Author Archives: Matthew Belter

TVD Live Shots:
The Sisters of Mercy
at the Palladium, 5/23

Iconic rock band The Sisters of Mercy took the stage at the legendary Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles on Wednesday night, and the sold-out show was truly a night to remember. From the moment the band stepped on stage, it was clear that they were here to deliver a performance that would be talked about for years to come. When the dust settled (and after an unannounced special guest appearance), the show ended up being that and a whole lot more. The Sisters are back and better than ever.

Wednesday’s 22-song setlist was a tour de force of The Sisters of Mercy’s greatest hits, featuring fan favorites like “Marian,” “Dominion / Mother Russia,” and “More.” Each song was delivered with raw power and emotion, as singer Andrew Eldritch prowled the stage with his trademark baritone growl. In addition, fans got to hear a handful of previously unreleased tracks including one of my new favorites, “Don’t Drive on Ice.” It’s an instant classic and one fans have been praising it since it was first performed live in April of last year.

Eldritch was a commanding presence throughout the performance, delivering his trademark vocals that were both haunting and powerful. His distinctive style has influenced countless musicians over the years, and it was clear that his fans still held him in the highest regard. The audience sang along with every word, their passion and devotion evident in every shout and fist pump. By the way the crowd was reacting, you might have thought they were magically transported back to 1984 during the First, Last, and Always Tour. Truly incredible.

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TVD Live Shots:
KMFDM with Chant
at the Belasco, 5/17

The Belasco in Los Angeles was incinerated on May 17th as industrial rock heavyweights KMFDM and special guests Chant took the stage for an unforgettable night of mind melting music that challenged the brain and stirred the soul. The sold-out show was a celebration of all things loud and aggressive, and fans from all walks of life were fired up to see Sascha Konietzko and company light up the stage in the City of Angels. Pound for pound, one of the best live performances I have seen in 2023.

Chant kicked off the night with their heavy, tribal sound, drawing the crowd in with driving rhythms and hypnotic vocals. The band’s intense energy was infectious, and it didn’t take long for the entire audience to be swept up in the pounding beats. Frontman Bradley Bills commanded the stage with his presence and soaring vocals, delivering a performance that was equal parts raw power and emotional intensity.

As the night went on, the energy in the room only continued to build. When KMFDM took the stage, the crowd erupted into an instant frenzy. The band wasted no time launching into their signature blend of industrial metal, punk, and techno, delivering hit after hit with relentless energy and precision. Singer Sascha Konietzko was a force to be reckoned with, prowling the stage and growling out lyrics with a ferocity that left no doubt about his dedication to the music and fans. This was gonna be fun!

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TVD Live Shots:
Gojira, Mastodon,
and Lorna Shore at
the Kia Forum, 4/19

It was a night of heavy metal and headbanging at the Kia Forum where three incredible bands took the stage for an unforgettable concert billed as The Mega-Monsters Tour. Wednesday’s lineup was headlined by French progressive metalers Gojira, supported by the legendary Mastodon, and the up-and-coming deathcore outfit Lorna Shore. Each band brought their unique flavor of metal to the stage, resulting in an electrifying evening of music that fans won’t soon forget.

Lorna Shore kicked off the night with a ferocious set, showcasing their blend of deathcore and black metal influences. The New Jersey-based band was able to captivate the audience with their intense energy and brutal breakdowns, setting the tone for the night. Vocalist Will Ramos commanded the stage with his menacing growls and shrieks as the band ripped through songs like “Cursed to Die” and “Into the Earth.”

Mastodon took to the stage next, and immediately had the audience on their feet. With their iconic sound combining elements of sludge, progressive, and psychedelic metal, Mastodon graced us with some of their biggest hits such as “Circle of Cysquatch” and “Blood and Thunder.” The Atlanta based band played a lengthy set, including some of their lesser-known songs like “Crystal Skull” and “Sultan’s Curse.” Many new fans were impressed by the band’s ability to put on a show that was both heavy and melodic.

