By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy, Photos by Matt “Rabit” Martinez Red Hare Images
From the first time I witnessed the spectacle that Nothing More put on; I just knew that the group from Dallas, Tex., was destined for greatness. From the songs, to the musicianship and stage persona, they can give the music fans a show they would never forget. They have been together since 2003, struggling to reach the peak of rock ‘n’ roll glory. As soon as Eleven Seven Music landed this coveted hard rock group, they have been dominating the rock scene, like never before. I had not seen them since their performance in 2014, at the Troubadour in Hollywood, Calif., so I was thrilled when they finally came back after 3½ years. Matt and his lady Kendra tagged along, to see the recent Grammy nominated outfit along with Big Story and the Contortionist. The opening band, Kerra, we did not get to see, but I imagine they did well.
I never really heard of Big Story, until I found out who was on the bill with Nothing More. Just like the headliner, they originate from Dallas. I really felt a connection to their alternative prog rock sound. Vocalist Randall Stephens crooned the fans with his powerful voice, connecting with them on a deep level. While he was doing that, guitar duo Dave Perez and Jovan Santos blazed through the songs, with some tough riffs. Santos was extraordinary each time he went into a new solo. Flyleaf bassist, Pat Seals, joined them on the road, and though I am not fully aware of the band’s history with bass players, I felt he is an excellent addition. He was a wild man out on the stage. I did not recognize any of their tunes save one, their biggest hit thus far, “Daydream.” An excellent live act, I plan on getting to know more about Big Story.
Full Big Story slide show below:
The Contortionist is a curious group. Coming from Indianapolis, Ind., the avant-garde metal outfit, who throws in progressive metal and djent into their sound, challenged our ears to dig what they were playing. The lighting they provided had a dark element, with a strobe light effect. I did not particularly care for it, but the audience believed it fit in very well with their set. They had just released their 4th album, Clairvoyant, which has done well for them. Frontman Michael Lessard hypnotized the fans with his soft, transcended singing, especially on their top single, “Reimagined.” He did not once scream to the top of his lungs, even when they played the heavier “Return to Earth.” What caught my eye, and ears for that matter, the most, was sheer riffs coming from guitarists Robby Baca and Cameron Maynard. Robby’s brother, drummer Joey, laid in some rich textures on the drum kit. Keyboardist Eric Guenther tickles the ivory in a very loose and trippy kind of way; you just got lost in his piano skills. Along with “Absolve” and “Godspeed,” the Contortionist got me seeing progressive metal in a new light.
Full The Contortionist slideshow below:
At last, after 3½ years, Nothing More walked on to the stage and woke me up with “Christ Copyright.” Not even 3 songs in, and I can see singer Johnny Hawkins go crazy, working up a sweat with his moves. He is by far one of my favorite frontmen in today’s hard rock and heavy metal scene. His voice is matched by no one, and he slays every song he threw at the crowd, especially with “Mr. MTV.” He is full of life, and he brings the fans to life as well. The ripping guitar strums provided by Mark Vollelunga, have a mind of their own. Bassist Daniel Oliver is a wizard on the instrument, just conjuring awesome notes out of thin air. Their newest drummer, Ben Anderson, is a tidal wave of pulsating bashes and crashes. If anyone was gonna replace Paul O’Brien, Anderson was the right choice. All four came together very strong, and had the fans eating out the palm of their hands.
Their live performance is what makes Nothing More a top act. After delivering a punch with “First Punch,” they brought out the “Bassinator.” A contraption they have used in past shows, it is where they put a bass guitar on the stand, and while Anderson hammers away, Hawkins, Oliver, and Vollelunga each play the bass together, creating insane rock ‘n’ roll. They played an equal amount of songs, from their self-titled record and their newest album, The Stories We Tell Ourselves. They also played “Ripping Me Apart,” “Here’s to the Heartache,” “Do You Really Want It,” “Fadein/Fadeout,” “Jenny,” and their biggest hit yet, “Go to War.” Hawkins got personal with Vollelunga, as they went acoustic with “Just Say When.”
After performing the smash hit “This Is the Time (Ballast),” they covered Skrillex’s “First of the Year (Equinox),” where they brought out their newest invention, the “Scorpion Tail.” A 14 feet tall machine built from scrap metal and salvaged auto parts, Hawkins was lifted to the air and created digital electronic sounds, giving the song a real edge. They ended their night with the classic “Salem (Burn the Witch),” where both Vollelunga and Oliver each held a drum in the air and Hawkins wailed on them.
Full Nothing More slideshow below:
This was an incredible show to attend and Nothing More just keeps getting better and more exciting, with each new show. Matt first caught them at Loudwire for 3 songs and wanted more. He considered that performance a taste test, and he liked it so much, he was ready for the full course. Kendra loved the show as well. Big Story is a great talent to watch for, and the Contortionist put the crowd into a trance. This is thus far my favorite concert of 2018. To Nothing More, the Contortionist, and Big Story, I salute you. Horns up!!!