Review: Of Mice & Men, Nottingham Rock City

Last night I went along to Nottingham and saw one of my favourite bands, Of Mice & Men, performing live for the fourth time.  I hadn’t planned on attending, however a last minute change to my work and my sister’s sixth form schedule meant we could take the trip to see the performance.  I didn’t manage to get any photos from the gig, but here’s a snap from the band’s Instagram account which will give you a taste of the atmosphere.

A photo posted by Of Mice & Men (@omandm) on Oct 4, 2016 at 12:13am PDT

We arrived to the venue a little late, so unfortunately we only heard opening act Hands Like Houses perform three songs of their set.  From what I heard, I really enjoyed their performance: the vocalist’s voice was strong throughout, and the instrumentals sounded pretty tight.  These guys were definitely a solid choice of opening act.  Here’s the video for one of the songs they played:

Following Hands Like Houses was Crown The Empire, whose performance I also really enjoyed.  There were a couple of issues with microphone levels throughout this set, however: during the first couple of songs the vocalist’s voice was drowned out by the instruments, and towards the end his microphone was too loud and the guitars were overpowered.  Even noticing this issue, I still thought Crown The Empire put on a great show, and they really helped to amp up the atmosphere in preparation for Of Mice & Men to take to the stage.  Here’s the music video to one of the songs I most enjoyed hearing them play:

Then it was time for the main act to take to the stage.  Of Mice & Men opened with Pain, one of my favourites from their new record Cold World, and it was a fantastic, high energy start to the gig.  They mainly played songs from the new record, which is understandable as it was only released a couple of weeks ago, as well as a fair few from Restoring Force.  I was extremely pleased when I realised that they were also playing The Calm, The Storm, The Flood and The Depths in succession, which definitely went down well with more long term fans of the band.  Their encore was topped off with Second & Sebring, was was probably my highlight of the whole night.

Overall the performance by Of Mice & Men was brilliant, as per usual, with no noticeable technical issues or dodgy microphone levels.  In the past I’ve consistently noted that Aaron Pauley’s vocals live were fairly weak and quiet, however even though he complained of waking up with a cold yesterday morning, I think his vocal performance was the best I’ve heard.  Maybe he was pushing his voice harder than usual to make up for his illness?  The only issue I found with the band’s performance was Austin Carlile’s clean vocals during Away: I thought his voice was quite nasal, and reckon he’d be better off sticking to harsh vocals from now on.

It was definitely worth seeing Of Mice & Men for the fourth time, as to me their performances are getting better and better every time.  If you’re able to attend any of the remaining UK tour dates this month, I’d highly recommend it.

Were you at the gig last night?  What did you think of the performance?  Let me know on my Facebook or Twitter page, or in the comment section below this post.

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altrocklife’s guide to going to gigs with grown-ups

If you’re under 18, you’ve probably attended a gig with your parent(s), a guardian, other relative or parents of friends.  Now, this post isn’t a parent-bashing rant: I’m well aware that I wouldn’t have been able to attend lots of the gigs I have without parental supervision.  In fact, I wouldn’t be going to see Foo Fighters in June if my Mum and Stepdad hadn’t paid for the tickets.  Plus, I couldn’t have gone to Of Mice & Men in Nottingham last Thursday if my Dad hadn’t been around to give us a lift.  Ah, the woes of not being able to drive and living in the middle of nowhere.

However, I’m definitely more fortunate than others, as my parents and I share a lot of the same music taste.  The vast majority of the time, if I ask a parent if they can accompany me to a gig their response is about as enthusiastic as mine.  In fact, I think my Mum is more excited about seeing Foo Fighters live than I am, and that’s saying something!

But if you’re stuck with a parent or guardian who isn’t into the same music as you are, they might end up channelling this member of security staff, below, which could make the experience a lot less fun for everyone involved.

Security staff member at an event facepalms with Black Veil Brides performing in the background
It’s OK, security person, it’ll all be over soon.