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TVD Live Shots: Muse with Evanescence at the Honda Center, 4/12

For those who thought that Muse was becoming an afterthought in the expansive world of alternative rock, think again. On a brisk April evening in Anaheim, Matt Bellamy, Chris Wolstenholme, and Dominic Howard heated things up in front of a near-capacity crowd at the Honda Center. This show had everything—crazed fans, tons of pyro and confetti, and a diverse setlist that took the audience on a crazy journey highlighting Muse’s incredible 30-year career.

I love live music and have seen thousands of bands perform on stage since my first concert back in 1986. Some bands have incredible studio albums, but fall short of expectations while performing their hits in front of an audience. Others suffer from the opposite effect—their albums are average at best but kill it when they fire it up under the bright lights. I would consider Muse a unicorn that excels at both and have done so since their inception back in 1994. Their live shows are like no other and set a standard for what a true rock show should look and feel like—on all levels. They are truly the real deal.

Opening for Muse on Wednesday night was one of my favorite bands, Evanescence. Fronted by the brilliant Amy Lee, Evanescence immediately put a stranglehold on the Honda Center and didn’t let go throughout a condensed (yet impressive) 14-song set. Right out of the gate, fans witnessed the incredible stage presence of Amy (vocals), Tim McCord (guitar), Will Hunt (drums), Troy McLawhorn (guitar), and Emma Anzai (bass) as they slayed “Going Under,” “End of the Dream,” and “My Immortal.” Their set was like something out of a dream that highlighted the very best of Evanescence since their initial release Fallen in 2003. The set ended with “Bring Me To Life”—accompanied by Johnny Stevens of Highly Suspect—and with arguably their most recognizable song, and they killed it.

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TVD Live Shots: Theory of a Deadman with Skillet and Saint Asonia at the Wiltern, 3/26

On a chilly Sunday night in the City of Angels, Theory of a Deadman, Skillet, and Saint Asonia joined forces and collectively blew the roof off the iconic Wiltern Theater on their final stop of the 2023 Rock Resurrection Tour. While different in many respects, each band brought their own unique brand to the stage and wowed the near-capacity crowd for three full hours of mind-blowing rock and roll mayhem. Needless to say, this one lived up to all the hype and ended up being one of my favorite live shows this year.

Kicking off Sunday night’s show was a super-group out of Toronto called Saint Asonia. Featuring ex-Three Days Grace singer Adam Gontier and former Staind guitarist Mike Mushok, with Cale Gontier on bass and Cody Watkins on drums, the quartet immediately kicked it in to over drive with a short but powerful set for the 30 minutes they had on stage. Highlights were a few Three Days Grace covers, “Never Too Late” and “I Hate Everything About You,” along with my favorite of the evening, “Let Me Live My Life.” A solid set for sure and a band I definitely want to dig into more in the weeks ahead.

Next up was Skillet, and I was pumped to catch these cats live for the very first time. Husband and wife duo John Cooper (bass) and Korey Cooper (rhythm guitar) were joined on stage by powerhouse Jen Ledger (drums) and Seth Morrison (lead guitar) for a 14-song set that highlighted in spades why this band is so amazing.

From the moment they launched into “Feel Invincible,” it was evident that this band loved playing together as each had smiles from ear to ear from the get-go. Their stage presence was incredible and it oozed out in songs like “Comatose” and “Monster.” Final song, “The Resistance” was by far the most powerful of the set, and by that time had everyone screaming along with fists in the air as their time came crashing to an end. Can’t wait to see Skillet again soon—they were 100% the real deal.

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Ben Christo,
The TVD Interview

Ben Christo may be one the best musicians you’ve never heard of—until now. From an early age, Christo had a passion for music as well as a deep appreciation for the guitarwork that permeated the pop airwaves of his generation. After a thrilling performance at a Christmas talent show, Ben knew music—and the guitar—were his future. Inspired by legends like Steve Clark of Def Leppard as well as by live performances from AC/DC and Judas Priest, Christo dedicated his life to music and his dream of playing on the same stages his childhood heroes performed upon.

After a strange turn of events landed him a spot with The Sisters of Mercy, those childhood dreams became a reality, and he’s not looked back. In this interview, we dig into Ben Christo’s early days as a musician, his 16+ years with The Sisters of Mercy, as well as his new undertaking Diamond Black.

What are your earliest memories of music as a child?

