Author Archives: Matthew Belter

TVD Live Shots: Iron Maiden with Trivium at the Honda Center, 9/21

The first of two sold out Iron Maiden shows was nothing less than spectacular for the 10,000+ in attendance in Anaheim on Wednesday night.  It was if someone flipped a switch and miraculously transported fans within the Honda Center, well… Somewhere Back in Time.  This performance had everything one would expect at an Iron Maiden show—amazing pyro, a killer set list, unbridled energy (courtesy of Steve, Dave, Adrian, Bruce, Nicko, and Janick), and of course—EDDIE!  Combine that with the most rabid and insatiable metal fans on the planet, and this show had all the ingredients necessary for a powder keg of TNT to be detonated within the heart of Southern California. For many, it was Maiden’s best live performance in over a decade. For me, it was a dream come true.

For those that know me, it’s no surprise that Iron Maiden is one of my all-time favorite bands. I’ve been a fan since I was introduced to Piece of Mind back as a teenager in 1983, and there was no turning back from that point forward. That album changed my life, and my appreciation for what I consider true Heavy Metal. Many have asked me where my obsession with Iron Maiden actually came from. Maybe it was Steve Harris’s unmistakable baselines?  Maybe it was Bruce’s high-pitched screams? Maybe (just maybe) it was Maiden’s unmistakable imagery. While I’ll probably never be able to pinpoint it, I’m sure it was all of the above and so much more over lifetime of killer albums and amazing live shows with a band that I consider true rock royalty.

Kicking off the festivities on Wednesday night was none other than Trivium. Hailing from Orlando, this killer quartet has been kicking ass and taking names since 1999, and their opening set at Honda Center was no exception. As lights dimmed, Matt Heafy walked out center stage, threw up some “horns” to the thousands now in attendance, and immediately stuck out his trademark tongue as the band launched into “Silence in the Snow.”

Lighting was eerily moody throughout Trivium’s abbreviated 7-song set, but Heafy, along with Corey Beaulieu (guitars), Paolo Gregoletto (bass), and Alex Bent (drums) pulled from the pain and gifted the masses one incredible opening set.  My favorites from the evening included “The Heart From Your Hate” and “Strife,” while others gravitated toward “The Shadow of the Abattoir.”

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TVD Live Shots: Sammy Hagar & The Circle, George Thorogood & The Destroyers, and Chris Trapper at FivePoint Amphitheatre, 9/10

These sure are crazy times we are living in. However, Redheads in Southern California were feeling like they were on top of the world Saturday night when Sammy Hagar & The Circle took the stage on a muggy and overcast evening at FivePoint in Irvine. In tandem with George Thorogood & the Destroyers, this rock party was simply bad to the bone on so many levels. 

I have been a huge Sammy Hagar fan my entire life. From Montrose to his solo career to Van Halen and beyond, this cat has been taking names and melting faces since 1972, and he’s still at the top of his game. Joined by The Circle (featuring Michael Anthony, Vic Johnson, and Jason Bonham), the band came to party on Saturday night in front of a hometown crowd. While a bit overcast and muggy, the Santo shots started early and were poured often, and didn’t stop until the night’s final curtain call. Let’s dig into the night’s festivities, shall we?

Opening up for Sammy Hagar & The Circle was Chris Trapper (a killer singer /songwriter from Boston, MA) along with legendary George Thorogood & The Destroyers. Trapper’s 4-song set was brief, and those who were lucky enough to get there early were treated to some amazing music by a man and his guitar. I don’t always find openers terribly compelling, but there was something about Trapper on stage all by his lonesome that touched my soul. Songs like “The Accident,” “This Time,” and “F%&k It” demonstrated in spades why Sammy brought him out on this tour. I look forward to digging into Chris Trapper a little more in the not so distant future. Well done.

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TVD Live Shots: The Stadium Tour at Petco Park, 8/28

With nearly 35,000 packed into Petco Park in San Diego, fans finally got to let loose and rage to some of the biggest bands on the planet including Def Leppard, Mötley Crüe, and Poison. It was as if the metal gods from above provided a portal back in time where the only thing that mattered was the music. Add fish nets, big hair, and of course ice-cold beer, and this one had all the makings for one incredible party under the stars in the 619. And after waiting nearly 2 years for this one to roll into town, I can honestly say The Stadium Tour delivered on all cylinders and kicked some major ’80s ass.