Here are my top tips for making a gig the best it can be, not only for you, but for the adults supervising you:

Try and pay for your own ticket if you can, or at least contribute to transport costs

Parents and guardians will be more likely to agree to take you to a gig if you can pay your own way.  If you’re being taken by the family of a friend, offering to pay for your own train ticket or handing over some petrol money will show that you’re responsible, and understand the costs that these grown-ups have to incur for you to attend this gig.  The more you can demonstrate this, the more likely they’ll start allowing you to go to gigs by yourself sooner.

Listen to the band’s music with them before the gig

Whether this means putting on the band’s CD in the car, or sharing headphones on the train while you listen to their latest single, giving the grown-up some of the band’s music to listen to (and listening to it with them) will make them feel included.  They’re more likely to accompany you to gigs again if you don’t act like you’re just using them as a glorified taxi.

Find stuff for the grown-ups to do while you’re at the concert

This point doesn’t apply if the accompanying grown-up has a ticket for the gig themselves, but only if they’re acting as chauffeurs.  If you’re attending a gig in an unfamiliar town or city, your grown-up may feel like their only option is to sit in the car until it’s over, which sucks for them!  Do a little research before the gig and find some nice restaurants, a cinema, some evening tourist attractions and maybe a sports bar for your grown-up(s) to visit while you’re busy enjoying the concert.

Be prepared for the grown-up to start an argument with other concert-goers

True story: my Mum started a fight with the guy sat behind me when we saw My Chemical Romance at Nottingham Capital FM Arena because he kept drunkenly hitting me in the back of the head and pouring his beer over me.  Parents and guardians will be extra protective and territorial at gigs, so beware.

And last but not least, BE THANKFUL!

Make sure at every step of the way you’re making it clear that you’re aware the grown-up of choice is giving up their evening, and possibly their money, for you.  Be appreciative, and they’ll be more likely to accompany you again, next time your favourite band is in town.

What are your experiences of attending gigs with grumpy grown-ups? Let me know in the comments or on Facebook or Twitter.

Currently listening to: GoldImagine Dragons

Review: Enter Shikari, Portsmouth Pyramids

My year of gigs started with a bang last night, thanks to Enter Shikari’s excellent Portsmouth Pyramids show.  Three diverse but talented support acts got the crowd excited for the main act.

Unfortunately I was unable to snap any pictures, but here’s my verdict on The Mindsweep Tour’s opening night.

The first support were Glaswegian four-piece Fatherson, and I enjoyed their performance a lot.  The vocals from lead singer Ross Leighton were on point throughout the entire set.  Their style reminded me a lot of Lonely The Brave, which is definitely not a bad comparison to make.  Check out the video for I Like Not Knowing, a track from their setlist last night:

Next up were allusondrugs, and whilst I’m not a massive fan of their style of music, I still enjoyed their performance.  All five band members were dripping with enthusiasm (and sweat), and frontman Jason Moules had plenty of attitude.  Blaming the crowd for the day’s rain may not have been a great move, though.  Check out the video for their track Nervous, one of the better songs from their setlist.

The final support act were Kent five-piece Feed The Rhino, and this is when the night started to get messy.  The pit opened up during this set, thanks to the band’s flawless performance.  I’d never heard any music by these guys before last night, but I’ll definitely be following them from now on.  Here’s the video for their track Deny And Offend to give you an idea of what their set was like.

Finally, Enter Shikari took to the stage.  They started the night with a mash-up of pop and dance remixes giving the audience a countdown until the start of the show.  I’ve never seen a crowd more excited with 10 minutes still to go until the main act appeared.  

They opened with The Appeal And The Mindsweep I, which I wasn’t particularly surprised about, but Shikari definitely have better openers.

