Ever since I made the Congregation by Leprous my album of the year for 2015 I have been wanting to see them live. I finally got to fulfill that desire on October 17 when Leprous descended upon the dive-bar venue, Joe’s Grotto. It’s a small, almost seedy bar perfect for metal. The fact that it has a great sound system helps too. My fiancé accompanied me to this show as well as one of my friends whom we met at the venue.
Dissona the first band on the bill set up quickly from when we arrived. The first thing that I noticed was that there were only a trio of dudes on the stage. There was no bass player! There was definitely bass being patched through the PA but it was just Matt Motto shredding on guitars, Drew Goddard hitting the skins, and Dave Dubenic doing an interpretive dance sway while singing. Bassist Craig Hamburger was nowhere to be found but he was there in “spirit”. I later found out that he simply couldn’t make it due to prior engagements. For such a small band setting aside time to go on tour must be tough.
Despite not being at full power Dissona made the most out of what they were given. This was their first show in Arizona and they were warmly accepted by the couple dozen metalheads in attendance at the time. After their set my fiancé and I got to meet Dubenic. He’s a really nice, chill guy who gave me a couple of business cards.
Binary Code were up next and all that I can really comment on them is that all of the band members were present. To be honest, the band is not terrible there was just nothing memorable about them. I have heard their current album Moonsblood but it was nothing that stood out to me. They’re all competent musicians and the performance was fine but again their stage presence was just as plain as white bread.
The self-proclaimed “cinematic rock” band Earthside were the next act. This is a band that is trying to punch well above their weight class with a 70” monitor showing accompanying videos and just having an overall grander show than what Joe’s Grotto can provide. It’s a very noble and worthy attempt and I hope that they are able to get to a larger venue to really fulfill their vision. Of course this type of performance is not without issue.
Earthside is primarily an instrumental band but on their current album A Dream in Static, they’ve enlisted the help of some guest singers. Lajon Witherspoon from Sevendust, Daniel Tompkins from Tesseract, and Bjorn Strid from Soilwork all contributed to different songs. Their performances were also playing on the giant monitor. It was kind of neat to see but I think that Earthside could have benefitted from having a touring singer fill in those roles.
Despite my small quibble about that, Earthside put on a great show especially from keyboardist/keytarist Frank Sacramone. He didn’t always play on the keyboards – when he didn’t he was playing air-guitar or air-drumming. Sometimes he would even pick up another guitar to accompany James van Dyck. Sacramone even jumped into the small crowd with his keytar at one point during a song. I hope that they keep up that energy for any future tours.
I had a little bit of trepidtion about seeing Leprous live as I wasn’t sure if they would be able to replicate their sounds on their albums. When the first notes of “the Flood” hit I knew that any doubts that I had vanished. Everyone was on point and the dazzling light show really added to the atmosphere bathing the venue in blues and greens. Einar Solberg hit all of the notes although there were a couple of times where it sounded like he was in a wrong key. When Solberg wasn’t playing the keys he was flailing like a mad man and put his entire soul and energy into his performance. He jumped onto plastic risers, triumphantly throwing his fist into the air and headbanging to the beat.
I didn’t have to wait that long to see Leprous and they are definitely a band to see live. I can’t wait for their next trip to the United States whenever their next album drops. A side anecdote: my fiancé is expecting with our unborn child and our child really loved Leprous according to my fiancé. Turns out our child will have great taste in music at least until the rebellious teenage years kick in.