Review: Escape the Fate with Attack Attack

(Above: Escape the Fate find “Something.”)

By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

Escape the Fate and Attack Attack capped a long night of metal at the Beaumont Club on Thursday. Rarely has a genre so closely associated with darkness and despair sounded as communal and uplifting.

Neither five-piece band had any trouble whipping the crowd into a frenzy. The Beaumont was just over half-full at its peak, and the crowd made full use of the extra room, creating pockets of mosh pits. Attack Attack singer Caleb Shomo repeatedly encouraged the formation of a large slam-dance circle in the middle of the floor, and fans were all too willing to comply.

Both bands traded in tuned-down guitar riffs, growled and screamed vocals and insistent machine-gun bass-drum cadences. While the verses to many songs were musically hostile, the lyrics spoke of redemption, perseverance and self-belief.

The fun-loving crew of Attack Attack.

Driving the point home on nearly every number was a big, poppy chorus that dropped the screaming and allowed the coed crowd to participate in spreading the message.

What each act lacked in sonic diversity, it made up for in sustained energy. Shomo and Escape the Fate singer Craig Mabbitt walked the line between ringleader and supportive sibling, commanding dancing and jumping, encouraging sing-alongs and always praising participation.

Shomo and Mabbitt also took time from their brief 55-minute sets to preach the importance of holding on to one’s dream no matter what others may say and the conviction that any dream is possible provided one believes in it enough and works hard to achieve it.

Several numbers in the Columbus, Ohio-based Attack Attack performance had a strong dance element, with silky keyboard loops spinning underneath the forceful arrangements. The discotheque elements provided a nice counterbalance to the metal façade. When Escape the Fate let up on the throttle ever so slightly, its music revealed a strong emo influence.

Hailing from Las Vegas, Escape the Fate hasn’t released a new album since 2010, so anticipation was high to hear new numbers. Attack Attack’s third album, “This Means War,” has been out only since January, but there was no dip in crowd enthusiasm between the older and new material.

At one point, Mabbitt dedicated a song to all the moms and girlfriends out there. The ensuing number was a pleasant surprise. Instead of a clichéd, misogynistic, sex-drenched come-on, “Ashley” was a heartfelt tribute to Mabbitt’s girlfriend. One song earlier, Mabbitt dedicated the song “You Are So Beautiful” to his little brother, who was helping at the merch table.

Romance, affirmation and appreciation aren’t very metal, but then again neither is having a family re-create “Crazy Train” for a car commercial or reappropriating “Welcome to the Jungle” to announce a relief pitcher.

Attack Attack and Escape the Fate may not pass muster with purists, but they’ve figured out a great formula. Sweeten the chorus enough to bring the girls along for the ride, make enough noise to keep Dad shaking his head and scream long enough for Mom to frown.

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Review: Get Up Kids

(Above: The Get Up Kids perform “Martyr Me” at the second show of their two-night stand at the Record Bar in Kansas City, Mo.)

By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

Nearly a year to the date after reuniting, the Kids are still alright.

Homegrown heroes the Get Up Kids capped off a two-month tour opened their dual-night stand at the Record Bar Friday night in front of an energetic crowd. Both shows benefit the family of the late Recycled Sounds owner Anne Winter.

No one in the band mentioned Winter during their 80 minute set. Instead they dashed through 20 songs that encompassed their decade of glory, inspirations and a couple new numbers.

The night started with a frenetic, nonstop explosion through “Holiday,” “I’m a Loner Dottie, A Rebel” and “The One You Want.” After slowing things down with “Valentine,” the Kids kicked into a new number.

“Your Petty Pretty Things” doesn’t deviate from the sounds and themes that made the hometown band famous around the world, but has enough wiggle room in its three and a half minutes for the band to kick it into high gear during the outro and ride the riff together before abruptly wrapping up. That energy was channeled into a powerful reading of “Come Clean.”

The band was lined up four across with the drums in the back of the corner stage. Keyboard player James Dewees was pushed so far to stage left that it seemed like he faced out the windows and into the parking lot more often than into the crowd.

As usual, Dewees was the band’s not-so-secret weapon. He shined an acoustic duet of “Campfire Kansas” with guitarist Jim Suptic on lead vocals, but Dewees’ most interesting contribution came on “Keith Case.” The second new song of the night, “Case” appeared out of a left turn from “No Love.” Driven by Rob Pope’s fuzz bass, Dewees applied a shimmering sci-fi synth line that makes the sound stand out in Kids’ catalog. Later, Dewees’ classic piano riff formed the bridge from “Holy Roman” into “Mass Pike.”

Although the Record Bar was full, there was still plenty of elbow room. The faithful throng delighted in throwing back frontman Matt Pryor’s words with same energy they were delivered. “Act and Action” erupted into one of the biggest sing-alongs of the night until “Don’t Hate Me.” The atmospheric “Walking on a Wire” kept slowly building layer by layer until both the crowd and the band took it through the roof.

In lieu of an encore, the band went straight into their cover of “Close To Me.” The Cure’s  1985 hit was obviously a big influence on the band, but the Kids nearly manage to one-up their heroes with Ryan Pope’s buoyant drum line propelling the song.

The set ended at midnight with the final words to “Ten Minutes” ringing out: “Everything will work out fine.” So far, it has.

Setlist: Holiday; I’m A Loner Dottie, A Rebel; The One You Want; Valentine; Your Petty Pretty Things (new song); Coming Clean; Woodson; Out of Reach; No Love; Keith Case (new song); Red Letter Day; Campfire Kansas; Holy Roman; Mass Pike; Act and Action; Walking on a Wire; Close To Me; Beer For Breakfast; Don’t Hate Me; Ten Minutes