The temperature at The Jersey Shore reached 100 degrees on August 6th, however the true sizzle came from another source that steamy evening. Halestorm, In This Moment, and show opener, New Years Day, blasted the Stone Pony Summer Stage in true hard core, heavy metal fashion. Fans of all ages amassed into one cohesive congregation that seemed to worship these bands for their commanding presence, musicianship, and message.
The Stone Pony, in and of itself, is an iconic venue with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi and The Smithereens rocking the stage. But if you haven’t experienced The Stone Pony’s Summer Stage, you’re long overdue. Right outside the doors of the legendary club is a massive outdoor stage rivaling those of many outdoor festivals. Cool ocean breezes flow in from the Atlantic Ocean cooling concertgoers who ebb and flow around the many food, vendor and beverage stands. It’s like being at a mini festival right on the beach!
Embracing that festival-like atmosphere, Halestorm, In This Moment, and New Years Day pounded out a four-hour show (collectively) that left us breathless and exhausted … yet wanting more. This sentiment could be heard from concertgoers exiting the venue who “never wanted it to end,” and “could listen for hours more.”
This trio of female-led hard rock bands is unlike any I’ve ever seen or heard. Backed by some of the most bad ass musicians (both in presence and musicianship) ... Lzzy Hale, Maria Brink, and Ashley (“Ash”) Costello fronted performances that mixed beauty, raw emotion, heavenly vocals, and heart-pounding rock. And all of it was built upon a unified message; one that was both empowering and thought-provoking. But we’ll get to that message in just a bit.
New Years Day
To start the evening, New Years Day stormed the stage and jumped right in with “Kill or Be Killed,” the first track of their 2015 album Malevolence. Ashley Costello provided warm, rich vocals atop driving guitar and bass lines, courtesy of Nikky Misery, Austin Ingerman, and Frankie Sil. Drummer Brian Sumwalt punctuated and pounded out deep rhythms accentuated by artful cymbal cadences.
The crowd became hooked early and pushed forward to connect with the well-established sound of this band. Their energizing setlist also included “Fucking Hostile” (Pantera cover), the brand-new original track “Disgust Me,” along with favorites “Scream,” “Epidemic,” and “Defame Me.” Hearing the intensity of these songs firsthand makes it easy to understand how this band has garnered so many adoring fans. Formed in Anaheim, California in 2015, New Years Day has five albums to their credit titled: My Dear, The Mechanical Heart, Victim to Villian, Malevolence, and Diary of a Creep.
As they neared the end of their set, Ash thanked the fans for coming out to support their band and listen to their music. She referenced the importance of embracing the power within you and being true to who you really are. This set the stage for the messages that were about to come from In This Moment and Halestorm.
In This Moment
The bright, golden sunlight that poured in through the rear of the stage was the perfect backdrop for the visually stunning stage show of In This Moment. Photographers were allowed to remain in the pit to photograph the entire show, which was a unique opportunity for us to be able to share the full production with you. I use the word production because this show was a phenomenal work of art. A band with a one-of-a-kind sound – a truly unique identity – who created a musical experience that was a feast for the ears, as well as the eyes.
Singer Maria Brink and guitarist Chris Howarth formed In This Moment in 2005 in Los Angeles, California. Throughout the years there have been several changes to the band’s lineup, however the current combination of band members is a smooth, well-oiled machine. There is a chemistry between the musicians that cannot be faked. In addition to Brinks and Howarth, the band also consists of Travis Johnson (bass), Randy Weitzel (guitar), and drummer Kent Diimmel. The hardcore sound that emanated from this group was exciting, emotional, and inspiring all at the same time.
Maria Brink‘s vocal style is as unique as they come. Depending on the song, the lyrics can be presented with sensual speaking; melodic screaming; deep, rich tonalities; or light, delicate melodies. No matter what the channel though, her voice is exquisite. “Blood,” “River of Fire,” and “Adrenalize” started off their set and mesmerized the crowd from early on.
Each song is an entity in and of itself, and the band has designed striking visual representations of the lyrics and meanings. Brink went through nine costume changes throughout the night and was flanked by dancers who also had several costume changes. All band members wore masks at some point during the show, and their makeup and clothing added to the drama and effectiveness of each song. Some stage props included a pulpit, a church-like structure, colorful lighting, a black cauldron with billowing red smoke, white globes, a steam gun, and a tall cone cap with the word “whore” written on it.
