August 20, 2015 Rise Against, Killswitch Engage, & letlive. Uplift The Masonic San Francisco, CA 8-11-15
Back in April, the news came down that Rise Against, Killswitch Engage, and letlive. would be teaming up for a North American Summer tour. Spreading like wildfire, it quickly became one of the most anticipated tours of Summer as fans purchased tickets immediately as they went on sale. Then, finally, July came and the select cities chosen were visited and the word began to travel that this lineup is everything it was hyped up to be. With only a few shows left on the tour, Punk, Metal and Hardcore fans gathered at The Masonic in San Francisco, CA on Tuesday, August 11th, for their chance at witnessing the show. A great venue, that opened in 1958, is a discussion piece about the very issues that headliner, Rise Against, sings about. Murals, friezes, and sculptures representing good vs evil, the working class, and more, scattered the area. Hearing from many in the audience, the general consensus was that, in this case, it was a lot of people’s first time seeing any of these bands. Many young people were present, showing that even though Killswitch Engage and Rise Against were both formed in 1999, a whopping sixteen years ago, they still carry a lot of weight.
There was no slow ramp up, and the show began with probably the liveliest act in the trifecta, letlive. Formed in Southern California back in 2002, letlive. has toured with everyone from A Day to Remember, Deftones, and Bring Me the Horizon. Building a name with their intense sound, their third studio album, The Blackest Beautiful, from 2013 via Epitaph Records is still being buzzed about two years after its release. Led by Vocalist Jason Butler, the band is rounded out by a tight lineup of Bassist Ryan Jay Johnson, Rhythm Guitarist Jeff Sahyoun, Drummer Lionel Robinson (ex-August Burns Red), and touring Lead Guitarist Kenji Chan.
Immediately sending the crowd into overdrive, frontman, or showman, Jason Butler never let up. In fact, the stage manager warned members of the press beforehand that in case he stage dived into the crowd within the first few songs, they were to evacuate the front area immediately. Tension was high with stage crew waiting, antsy on the sidelines, ready for anything. Mic twirling, throwing, tossing, dropping, and even eating? Butler sought to not only entertain, but to show his true passion for the music and the fans. Jumping on stacks and running back and forth, it was a wonder that his mic cables were not an impossible knotty mess, although, maybe they were. After, “Renegade ’86” and “That Fear Fever,” both of which sounded much different than they do on record, and summoning a circle mosh with words alone, Butler dove and his crew was ready, untangling cords and giving him only as much slack as he needed for a new song off their upcoming album, and it was expertly done. Everyone, even a waitress, was into it and one girl, the first of the night, crowd surfed over the barrier with a successful grin on her face.
Before “Muther,” Butler talked a lot about self-love and acceptance. Coming across very passionate, it was easy to feel the love he had for the audience. They then wrapped up with “27 Club” and “Banshee,” having the audience wanting more. While no name or date for the new album has been set yet, fans anxiously wait to see what letlive. has in store next.
Having a hard performance to follow, but fueled by fans of all ages, Killswitch Engage took the stage next. Hailing from the New England area, Killswitch Engage are one of the pioneers of the Metalcore scene along with bands such as Shadows Fall and All That Remains. Sustaining from twists and turns through the years, Vocalist Jesse Leach left the band back in 2002 following the release of sophomore album Alive or Just Breathing, paving the way for a decade of leadership from Vocalist Howard Jones. Then in 2012, a surprise came, and Leach returned home to Killswitch Engage ensuing a sea of excitement from fans prior to Disarm the Descent, Leach’s comeback record. Now settled in with bandmates Mike D’Antonio (bass), Justin Foley (drums), along with Guitarists Adam Dutkiewicz and Joel Stroetzel, the band still is dominant and vital in the hearts of followers.
Less talkative than letlive.’s Butler, Leach greeted the fans politely, then broke straight into 2006’s “My Curse.” Tight and on point from the get go, fans went over the rails much sooner than they had for letlive. Then 2004’s “Rose of Sharyn” came on, starting off the set with two songs that were originally recorded with Jones, and Leach did a flawless job. Jumping into newer songs with “Beyond the Flames,” an animated Leach reached out and force choked the audience ala Darth Vader. Next was the yet to be released song, “Strength of the Mind,” from their upcoming album. A song about struggling with and overcoming depression; it hit hard, and was well received by the audience. “A Bid Farewell” was next and “This Is Absolution” was the last in a two hit combo of Jone’s era songs, proving that while some fans preferred Leach, the days of Jones were some of Killswitch Engage’s most prosperous.