Taking the pole-position at Petco were LA rockers, Classless Act. While many say that the opening slot on any major tour is a thankless task, their performance on Sunday was simply magnificent. Led by frontman Derek Day, this five-man wrecking crew turned some heads with a killer set that highlighted why this band is so fricking awesome. Watching Dane Pieper (guitar), Griffin Tucker (guitar), Franco Gravante (bass), and Chuck McKissock (drums) light up songs like “This is For You” and “Haunting Love” was a real treat. And of course, Derek’s on-stage antics and killer vocals were second to none. For me, Classless Act’s performance on Sunday was one of the best, and shame on you if you came late and missed it.

Next up was Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. Joan has been melting faces since her start in The Runaways in 1975, and her set on Sunday was a testament to how bad ass she really is. Donning her signature leather under a scorching San Diego sun, Joan and the Blackhearts ripped the cap off a 12-song set including standards such as “Cherry Bomb” (The Runaways cover), “I Hate Myself for Loving You,” and “Bad Reputation.” All sounded phenomenal live and showcased why she is still considered “The Queen of Rock and Roll.” In my opinion, she’s still tops in class and one of my all-time favorites, bar none. Long live Joan Jett!

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TVD Live Shots: Soft Cell at YouTube Theater, 8/24

Fans of ’80s synthpop were in for a special treat Wednesday night when Soft Cell dropped by the YouTube Theater in Inglewood, California for one of their first stateside shows in over 20 years. Best known for their hits “Tainted Love” and “Say Hello Wave Goodbye,” Marc Almond and company put on an amazing 2-hour show that had the packed house singing and dancing all night long. 

I’ve been a Soft Cell fan for the better part of my life and was thrilled to hear earlier this year that Marc Almond and David Ball would be once again joining forces to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret. Synthpop aficionados and ’80s nerds like me understand the importance of this album, and to see it performed live in its entirety would be a dream come true. That happened on Wednesday night. One caveat however, Ball was unable to join Marc Almond on stage as part of the US tour due to doctors’ orders due to ongoing physiotherapy. Traveling was just not in the cards. While disappointing (to say the least), the show went on with their full touring band including Grammy winning producer Philip Larson filling in on keyboards for David.

For those in attendance, there was no opening band—Wednesday’s performance was unapologetically 100% Soft Cell. Act I featured ten songs including new tracks, B-sides, and classics alike. Marc Almond bookended the first set with two Soft Cell tracks including “Torch” and “Martin.” Both were beautifully recreated and sounded amazing. However, my favorites from this set were two newer tracks, “Bruises on All My Illusions” and “Nostalgia Machine.” If you weren’t paying attention, you would have never known that these songs were just released in May of 2022 off their latest album, Happiness Not Included. They sounded so good and had that vintage Soft Cell sound we all know and love.

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TVD Live Shots: Rob Zombie with Mudvayne, Static-X, and Powerman 5000 at Five Points Amphitheater, 8/12

Friday night’s “Freaks on Parade” tour featuring Rob Zombie, Mudvayne, Static-X, and Powerman 5000 was incredible. The sold-out show at Five Points had everything one would expect at a Zombie spectacle: masked performers, clowns, and a 15’ blow up Satan. Killer live performances by the aforementioned was a match made in hell for the thousands in attendance in Irvine. Pound for pound, one of the best metal shows I’ve seen this year and it’s not even close. Let’s dig in, shall we?

Kicking off Friday’s show was none other than Boston’s very own, Powerman 5000. Led by original vocalist Spider One, these cats have been torching stages around the world since 1991, and show no signs of slowing down any time soon. While there have been many variations of the band over the years, they have consistently provided their fans with cutting edge metal that’s truly second to none. While they only thrilled us with 8 songs, the set was awesome.  Fan favorites included “Nobody’s Real,” “Supernova Goes Pop,” and “When Worlds Collide.” Get there early and check out their set—definitely worth the price of admission.

