On an evening that promised rain at a 60% chance by 6 pm, I was worried that the outdoor, rain-or-shine show I was about to attend was going to be a wet one. I arrived at the windy Jannus Landing at 1 pm for the show that was supposed to begin at 4 pm at the Jannus Live courtyard. Before the show began, I was set to meet with one of the tour's openers, Nine Lashes. While waiting to meet up with singer Jeremy Dunn, I saw folks like Trevor McNevan and the rest of TFK as well as guys like Joe Rickard of RED strolling around the area outside of the venue. I also came to a startling realization about RED and their tour bus. It's blue… It just makes sense that it should be red, right? After the interview and waiting around a bit, the show that was advertised for a 4 pm start time began right around 5 pm.
The evening's festivities kicked-off with the Canadian band KIROS. While I was not a fan of their ANGR debut album, I was actually slightly impressed with them live. Their sound translated much better to the live experience from the album than I ever would have expected. They started with their album opener, "Broken State," and got the crowd, who was long tired of waiting, moving a little bit. They followed that with "Outlaws and Prodigals." The entire band was showing good energy, especially lead guitarist Ryan Guerra. Singer Barry MacKichan shared some jokes about their homeland before breaking into the rocker "Unshaken," which really got the crowd going. Before playing their final song for the evening, MacKichan took a minute to share a word about Jesus and offered to talk to anyone about him further after their set. KIROS closed out their short set by performing an older song released on one of their independent EPs, entitled "Hurricane."
A quick change out of a few drums brought Tooth and Nail's Nine Lashes to the stage. After talking to a quiet and reserved Jeremy Dunn pre-show, I was impressed to see the energy that poured from him on stage. Nine Lashes got things rocking, as they started their set off with "Our Darkest Day" while donning the same black jackets with red chevrons they wore in their music video. Though the song was my favorite from their debut album, it was lacking a little without the vocals of Demon Hunter's Ryan Clark that really pushed the song on the album, but it did its job in getting the crowd going. Though Nine Lashes is a relatively new band, they had quite a bit of fans present. I was surprised to see the number or people singing along with songs from their album which had been released for less than 2 weeks. "The Intervention" was next up before Dunn taught the crowd the "Oh oh oh oh oooh, ooohoooh" line from their song "Get Back" and encouraged everyone to sing back the last part as the played the song. Next up was the popular and crowd favorite "Anthem of the Lonely." The band closed their energetic set with the song "Write it Down." As the song ended, before they departed the stage, Dunn told the audience that none of what they have accomplished was possible without his best friend, Jesus, and offered to share more about Him at the booth after the set. While normal bass player Jared Lankford was at home with his newborn baby, their replacement did a great job and didn't seem to miss a beat. The five-song set gave me even more hope that Nine Lashes will be a band that will grow and stick around awhile.
Rap/rock has been dead for years, but it seems as if nobody informed the Great White North of this development. The second of three Canadian acts, Manafest, took the stage next. Manafest brought his KJ-52-meets-TFK blend of rock to the crowd with another high energy performance. Manafest strutted onto the stage in a black leather jacket and a TFK beanie as he began the song "Impossible." Though it was great weather for an outdoor show in Florida, we were still in Florida, and it wasn't long at all before the jacket and beanie were off. Manafest got things fired up as he performed the next song, "No Plan B." The song was a fan favorite and really got the crowd even more into the show than they had been previously. After the song wrapped up, Manafest took a minute to get real with the crowd as he quickly discussed struggles and hardships people go through in their lives, referencing his father's suicide in his own life. As he was wrapping up his short monologue, you could tell the song "Every Time You Run" was next up. As Manafest performed the song, you could tell that the lyrics were directly from his heart; it was the only time in the show where he actually stood still as he closed his eyes and sang the chorus. After the slower song ended, Manafest reminded everyone that his new album was coming out in April. With that being said, the band began to play the lead single, and title track, from his upcoming album, "Fighter". After wrapping up his newest song, he closed to show out with "Avalanche." The song was obviously a crowd favorite and they sang along and cheered him and the band off the stage. The screams continued as everyone knew TFK was next up.
The drums were revealed on a small platform with "TFK" showing on the front (after the show started, the clear TFK in front flashed and changed colors). Right after the cover was removed from the drums, the strangest mic stand I have ever seen was set up center-stage. It was a metal stand with four legs, hips, and a long spinal cord rising all the way up to a short piece for the mic to rest in. Though Trevor was limping around while walking outside before the show, he put the pain of his apparent injury behind him for their set. Trevor was a ball of energy from the start as Thousand Foot Krutch began with "Welcome to the Masquerade." McNevan and company kept things rocking and they quickly flowed into "Bring Me to Life" and the fan favorite "Move." By the time "Move" finished up, the crowd was at an all-time high that would only continue to build throughout the remainder of the night. Next up, Trevor asked permission to sing a new song which was met with a loud response, and the band began to play "Let the Sparks Fly" from their upcoming album. From there, the guys from Canada (Maybe this should have been called the CANADAlution Tour?) moved right into two other fan favorites, playing "Fire it Up" and the hit from Phenomenon, "Rawkfist." Trevor gave everyone another reminder of their new album as he introduced their next song, "The End is Where We Begin." Although it's a new song from an album that hasn't released yet, the folks at Jannus Live were already very familiar with it. As the show began to wind down. "Falls Apart" was next up on the set list. From here, TFK closed things out in what has become the norm with "Puppet" from their debut album, Set it Off. The song had an excellent reception from the audience as their set ended. There was almost no deviation from their live album released last year and the set at this show. Because they weren't headlining, they had to cut the set shorter, but the only two songs that didn't appear on Live at the Masquerade were the two new songs.
