Anyone questioning the fate of rock and roll should have been at The Starland Ballroom on March 24th to see Pop Evil assert themselves as one of the most progressive and hard rocking bands today. Strong undercurrent guitar beats drove the music forward at a frenetic pace, complemented by hardcore drumbeats and singing guitar solos. The musicality of this group of equally talented musicians is the reason their live shows are so excellent. There is no one member that dominates. Instead, it’s a collective effort of five talented musicians doing what they love … for those who love them ... their fans.
Leigh Kakaty connected with the crowd with his fist pumping lyrics, solid vocals, and conversations with the audience. The set of 16 songs began with favorites “Ways to Get High,” “Boss’s Daughter,” and “Torn to Pieces.” Then the band exploded with “Waking Lions,” Pop Evil’s recent #1 hit on Billboard’s list of Mainstream Rock Songs. “Waking Lions” is the jewel of their new self-titled LP, and a very special creation of Kakaty’s and the band’s. The crowd’s reaction showed that it has quickly become a meaningful favorite to them as well.
Pop evil’s most recent addition – Haley Cramer – pounded her drumkit as if that was all she was born to do. Perched high above the rest of the band, she alternated standing and sitting as if to put even more energy into her riffs and artistic drumming. It is very apparent why she is so well respected by fans and fellow band members. She is perfectly suited for this band and was the perfect choice to complete this quintet of rockers.
And let’s talk about Pop Evil’s trio of guitarists. Bassist Matt DeRito kept things moving with an incessant foundation as he covered the entire stage connecting with fans through smiles and looks of recognition. He shared his playing in a way that made the audience feel included in the show, rocking his hair as well as his guitar playing. Guitarist Davey Grahs pulsed and punctuated each song in assertive hard-rocker fashion. He impressively flipped his pick up in the air and caught it, all while playing and never missing a beat. Lead guitarist Nick Fuelling played progressively sweet solos that seemed to float atop all of the musicality happening underneath.
Kakaty reminisced back to one of his first performances in this area in 2008 where he played for a fan base of “about 5 people.” He said it was rough back then but seemed inspired by the overwhelming support of his NJ fans now in 2018. “NJ always comes ready to party. You are quickly becoming one of the biggest supporters of Pop Evil,” he told the audience. The band worked through the setlist of past and current favorites, arranged in an order that built upon the energy of each previous song. As they arrived at their final song “Take It All,” fans were jumping up and down, crowd surfing, and singing at the top of their lungs.
The encore consisted of three chart toppers: “100 in A 55,” “Footsteps,” and “Trenches.” After alternating his singing with the crowd for “Footsteps”, Leigh wiped a tear from his face. “There is no greater feeling in this business than hearing your fans singing your songs. Thank you for allowing us to be part of the soundtrack of your lives.” He seemed genuinely touched and grateful.
In a recent interview with Loudwire, Kakaty mentioned the process of defining who Pop Evil is and what the band’s meaning was to their fans, as well as themselves. He linked POP to a feeling of finality, and EVIL to their hard rock foundation. When fans define Pop Evil for themselves, they seem to connect to the message of the band’s lyrics, which is what makes them such a unique musical force. It’s difficult to write lyrics promoting personal betterment and positivity to the backdrop of hard rock, but Pop Evil does just that. And it comes off as a brilliant combination that makes this band truly unique and loved.
To see if Pop Evil is playing in a city near you, visit http://popevil.com/tour-dates/. They have shows scheduled through August, including several festivals. Follow @popevil on Instagram and Twitter for great pictures of their tour and life on the road.