Next up was Static-X. I’d never seen the band live before (pre or post Wayne Static) and had heard from good friend ‘G Vitty’ that their performances are incredible. After an abbreviated 7-song set, I understood why he held their live shows in such high regard. Complimenting new vocalist Xer0 was founding bandmates Tony Campos (bass), Koichi Fukada (guitar), and Ken Jay (drums), and all seemed to love being on stage together. Favorites from the evening included “Wisconsin Death Trip,” “Cold,” and “Push It.” Familiar with the Static-X catalog, I can honestly say they killed their classics and held Wayne Static’s memory in the highest regard. Respect.

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TVD Live Shots: Red Hot Chili Peppers with HAIM and Thundercat at Petco Field, 7/27

I was so excited when I found out that the Red Hot Chili Peppers were going to be performing in San Diego at Petco Field. I have been a fan of their music for decades, and it was an amazing experience to see them perform live again after a number of unforeseen “Covid cancellations” the past few years. The sold-out show was absolutely incredible, and I would highly recommend grabbing tickets to this one if they come to your hometown. The energy RHCP released on stage was contagious, and they had the entire stadium dancing and singing along all night long. If you are a fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers—or rock and roll for that matter—you need to go see this band live.

I’ve honestly been a huge RHCP fan my whole life. As a teen growing up in Southern California, they were my hometown heroes from day one and pioneered a whole new genre of music encompassing funk, rap, and alternative into a unique sound that has been their signature ever since. The Red Hot Chili Peppers have often been imitated, but no one has been able to duplicate their unmistakable sonics or swagger. That in a nutshell is a testament to the incredible musicianship of Anthony Kiedis, Flea, Chad Smith, and John Frusciante.

Opening Wednesday’s show at Petco Field in San Diego were two Los Angeles based bands, HAIM and Thundercat. Both bands were uniquely different and provided those who arrived early an amazing opportunity to rock out as the stadium began to fill up. Thundercat took the stage first and electrified fans with his funky baselines and smooth as butter grooves. HAIM was up next and brought Thundercat’s surge of energy to a whole new level. Sisters Este, Danielle, and Alana ripped off a powerful 9-song set that captured the mind and invigorated the soul of the San Diego faithful. All in all, both openers performed brilliantly and set the stage for what was about to come.

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TVD Live Shots: REO Speedwagon, Styx, and Loverboy at Five Point Amphitheatre, 7/16

Classic rock lovers rejoice! The “Unzoomed” show featuring REO Speedwagon, Styx, and Loverboy was one amazing evening under the stars in Irvine on Saturday night. Five Points Amphitheatre was the perfect venue for this classic rock extravaganza, and the concert did not disappoint. Amazing performances by all three bands had the crowd on their feet all night long. If you love classic rock, this is one show you don’t want to miss.  Let’s dive into the performances!

Opening the show on Saturday was none other than Canadian heartthrobs, Loverboy.  From the first notes of “Notorious,” these cats delivered a high-energy performance that had the audience on their feet from start to finish. Frontman Mike Reno was in top form, belting out “Working for the Weekend” and “Turn Me Loose” with ease. The rest of the band (including Paul Dean, Doug Johnson, Matt Frenette, and Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve) were equally impressive, delivering a tight and polished set that kept the crowd moving and grooving through their short but exhilarating set. Loverboy proved they’re still a force to be reckoned with and left everyone in the audience wanting more.

Next on the docket was Styx. These Chicago legends have been around since 1972 and are one of those rare bands that is just as good, if not better live than they are on record. Tommy Shaw and James “J.Y.” Young led the band through 15 classics that spanned their historic 50+ year career. Highlights of the show included “Lady,” “Too Much Time on My Hands,” and “Come Sail Away,” but honestly every song was great. The encore consisted of “Mr. Roboto” (one of my favorites) along with “Renegade” (which featured original bassist Chuck Panozzo). These were perfect songs to end their set and highlight in spades why Styx is definitely a band worth seeing live.

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TVD Live Shots:
Sad Summer Fest at
City National Grove
of Anaheim, 7/9

ANAHEIM, CAIf there’s one thing pop punk fans know how to do, it’s throw a killer summer festival. This year’s Sad Summer Fest presented by Journey’s was no exception, with incredible performances by headliners Waterparks and Neck Deep. From start to finish, the energy in Southern California was palpable and the vibes were unbeatable. Whether you were moshing in the pit or dancing in the sun, there was something for everyone at The City National Grove in Anaheim on Saturday (7/9)—let’s dig in!

