May 15, 2017 Nothing More Tear Up NYC 5-8-17 w/ Black Map, As Lions, & Hell or Highwater
Back in 2014 a promising young band burst onto the Hard Rock scene going by the name Nothing More. Young yet experienced, this do it yourself group of musicians’ tale began much earlier than their big introduction to the mainstream upon signing on with Eleven Seven Music and releasing their self-titled album on June 24, 2014. In fact, they had been in the game for for a decade working independently and paving their own path. Now after garnering a wave of success including reaching number 33 in the Billboard 200 album charts, number 3 in US Hard Rock album charts, and top 20 with 3 blister singles, Nothing More has arrived.
Far from at their peak, Nothing More are merely scratching the surface of what they are capable of as they prepare to release their follow-up album. Working in the studio and looking to outdo their previous efforts, Nothing More embark on month long spring tour with support from Hell of Highwater, As Lions, and Black Map. One enticing lineup for Hard Rock and Alternative Metal fans, the tour found it’s way to New York City on Monday May 8th starting the week off the right away with a packed out crowd at Gramercy Theatre. The first headlining run for Nothing More in quite sometime, their growing fan base was amped up at the opportunity to see the band along with the stacked bill that preceded them.
Up first was Southern California stars-on-the-rise Hell or Highwater, who took the stage to a jammed house. With some history behind them, including a mix of veteran musicians from other well-known bands such as Atreyu, Hell or Highwater are now signed on with Spinefarm Records preparing to release their sophomore album Vista on May 19th.
Opening bands rarely draw the attention of the entire crowd, however, Hell or Highwater’s high-energy set demanded the full attention of every person present in Gramercy Theatre. As lead vocalist Brandon Saller, also of the Metalcore band Atreyu, bounced across the stage during the band’s opening song, there were a few folks who politely indulged him as he asked for participation with the song’s chorus of “woahs.” That was not nearly enough for Saller and his bandmates Bassist Nick Maldonado, Drummer Kyle Rose, and Guitarists Joey Bradford, and Jon Hoover–they wanted all eyes on them. So, for their second song, Saller climbed up onto a riser full of concert-goers and performed the song over them while the floor lit up with cell phone screens ready to take photos, an act that stunt seemed to stun the crowd.
Next, as the band performed their latest single “Don’t Hate Me,” a heavy banger from their the forthcoming Vista, Saller took a stroll through the crowd, walked all the way up to the venue’s seated area (giving high-fives along the way, of course), all the while maintaining his melodic vocals. Then Saller made himself at home atop one of the venue’s bars to perform “Lighter than Air,” a slower ballad. They ended their set with the single “I Want It All,” and this times fans participated fully in this singing of its catchy refrain. By the end of the set, Hell or Highwater’s infectious energy, interactions with the crowd, and killer musicianship won the crowd over completely.
Next to shred was London, UK Metal outfit As Lions, whose debut album Selfish Age was recently released in early 2017. The son of Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson, As Lions vocalist Austin Dickinson is no stranger to the stage and the Rock community, nor are his bandmates. In fact, the band rose from the ashes of Rise to Remain a few years ago as a new beginning, looking to try their hands at a new more mature brand of Hard Rock. Heavy, melodic, their talents collectively reach new heights with the birth of As Lions.
Making their second major appearance in North America under the name As Lions, first opening for Five Finger Death Punch, Shinedown, and Sixx:A.M, in late 2016, Dickinson’s showmanship immediately became vividly apparent. In addition to Dickinson, Guitarist and Keyboardist Conor O’Keefe, Guitarist Will Homer, Bassist Stefan Whiting, and Drummer Dave Fee brought the house down with their frenetic performances. Matching the energy with solid ability, As Lions tracks feature crushing breakdowns and melodic fills.
Dickinson was also eager for some audience participation and asked for the audience to “Scream!” dozens of times. From here the band rolled through tracks off their debut album including the lead single “Aftermath,” slow burner “Bury My Dead,” and heavy-hitter “Deathless.” Dickinson was especially chatty between songs, so much so that the band likely could have fit one more song. But still, this was an introduction for many New Yorkers, so the personal conversation helped deeper connection. Receiving As Lions with open arms, their final song, “The Great Escape,” Dickinson asked the crowd to put their arms around the people next to them as a sign of unity and camaraderie. In a time where people are more standoffish and disconnected than ever, surprisingly, most people listened. Watching the human chains sway to a lush and breakdown-heavy track about friendship was pretty unique and a testament to the power of As Lions’ music.