As “Life to Lifeless” began, someone handed Dutkiewicz a drink and he played part of the intro while chugging it showing not only his skills as a Guitarist, but those of a master chugs-man as well. More guitar tricks were in the works too as D’Antonio strummed Dutkiewicz guitar for part of the song and the master chugs-man continued to play one handed throughout a lot of the song. “You Don’t Bleed For Me” once again brought on some newer and Leach-led albums, particularly, Disarm The Descent. The next song, “Always,” was off the same album and the light show was blaring fans in the balconies and the floor was in a frenzy. During “My Last Serenade,” Adam went MIA for a bit of the song, though his guitar could still be heard. What he could have been doing is a mystery, but it certainly was an interesting part of the set. Then, “In Due Time” came before they completed their set with “End of Heartache” to give a nice balance to old and new. Nearly everyone was disappointed to see them go, and with new songs demoed back in March, the countdown is on for a new Killswitch Engage album.
Then there was Chicago, IL band Rise Against. Debuting in 2001 with studio album The Unraveling, it has been a career laden with fanfare and critical acclaim for these Punk Rockers. Strong in their beliefs, like Punk is meant to be, Rise Against has not wavered in their approach, and 2014’s The Black Market made many top records of the year lists. Now headlining their second tour in the last year, Vocalist/Guitarist Tim McIlrath, Guitarist Zach Blair, Bassist Joe Principe, and Drummer Brandon Barnes were ready to return to the Bay Area for the first time since September 2014 when they played Aftershock Festival in Sacramento, as well as the city of Oakland.
Whipping the crowd into a frenzy from the get go with newer song “The Great Die-Off,” it continued non-stop with older song “The Good Left Undone” and “Satellite.” By the time they made it to 2008’s “The Dirt Whispered,” people were getting injured and escorted out as they were so amped. Then came the decade old fan-favorite “Give It All,” which was one of the many scream-along songs of the night. This crowd could not restrain themselves. Perhaps it was the mix that the tour had pulled, but the love and cacophony were thick in the air. During “Re-Education (Through Labor),” people of all ages were dancing and having a blast. They continued dancing through “Survive” with not a care in the world. People were jumping, hugging, and singing. The love was real.
When “I Don’t Want To Be Here Anymore” came on, people were continuously being escorted out and tossed from the front area as every few minutes another one made it over the barrier. As Rise Against left their newest record, The Black Market, and moved into 2008’s “Collapse (Post Amerika)” the energy was powerful. The 2011 Endgame cut “Make It Stop (September’s Children) ” was the first shift in the mood, and it was still, amazingly, a shift up, when they played “Prayer of the Refugee.” An older classic, it captured the hearts of even the older fans that fell out into other musics later in life as everyone bounced and sang along.
Moving right along like a freight train, they followed with “Help is on the Way” and a commercial about how amazing the letlive. shirts were; guaranteed to make you “run faster and jump higher.” After “Black Masks & Gasoline” and “Ready to Fall,” off their first album to crack the US top ten, McIlrath gave a very beautiful sermon on music. Sermon, because it was very religious almost where he stated “Whatever is going on in your life, whatever you have, leave it here.” The congregation at that point rode out the next few songs in bliss, and when they walked off the stage, the chants for an encore were strong.
McIlrath surprised all by coming back on stage alone and with an acoustic guitar for the first two songs of the encore, “Hero of War” and “Swing Life Away.” The last two songs were with the full band, and were dedicated to everyone in their scene from AFI to Greenday. First was “Dancing For Rain,” which was especially appropriate considering the drought that California is facing, and second was “Savior,” a great cap to McIlrath’s sermon about the religiousness of music. As they departed for a final time, screams filled the air and their RISE logo sat brightly illuminating the room with the falling bird logo prominently behind it.
The show was an incredible mix of people. It made every mosh and every hug that much more meaningful. Rise Against truly is great for putting this all together and being able to draw such awesome people to their shows. Their performance was one everyone will not soon forget. Now complete, the tour was so popular that a second leg has already been booked for November, so get out there and see these three bands together before it is too late.