Words + Photos by Bobby Talamine
Hardcore and punk intertwine with American Nightmare, a band that started back in 2000 with singer Wesley Eisold, also known by his other popular band Cold Cave. American Nightmare is nothing like Cold Cave in sound and presentation- this is all for intents and purposes, a bare bones kinda set, with minimal load in.
Simply arrive at whatever venue for the evening, unload the musicians and their instruments, and that's it.
Should have known and investigated a bit further on the amped up nature of American Nightmare fans. Simply for the fact that I'm getting older, and physical punishment from all angles to my body is just not as fun as it used to be back in the day.
I was perched on the lip of the stage front and center, surrounded by other photographers and patrons, when not even thirty seconds into American Nightmare's first song "Love American," I was pummeled and crushed repeatedly.
I made the mistake of vacating said spot in front of the stage to the center of the opened mosh pit, to kids going counter clockwise in full tilt by the dozens, not relinquishing their forward march for anybody, especially this photographer.
American Nightmare? Indeed. On many levels.
From the relative safety of stage left audience right, I got my composure to get some decent shots of Wesley and his band, then went up to the balcony to see the rest of the show from there.
I'm not much of a hardcore / punk guy myself to be honest. I do know of some bands in the genre that I've photographed in days of yore, such as GBH, Black Flag, Minor Threat, and of course The Dead Kennedys and The Misfits.
The scene was (and still is), a band / audience communion, with a relentless release of energy to everyone's mutual satisfaction.
I guess I didn't want to investigate further, knowing Wesley from Cold Cave over the years, and frankly, just loving everything he sets his mind to tour and perform with.
And since we had Ceremony in our JBTV studios a few years back, I figured to some extent there'd be some aggression, but nothing I can't handle.
From the balcony watching the show, I get the connection with Wesley and the audience at the front of the stage. When Wesley, dressed in black, including a black baseball cap that shrouded his face, wasn't whirling around the stage or standing on the drum riser, he was kneeling front and center within inches of his audience most of the time. Everyone involved in the sing along and companionship.
This was made more so, because there was no barricades at all for this show.
It was fun to behold, this simple set with simple lighting, and music having to be pushed that much further into the forefront to everyone's satisfaction.
The same holds true with the opening band Ceremony from California.
Although not as relentless as American Nightmare, they still have quite a few songs in their catalog that are in the genre of hardcore, with singer Ross Farrar for the most part swinging his microphone with physical might from his shoulders to the ground with relentless and physical might, over and over and over again.
With Anthony Anzaldo on guitar, Justin Davis on bass, Andy Nelson on guitar, and Jake Casarotti on drums, they're are definitely an odd looking bunch, with no one in the band truly playing the part of a rock n' roller, more like a bunch of cab drivers convening in a garage after a shift to work on some songs.
Trust me when I say that's not a bad thing, because these guys are tight and can play. Ross loved the communion with the audience, equal to Wesley and American Nightmare.
Have to say both bands brought the heavy, with plenty of angst, and yet, there's some solid songwriting chops in the songs for both bands.
Kind of unique having this show at Thalia Hall as well. Nice to know the venue can hold up and take a pummeling from the relentless mosh pits from show beginning to show's end.
Words by Hillary Hedstrom | Photos by Bobby Talamine
Although it was Valentine’s Day and the high in Chicago was around 15°F before windchill, people started lining up at the House of Vans around 2 p.m. in order to get into the sold out Lamb of God show. Once the doors opened, people began to flock inside to the warmth, art, and free beer. A line quickly formed for the free posters, hats, shirts, and bandanas being given away at the merch booth.
The art lining the walls was a special photography installation by Lamb of God frontman Randy Blythe. Black and white photography depicting varying themes from isolation to corruption lined the walls. There was a special spot for the upcoming album’s artwork and tracklist in the corner. The room with the art was quiet, save for a few murmurs between friends, in order for the art to be completely absorbed.
Chicago-based hardcore band Harm’s Way started out the evening. Throughout the first song, people were beginning to find their way to the stage. That was the only moment of calm throughout the night. Chaos endured when the pit opened up. At some point during that set, lead singer and powerlifter James Pligge removed his shirt, showing off his tattoos.
After their set, the air was thick with anticipation. A few got a beer refill or some merch. Most stood, waiting for the main event: Lamb of God’s album announcement party. Only one single “Checkmate” has been released from the self-titled album, which comes out on May 8th.
The DJ was playing heavy metal and hardcore punk to keep the mood going. People were discussing how many times they had seen the headliners. Some had been lifelong fans but this was only their first or second time, but some were up in the double digits for how many times they had seen them live. There were a few couples there to enjoy Valentine’s Day.
It was finally time for what everyone was waiting for. With a flash of energy, Lamb of God took the stage. Beers were immediately spilled as the crowd went wild. A hole opened up, which the pit immediately filled. People were slipping on the wet floor, but were immediately picked back up.
Fans were screaming along, showing their horns. The energy was all the way up the whole set, both on stage and in the crowd. A fan had grabbed as many bottles of water as he could and was handing them out to people when they took a break from the pit so nobody would pass out.
The biggest break during the set was when Blythe introduced “Checkmate” as it was being performed live for the very first time. When they left the stage, there was a chant for an encore. After a few minutes, Lamb of God obliged and retook the stage for a few more songs.