By ANDY LYONS (digitalBURG) – The mosh pit at a metal concert always has the most movement, action and animated fans. But to find the most enthusiastic fans, you have to make your way to the very front, all the way to the gate in front of the stage.
On Tuesday, I packed an extra shirt and shoes along with my puffy hands and again headed to Springfield, Mo., for a show at the famed Shrine Mosque. I knew the venue wasn’t huge, but I wanted to make it a point to make my way up front and be in the best possible position for the show.
As I got to the venue floor, I noticed it was hardwood, like an old basketball court. The stage is a large open area and had a big “Volbeat” backdrop. I noticed a lot of younger people, I’d guess high schoolers. There were a lot of girls with braces and blond hair in ponytails. I thought to myself that by the time All That Remains finishes, it will be all metal dudes and no young women.
I ran into a man and his daughter who were at the In This Moment meet and greet May 10 and talked to them for a while, and warned the daughter about how crazy the entire place would be once All That Remains hit the stage.
Before the first band came on, a short, heavyset woman came up next to me. She commented about a group of guys to the left of us who were being rowdy and obnoxious. I told her that I expected them to be ground zero of the mosh pit, and she said her brother would be the one to stir them up.
Just then a tall, stocky guy with a goatee came up behind her and handed her a beer. It was her brother. He noticed my puffy hands and I high-fived him. We chatted a bit about the show and he pulled out a pint of gin. I declined his offer to share and prepared for the show.
The night opened with a band I had never heard of, Eye Empire. They were a bit heavier than I expected, blending screams with melodies. Lead singer Donald Carpenter paused often between songs to talk about the band’s mantra of love, respect and support.
It was cool to hear from someone on stage talking about embracing “love, not hate and judgment, respecting everyone no matter race, creed or preference and supporting each other by being present and active while the band was playing.” By their third song, the crowd was letting go and feeling the music – a great band to begin the night.
As Eye Empire finished, two girls with a guy in tow joined the brother-sister tandem I had been talking with. After more high fives with puffy hands and pictures with the group, the brother gathered us all and we moved for the gate before the next band.
Next up was heavy metal band All That Remains. I expected these guys would come out and play a lot of hard-hitting songs and send the brace-face girls out of the pit area, and they didn’t disappoint. Lead singer Phil Labonte has a wide vocal range that includes gritty growls and soft melodies.
The rest of the band displayed their range as well. Between songs that pound the heavy sound and showcase their overall talent, they put on a great show. They met my expectations, and the ferocity of their set prompted the young women to leave the pit area and cleared a lot of space along the security gate.
By the time All That Remains finished, my group had moved onto the security gate, which was raised about two inches off the wooden floor. The two girls who joined us left as the performance got more intense. After they returned, the three girls and brother were on the gate and I was standing between them and the other guy, who was one of the girls’ boyfriends. The brother grabbed him and pulled him around me before the next act.
The headliner for the evening was Volbeat, and they were awesome. As the band took the stage, the brother grabbed me by the head and pulled me onto the security gate with them. It’s amazing to show up alone at a concert and make friends with strangers in the pit and be included as a part of their group.
Volbeat’s singer, Michael Poulson, came out with his hair slicked back like a 1950s greaser. His voice sounds like a cross between Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. They have a rockabilly sound and played songs from across their five albums.
Their bassist, Anders Kjølholm, and lead guitarist, Rob Caggiano, bounced around the stage and interacted with the crowd as much as possible. They played for more than an hour and the crowd was screaming and thrashing to the music until the band bowed out.
As the concert finished, I gave the brother one last high five and headed straight for my car. The Eye Empire love, respect and support mantra really hit home at this concert, and it really echoes as part of the hard rock subculture.
I was covered in sweat, my own and from everyone around me. I tossed my puffy hands in the back seat, peeled off my shirt and shoes and replaced them with the fresh ones I packed. I headed home, again completely satisfied with my experience.