When Vans Warped Tour sadly fell by the wayside for good at the end of 2019, Sad Summer Fest eagerly stepped up and filled the pop punk void that was left by its departure.  Now its 3rd year, this emo-infused extravaganza just keeps getting better and has positioned itself as one of the best up and coming music festivals in the US.  And it had everything on Saturday: dancing bears, emo chicks, pool floaties, spicy pizza, and of course amazing music.

Admittedly, most of the bands performing on Saturday at Sad Summer Fest were outside my standard comfort zone. Metal is typically my “go-to,” but I must say that every performance I witnessed on Saturday (and I mean every performance) were as solid as they come. Fans of all ages literally had every word of every song of from Waterparks, Neck Deep, Mayday Parade, State Champs, Hot Mulligan, Hot Milk, The Summer Set, Magnolia Park, and Lip Candy memorized to a tee. Emotions were at an all time high as mosh pits and crowd surfers took center stage during some of the day’s most memorable sets of the day. I was immediately hooked.

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TVD Live Shots: Slipknot, Cypress Hill, and Ho99o9 at North Island Credit Union Amphitheatre, 6/18

If you’re a fan of metal and hip-hop, then you didn’t want to miss the final leg of the Knotfest Roadshow featuring Slipknot with Cypress Hill and Ho99o9. It was a night of non-stop energy and power, with each band putting on an amazing performance. The crowd was amped from the start, and it only got louder and crazier as the night went on. If you missed it, don’t worry—we’ve got all the highlights for you right here. 

If you haven’t had a chance to catch Slipknot at one of their Roadshows, you’d be missing out on one of the best live bands on the planet today. And when they join forces with bands like the legendary Cypress Hill and up and comers Ho99o9, the show immediately jumps to a whole new level and typically sells out at every stop on the tour. Saturday’s show in Chula Vista was no exception and capped off the Knotfest Roadshow’s incredible Spring run across the US.  Let’s dig into the madness.

Kicking off the Roadshow festivities on Saturday were New Jersey Transplants Ho99o9 (pronounced Horror).  Featuring TheOGM, Eaddy, and touring drummer extraordinaire Billy Rymer, these cats brought their unique brand of punkrap to the stage and got the general admission pit fired up for what was about to come. I must say, I’d never heard Ho99o9 until then, but was thoroughly impressed with their energetic 11-song set including tracks like “Sub-Zer0” and “Battery Not Included.” It was a super intense performance left the crowd wanting more, and I have no doubt Ho99o9 will be going places in the not so distant future.

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TVD Live Shots: New Kids on the Block with Rick Astley, Salt-N-Pepa, and En Vogue at the Honda Center, 5/28

The New Kids on the Block Mixtape Tour 2022 was simply incredible. The energy and excitement in the air was palpable from the moment the boys hit the stage and they never looked back. They sang, danced, and interacted with fans in a way that left everyone feeling like they were part of something special. And if that wasn’t enough, NKOTB “mixed in sets from some of the greatest artists of our youth including Rick Astley, Salt-N-Pepa, and En Vogue. If you get a chance to see this one live, don’t miss it.  

Saturday’s NKOTB Mixtape show in Anaheim was special. Their sold-out show at the Honda Center wasn’t just a nostalgia infused money grab as many might have believed. Instead, it was a carefully curated performance that appealed to the masses.  On top of the singing and dancing one might expect from a show like this, there was confetti cannons, fire, big screens, and a secondary stage right in the middle of the arena that offered a unique perspective to the thousands in attendance.  Whether you were a “Block Head” in the ’90s, or are now a child of one, there was something for everyone.

One of the things I liked most about this show was its unique “Mixtape” format. While traditional concerts typically move from opener to opener to headliner, this structure broke all of the norms and then some.  Right out of the gate, it was New Kids on the Block immediately taking the stage with 7 back-to-back songs that whipped the Anaheim crowd into an immediate frenzy. Then just when you needed to come up for some much-needed air, En Vogue quickly took the stage and dropped two fire tracks on the crowd. The 3-hour show was a nonstop ’80s and ’90s house party with rotating sets between NKOTB, Salt -N-Pepa, Rick Astley, and En Vogue all night long. It was truly a “Mixtape” for the masses.

