Taste of Chaos

At the PNE Forum on Friday, March 25

Taste of Chaos does for screamo what the Warped Tour did for punk-no surprise, considering that both events were founded by Kevin Lyman. Both tours set extreme underground music in a festival environment, the difference being that TOC attracts teens wearing Alexisonfire shirts instead of NOFX hoodies.

Saosin kicked Taste of Chaos's Vancouver stop into gear as kids were still scrambling to get inside the Forum. Mixing all the screamo basics-metal riffs over pop melodies-the group still couldn't cover up the way singer Cove Reber's voice cracked as he struggled to hit the high notes. Saosin tore down its equipment as Surrey's Starless Nights started to play on the neighbouring acoustic stage. Voted best screamo band in B.C. on blog site myspace.com, the outfit was beyond excited. Vocalist Kam dedicated the set to all the voters while they played a short, three-song set.

The acoustic stage didn't have much of an effect on the kids. Bleed the Dream and My American Heart could soon be equals with the bigger bands, but stripping them of distortion gave their material all the power of rock-lite abomination the Goo Goo Dolls. They, along with Starless Nights, had to wonder if the exposure of the tour was worth the largely ignored 15-minute sets.

The crowd ran back from the merch booths for A Static Lullaby, whose members walked on-stage to the strains of James Brown. Joe Brown shredded his vocal chords throughout the performance, but newer songs like "Stand Up" saw him take a smaller role: screaming backups while guitarist Dan Arnold and frizzy-haired bassist Phil Pirrone took over the singing duties. The Chino Hills, California, combo is moving in a more melodic direction, and it looks like it's outgrown Brown's growl.

Next up, Senses Fail proved that there's a little bit of Spinal Tap in all of us as Buddy Nielsen shouted "What's up Montreal!" Arguably the prettiest band on the tour, the primped boys in tight jeans added all the requisite screaming mosh parts after their saccharine choruses. Despite Nielsen's cock-rock posturing-and the sight of both guitarists getting onto their amps for a duelling solo only to sheepishly step down when they were done-the quintet had the crowd screaming along with every word.

Senses Fail's cover of Faith No More's "Epic" was one of the highlights of the day, but the song might've been better suited for Killswitch Engage singer Howard Jones and his Mike Patton-styled croon. From the second the band started, it was obvious the quartet was different from most on Taste of Chaos. These are men, burly men, and they deliver a devastating combination of chugging speed-metal riffs and triumphant Euro-metal choruses that set them far apart from their tourmates. Jones commanded the stage; dressed all in black and wearing a Castro hat, he lunged at his mike as a giant pogo pit erupted to "Rose of Sharyn". Longhaired guitarist Joel Stroetzel paraded around, unashamed of his metal background, hammering off squeals and solos while a good portion of the audience banged their heads. As their show ended, shouts of "Chem-meeee-cal" flooded the Forum.

After cancelling past Vancouver shows, New Jersey's My Chemical Romance was greeted by rabid fans screaming in anticipation. The band immediately plunged into its strongest song, the AFI-inspired "Helena", sending bodies flying in the pit. The rest of the set saw a decline as frontman Gerard Way, a frail pixie-faced kid who is equal parts Jack White and Cradle of Filth's Dani Filth, shot off his mouth. Adorned in a red dress shirt with the sleeves rolled up and, bizarrely, a bulletproof vest, the singer announced "We usually shoot motherfuckers like you, but tonight we're here to give you love." This set the pace for one of the most obnoxious performances in recent Vancouver history. The music, mostly mid-paced melancholic punk, was inoffensive enough, but Way's crass comments, such as, "You wanna fuck me now? You wanna fuck my band?" made him come across as an idiot. Surprisingly, no one took up his offer to punch him out.

Headliners The Used salvaged things with a solid set from its latest CD, In Love and Death. "Take it Away" had Bert McCracken leading the kids into the eerie chant of "Take my hand; Take my life." These Utah boys seemed to have the most fun of the night, with guitarist Quinn Allman and bassist Jeph Howard bouncing around and launching themselves from Branden Steineckert's drum kit. McCracken ran around, giggling during and between songs. "Lets make some memories," he said, "Close your eyes and remember this show for the rest of your life."

The night ended with The Used and My Chemical Romance covering Queen's "Under Pressure", which most of the teens probably hadn't heard until this performance. Regardless, the encore ended the night on a high note and sent kids home already dreaming of Taste of Chaos's inevitable return.