I’ve seen and photographed hundreds of bands this past year and there are two that have really stayed with me. Lucky Asbury Park, NJ got to experience them both on Friday, November 9th at The House of Independents. Red Sun Rising and Spirit Animal rocked a packed house (along with Dubé and The Walk Arounds) and did not disappoint. It was a night for fans to really get to know these bands more intimately, as the venue has that chill vibe that lends itself to interaction and mingling, both before and after the concert.
Red Sun Rising
This was my fifth time seeing the Ohio band Red Sun Rising in concert and the first time as a show headliner. Having just wrapped up opening for a leg of the Godsmack/Shinedown tour, it’s exciting to watch the growth progression of this talented group as they begin this new chapter in their musical career. Often, concertgoers frequent smaller, local venues to hear new music of which they might not yet be familiar. However, this time I saw a large contingent of fans who most definitely knew who Red Sun Rising was and who were determined to get as close as possible to the guys both during and after the show; a dedicated fan base in the making.
The band formed in 2006 and is comprised of Mike Protich [vocals/guitar], Ryan Williams [guitar], Dave McGarry [guitar/vocals], Ricky Miller [bass/vocals], and Pat Gerasia [drums]. With two solid albums to their credit, Red Sun Rising had two singles from Polyester Zeal reach #1 on the Mainstream Rock Chart while their more recently released album Thread hit #3 on the Heatseekers Album Chart (a ‘breaking and entering’ chart which highlights sales by new and developing artists).
Red Sun Rising often uses the hashtag #WeAreThread in an effort to describe their musical style. They’ve said that their influences are like “threads in a fabric and they cannot truly be described as one particular genre.” I’m going to take that “thread” genre analogy one step further in an attempt to accurately describe their sound that night. It was as if each musical element was woven together like a beautiful tapestry. Dave, Ryan, and Ricky’s guitar lines intertwined and blended with each other, sometimes artistically and sometimes in driving, hard rock fashion, depending on the song. Pat’s percussion interlaced the song’s melodies with a variety of artistic beats and accents, always keeping the songs interesting and moving forward. And then there’s THAT VOICE. Mike’s vocals are rich in tonal dimensions with an expansive range. He can vacillate effortlessly between a powerful, heart grabbing sound to a gentler, quieter tone highlighting his artistry as a truly accomplished musician. The added dynamic of the beautiful harmonies by the backing vocalists also contributed to the richness of the band’s sound.
Two other components that can make a show even better are stage design/presence and song selection. Red Sun Rising chose to accent the stage with soft pendant lighting creating a warm golden glow that made the venue seem even more intimate. Ryan, Dave and Ricky covered the whole stage and interacted with the crowd, while Mike would often focus his gaze on a single fan and seem to sing to just them. As a headliner you can be more creative with song choice and arrangement, and the band did a great job balancing the setlist with songs that really showed their diversity and chops. It introduced fans to some of their music that isn’t as well-known but definitely worthy of more play time.
Veins / Amnesia / Emotionless / Clarity / Uninvited / The Otherside / El Lazo / Blister / MyMuse / Evil like You / Stealing Life / Deathwish
Philanthropically, Red Sun Rising is passionate about the organization Musicares, which provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need. The band often mentions their support for mental health awareness initiatives and a portion of all of their ticket sales is going directly to the organization. On social media the band has had a very open conversation with fans regarding suicide awareness and prevention. In a recent interview with Billboard Mike said, " Just seeing people be that open and public about it is really moving -- and that's what we wanted to do. It's debunking that stigma that you can't talk about it and letting people see there's other people like them that have struggled with mental health issues. I think it's important to just make that outlet available to people."
Make sure to experience Red Sun Rising’s video of their song “Stealing Life” which features people who have been impacted by suicide. The song is one of the band’s masterpieces, beautiful in melody and message.
Red Sun Rising continues their tour through December. Make sure to get your tickets early, as shows are now selling out! For upcoming tour dates, visit their website.
Expect the Unexpected
If you want a concert experience with an energetic music vibe that makes you want to sing along and dance … then Spirit Animal is your band. Hailing from Brooklyn, NY, the band consists of Steve Cooper (lead vocals), Cal Stamp (lead guitar), Paul Michel (bass), and Ronen Evron (drums). Their songs are filled with funky beats, engaging vocals, and delightfully different tempo and tonal changes. And fans are totally digging their unique style!