Their setlist was fantastic for fans of their latest two albums, The Mindsweep and A Flash Flood Of Colour.  Old school fans may have been disappointed, as the only older songs on the setlist were Destabilise, Radiate, Juggernauts, Mothership and Slipshod.  I was also pretty gutted that I had to leave early to catch my train home and ended up missing Sssnakepit, one of my favourite Shikari tracks.

Their stripped-back version of Dear Future Historians, which included Rou playing an upright piano on stage, was a really beautiful part of the night.  I won’t forget it any time soon.

Although there were a couple of technical hitches, I think Enter Shikari smashed last night’s gig.  If the rest of their UK tour dates go as well as last night, they’re on to a winner.

Currently listening to: Chop Suey!System Of A Down

Review: Linkin Park, O2 Arena London

Honestly, this gig could not have come quickly enough.  I’ve been a fan of Linkin Park since I picked up their Minutes To Midnight album back four or five years ago, and I’ve wanted to see the California six-piece live ever since.  If you’d told 14-year-old me that I’d get to see Linkin Park live someday, I probably wouldn’t have believed you.

But, back to the gig itself, starting with the support act – Of Mice & Men were an odd choice, I thought, considering the genre difference.  However, their sound was loud enough to fill the O2, and their performance was electric, like it had been at Leeds Festival a few months ago.

As an aside, by the way, check out how close we were to the stage!  I was a little worried when I found out we had seated tickets, in case we ended up right up in the back corner of the arena, but I was more than happy with these seats – the closest I’ve ever sat to the stage at an arena gig so far!

Anyway, back to Of Mice & Men.  I was a little disappointed in their setlist, because aside from The Depths, every track was from their latest album Restoring Force.  As much as I love that album, I would have really loved to hear some of their older tracks, especially some songs they didn’t play at Leeds Festival, but that’s just me being picky.

After a few songs even reluctant crowd members were getting excited by the Orange County quintet.  Austin’s vocals were spot-on, and he did a great job of getting the crowd excited.  Aaron’s clean vocals were drowned out by the instruments a little, possibly down to nervousness or maybe his mic levels were too low – however, what I did hear of his voice was excellent.

The atmosphere during Another You was awesome – the crowd all held up their lighters or phones, and because my sister and I were the only people in our block of seats with their phone lights on, Austin came over and waved at us!  That was a pretty awesome feeling.

Overall, I definitely wasn’t disappointed by Of Mice & Men’s performance, and when they come back to the UK next March/April on tour I hope to be able to see them perform in a more intimate venue.

Now, with no further ado, on to the main event: Linkin Park.

As soon as Linkin Park walked on stage, I knew the entire crowd was in for an unforgettable experience.  Chester and Mike’s vocals were on point throughout the entire night, even if Chester did sound a little nasal at times. Guitarist and Bassist Brad and Phoenix were great fun to watch interacting with the crowd and getting everybody hyped.  Drummer Rob’s performance was flawless throughout the entire night, and his drum solo near the end of the set was one of my show highlights.  Mr Hahn could have done more to interact with the crowd – when he had nothing to do, he simply sat down behind the turntables.

The band’s 16 years of touring was evident in that their performance was like a well-oiled machine.  However, Chester and Mike’s interactions with the crowd and each other gave the night its own unique spin.

Overall I was extremely happy with the setlist – the band used a lot of mash-ups and played shortened versions of fan favourites to try and cover a decent snapshot of their lengthy discography.  It was heartening to see the audience reacted just as positively to tracks from The Hunting Party to those from Hybrid Theory and Meteora, which just goes to demonstrate Linkin Park’s wide appeal, and explains their continued success.

Whilst it would have been good to hear more full-length tracks, obviously time constraints meant that just wasn’t viable, and although I was saddened that a lot of older songs were cut down, it makes sense that on The Hunting Party Tour they would want to play full-length songs from that album.

Highlights included the stripped-back piano mash-up of Leave Out All The Rest,Shadow Of The Day and Iridescent, and the entire encore which included Lost In The Echo, New Divide, Until It’s Gone, What I’ve Done and the incredible Bleed It Out.

