Living in Massachusetts is a blessing for fans of hardcore music like myself – the only comparable Hardcore scenes in the United States currently are located in Florida and California. With the Hail The Sun Tour, I got to experience all three of these scenes, with a diverse lineup ranging from jazzy Progressive/Art Rock to late-2000’s pop-punk. The show took place at Middle East in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which has an auditorium about the size of two high-school classrooms. The venue’s size was anything but an impediment to the crowd, and created an air of unchecked energy that sent onlookers scrambling for cover along the edges of the showroom.
Arrowhead, a hardcore band from Boston opened the show, and immediately grabbed the crowd’s attention. The band has played several shows across New England in its 4-year lifespan, which was evident because they had a large amount of fans singing along.
This show was also vocalist Tad Rios’s last performance with Arrowhead, and the amount of energy he put in reflected this. While maintaining a strong screaming voice, Rios jumped into the mosh pit, and later continued to scream while crowd surfing. As the opening act, Arrowhead set a very high standard for its following bands, and helped to make this show memorable right from the start.
Following Arrowhead’s 4-song set was the Tampa-based group Limbs, who had a lights setup that immediately grabbed my attention. Hung behind drummer Daniel Nelson was a panel of lights triggered by strikes of his tom drums. What resulted was a performance felt not only by the ears, but by the eyes; having the stage go from pitch-black to a display of vivid color and acrobatics by singer Chris Costanza augmented the heavy wall of sound that this 5-piece group created.
Whereas Arrowhead struck a very deep, emotional tone in its set that, Limbs was a heavier group and was able to incite an even larger mosh pit. This built a great deal of excitement for the next three acts, all of whom are arguably well-known in the hardcore scene.
Following Limbs was Eidola, a “Swancore” band known for its guitar passages resembling those written by Dance Gavin Dance’s Will Swan. Unfortunately, high-pitch guitar melodies are not very audible in small hardcore venues, so a lot more of my attention was drawn to the astounding performance of vocalist Andrew Michael Wells. Wells hit a great amount of the extremely high notes in their setlist, which I’ve rarely heard at other shows.
At the start of Eidola’s set, Wells announced that the group’s drummer couldn’t join for this tour, so Alec Casillas was filling in, and learned their entire set in two days. I was impressed with Casillas’s performance before learning this, so hearing this fact made his drum work even more impressive.
Like the first two acts, Eidola achieved stellar crowd engagement from their first song, likely because of its being incredibly similar to Hail The Sun. The group didn’t even open a pit until playing the third song of its set, “The Comfort We Find In Our Vices.”
Following Eidola was another west-coast band, Capsize. This 4-piece pop-punk group was most captivating to me because of the showmanship its members displayed. Lead vocalist Daniel Wand opened up by challenging the crowd to live up to Boston’s reputation as being one of the strongest hardcore scenes in the US and match the intensity of shows in Capsize’s native San Diego. Wand himself joined in multiple pits throughout the set.
Guitarist Ryan Knowles also impressed we with some really strong screams throughout the set, and held my attention while spinning along to the band’s breakdowns. His microphone was louder than Wand’s, however, which was easily noticeable throughout the set. Additionally, both Knowles and fellow guitarist Nicolas Lopez played hard enough that they both broke strings throughout the set. Each time this happened, they were able to replace their strings by the end of the song in which this occurred.
Following Capsize was the tour’s headliner, Hail The Sun. Vocalist Donovan Melero reminded me of Sleeping With Sirens’ Kellin Quinn both visually and aurally, but unlike Quinn, blew me away with his perfect pitch in Hail The Sun’s set. What made this even more impressive was that starting with the fourth song of their set, “Cosmic Narcissism,” Melero performed solidly on vocals while simultaneously playing the drums (Alec Casillas filled in on other songs in Hail The Sun’s set).
The crowd went crazier during Hail The Sun’s set than any other, and understandably – every song the band played featured diverse passages, vocal techniques, tempos, and light accompaniments. The mosh pit for Hail The Sun became more raucous than even Arrowhead and Capsize, which amazed me since Hail The Sun plays a softer style of music.
My favorite songs from the set were the opener “Black Serotonin,” “Words of Gratitude (Parents),” “Anti-Eulogy (I Hope You Stay Dead),” “Doing The Same Thing and Expecting Different Results,” and their closing ballad, “Relax / Divide.” The crowd’s reaction to their set induced two encores, both of which were songs from the group’s older records.
I enjoyed that Hail The Sun didn’t just play songs from their newest record, Culture Scars. I’ve been to shows where all but one song were from a group’s newest production, and while the purpose of concerts are to promote a group’s recent works, it is refreshing to see that a band hasn’t lost what it used to be. Melero recalled this on-stage, too, comparing the size of crowds the band played for in 2010 versus 2017, growing from just venue bartenders to packed floors and merch areas. This reflection made it clear to me that Hail The Sun really enjoyed playing their music, and wasn’t just trying to sell Culture Scars.
The Hail The Sun tour set an incredibly high bar for the rest of the shows I’m attending this summer. Between a great local opener and ensemble of 4 relatively underground groups, this tour was more diverse in its offerings than other shows I’ve seen. The tour runs through the end of June and closes at Chain Reaction in Anaheim. Even if you’re not a fan of hardcore, I highly recommend seeing this tour because the energy is unmatched by even death-metal shows, and creates a memory like no other.