I found that as a kid I always gravitated toward any pop music that had guitars in it. So you could imagine a lot of Michael Jackson or Tina Turner, or pop bands, that suddenly would have this bursting guitar solo in it. Even stuff like Belinda Carlisle. It was the pop music I’d hear on the radio and see on TV—and if there was a guitar solo in it, that would really draw me toward it. That was very early.

And then after that I started to get into a lot of the kind of classic rock bands such as Def Leppard, AC/DC, Judas Priest, Europe, and The Cult through an uncle who was eight years older than me. He was a bit like a big brother, but I didn’t actually have to live with him, so that was kind of cool. And then the first actual concerts I saw in very quick succession were Judas Priest and AC/DC, and that really cemented it for me. I knew I already loved music, but now I actually wanted to make it too.

Who were your biggest inspirations as a musician growing up?

Steve Clark from Def Leppard, who unfortunately passed away in 1991. He had such a good command of what I like to call gritty melody that really ignited my imagination when it came to music. There was a real cinematic quality to the way that he would write riffs. So, rather than it being almost sort of throw away licks and riffs, I felt there was real meaning behind what he did, and that connected with me in a way perhaps moreso than just how your average kind of fun rock song worked.

And the bits I love a lot about the Steve Clark songs is when there’s a solo section where he’ll often go off on something very musical, which really holds its own. The midsections of songs like “Die Hard The Hunter” or Def Leppard’s debut album On Through the Night really highlight his genius. Clark’s instrumental masterpiece “Switch 625” on High and Dry—that just made me so excited about guitar playing. And his playing isn’t necessarily very technical, but it was very melodic and very imaginative, and that really kind of laid the foundations for where I wanted to go.

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TVD Live Shots: Queensrÿche, Marty Freidman, and Trauma at the House of Blues, 3/19

Queensrÿche’s show on Sunday night was anything but ordinary. They dug deep into their war chest and dazzled fans with a 16-song set consisting of new material, classics, and some deep cuts rarely heard live. With support from guitar virtuoso Marty Friedman and thrash metal legends Trauma, the show went down as one of my favorite top to bottom bills in years. If you can catch the Digital Noise Alliance Tour in your town, do so. All three bands are simply brilliant.

I’ve been following Queensrÿche since the early ’80s and have seen every incarnation of the band live in some way, shape or form. With only a few remaining originals in the current line up—Michael Wilton on guitar and Eddie Jackson on bass—one could think the band was nothing more than a glorified cover band at best. This couldn’t be further from truth. With Todd La Torre on vocals, Casey Grillo on drums, and Mike Store on rhythm guitar, Queensrÿche is continuing to push its boundaries with fantastic new music and live performances that are second to none.

Opening up Sunday night’s festivities were Bay Area thrash metal legends, Trauma. Outside of Kris Gustofson on drums (an original member of the band formed in 1982), the remaining lineup—Steve Robello on lead guitar, Brian Allen on lead vocals, Michael Spenser on bass, and Casey Trask on rhythm guitar—are fairly new to the line-up but lend their musical talents well to Trauma’s amazing legacy. My favorite tracks from a quick opening set included “From Here to Hell,” “Walk Away,” and “Death of the Angel.” While an interesting add to this tour, their intense performance captured fans from the first note and never let go.

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TVD Live Shots: The Flaming Lips at the House of Blues, 3/7

After two full hours of insanity courtesy of The Flaming Lips, it immediately became clear how incredibly talented this band actually is. From unicorns in the audience to inflatable robots on stage, Wayne Coyne and company left it all on the table in front of a near-capacity crown at the House of Blues in Anaheim on Tuesday night. The Flaming Lips performance was a psychedelic whirlwind to say the least, and ultimately left fans yearning for more when the show finally came to a crashing halt. This show was trippy, strange, and probably one of the most incredible live performances I have seen in years.

Make no mistake, I have gone to thousands of concerts over the years and have seen just about everything—small clubs, large arenas, costumes, flames. You name it, I’ve seen it. Well, that premise was turned on its head on Tuesday night when I covered my first Flaming Lips show. I was told walking in there was no opener, I’d get to shoot the first 6 songs, and to be ready for, well, the unexpected. Little did I know that this show would be more than just a bit unexpected, it was flat out wild.

