On Monday, October 7, Ann Arbor, MI hard alternative rock band Taproot brought their infectious brand of rock to The Chop Shop in Charlotte, N.C. The band was preceded by a host of others primarily consisting of Charlotte locals. Absoulute Convixtion, Blu Avenue, LuciD, Righteous Vendetta and Tattermask opened up the evening for the Michigan headliners, warming up the crowd for the antics to ensue. The evening was alight with the buzz and excitement for what was called “the show that almost wasn’t.” Due to the absence/abandonment of the former promoter, Faded Frankenstein, this show (much like the SOiL/Dope show) almost didn’t happen and it was left to the support bands and venue to bring it all together. Tattermask, most specifically singer Amanda Caines, stepped up to the plate to make sure it all didn’t fall through the cracks, and by the looks of the club that night, all the hard work paid off.
Charlotte’s own hard rock quartet Absoulute Convixtion opened up the evening’s festivities with a new singer and a new sound. The band has been in process of reconstructing their dynamic since the departure of vocalist Corey Tossas and this evening at The Chop Shop was their first time onstage with new vocalist Jason McCoig. Whereas in the past AC had demonstrated a more sci-fi themed presentation and sound, with the insertion of McCoig, the new sound tends towards the more hard rock with a mild country undertone. This is easily attributable to the inflexion in McCoig’s voice; the new sound is an interesting deviation from that of the past. While musically, if you’re willing to go with it, the change doesn’t hurt anything, the only thing that could stand to be cranked up a little is the delivery. All the guys of AC come across as very intense, technically-minded musicians, but with the occasional exception of McCoig, they all remain fairly sedentary. Musical dedication is incredibly important, but it would be great to get a little more stage charisma from these guys to turn up their performance dial!
Catchy Concord, N.C. natives Blu Avenue hit the stage next with their fresh and mostly upbeat rock. The great thing about these guys is their diversity and flexibility. Their musical style ranges from a pop-rock sound to a little jazzier undertone to a more alt rock sense. They show obvious signs of great stage presence in the making, but still maintain a little room for some fine tuning. Vocalist Frank Kerschbaumer sounds like a wailer in the making with the way he belts out sustained notes and with a little more practice his vocal range could extend tremendously. The band played their high energy, infectious set with a rigor and excitement that was evident in the way they worked the stage. The entire set was full of songs that held the pace of the evening and was even peppered with the giving away of several merch items including t-shirts and bracelets. Songs like “Expose the Liar” and “Skyfold” charged the air and actually solicited some movement from the crowd. With their genuine passion and earnest efforts, Blu Avenue made for an eclectic and intriguing addition to the night’s bill
LuciD from Springfield, MO came and delivered an interesting change of pace for the night. The eccentric trio brought the noise, literally, and not everyone was keen. Their high pitched tuning and rap/rock sound didn’t seem to go over swimmingly with the majority of the crowd, as the ones that remained were few in number. LuciD is a band trying to bring back and change up the sound reminiscent of Limp Bizkit in the early years, before people knew what rap/rock could be. It would be advised that they tread lightly and carefully to meticulously hone their tuning and fine tune their dynamics, less they risk being written off as just another one of those band. This is not to say that they weren’t interesting to watch, their presentation and ownership was admirable, and when not punctuated with piercing guitar or overwhelming keyboards/mixing they were actually engaging. Unfortunately for LuciD, on this night the focus and interest was primarily on genuine hard rock and metal.
Righteous Vendetta came and tore the roof off with their incredibly high octane shot of alt hard rock. These Wyoming rockers showed The Chop Shop how they put on a rock show with their rampant stage prowling and leaping. They were “Losing Control” of themselves and the crowd was eating it up. Their ridiculously high energy performance had the crowd moving with them and heads banging across the room. Every aspect of their performance was gold from the time they hit the stage until the time they left it. Working hard to amp things up a notch they played a mixture of songs from their prior releases as well as from their latest album The Fire Inside which was released the next day (10.8.13). Songs like “Defiance,” “This Pain” and “Fight Back” highlighted the bouncy rhythms and palpable passion that inundated their entire set. Their songs also featured a fusion of hardcore and punk elements commingled with the hard rock base. Vocalist Ryan Hayes demonstrated an exciting vocal range that amped up the power behind every song and exemplified “the fire inside” of him.
The benefactors of the show, Tattermask, hit the stage next and began to enchant the crowd with their signature brand of melodic alt metal, led by the wide-eyed and highly animated Amanda Caines. Now finally getting to catch this spirited quintet, it is clear that the live show is much more interesting than just hearing it from afar. Onstage the band comes alive with bold expressions, big gestures and impassioned performances. Playing songs from throughout their musical catalogue including “Death of Me,” “The Scorpion’s Tale,” “Asylum,” and their newest single, “No More,” Tattermask hit a variety of sonic and emotional highs and lows. Caines’ vocal range jumps and drops from an Amy Lee (Evanescence) type high to a more guttural hardcore growl. The band made an interesting choice in cover song on this night and chose to perform Seal’s 1994 classic “Kiss By A Rose.” I’ve always sort of liked the song, but their version I love! This band has the nerve to be different and the boldness to be gregarious despite the expectation of a metal band. Tattermask delivers a soulful performance leading to a visceral reaction, and yet, still manages to keep it light and fun- a must see.
Finally it was time for the men of the hour, Taproot. Led by the sensational and effervescent Stephen Richards, the band cranked into a set consisting of songs from all across their musical repertoire. Looking around it was obvious that the audience was captivated by the frisky, eager, and occasionally flirty mannerisms and charisma of Richards and company. That night fans of all ages were able to enjoy the likes of “Calling,” “No Surrender,” “I” and, of course, “Poem.” The band has been around since 1997 and since its inception it would seem they have fine tuned their live dynamics. Engaging, enthralling and upbeat, Taproot know how to put on a show. These guys were such good sports they didn’t even mind some fans recording a few songs throughout the set. So gracious was Richards that he even took phones from fans to record his band mates, himself and the crowd from the stage for a lucky few. At the end of the last song, “Poem,” Richards even tossed the microphone into the crowd during the chorus to give fans a chance to gather around and sing along for a bit. Thankfully falling into the category of “bands that are just as good live as recorded,” Taproot not only produces a great stage show, but also ravishes the senses by creating an intimate atmosphere into which fans are sonically and scenically transported.
Overall, The Chop Shop played host to a plethora of talented musicians who all brought a little something different to the table. Between others on the “Fall to Action” Tour and the Charlotte natives, Queen City was alight with musical and emotional torrents of nostalgia and excitement. Taproot did seem to be living up to their claims of “melting faces and mending hearts” of all in attendance. A wink, a nod, a skip and a jump, with every movement across the stage, Richards was connecting with the audience and developing bonds that transcended the space of the room, because music is bigger than us all.