At the Vogue Theatre on Sunday, August 18
Metalcore is really confusing to me. Maybe that is just a sign that I am getting old, because when I walked into the Vogue Theatre on Sunday night to see Florida’s primary emo metalcore band A Day to Remember perform with their tour mates (and newbie stars), Pierce the Veil, I felt like I had aged about 20 years.
Surrounded by a mob of sweaty teenagers wearing everything from spiked, belly-exposing bras to cut-up black Ts to no shirts at all, I watched as San Diego’s Pierce the Veil entertained to an ecstatic crowd. With the rows of seats removed from the front of the Vogue, all the kids were getting their $56.50 worth whirling themselves around and screaming along to Pierce the Veil’s hits “Hold On Till May” and “A Match Into Water”. Frontman Vic Fuentes swapped his sweaty hands from the neck of his guitar to his microphone, reaching out to the fans as he belted out fastspoken, emotive lyrics with MTV pop swagger. Bassist Jamie Preciado made good use of the monitor speaker in front of him, jumping back and forth, swinging his bass like a pendulum, and shamelessly singing along to every word.
That’s the thing about emo metalcore: it’s shameless and kind of nerdy. All Pierce the Veil’s songs rise with a pop-punk, sing-along chorus and then drop down to a murderous metal chug-along in which all the members (except the drummer) spread their legs and thrash their heads to the beat in a choreographed routine. It’s a confused genre. Somewhere along the line hardcore went from bands like Negative Approach and Discharge to this regurgitated Hot Topic mall punk. The kids love it. Pierce the Veil are performers. But unlike Discharge, Pierce the Veil lacks the unpredictability of macho '80s hardcore. It’s not dangerous. It’s Disney. It’s MTV–appropriated posthardcore and everyone is getting so paid.
After a quick set change and a DJ interlude (which ignited a full blown audience sing-along to System of A Down’s “Chop Suey!” and Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff”), A Day to Remember took the stage. Before it kicked off the set with a “cyro” explosion (which just means a blast of red confetti to the pit). I listened as a group of pre-teen girls beside me bubbled, sweaty and excited from moshing.
“Oh my God,” one girl squealed to her friend. “I kissed the side of the tour bus!”
“We are not leaving until we meet one of them,” another chimed in. For all the feminist progression of women in the music industry, hardcore is still one genre dominated by men. It’s a style that keeps girls as “fans” and leaves little room for them to become anything else.
A Day To Remember has been a band for just over a decade, becoming a Warped Tour favourite during that time. Frontman 27-year-old Jeremy McKinnon might strut like a posthardcore heartthrob, but upon closer inspection he’s slightly awkward and nerdy. The band kicked off its set with “Violence (Enough is Enough)” as the crowd mirrored the metronome-like head bobs of the men on stage. The venue exploded with angry teenage energy. “2nd Sucks” and followed as McKinnon took control of the crowd, every sentence he said littered with the F-word. Swear all you want, but that don’t make you tough.
The band was tight and the set was loud and powerful, as powerful as emo can get. McKinnon joked around with his bandmates, calling guitarist Kevin Skaff a “humanjukebox” before forcing him to play “Mary Had A Little Lamb” and then an old AC/DC hit, which he sang along to while blowing the lyrics. The crowd happily ate it up. McKinnon stretched his voice from guttural metagrowls to sweetly sung pop hooks while the rest of the band powered around the stage, free from the restrictions of patch chords with their wireless gear. “Have Faith in Me” and then “Another Song About the Weekend” excited the crowd as a kid in a banana costume threw T-shirts into the audience and jumped into a rubber dinghy, crowd surfing atop the sweaty kids.
During “The Plot to Bomb the Panhandle” McKinnon carefully smoothed out his devil lock and then demanded that all the men in the audience take off their shirts and swing them around their heads like windmills. A Day to Remember closed the set with an acoustic encore, which gave the half-naked men in the crowd a chance to calm down before exiting into the street.
Posthardcore is teenage music. It’s the gateway drug to the good shit. The whole time, I just wanted to walk up to all the young girls in the audience and pass them Hüsker Dü, Discharge, or even an L7 record and say, “Look, A Day to Remember is like pot. It’s the gateway to the good shit. Take these records. These records are heroin. Pretty soon the high is going to get so much better.”