Opening with “Sagittarius Silver Announcement,” lead vocalist Wayne Coyne kicked off The Flaming Lips’ set inside an 8’ transparent ball. Fans against the rail went absolutely crazy as he crooned and swooned to the beat while massive cannons blasted confetti into a now rabid audience. Flanked by dual drummers Matt Duckworth Kirksey and Nicholas Ley (both with fluorescent green hair, I might add), Coyne mesmerized the crowd from inside of his ball as he launched into “Silver Trembling Hands.” The remainder of the band, including Steven Drozd (guitars), Derek Brown (keys), and Tommy McKenzie (bass), immediately kicked into overdrive and never looked back across a 21-song, two hour acid trip of sorts.

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TVD Live Shots: Sammy Hagar & The Circle with Andrew Hagar & The Midnight Suns at Agua Caliente Casino, 3/4

In front of a hometown, Santo-infused crowd, Sammy Hagar & The Circle rolled into Agua Caliente on Saturday night and set the place ablaze with an 18-song set that captured the pure essence of Hagar’s legendary 50+ year career. It was, to say the least, a masterclass in rock’n’roll courtesy of Hagar, Michael Anthony, Vic Johnson, and Jason Bonham. Each were in rare form and delivered what many Redheads considered their finest live performance in years. With no signs of slowing down any time soon, Sammy Hagar & The Circle proved once again to another sold-out crowd that “There’s only one way to rock!”

I’ve been following Sammy Hagar since I was a teenager. He’s a local legend in the Inland Empire (he’s a Fontana native) and has always gone out of his way to ensure his hometown fans are well taken care of. That said, I’ve seen him countless times over the years and have never (and I mean never) seen him phone in a show or bring less than 100% to a live performance. Saturday night was no exception, and in front of a sold-out arena at the Agua Caliente Casino, Sammy & The Circle brought the heat once again.

Opening up on Saturday night was Andrew Hagar & The Midnight Suns. While the name should sound familiar (yes—he’s Sammy’s son), this band is not a novelty act by any means. Instead, it’s a killer quartet comprised of insanely talented musicians: Andrew Hagar (vocals), Joey Ariemma (guitar), Gregg Cash (bass), and Devin “The Sack” Lebsack (drums) who live and breathe the very music they play. This high-octane crew is 100% bad-ass and whipped up the Palm Springs crowd into a frenzy with a killer eight-song set list compromised of new releases, some older original tunes, and even a few covers courtesy of Stone Temple Pilots and Alice in Chains. Their set alone was worth the price of admission, and am looking forward to how high their star will rise in the not-so-distant future.

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TVD Live Shots: Cali Vibes at Marina Green Park, 2/17 and 2/18

With nearly 50,000 fans in attendance over a glorious three-day weekend, concertgoers from around the world made the pilgrimage to Cali Vibes to bear witness to musical royalty such as Snoop Dogg, Jack Johnson, and Rebelution.

Seasoned with amazing food, tasty drinks, and near perfect weather, the festival skyrocketed to a whole new level in the heart of LBC courtesy of Silverback Music and Goldenvoice. From its humble beginnings in the shadow of the Queen Mary to its new home at Marina Green Park, Cali Vibes has quickly catapulted itself from a small regional reggae event to one of the premiere outdoor music festivals in the US. Take it from me, this is one event you will want to circle on your calendar for years to come.

I’ve been fortunate to attend the Cali Vibes festival (and its predecessor One Love) since its humble beginnings in the parking lot of The Observatory OC in Santa Ana back in 2016. It’s evolved greatly since that time and has quickly become one of the premiere music festivals in the US, regardless of genre. I’ve attended countless shows and festivals over the years, s0 it’s easy for me to validate the claim as I’ve been to the majority of these events nationwide. Silver Back Music and Goldenvoice pull out all the stops to ensure fans are treated to the very best Long Beach has to offer, and 2023 Cali Vibes was no exception.

As a Long Beach resident, I was a huge fan of moving the festival to Marina Green Park from Harry Bridges Memorial Park next to the Queen Mary. Parking is plentiful in downtown Long Beach and it’s a short walk down Pine St. to the festival entrance. With enhancements to online ticketing—along with a streamlined check in / security process—entry to the festival was a snap.