Last night was my first arena gig since I saw Avenged Sevenfold at Wembley Arena last December, and I think I forgot just how much can be achieved in an arena – the scope for light shows, video displays and the audio quality just cannot be replicated in smaller venues.  Linkin Park definitely filled every inch of the O2 with their massive performance, and I’m sure they will continue on their path to world domination.

Currently listening to: RebellionLinkin Park (featuring Daron Malakian)

#tbt : My first gig went a little like this…

First off, I’d like to apologise for the punny title.  I’m one of those people who speaks in song lyrics rather than actual fully-formed sentences half of the time; something my friends really enjoy.

Anyway, today I’m gonna start up a feature I like to call #tbt, or throwback Thursday.  Before anyone starts, I’m already well aware that #tbt has been floating around Twitter and Instagram for a long time.  Can you blame me for wanting to piggy-back off that success?  Basically, every Thursday I’m gonna travel back in time and talk about something a bit old school.  Hopefully this’ll result in a lot of nostalgia for everyone involved.

Ever since I started this blog I’ve wanted to talk about my origin story.  It might not be as exciting as Wolverine’s, but when I attended my first ever gig in 2010 I was probably adrenaline-fuelled enough to demonstrate one of Hugh Jackman’s trademark angsty, despair-filled cries to the moon.  Kinda like these.

On that fateful evening of the 19th of June, 2010, I made my way to Wembley Arena where I watched the incredible Green Day, supported by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and Frank Turner.  This gig was the catalyst that got me interested in rock, alternative and punk music, so for that Green Day will always hold a special place in my heart.

I even still have my ticket, stuck up on my bedroom wall back at home, as well as the t-shirt I bought at the gig, which I brought to university with me even though it’s far too small.  Sentimental is my middle name, you know.

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(I also had the good fortune of seeing them headline Friday of Reading 2013, and their performance was just as mind-blowing three years on.)

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Frank Turner were excellent choices for support acts.  Joan Jett got the stadium buzzing with Bad Reputation, and Frank Turner’s The Road was a real anthemic, sing-along moment.  However, as much as I enjoyed the support acts, nothing could have topped the main act for me.

Billy Joe, Mike and Tré performed like a well-oiled machine with limitless enthusiasm.  I could tell that they still love and enjoy performing, even 25 years after the band’s inception in 1987.

Highlights of the gig were East Jesus Nowhere, Are We The Waiting, and their mash-up of Iron Man, Sweet Child o’ Mine and Highway to Hell.  

Now, I’m aware that this blog post, in itself, is nothing new: everybody knows that Green Day are an establishment of pop punk, and put on an amazing show.  For years after this gig I was worried that no other band would ever be able to top their performance.

Even so, I think I’ve made it clear that if I could turn back time and experience that gig again, I would without a second thought.

Currently listening to: Need To BeMemphis May Fire 

Sonisphere 2014: The festival I wish I was attending

Oh, man.  When all the usual UK summer festivals started announcing their line-ups last year, Sonisphere wasn’t even a consideration.  As much as I appreciate Iron Maiden and Metallica as institutions of metal, I wasn’t all that bothered about seeing them headline a festival, and the rest of the line-up, whilst good, wasn’t massively inspiring.

But tonight’s announcements are making me regret that decision.

Band Of Skulls are playing on the Friday, which makes me sad ’cause that band is pretty damn awesome and I’m gonna miss them.  I’d also kill to see Gallows, and Chiodos and The Bronx look like they put on a pretty good show.

Those new announcements, added to already announced The Prodigy, Frank Turner, Reel Big Fish and Limp Bizkit make Sonisphere a real competitor in this year’s festival line-up.

Looks like whilst I was deciding whether to go for Leeds or Download (Leeds won, by the way) Sonisphere sneaked up behind me and hit me round the face with a killer line-up.  Damn.