The band formed in 2010 and released their first studio album Cost of Living. They followed that up with three EP’s: This is a Test, Kingdom Phylum, and World War IV. Their most recent album – Born Yesterday - was released on August 3rd, 2018 by Atlantic Records. Singles “Black Jack White” and “Regular World” have racked up 1 million and 3 million Spotify downloads, respectively.
Spirit Animal wasted no time ramping up the crowd by jumping in with “The Truth” and “Regular World” which are the perfect openers for their set. Steve engaged the audience with his punctuated vocals and crowd interactions. His voice is very versatile as each song is quite different in style, tempo, and presentation. He can pound out lyrics in rhythmic speech and then sing a beautiful melody in the same song and it all comes together as that signature Spirit Animal sound.
“World War IV,” “JFK,” “Painkiller,” and “Karma” filled the heart of the set and it was a blast to watch Paul and Cal as they played, danced, and sang during each song. I mean these guys REALLY FEEL the music and it just oozes out of them at every angle. The band once said that there aren’t many guitar solos in their songs, but to me it doesn’t seem necessary. The rhythmic combination of their guitar and bass lines creates so many dimensions to their songs that you feel like you hear something new each time you listen.
Ronen pounded out an incessant beat throughout the show and the diversity of his techniques cements the band’s sound as one that is truly dynamic and progressive. “Big Bad Road Dog” and “YEAH!” rounded out the set and it was evident that Spirit Animal had won the crowd over. Most fans were singing along and waving their hands to the beat. Check out their video for the song, “YEAH!”
Spirit Animal has a full schedule of tour dates and will be embarking on a tour with Dorothy in 2019. Go to Spirit Animal for additional information.
The Canadian band Dubé took the stage and gave us a taste of a very satisfying grunge rock sound that is sorely missing in today’s musical landscape. The band consists of brothers Jig [Bass, Lead Vocals], Liam [Lead Guitar, Vocals], and Quinn [Drums, Backup Vocals] who began their musical journey quite unexpectedly in high school when their mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. The boys would record themselves performing her favorite songs to cheer her up. Over time, they solidified their sound and began hitting the streets in Ottowa playing to crowds that have recently swelled to a few thousand.
Jig’s voice is gritty and raw, somewhat similar to Kurt Cobain’s gravelly punch. Liam’s and Quinn’s backup vocals are also strong and the overall sound of the band is hard-hitting and unfiltered. Heavy guitar lines, sweet lead guitar solos and masterful drumming worked the crowd up and by the end of their set it almost felt as if Dubé were headlining.
As Jig conversed with the audience he spoke of their love of hockey, their commitment to raising money for important causes, and how they record their songs. “We just go down in our basement, record our music and mix everything ourselves. Because … well ... recording is expensive.” I have to say that it works for them and it's what creates such an honest, organic sound.
To learn more about Dubé’s philanthropic mission and their dedication to making the world a better place, watch this video. It shows them talking about the experience of losing their mother to cancer, and how they are using that feeling of loss to help other young children in need. The band has raised over $150,000 to help orphans in Haiti; an impressive accomplishment for such a young group.
Also give a listen to their music and check out the video of their single “Alien.”
Upcoming tour dates can be found here.
The Walk Arounds
Alternative rockers The Walk Arounds introduced themselves in a big way at The House of Independents that night. The band consists of Donovan Evans (Vocals/Guitar), Connor Byrne (Lead Guitar), Tyler Van Pelt (Bass), and Matt Tiedemann (Drums). Formed just a short year-and-a-half ago in Jackson, NJ, this quartet discovered early on that they had a special sound. Playing off of that energy, they have already produced several cool tunes that have catchy hard rock riffs with a punk and grunge influence.
They played the songs “Count on Me,” “Jane,” “Jailhouse Tatoo,” “Point Place Girls,” and their new single “Princess of Everything” to a very supportive, approving crowd. The Walk Arounds possess a cool presence on stage, almost as if they’ve already had years of live performance experience. The guys have recently opened for Monster Magnet at The Starland Ballroom and have already played in The Saint and Stone Pony in Asbury Park.
On November 25th The Walk Arounds will be participating in a band competition “Rock to The Top” at The Stone Pony. Make sure to support this young, promising band by attending and give their music a listen on their soundcloud.
Red Sun Rising