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TVD Live Shots: Anthrax, Black Label Society, and Exodus at City National Grove, 2/19

The OGs of thrash metal just took it to a new level on Sunday night at City National Grove in Anaheim. With support from Black Label Society and Exodus, Anthrax destroyed their 12-song set in front of another sold-out crowd for what arguably may have been their best live performance in years. Scott, Charlie, Frank, Joey, and Jon put on a clinic for Anthrax faithful, and by doing so reaffirmed their rightful spot atop the altar of metal.

I love myself a solid metal show. While there are many to choose from, few are able to deliver live in ways that leave fans literally unconscious after a full night of moshing. On Sunday night, Anthrax rolled into town in support of their 40th Anniversary Tour and did just that in front of a capacity crowd. Joined by the legendary Black Label Society and Exodus, the three bands tag teamed to provide a killer night of metal mayhem that won’t soon be forgotten.

First on the docket we’re none other than the Bay Area’s very own, Exodus. While drummer Tom Hunting is the only original member of the band (circa 1979), there is no dropoff in quality when surrounded by metal icons: guitarist Gary Holt, vocalist Steve “Zetro” Souza, bassist Jack Gibson, and guitarist Lee Altus. These legends were straight fire, showcasing their ballistic wares with an abbreviated set including “Blood In, Blood Out,” “The Toxic Waltz,” and my favorite, “Strike of the Beast.” Taking a quick breather after this set, I was crushed by the power of Exodus and still to this moment have a ringing in my ears that won’t go away.

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Cypress Hill’s
Eric “Bobo” Correa,
A TVD Interview

Eric “Bobo” Correa might be one of my favorite percussionists of all-time. Fusing Latin jazz with rock and hip-hop, his unique style and limitless energy has been fueling Cypress Hill for over 30 years and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.

We sat down with Bobo as he prepares for the upcoming Cali Vibes Festival taking place this weekend in Long Beach, California. During our chat, we discussed his start in music, the legend of Cypress Hill, and of course all things vinyl.

How did you get your start in music?

Well, I come from a musical family. My father was a Latin jazz musician by the name of Willie Bobo. He played with a lot of incredible musicians like Tito Puente and Miles Davis, and he had albums under his own credit as well. And when I was born, I just kind of gravitated to the music. I used to attend shows as early as five-years-old with him at jazz clubs in North Hollywood, and I got the bug immediately. I was playing pots and pans when I was two and three-years-old. So, I always knew that I wanted to be involved in music somehow.

Who were your inspirations as an up and coming percussionist?

People like Tito Puente and Mongo Santamaria and Patato Valdez. There were also other jazz drummers like Buddy Rich, “Philly Joe” Jones, Louis Bell, and Max Roach. So, anything rhythm related is where I naturally gravitated. But those were my main inspirations growing up.

Did you believe that music would ultimately end up being your career?

Well, that was my ultimate plan. It’s something that I wanted to do. However, just because I wanted to do something, it didn’t mean that it’s going to happen. But I think with me, playing with my dad for 10 years before he passed away, I knew that I wanted to do music.

So, dad passed away when I was 15 years old. I took over his jazz band—which was an incredible responsibility—but I did it to kind of keep the name going. But again, it’s very difficult to take the place of somebody that was as recognized and loved as my father. To just come in and step in his place, whether I’m his son or not, was difficult. So, I had to find my own way and eventually, that’s what happened.

What was your first big break as a musician?

I think that the thing for me that had me feeling that “I’m ready to roll” was when I started doing guest appearances at the Playboy Jazz Festival playing with legends like Tito Puente, Poncho Sanchez, and Johnny Otis. So, people like that, very mature, and they each put me under their wing in a way and allowed me to learn. And I think when that was all happening and people kept on calling me, I knew, okay, this is something that I think that I can do—I can sustain myself like this. So, I think it was late teens when I knew for sure that music was what I wanted to pursue all the way.

