HEAVY BANDS AND BREAKDOWNS
STATE THEATRE 8/14
The house lights turn off, and you know the time has come. As the fans start screaming in the State Theatre, a high-pitched pulse begins. While it starts out slow, it gets faster and faster until, at last, the band steps out. As they approach their microphones, grab their drumsticks and get their guitar straps straightened, you know the time has come. This band is the Sick Puppies, and they are just about ready to blow our faces off.
Prior to this moment, I find myself entering the State Theatre to a long line at the merch table. As fans eagerly purchase their Sick Puppies t-shirts, I first start to notice the diverse group that makes up the Puppies fan base. Young kids, angst-filled teens, mothers, fathers, and even the grandparent here and there. There was a reason for this, as I decided to push further into the theatre with photographer Annie Ashby at my side.
While you always expect a crowd prior to the opener arriving on stage, the crowd that night was of a different breed. The concert, put on by radio station 94.3 WCYY as part of their Summercamp 2013 series, featured local band Dead Season as the first opening act. In all honesty, I have never seen so many people show up for an opener. That fucking Maine pride hung in the air throughout the whole show, but began at the start of Dead Season’s set. Originating from Oxford, Maine in 2002, this band is not only a staple on CYY, but a staple in the rock culture within the state.
Their sound screams metal, and so did their energy. By the time the second song rolled around, there were mosh pits forming within the crowd (I, with my little pad of paper and pen, made sure to dodge all throws and punches like the plague). With each song, the band really involved themselves with the crowd as Ian Truman pointed at fans and thrusted his fists in the air, which garnered response fists from the crowd. The highlight of their set was their fan favorite, Cancer, which spent some time at the WCYY Top 5@5 for weeks upon weeks (they even unleashed an unreleased song, The Unsympathy, for the show). They thanked WCYY during their set, and thanked the fans for their support. Maine fans are truly the best fans (sorry about the bias, we just are).
The second opener, 10 Years, was supremely kickass. In an interview I had with Emma Anzai of the Sick Puppies prior to the show, I asked if they have ever toured with them before:
“YES WE’VE PLAYED SHOWS WITH THEM BEFORE AND THEY’RE AWESOME GUYS. SO IT FELT RIGHT TO DO A TOUR WITH THEM.”
A piano intro began as the group entered the stage, but within two minutes of the set’s start, its very obvious something is wrong. Lead singer Jesse Hasek seems to notice, and stops the song as they fix the problem. He starts talking with the audience, saying things like “This is rock and roll” and “shit breaks sometimes, children, it happens,” which made the event feel comfortable instead of awkward (which really, audio equipments craps out all the time, and they really handled the how thing well) Within 5 minutes, the set had begun where it left off (also worth noting, Hasek entered the stage originally in a faux fur vest and blue shades, which was absolutely hilarious). The set included songs Fix Me, Wasteland (which I adored at the age of 15), and Dancing With The Dead. The highlight was their song Shoot It Out, where Hasek told the crowd that Portland has had the “best crowd since day one.” He ended the set by climbing into the crowd to shake hands with fans (if I had been in that crowd, I might have grabbed him and ran off with him. I am impossibly determined with cute men).
Then came the show stopper: Sick Puppies. During the transition between 10 Year’s and the Puppies, they unrolled their backdrop, artwork inspired by their new album, Connect. I asked Emma how they ended up with the name Connect, and how it tied into the new album during our interview:
“WE BOUNCED AROUND A BUNCH OF IDEAS FOR A WHILE AND CONNECT BECAME A SAYING AMONGST US WHILE WE WERE CHOOSING TRACKS FOR THE ALBUM, SO WE THOUGHT IT TO BE APT TO CALL IT “CONNECT”. ALSO, AFTER TOURING “TRI-POLAR” WHEN WE WROTE THE SONGS FOR CONNECT, THEY WERE A LOT MORE ABOUT EVOLUTION AND RENEWAL.”