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TVD Live Shots: BeachLife Festival, 5/15

PHOTOS: GREG VITALICH | BeachLife is quietly becoming one of the premier music festivals in the US. With nearly 40,000 turning out, attendees could not have asked for more over a picture perfect 3-day weekend in beautiful Redondo Beach. Fans from all over the world rocked out to over 55 bands across four unique stages featuring some of the best live music on the planet today. Whether you were into classic rock, alternative, or reggae, there was something for everybody at this year’s festival.

Sunday was the final day of BeachLife 2022, and the mission was to explore some of the incredible non-for-profit organizations that supported the festival this year. As one walked around the event, it was clear that many in attendance were there to do good and share their causes with the BeachLife faithful. Organizations such as The Wyland Foundation, Heal the Bay, and Life Rolls On were on hand and available for fans to learn more about their good works. In addition, there were a number of auctions where festival attendees could bid on BeachLife themed merchandise including signed surfboards, music memorabilia, and one-of-a-kind items donated by local sponsors.

From a musical perspective, the Steve Miller Band took the pole position on Sunday and was the perfect act to end BeachLife this year. This dude has been taking names and melting faces since 1962 and didn’t disappoint on one of the busiest days of the festival. Classics such as “Fly Like an Eagle, “Jet Airliner,” and “Abracadabra” were as crisp as ever while encore “Rock’n Me” was a fitting conclusion to a set for the ages. In addition, chart-toppers like Sheryl Crow and Lord Huron wowed the capacity crowd with amazing heartfelt performances. Special recognition goes out to Ozomatli, ALO, and UB40 (featuring Ali Campbell) for their brilliant Sunday performances.

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TVD Live Shots: BeachLife Festival, 5/14

BeachLife is quietly becoming one of the premier music festivals in the US. With nearly 40,000 turning out, attendees could not have asked for more over a picture perfect 3-day weekend in beautiful Redondo Beach. Fans from all over the world rocked out to over 55 bands across four unique stages featuring some of the best live music on the planet today. Whether you were into classic rock, alternative, or reggae, there was something for everybody at this year’s festival.

Saturday’s mission was to explore some of the killer concessions BeachLife had to offer in 2022. Upon entering the festival, fans were immediately exposed to tons of killer food and drink options curated to satisfy even the pickiest foodies. I personally dug the Rock & Brews popup adjacent to the Riptide stage, while others I spoke with enjoyed all of the tasty treats found throughout concession alley. I unfortunately succumbed to the Spicy Pie stand on multiple occasions as this pizza was sheer unadulterated pleasure. Regardless of proclivity, food and drink choices were abundant and free flowing all day long!

From a musical perspective, Smashing Pumpkins had the distinct pleasure of headlining BeachLife on Saturday. It was no surprise to the thousands crowding the Hightide stage how amazing their performance truly was (and one that won’t soon be forgotten). Classics such as “Today,” an acoustic version of “Tonight, Tonight,” and “1979” rocked Redondo Beach and the Smashing Pumpkins faithful to their core. In addition, best-in-class acts like Vance Joy and Stone Temple Pilots set fire to their respective setlists and left the capacity crowd wanting more. Special recognition goes out to Michael Franti & Spearhead, Matisyahu, and Donavon Frankenreiter for their unbelievable Day 2 performances.

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TVD Live Shots: BeachLife Festival, 5/13

BeachLife is quietly becoming one of the premier music festivals in the US. With nearly 40,000 turning out, attendees could not have asked for more over a picture perfect, 3-day weekend in beautiful Redondo Beach. Fans from all over the world rocked out to over 55 bands across four unique stages featuring some of the best live music on the planet today. Whether you were into classic rock, alternative, or reggae, there was something for everybody at this year’s festival.

My initial mission on Friday was to get a lay of the land and better understand some of the improvements BeachLife had implemented since last year’s festivities. Right out of the gate, it was clear that concertgoers encountered a much-improved check-in process where fans experienced few (if any) lines heading into the festival grounds. And if check-in efficiency wasn’t enough, attendees probably noticed a few general layout changes that allowed fans to move about the festival effortlessly throughout the day. For me, moving from stage to concessions to restrooms and then back to the action was as simple as I’d ever seen it at a festival (and I’ve been to many).