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TVD Live Shots:
REO Speedwagon with Sir, Please at Yaamava Theater, 1/20

Last Friday night’s REO Speedwagon show was nothing short of spectacular and renewed my faith that good-old fashioned rock and roll music is alive and well in 2023. Joined by Sir, Please, Kevin Cronin and company transported fans back in time with 16 classic tracks that had everyone in attendance singing and dancing all night long. It was the perfect setlist to welcome in the new year at Yaamava Theater, one of the newest and coolest live music venues in Southern California.

Looking to start out 2023 with a bang, I decided to hit up Yaamava Theater for the first time and rock out with arguably one of the most prolific and long-standing classic rock acts on the planet, REO Speedwagon. Joined by thousands of REO faithful, I made my way through the beautiful Yaamava Casino and entered the theater for what I anticipated to be one hell of a rock and roll show. Fans were smiling, beer was flowing, and I knew Friday’s show would be one for the ages. Let’s dig in.

Kicking off the festivities in Highland was a killer quartet from Agoura Hills known affectionately as Sir, Please. While their unassuming nature might catch you off guard, this band of brothers brought their “A” game to with a killer set that blended their own hits with classic covers in a fun and funky way that really hit home with the masses. While they only had time for a handful of songs, I was blown away by tracks like “Different,” “Dance With Me,” and “If I Run.” I’d seen Sir, Please many years ago at one of their first performances and they have really evolved into a well-oiled machine with a super clean sound, unique style, and amazing stage presence. Catch em’ if you can live as these cats are poised for greatness in the not-so-distant future.

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TVD Live Shots: Social Distortion with Greg Antista & The Lonely Streets at the House of Blues, 12/12

On a chilly evening in Anaheim, Social Distortion turned up the heat in front of thousands of rabid fans at the world-famous House of Blues. Mike Ness and company blew the doors off the joint with a 17-song set that had the capacity crowd singing, dancing, and moshing all-night long. It’s what one would expect at a Social D show, and highlighted why this band is so beloved and appreciated here in the OC.

For many, Social D is the epitome of the local punk rock scene in OC. Most shows are sold out immediately and fans wait for hours to grab rail positions in order to be up close and personal with Mike Ness and the boys. Well, that script got flipped on Monday night—for the very first time, I was front and center for my first Social Distortion show. Let’s dig in.

Opening the night was a killer band from So Cal called Greg Antista & The Lonely Streets. From the jump, their set was raucous and upbeat, priming the pump for the headliners which were about an hour and a half from liftoff. As Greg Antista took the stage with a huge grin, I knew the set would be special—and it ended up being that and a whole lot more. The band as a whole killed their set with a reckless abandon, rarely seen from openers. Closing my eyes, the band had a Ramones type of sound that l really loved. I’ll definitely be digging into this band more in the not-so-distant future and recommend you do the same.

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TVD Live Shots: W.A.S.P. and Armored Saint at the Wiltern, 12/11

It was the final stop on W.A.S.P.’s 40 Years Live World Tour 2022, and it lived up to all the hype and then some in front of a sold out crowd in Los Angeles on Sunday night. Joined by hometown heroes Armored Saint, both bands crushed their respective sets and highlighted why each are still at the pinnacle of their game some four decades later. This was metal at its finest in the City of Angels, and a perfect performance to wrap up an insane year of concerts here in Southern California.

I’ve been following W.A.S.P. and Armored Saint since I was a teenager, and they are still just as relevant today as they were back then in the heyday of metal here in Los Angeles. On a chilly Sunday evening, both bands left it all on the table as they wrapped up their 40 Years Live World Tour in front of a capacity crowd at The Wiltern Theater. Each set was sonically amazing and transported me back to a time when all that mattered was the music.

Opening Sunday’s show was none other than the mighty Armored Saint. I’ve seen this band many times over the years, but this particular show was by far the best I have ever seen them live. They took the stage with a reckless abandon and had the pedal to the metal throughout their 11-song set. John Bush’s vocals were spot on, and his typical high intensity performances paled in comparison to the supercharged version we saw on Sunday night.

The Sandoval Brothers (Phil, lead guitar and Gonzo, drums) were simply incredible and were nicely complemented by vicious rhythms of guitarist Jeff Duncan. And I’d be remiss not to mention the bad ass mother fucker on bass, Joey Vera. His energy was pegging at 11 all night long and such a joy to watch.

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