By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy, Photos by Matt “Rabit Martinez Red Hare Images
Blast off! And party time! Those are some immortal words echoed in classic Grammy winning System of a Down tune, “B.Y.O.B.” Those lyrics were screamed to the top of the roof by their eccentric guitar genius, Daron Malakian. Known for his unique blend of riffs that consist of avant-garde, alternative metal, jazz, and hard rock, I never knew how good he was behind the microphone before that song exploded in our ears like a bomb. Malakian also has a another band that he considers his second baby, Scars on Broadway. That group was formed around the first hiatus of System of a Down, and they have been met with great enthusiasm from fans and critics on-and-off for 13 years. More rock driven than anything he has done before, Malakian has reformed them once again and released Dictator last summer. He has since got that itch to tour with Scars on Broadway once again, and one of their stops was at the Observatory in Santa Ana. So naturally, Matt and I had to make an appearance and check them out.
There was no opening act for this show, it was all Scars on Broadway. The first song they played was “Animal,” which I believe is a brand-new song that is not on either of their 2 records, so this was a treat to hear. I was really taken aback by the hard rock edge they brought to the stage, mixed with a little bit of an experimental side. It is like System made a baby with David Bowie and Neil Young, then out came Scars on Broadway. Malakian sounded really good belting those lyrics with such conviction. He still keeps his sonic edge when he is pumping out those blistering riffs and solos. Backing him up were guitarist and sampler Orbel Babayan, bassist Niko Chantziantoniou, and drummer Roman Lomtadze. Babayan not only handles his own on guitar, but he had this sampler set right by his mic, where he could add in some electronic and piano flavors to each of the songs when it called for it. He is their touring renaissance man. Niko was like a Tasmanian devil on the bass, vicious slashing at those beats. Roman was incredibly ostentatious on the kit.
For almost 2 whole hours with no breaks or encores, Scars on Broadway blazed through the night with songs I never heard of before, but somehow knew the words to. That is amazing to know some of the words to songs I am new to. That is how much of an impact they made on me that night. Most of their material tackled on the issues of politics, war, and life in general. Malakian is never one to shy away from speaking his mind on political corruption and influence. Scars on Broadway played their self-titled album and Dictator in their entirety, and the fans were ecstatic for it. Malakian would sway and glide on the stage, moving hypnotically and rhythmically to the beat. They were so fucking good. From “Sickening Wars” to “Fucking,” “Chemicals,” “Dictator,” “Guns Are Loaded,” “Scars on Broadway,” “World Long Gone,” “Funny,” “Universe,” “Angry Guru,” “Never Forget,” “We Won’t Obey,” “Till the End,” “Fuck and Kill,” “Exploding/Reloading,” “Stoner Hate,” and “Cute Machines,” the metalheads of Santa Ana got 30 songs of rock ‘n’ roll exhilaration. Just as they were wrapping up “They Say,” Malakian tossed his guitar aside and stage-dived into the crowd like a boss. That was the way to go out.
Full Scars on Broadway gallery below:
The whole night was a festive rock show, full of catchy tunes, rock ‘n’ roll swagger, and adrenaline filled crowd surfing. Scars on Broadway was better than I thought. Malakian is a true showman and an appreciator of the fans. Not only did he bring up a young fan to help sing one his tunes, but he also dedicated one to a fan he dubbed “Puke Boy” who spewed chunks over the barricade as he crowd surfed. He swears he has never seen that before, and thought it was dope. This was one concert I am glad we caught. To Daron Malakian and Scars on Broadway, I salute you. Horns up!!!