Coheed and Cambria with The Used bring Rock back to California

By Matt “Rabit” Martinez Red Hare Images

Five hundred and thirty nine days. It has been Five hundred and thirty nine days since I was able to attend my last major concert. It was DragonForce at the Regent on March 6th, 2020. Only five days before the world would change forever. I had many concerts already lined up that I was looking forward to that all got cancelled one after another. It broke my heart to hear that live music was coming to an end, and that I would not be able to attend a concert till who knows when. A few months later tours and shows would be announced, only to be cancelled again and again. It made me believe we would never see live music in large crowds again. When I heard that Coheed and Cambria with The Used rescheduled their tour for the end of summer in 2021, I had little hope the show would actually happen. To my major surprise, enough people got vaccinated, and stayed safe long enough for this tour to happen. From March 6th. 2020 to August 27th, 2021 I have gone without a major live music event to attend. But after Five hundred and thirty nine days I was finally ready to join my rock family at the Five Points Amphitheatre in Irvine to scream our voices ragged and bang our head till in pain.

The First band up to bring live music back to the masses was east coast Pop Punkers Meet Me at the Altar. A five piece all female rock band who were excited to be performing on Irvine’s grand stage. Starting off their set with “Hit Like A Girl,” lead guitarist Téa Campbell came in with a danceable guitar lick, followed by drummer Ada Juarez double bass thunder. Together they made sure Irvine was ready to Rock. Walking on stage with pink and blue dreads was lead singer Edith Johnson, captivating the audience’s attention instantly. Once the first few lyrics left Johnson’s voice, you could hear how happy she was to be singing live. With such a grand amphitheater to play on, Campbell and rhythm guitarist Kaylie Sang could be seen constantly running back and forth across the massive stage having the time of their lives. Not to be lost in the mix, bassist El Xiques was letting her metal flair come out. Seen head banging, spinning in places, and thrashing around next to Juarez while never letting the bass groove slip. With catchy and upbeat original songs like “Mapped Out,” “Brighter Days (Are Before Us),” Now or Never,” and throwing in a medley of cover songs “The Sweetness / My Friends Over You / Break Stuff / My Own Worst Enemy,” Meet Me at the Altar got the audience’s hearts racing with live music once again. Captivating everyone in the crowd with their original flair and sound, and giving the audience classics to sing along to. Meet Me at the Altar was a great choice to start off the tour with, and provide the opportunity for a lesser known band to be seen by thousands!

Full Meet Me at the Altar gallery below:

This would be my fifth time seeing The Used. But surprisingly only the 2nd time seeing a proper set from them. The last few times I saw them they were doing short sets as part of Warped Tour or Rockstar Disrupt Music Fest. To say I was craving a full set from one of my favorite bands would be an understatement. As the stage lights echoed a heartbeat, the iconic opening phrase from the start of the album In Love and Death could be heard over the speakers: “You are about to see and hear one of the most significant messages given to us by God.” Like a bullet fired from a gun, the band came running out with so much energy pent up from not being able to perform for the last 18 months. Bert McCracken sounded phenomenal on the Mic with the clean vocals. While bassist Jeph Howard bracing himself with the widest power stance in rock, ran his fingers over the bass and bringing in the scream vocals. The Used released a new album during pandemic called Heartwork, and McCracken talked about how weird it was releasing an album without a planned tour to promote it. But they were ready to play some new music with songs like “Paradise Lost, a poem by John Milton” & “Blow Me.” The latter a song about fellatio McCracken laughed. Playing songs all across their discography with fan favorites like “The Bird and the Worm,” “I Caught Fire,” “Buried Myself Alive,” and “Blood on My Hands.” For the last song of the set, Guitarist Joey Bradford and drummer Dan Whitesides launched into the opening of Nirvana’s classis “Smells Like Teen Spirit” before bleeding into The Used classic “A Box Full of Sharp Objects.” As this was the last song and chance I had to sing along to The Used for some time, I could not resist the urge to scream my voice ragged. So much so that tears of joy started forming at the surreal moment I found myself in listing to live music once again.

Full The Used gallery below:

As fans lined the front of the stage with signs that read “Welcome Home Coheed & Cambria,” the FivePoints Amphitheatre was roaring with excitement for the stars of the night. Opening the night with “In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3” the boys from New York blasted into their tenured Progressive Rock/Metal sound. This was my first time seeing Coheed & Cambria and within a minute I was already enthralled by their showmanship and energy. Lead singer and guitarist Claudio Sanchez fired up the crowd with his piercing tenor vocals. Trading off guitar riffs with fellow guitarist Travis Stever, the dueling guitars created a beautiful medley of groove and showmanship. Even though he was stuck in the back, drummer Josh Eppard would not be forgotten and could be seen smiling and dancing away in his throne, all the while syncing up nicely with bassist Zach Cooper. Coheed & Cambria brought something special to the first night of the tour, debuting three songs never performed live with “Shoulders,” “Toys,” and a sequel song to the Rick Springfield classic with “Jessie’s Girl 2.” The fans ate up every second of music Coheed gave them, no matter how well known the song may be. Coming out for a two song encore with “Unheavenly Creatures,” and ending the set with their biggest hit “Welcome Home.” With the final song Sanchez dawned a dual neck guitar and turned FivePoints into a jam session. Never losing the interest of the audience, and transcending the crowd into spiritual bliss of live music cranked to 11. By the time the song had ended, and the band said goodbye, but the crowd was not ready. To say that people missed the feeling of live music would not convey the emotion we felt that night. As Coheed ended their last song, and the house lights came on, there was a few seconds where the whole crowd stayed seated as they refused to believe the night was over. As some of the crowd started to leave, more of the crowd stayed to chanted “One. More. Song!” over and over, praying to the metal gods that their wishes would be answered. But sadly, nothing.

Full Coheed and Cambria gallery below:

That night at the FivePoints Amphitheatre in Irvine will not be a night forgotten anytime soon, by any one in the crowd. For most of these people, they have not gotten the chance to experience live music in well over 18 months, or even longer. Many fans chose to wear masks, most didn’t, but every person in the crowd just wanted to remember what it felt like to be at a live concert and sing along to their favorite band. Coheed & Cambria, The Used, and Meet Me at the Altar finally allowed the fans to experience that once more. Hopefully this is not a flash in the pan instance, and that live music will continue. And that we will get back to seeing the bands we love, and being with the people that love them.

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