Before the band would take the stage, Joey Disco from 94.3 WCYY took the stage to introduce the headlining artist for this installment of their Summercamp 2013. The WCYY team has always had strong ties with the Sick Puppies (Portland, ME was the Puppies first show on their first USA tour, ever), and DJ Rob from WCYY was supposed to make the intro, Disco states. A few weeks ago, however, Rob was in a horrible accident where he was hit by a truck while biking to work. To everyone’s surprise, however, Rob is then carried onstage to make the introduction, and the crowd went wild (dude, am I not right about that maine pride, seriously?). Rob was then able to introduce the band, and reminded us that he actually can walk all while laughing (the Puppies would later joke that Rob was lying to us about being able to walk (our friends can be so cruel).
As Shim Moore (lead vocal, guitar), Emma Anzai (bass, backing vocals), and Mark Goodwin (drums, backing vocals) enter the stage, I think back to my interview with Emma. One of the questions I had for her asked what fans can expect during upcoming shows with the new music off of Connect:
“THE SONGS ARE A LOT MORE MUSICAL AND MELODIC, ALONG WITH THAT; WE’LL PLAY OUR USUAL SET TO MIX IT UP. AT THE END OF THE DAY WE WANT PEOPLE TO WALK AWAY FROM A SHOW TO HAVE FELT SOMETHING, AND TO HAVE HAD A REFUGE FROM ALL THE STUFF GOING ON IN THEIR LIVES.”
If there is anything I can say about the Puppies performance, it is that I felt something by the time I left the State Theatre. It goes back to the beginning of the show and seeing all the different types of fans. Sick Puppies fans are diverse because all their songs are easy to connect to (see what I did there? Did you?). I connected when they sang Odd One (I constantly feel like an outcast in day to day life), My World (my past few years of breakups and loosing touch with friends), and Survive (through all the crap in my life, its just all about toughing it out).
I’m gonna sum this up real quick, all my notes on this show pretty much say “Shim is effortless,” “Emma is a fucking rockstar,” and “Mark is punchy as fuck.” I kid you not, these are my notes. Every song was spot fucking on, Shim and Emma’s harmonies were gorgeous, and Mark actually spoke to the crowd during the show (I’m not sure any of you know, but drummers never speak, and that was a big fucking deal). Whenever Shim pointed at everyone to cheer during the show, the house lights came up on all of our faces. They really made us feel like we were part of the experience. The highlight? Aside from all of it, the final song of the set, Nothing Really Matters, had the craziest playtime. Emma got in some serious bass breakdowns, while Shim and Mark played the drums TOGETHER. It was a fun jam session to partake on. And the icing on the concert cake? The encore, which ended in fan favorite You’re Going Down, intro’ed with the band playing Korn’s Blind. It was unexpected, and so fucking cool.
So ultimately, this concert was so fucking dope (you can probably tell I loved it, this article is a fucking mile long). And in the end, it came back to Portland and the love within this state. The Puppies wished well wishes to Rob, and reminded us of how much this city has meant to them. When I asked Emma what made Portland an extended home to them, she laid it out:
“WCYY HAS BEEN AN AMAZING SUPPORT FOR US AND PORTLAND MAINE WAS ACTUALLY THE FIRST EVER STOP ON OUR FIRST EVER TOUR, SO WE HOLD PORTLAND MAINE VERY DEAR TO US, WE’VE ALWAYS HAD INTENSE SHOWS IN PORTLAND AND HOPE TO KEEP COMING BACK!”
As long as Portland stands, Sick Puppies will always be welcomed back with open arms. Shim told the crowd that night, “If you bitch out, you’re gonna miss out.” That’s pretty much this show. If you bitched out on coming, well, you definitely missed out.
SICK PUPPIES SETLIST-
Die To Save You
There’s No Going Back
Nothing Really Matters
All The Same
You’re Going Down (Korn “Blind” Intro)
TOUR DETAILS: http://www.sickpuppies.com/events/