November 23, 2016 Highly Suspect Spark Excitement in NYC 10-29-16 w/ Slothrust
To the naked eye, it would appear the rise of Hard Rock soldiers Highly Suspect has come out of nowhere. Quite understandable, in less than two years, the New England natives went from rather unknown to seeing their 2015 debut album, Mister Asylum, garner them nomination for Best Rock Album at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards. In addition, the album’s lead single, “Lydia,” was also nominated for Best Rock Song. Feats some bands will never attain in their entire career, it stands to reason that some would say, “Who exactly are Highly Suspect?” Well, much like other “overnight successes,” it is never as instant as it seems. This is a band which has been hard at work since 2009 when twin brothers Rich (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Ryan Meyer (drums, backing vocals) along with their best friend Johnny Stevens (guitar, lead vocals) came together because of a love for music.
Initially performing covers from their favorite bands around their hometown of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, they soon relocated to Brooklyn, New York to explore new avenues. Quickly turning to write their own music, Rich states, “Our music is the direct result of our real life experiences. What comes out, comes out. We are not trying to fit into a box here. We are just creating what we feel and like. That is really it.” A respectable approach, Highly Suspect’s style mixes everything from Hard Rock, to Blues, to Classic Rock, to Reggae, but it is not limited to that. In fact, Highly Suspect have no exceptions of who and what they should be, they are just proud to be themselves. Now on the high-speed train to stardom, just a year after Mister Asylum’s release, they return with their sophomore effort, The Boy Who Died Wolf. Quite a quick turnaround, in celebration, they launched a North American headlining tour back in September, to much fan excitement. A tour that worked its way across the Midwest out to the pacific coastline and back north, Highly Suspect touched down in New York City just before Halloween, arriving at Irving Plaza on Saturday, October 29th. Nursing a growing base of devoted fans, the crowd was sizable prior to doors opening, with a line wrapped around the corner.
Eagerly waiting on the lengthy line, most were decorated with band tees and Halloween costumes as they stormed in, anticipating the opener, Slothrust. Traveling a similar route as Highly Suspect, Slothrust are original from Boston, Massachusetts, but currently reside in the borough of Brooklyn. Signed to Dangerbird Records, they are led by led by Lyricist Leah Wellbaum on vocals/guitars, along with Will Gorin on drums and Kyle Bann on bass. Hosting a small, but devoted, fanbase, Neo-Grunge band Slothrust are a true breakout band on the rise.
As ghouls and miscreants of all kinds filled up the floors of Irving Plaza, the anticipation ran high with Slothrust taking stage, kitty masks and all. Giving a short welcoming word to the crowd, they started their setlist, drowning the audience in their signature Grunge/Shoegaze revivalist sound. Starting off with “Surf Goth,” “Misnomer,” and “Mud,” the entire venue was swept up into a vortex of ’90s reminiscent sound and droning vocals. Becoming more lively, the band pushed forward with the popular song “7:30AM,” receiving whooping cheers. As the audience swayed in the blaring lights, Wellbaum and company seemed to resonate with that energy, really giving it their all. Returning to their melancholic brand, they played “Pseudo Culture,” “Like a Child Hiding Behind Your Tombstone,” “Magnets pt.2,” “Rotten Pumpkin,” and hit song “Horseshoe Crab.” Waiting for the cheers to die down, Wellbaum thanked the crowd again, flattered by their admiration.
Lights flashing, washed out, laden guitar chords immersed the audience as Slothrust wrapped up their set with “Pig Pen,” and fan-favorites “Crockpot,” and “Beowulf.” Taking a moment to address the crowd once more, the band asked if the audience was ready for Highly Suspect; the response was an enthusiastic yes. Bidding farewell, Slothrust exited the stage to a hearty applause of approval from those gathered. Charming in many senses, Slothrust seem to really know how to connect with their crowd and talk to them as if they were old friends. For more on this band, be sure to check out their new album, Everyone Else, out now.
In what seemed like no time at all, Highly Suspect took stage to roaring approval and dim, mysterious lighting. Not wasting one moment, the band greeted their crowd and launched into the music, starting with the narrative driven “Blood Feather.” Cutting through the noise, they jumped into the grungy “Bath Salts,” followed by faster-paced “Lost,” before slowing back down with the hit “Lydia.” Taking a quick breather, Stevens asked how everyone was doing, only to be greeted by a sea of screams.
Continuing onward, lights drowning the crowd, Highly Suspect began again with dreamy Blues Rock number “Round & Round,” Classic Rock vibed “Fuck Me Up,” and ruckus favorite “Vanity,” resulting in everyone jamming out, going completely mad. Between the rambunctious energy of the crowd, mixed in with the mischief of Halloween, Irving Plaza was filled with electricity that everyone siphoned as the band played on with “Wolf” as well as the trippy and crazy “Seretonia.” Stevens thanked the audience once again, claiming New York City to be a fun place to play. To end it all off, Highly Suspect closed on a strong note, playing “My Name Is Human” and “Claudeland” before a jam-like session morphed with “ATL” before exiting the stage to thunderous applause for the good time all around.
The tour in support of The Boy Who Died Wolf has been an interesting journey thus far for Highly Suspect. Concluding the North American leg on November 13th, their choice of varied supporting acts complemented their sound. As mentioned, Slothrust is a Grunge revival driven sound, who, while playing slow and having an engagingly casual written narrative, is somehow fresh and unique in today’s scene. One of the most interesting facets of Slothrust is their lyrical composition combined with their garage sound, making them huge competition for any others in the genre. As for Highly Suspect themselves, there is nowhere to go but up. Between the high energy and genuine passion for their craft, the band is undeniably rocketing upward into stardom. True rockers at heart that combine many different styles of Rock with their expertise, these guys sure put on a hell of a show and know how to cause intrigue. If this is any indicator, The Boy Who Died Wolf Tour will be an overwhelming success for Highly Suspect as they continue oversea, heading toward the UK.Photos credit: Stephanie Pearl Photography