Review & photos by Rachel Jablonski
I had not been to a show since October. Yes, that’s right OCTOBER! Having moved to the happening town (cough, cough) of Cedar Rapids, IA last summer, which is about 25 minutes off of I-80 and thus off most tour routes, I have not been able to make it to many shows much to my dismay. But there was no way I was going to miss Strapping Young Lad with The Agony Scene. So I drove to Davenport to catch the show despite it being a work night and a decent distance away. Do you know how good it felt to be in the deafening (kids, wear earplugs I’m telling you) intensity? I’ve missed out for too long.
The Agony Scene’s The Darkest Red is not in stores until May 24th, but I’ve been listening to the album here and there getting ready to review it courtesy of Roadrunner Records. The funny thing is that when I first heard the album, for some reason despite very little, if any, resemblance, I thought of Strapping Young Lad. And here they are on tour together.
Having witnessed The Agony Scene’s performance it definitely looks like the band is off to a great start in promotion of their upcoming album. Their very heavy presence grabbed the attention of the audience quite well, which is very hard to do when your album isn’t even released yet. Despite the fact that most kids at the show were unfamiliar with the band and their music, the response was quite amazing. One dude up front was freaking out and somehow singing along with some songs, perhaps songs from the self-titled album the band put out in 2003 on Tooth & Nail Records. The energized music and screams of vocalist Michael Williams produced some head nods and even a small mosh pit. Later in the evening I saw a kid wearing the white t-shirt he wore to the show with the back signed by all band members of The Agony Scene.
Look at the pictures of The Agony Scene there on the left. Do you see that big pole that is in the dead center of the stage that Michael Williams is leaning on? Yeah, the genius designers of the Quad City Live venue placed the stage right behind a building support post. This disallows room to move upon the already small stage, though bands manage to be lively anyway. Also, it is almost impossible for the audience to see the drummer and oftentimes the vocalist as well depending on viewing angle. Despite these obstacles, The Agony Scene clearly produced an impressionable set and had one of the best performances of the night despite playing second out of four bands.
These were not the only obstacles of the evening however. Right before Strapping Young Lad came on stage, wouldn’t you know, the left speaker of the PA system blew out. The venue crew tried and tried to fix it thinking it was just a wire, but of course there was no hope for a quick fix. Despite a less than par PA system, Strapping Young Lad trudged on and played their set for the very receptive audience. “The amazing Strapping Young Lad brought to you in mono,” vocalist/guitarist and amazing musician Devin Townsend joked. He apologized for the circumstances, but the crowd was thankful to hear the band play nonetheless.
Not only did Devin make hilarious comments on stage, but he also was full of various facial expressions. He went from making “metal” faces, you know one of those intense, strained looks, to purposely funny expressions, and his relaxed smile as the band played made the audience smile as well because it is easy to see that he is having fun. Of course drummer Gene Hoglan is a joy to watch in his excellence, but due to the blasted pole at center stage and pretty poor lighting back where he sat, he was very difficult to see. The set list consisted of a lot of new stuff, a lot of old stuff, and everything in between. Great jams, great energy, and great songs made up a crowd pleasing performance despite the bad PA system. I will see Strapping Young Lad anytime, any day, any where.