Unique to the acts that came before, Black Map had a much different stage presence -they focused solely on their music and kept the between-song banter to an absolute minimum. Kicking off their set with one of their earliest tracks, “I’m Just the Driver,” it took over the room in frantic fashion. Though the band consists of only three members, they manage to create a huge, expansive sound during their live set as they continued with cuts such as “Run Rabbit Run,” “Foxglove,” and “Octavia” combine pounding bass and stellar vocal work from Flanagan, explosive drums, as well as fast-paced guitar work that make for an exciting live show. Taking in the music and all it had to offer everyone watched as Black Map offered heaviest tracks like “No Color” and their closer, “Ruin.” Those looking for highly addictive heavy and atmospheric music need to check out Black Map.Anxiously awaiting Nothing More, their fans soon had their wish granted as the band took the stage. Those familiar with Nothing More and their on-stage theatrics know that their stage setup is an intricate one. Drummer Ben Anderson’s kit seemed to take up nearly half the stage with its six cymbals, and, in addition, several other free-standing drums were set up across the stage to be used by the band’s other members: guitarist Mark Vollelunga, bassist Daniel Oliver, and enigmatic vocalist Jonny Hawkins, who took to the stage minus shoes and shirt, showing off his ripped muscles physique to the adoring crowd. A band of friends, they were a well-oiled machine firing on all cycles.
Raucous cheers greeted the band once they finally made it onto the stage, shouting along with opening number “Christ Copyright” off their most recent LP. Next every was treated to a brand new, high-energy track entitled “Let ‘Em Burn” that showed off Hawkins’ stellar vocal abilities. From here the athletic Hawkins made full use of the stage and bounced around like a pinball through “If I Were” and another new song entitled “Ripping Me Apart.” Though there was little moshing taking place during these new offerings, mostly likely because they were fresh to many ears, everyone seemed enraptured by the band’s stage presence and killer musicianship.
After fans sang along through “First Punch,” it was time for the Bassinator to take center stage. Those wondering what the heck that is, the machine is a skeletal, altar-like machine that holds Oliver’s bass so that he and Vollelunga can tap its strings simultaneously like two people playing a piano. The members were soon joined by Hawkins who played his third of the instrument with drumsticks to create an impressive, unique spectacle to wow the crowd with.
Just some of the highlights, following that insanity was the heavy-hitting “Mr. MTV,” one of the band’s hit singles from their self-titled LP, Hawkins continued working the stage and engaging the crowd. Now completely riled up, the crowd moshed and headbanged through “Here’s to the Heartache” and another new banger “Who We Are.” It cannot always be full speed ahead though, and things calmed down a bit through the emotional, slow-burning “I’ll Be OK.” A much appreciated diversion, the energy skyrocketed once again during one of the band’s most well-known tracks, “Jenny,” during which the crowd went wild as strobe effects flashed through the room.
Taking a quick breather, Hawkins told the crowd that the past year had been a difficult one for him and the band, but the good news was that they poured all of those emotions into their new record that is scheduled for release come September. Hearing the news, everyone went wild as Hawkins promised that in addition new singles would be coming as early as next month. A good piece of information to hear, it became time for the band’s explosive finale and Hawkins reminded the crowd that the band does not do encores, they “just do the last song right.” That is exactly what they did with beginning with the emotional high of “This Is The Time (Ballast)” and “Salem (Burn the Witch).” The latter, a frenetic track which finished with each member abandoning their instruments and pounding massive drums while Hawkins scaled the Bassinator, they proved they are not just showmen, but tremendous musicians.
Fans chatted animatedly as they filed out of the theater, excited about the spectacle they had just witnessed and the promise of new music on the horizon from Nothing More. After Nothing More finishes up the remainder of their US tour, they will be hopping across the Atlantic to play some European dates, but hopefully they make it back to New York City very soon.
Photos by: Aintellin Photography