adrenaline Mob throughout South America and Alterbridge in Europe.  Please visit http://www.halestormrocks.com for more details.

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Escape the Fate Hit Hard Truths with “Ungrateful”

Escape the Fate have had a tumultuous career starting with the controversial departure of now Falling in Reverse frontman Ronnie Radke.  When replacement singer Craig Mabbitt was announced, fan wars erupted.  The band made great haste into making their sophomore album, This War Is Ours, resulting in a hard rock album with softer undertones.  The band made their major label debut under Interscope Records, releasing a self-titled album oozing with maturity and success.  Songs like “Issues” and “Gorgeous Nightmare” advanced the band from “underground Warped Tour artists” to mainstream rock radio hits.  Behind the scenes, however, tensions between band members rose, causing the departure of bassist Max Green and the adding of members TJ Bell and Michael Money.  And that’s only the condensed version!

Since Green’s departure, fans have been eager to hear what would come next for the band.  Some even began to worry that this would be the end of group with so much potential. ETF has alleviated those worries by releasing their latest single, “Ungrateful”.

The song itself is a 50/50 track for me.  The song has much more raspy screaming than anticipated – to the point it’s almost incoherent.  While it does express the deep emotions felt with violence and bullying, without being able to completely hear the lyrics, the message may not sink in as deep as it should.  On the other hand, Mabbitt brings out much more mature, clean vocals in the song’s hook – which is sure to stick in your head after one listen.  With the additional guitarist, the instrumentals sound much more mature, bring much-needed wholeness to their sound.

The video itself will pull at any viewer’s heartstrings.  The band has added to the long list of musicians and celebrities that have tackled the issue of bullying and violence through their craft.  Not only does it show the victim’s fear and anxiousness while attending school (think Rise Against’s “September’s Children”), it accurately portrays what may be the other side of the story – domestic violence in the bully’s home and the ever-continuing chain of pain.  It ends with a powerful message that needs to be made much more public – “Violence is a vicious cycle that has ended many lives,” Images of some of the most-publicized suicides and deaths caused by bullying then pass by in remembrance, “End the cycle now.”

It is a video that truly everyone in the American public should see.  However, due to the nature of the song, it may lack mainstream appeal.  Only time will tell if this is an accurate indicator of Escape the Fate’s new music.

Escape the Fate will be touring with Papa Roach this spring – with many more dates to be added.  Escape The Fate’s fourth album, “Ungrateful” will be released on May 14th under Eleven Seven Records.

If you or someone you know is dealing with depression, bullying, domestic violence, or other mental health issues, seek help.  Don’t suffer in silence.  You are never alone.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 || IM-alive  || National Domestic Abuse Hotline

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