“Roots,” “Monster Jam,” “Big Bad Wolf,” and Phil Collins cover “In the Air Tonight” were hearty songs that pushed the show forward. If looking for a common denominator within In This Moment’s music, I would say it’s the message behind the lyrics. Often, the early years in life deal many a harsh blow. Pushing through it and using it as energy to propel you out of the darkness is a thread in their music, as can be heard in some of the lyrics in “Roots:”
I bite down a little harder
My blades a little sharper
My roots, my roots
Run deep into the hollow
Strike back a little harder
I scream a little louder
My roots, my roots
Run deep into the hollow
I'm stronger than I ever knew
I'm strong because of you
I hit back a little louder
Fuck you a little harder
My roots, my roots
Run deep into the hollow
The energy of the band and fans escalated with the unique performances of “The Infection,” Sick Like Me,” and “Oh Lord.” The emotional and show-stopping crown jewel was their rendition of “Whore.” Maria spoke to the crowd specifically about that song and its title. She explained that the title alone evokes so many emotions and is extremely powerful, and that is why she wrote a song around it. She emphasized the utmost importance in embracing who you are and not being afraid of it. No matter what negative labels or experiences we have had, they don’t have to define us. But they can motivate us to improve our situation. You can hear that struggle in some of the lyrics of “Whore:”
You probably thought I wouldn’t get this far
You thought I’d end up in the back of a car
You probably thought that I’d never escape
I’d be a rat in a cage, I’d be a slave to this place
You don’t know how hard I fought to survive
Waking up alone when I was left to die
You don’t know about this life I’ve led
All these roads I’ve walked
All these tears I’ve bled
In This Moment is a band you should run to see. And once you see them, you will do what it takes to see them again. Check out their upcoming tour dates at: http://www.inthismomentofficial.com/tour.
Fresh off the release of their latest album Vicious, Halestorm has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are at the top of their game. Vocalist Lzzy Hale and her brother Arejay Hale originally formed the band which also includes guitarist Joe Hottinger and bass player Josh Smith. Since signing with Atlantic Records in 2005, Halestorm has produced five outstanding albums: One And Done (2006), Halestorm (2009), The Strange Case Of … (2012), Into The Wild Life (2015), and Vicious which was released just last month. In 2013, the band won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance, the first female-fronted band to do so.
Stone Pony fans exploded as the hard rockers shook the stage with their brand-new hit, “Skulls.” Half of the evening’s 15 song setlist contained material from their new album, and it’s no wonder why. Vicious has already produced a top-ten hit with “Uncomfortable” and it wouldn’t surprise me if additional tracks break the top ten as well. In addition to “Black Vultures,” “Do Not Disturb,” “The Silence,” “Uncomfortable,” “Killing Ourselves To Live,” and “Vicious;” Halestorm added “Heart of Novocaine” to the set after several fans requested it during the meet and greet. You know an album has succeeded when fans are requesting a song that was released only two weeks prior.
Lzzy’s voice is as strong as ever and she can scream a song as beautifully as she can sing it. Her powerhouse vocals were assertive, dominant, and emotional as hell. The energy behind her singing was matched perfectly with the high intensity of the driving guitars, pumping bass line, and frenetic drumming. Showing off her versatility, Lzzy also wowed the crowd with a beautiful performance of the love song, “The Silence.” It was one of the sweetest highlights of the night.
Ajay Hale kept the pace moving fast with a five-minute drum solo that showcased his percussive skills while playing with the biggest drumsticks I’ve ever seen. Rounding out the setlist were many crowd favorites including: “Love Bites (So Do I),” “I Miss The Misery,” “I am The Fire,” “Freak Like Me,” “Amen,” and the encore “Here’s to Us.” Fans were dancing and singing every word with pumped fists in the air.
Lzzy took time to show appreciation for the fans and thanked everyone for choosing to spend the night at a Halestorm show. She pointed out a fan in the front row who has seen the band seventy-five times and it seemed to genuinely humble her. The connection between Lzzy and her fanbase is strong and she wants Halestorm’s music and message to be meaningful to them. In a recent interview with Backstage Axxess, Lzzy was explaining why their new album is titled Vicious. She said, “... it’s just so much more in life right now than being strong and weathering the storm. You kind of have to come at life with a little bit of teeth and be fierce about it – be bold and forceful and force yourself into these situations that maybe make you uncomfortable, maybe make other people uncomfortable.”
At the show she told the audience the importance of being “unapologetically you.” “It’s ok if others don’t understand it,” she added. “It’s all about overcoming the impossible.” The lyrics of Vicious say just that:
What doesn't kill me
Makes me vicious
I'm not gonna break, I can take
All that you can give, this is survival
Of the sickest
I am not afraid, bring the pain
Watch out 'cause I'm vicious
And I'm not asking for forgiveness
Yeah I make you go ballistic
Your torture is our business
And I won't leave a witness
Halestorm should be on every concertgoer’s must-see list. Even if you’ve been to one of their past shows, it is definitely worth seeing them perform again in order to hear their incredible new material. Check out their upcoming tour dates: http://www.halestormrocks.com/tour.
In This Moment