Sunday night at The Knitting Factory revealed a smallish but loudly vocal crowd of some 200 hundred rabid rock fans who turned out for Michigan hard rockers, Pop Evil. The show marked the band’s first headline date in the Treasure Valley in a couple of years, after appearing twice as support act on their tours in support of 2013’s Onyx album. August 21 marks the release of the band’s fourth studio album, the appropriately named, Up, which finds the band treading into more positive territory in contrast to the darkly entangled mood of Onyx.
Local favorites, Gypsy Saints kicked off the night showcasing their new vocalist and giving Knit fans a first taste of some new songs. Frontman, Mr. Y took control of the audience immediately, and displayed good showmanship when guitarist Ken Mansfield’s rig went silent for half a song mid-set. It served as a solid testing ground for the young vocalist who handled it in stride. The crowd responded enthusiastically to the entire performance. The band will open for NWOBHM legends, Saxon, on August 28.
Cheyenne, Wyoming natives First Decree took the stage next. I am always hesitant to say anything negative about up-and-coming bands, especially based on one performance, but this show left me unimpressed. There were some early technical issues with the volume of the microphone when they started, but vocalist Travis James seemed to lack power in his delivery overall. The band shows promise, but on this night it was difficult to appreciate. They will complete this tour with Pop Evil then hit the road with Avatar, Gemini Syndrome and Huntress. Check them out and see what you think.
Ohio’s Red Sun Rising caught the crowd’s attention quickly. The quintet, which is about to release its debut album, Polyester Zeal on August 7, hit the stage with a fury. The opening song, “Push” found frontman Mike Protich using two separate microphones for the song’s two vocal tones. The band, which also features bassist Ricky Miller, drummer Pat Gerasia, and guitarists Ryan Williams and Tyler Valendza, turned out a fantastic but short set of six songs. Each track was performed with precision and high energy. A true testament to a band is its ability to convey songs live to people who have never heard them before, and still allow them to fully absorb the song: Red Sun Rising played with amazing clarity as they churned through “My Muse”, “Amnesia”, “Blister”, “Emotionless”, and their first single, “The Otherside”. It is always a treat to discover an amazing new talent, and Red Sun Rising impressed on all fronts.
Pop Evil has been dominating Active Rock radio for the last four years, firing off a dozen high-charting hits, including five each off their last two records. The new album Up, is not even released yet, and they already have a smash hit on their hands with “Footsteps”. Rather than rely on fancy lighting and stage theatrics, the Michigan-based quintet ignited the crowd with one hit song after another, all performed with the energy and precision of a band that has spent the better part of the last half-decade on the road.
The set kicked off with “Last Man Standing” from Pop Evil’s breakthrough 2011 album, War of Angels. From the same record they also performed “Boss’s Daughter” and the smash hit, “Monster You Made”. They followed the opener with “Goodbye My Friend” from the Onyx album, which peaked at #3 on the US rock charts. Half of the band’s 14-song set came from the Onyx album, including three #1 singles; “Torn to Pieces”, “Deal with the Devil”, and “Trenches”, the last two of which served as the band’s encore songs.
The band dipped back into their 2008 debut record, Lipstick on the Mirror for the tracks, “Hero” and “100 in a 55”. Not to leave fans hanging, Pop Evil also treated the crowd to the new single, “Footsteps”, as well as another new track, “In Disarray”. Throughout the set, frontman Leigh Kakaty prowled the stage, inciting the crowd, and driving the tempo of the show. Behind him, drummer Josh “Chachi Riot” Marunde attacked the drum kit like a monkey with a straight razor, propelling each song with his furious attack. Bassist Matt DiRito kept his low-end rumble in sync with Riot, while guitarists Nick Fuelling and Dave Grahs delivered a stream of melodic riffs and solos. In short, the set left the band soaked in sweat and the audience ecstatic.
It might have been nice to hear a couple more tracks from War of Angels, but the only downside to the night’s show was the limited turn out. With the amount of quality music and the string of hits Pop Evil has unleashed in the last few years, The Knit should have been sold out for this show. Hopefully, by the time they return, the Boise faithful will provide a better showing.
See Pop Evil’s full setlist here.
Be sure to check out The Knit’s Big Ticket package for a deal on 5 upcoming fall rock and metal concerts at one low price.