From a musical perspective, Weezer and 311 co-headlined BeachLife on Friday. These are some of the ’90s finest, and by the reaction of the capacity crowd at both the Hightide and Lowtide Stages, delivered in fine fashion. Weezer ripped classics like “Hash Pipe,” “Undone – The Sweater Song,” and “Say It Ain’t So,” while 311 tore up standards like “Beautiful Disaster,” “Transistor,” and “Down.” In addition, The Black Pumas and Cold War Kids crushed their respective sets with contrasting sounds and styles that clearly illustrate why BeachLife is such an awesome music festival. Special recognition goes out to DREAMERS, Hoist the Colors, and The Aggrolites for their incredible Day 1 performances.

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TVD Live Shots: Black Label Society with Nita Strauss and Jared James Nichols at the House of Blues, 4/30

Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society proved last night (4/30) why they are one of the most incredible rock and roll bands around. Their performance was a non-stop barrage of energy, audience interaction, and guitar solos that had the House of Blues rocking all night long. 

Saturday evening’s Black Label Society show was near flawless. With incredible opening sets from guitar virtuosos Nita Strauss and Jared James Nichols, the show elevated to a whole new level in front of a near capacity crowd at the legendary venue in San Diego. The evening was 100% pure unadulterated madness from beginning to end with no let down whatsoever. Let’s dig in, shall we?

First up was blues guitarist extraordinaire, Jared James Nichols. Equipped with his signature Les Paul, he slayed his 30-minute opening set in fine fashion. This cat’s energy was off the charts as demonstrated by hits such as “Bad Roots,” “Saint or Fool,” and “Shadow Dancer.” My favorite of the evening was Jared’s final song of the night, Mountain’s “Mississippi Queen.” And if that isn’t blues infused rock and roll at its finest, I don’t know what is.

Next to take the stage was Nita Strauss. Some may remember Nita from her early years in The Iron Maidens (an an-all female tribute to Iron Maiden) while others may have recently caught her on tour with Alice Cooper. Regardless of where you first experienced her guitar playing, one would probably agree that Strauss is one of the most electrifying guitarists on the planet today. I watched in awe as she put on a clinic for the thousands in attendance with songs such as “Summer Storm,” “The Show Must Go On” (a Queen cover), and “Our Most Desperate Hour.” Saturday’s performance was genius.

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TVD Live Shots: Tech N9ne with X-Raided, ¡Mayday!, and Joey Cool at Soma, 4/15

Rap shows are always a great time. You have the music, the energy, and the excitement all in one place. But when you add Tech N9ne to the mix, it takes it to a whole new level and then multiplies that by 10. His recent performance at Soma in San Diego was outstanding and one of the best complete shows (regardless of genres) I have seen in years. If you get a chance to see Tech N9ne on his 2022 ASIN9NE Tour, don’t miss it—it’s guaranteed to be a show that you won’t forget for a very long time.

I don’t know about you, but I love live music. Whether it be a huge arena show or an intimate warehouse one-off, there is something about raw musical performances that fire me up. Friday’s show at Soma was no different for me, aside from the fact that one of my favorite artists of all time was taking the stage. I’ve had the privilege of covering Tech N9ne many times over the years, and the one thing I can say about his performances are they are consistently solid on all levels.  This includes sound quality, show production, and the best-in-class support acts he brings out on tour.

Opening up for Tech N9ne at Soma were three outstanding acts:  X-Raided, ¡Mayday!, and Joey Cool.  While each set was only 30 minutes in length, fans were not shortchanged by any means as each artist brought their own swagger to the stage in their own special way. Joey Cool’s rhymes were smooth and electrifying, ¡Mayday! (including Bernz, Wrekonize, and NonMS) brought the Miami heat, and X-Raided added a healthy dose of reality to the Strange Music bill. While many opening acts fall flat in anticipation of the main attraction, these cats were collectively on a higher level. I could see each headlining their own shows based on the sheer talent they exhibited on Friday night.

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  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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