After the set finished, they played a nearly five-minute long advertisement for Compassion International with Trevor McNevan. During the advertisement, they introduced people to Compassion International and their mission of helping and supporting children in third world areas. After the ad ended, a representative of Compassion International took the stage to give people in attendance a chance to sponsor a child right then and there. If you agreed to sponsor a child that night Compassion International and Thousand Foot Krutch would provide a download card immediately good for three new songs. Better yet, the card was good for a free download of the complete album, The End is Where We Begin, when it releases in April. It was a pretty sweet deal for those who were willing to commit to the $38 a month to sponsor a child.
As the moment that most were anticipating most was almost there, the stage emptied completely. The only thing left was a black shroud covering something very large on the back of the stage. The only thing that was visible was four large pipes evenly spaced over the entire covering with two enormous gears - one on each side. Soon after the stage cleared, smoke began coming from the pipes and from behind the shroud as stage hands and techs began setting up. Trevor wasn't the only one with a special mic stand this evening. While setting things up, one of stage hands brought a clear mic stand out with red LED lights running inside up the length of the stand. When it was apparent (shortly after 8 pm) that everything was set up, sound checks were complete, and RED was about to take the stage, the chant, "RED, RED, RED, RED," began to rise up out the crowd. As it did, the shroud was removed revealing a large machine. As smoke poured from the pipes and the large gears turned, the drum kit lit up as well with LED lighting on the front of the machine and in the background above and behind it.
As Mike Barnes and company took the stage, the crowd went crazy. The entire evening had been building up to this moment and the energy in the outdoor courtyard was electric. RED took center-stage decked out in black jumpsuits, hoses on their left arms, and black paint on their faces (and head in Mike's case), and the opening riff to "Feed to Machine" only increased the volume of those present that Sunday evening. After the opening song ended, they continued with a barrage of other songs including, "Fight Inside," "Let Go," "Never Be the Same" and "Buried Beneath." With each song, the audience was presented with a spectacular LED light show that changed with each song along with the color of the drum set and singer Mike Barnes and bassist Randy Armstrong took turns speaking to the crowd between songs. Although it was an extremely loud event, it almost felt intimate, especially as they began to talk about their next song, "Not Alone." As they began playing the slower song from their latest album, Until We Have Faces, the crowd began to sing along loudly.
As the song was fading out all attention went to drummer, Joe Rickard, as he began his four part drum solo. He started off with your typical rock-n-roll drum solo, but as a backing beat kicked in he shifted to a more hip-hop vibe. Playing along with the hop-hop sound, things transitioned into another switch as an industrial-techno sound came roaring in with Rickard's drum beat following suit. Finally, vocals for a very clean version of The Lonely Island's "I'm on a Boat" kicked in. As much of the crowd sang along to the funny, yet thankfully edited, lyrics, Rickard played along and finished out his somewhat impressive solo. As the remainder of the band re-entered the stage, Barnes talked about a song they wrote about not knowing who you really are. As he finished speaking, the riff for "Faceless" started up and got everyone pumped up all over again. From there, they ripped through the songs "Already Over," "Confession" and "Who We Are." After finishing that stretch of songs, Mike said he wanted to join the crowd in the fun they were having. He bailed off the stage and over the fence separating the audience from the stage with the help of security (After all, he is a little guy) and waded his way through the crowd of people to the center of the audience. He told everyone about "the washing machine" and explained how it worked. As the song "Shadows" began, the circle pit started with Mike Barnes right in the middle of it all. Upon making his way back to the stage, Mike explained that their machine stage set stood for what the world wants from us, including the way we look, things we say and do, and what we read, watch, or listen to. He explained that none of that mattered and that the things of God were what was really important. From there, they played "The Best is Yet to Come," followed by "Lie to Me (Denial)" as the closer.
They exited the stage and the chants started back immediately. With not much delay at all, a keyboard was rolled on the stage as well as two stools. Randy Armstrong played the keyboard while his brother and guitarist, Anthony Armstrong sat down to play an acoustic, as they played "Pieces" from their debut album End of Silence. After completion, Barnes announced they had one more song that they had written years ago and said it was still one of his favorites. As "Breathe Into Me" began, the place went crazy, singing along and moshing throughout the entire thing. As the set came to its close, they graciously bowed and waved to a crowd screaming out of control and exited the stage after nearly an hour and a half of playing.
Thankfully, not one drop of rain fell that night; it was a perfect night for an outdoor show in Florida. While it's a pretty rare occasion to attend a show in which I can honestly say I enjoyed every band, this was one of those times. From KIROS, whom I had zero expectations for, to RED, which I had HUGE expectations for, there wasn't a letdown. After the show finally got started, there wasn't really a disappointment all night. I'm sure some people were upset that their favorite song wasn't played, but that is nearly always the case for someone. Though we were outside, the volume was high. At the risk of sounding like an old man (I live by the old rock adage, "If it's too loud, you're too old."), I won't say it was too loud, but I will say it wasn't mixed as well as it should have been. Often times, especially with TFK and RED, you could barely hear or make out the words over the music. Really though, when everything was said and done, it was an excellent night of music, both for bands who cemented themselves to me and to those who got me to re-evaluate them. It's always exciting to see bands--and all of them fall into this category--that are willing to share their faith and love of Jesus Christ, even in a secular venue that served alcohol for a show promoted by a non-Christian radio station. Well done, all.-- Michael Weaver, 2/28/12
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