Harbour Event & Convention Centre, Vancouver, British Columbia
July 6th, 2023
Supports: Zero 9:36 and Avoid
Residents across the North American region currently have many reasons to rejoice… the weather is now a lot warmer, the days are longer and Wage War are on tour. Performing their very first Vancouver based headline show, the Floridian five-piece dropped into the south-west Canadian city to give locals the opportunity to witness the spectacle that is the Manic tour.
I arrived early to a reasonably empty venue just before Avoid began their set and instantly took notice of the impressive stage layout. Floor to ceiling sized screens wrapped around the stage in a curve, along with an abundance of stage lights aimed in every direction, which were bound to engross each punter in all the action.
Despite being based only a few hours drive away in Seattle, this was Avoid‘s first time playing in the fine city of Vancouver. As the four-piece took to the stage, the visualizer’s lit up with a promo for furkids.org – North America’s largest no kill animal shelter. The band performed in front of this promo for the entire duration of their set, which I personally think is an amazingly unique way to show support to a good cause.
Drummer Paul Jaton was the first member to catch my eye, his animated and lively composure made him a pleasure to watch from the second he stepped foot on the stage. Vocalist Benny Scholl was quick to match Jaton’s energy as they broke out into their first song ‘Gator Fest’. After only a few moments into the performance, Scholl quickly proved himself to be an exceptional performer, his clear-cut, well-defined clean and unclean vocal styles, as well as his high spirited demeanor on stage makes him an absolute delight to observe. The quartet played from each era of the groups short existence, some of which being fan favourites ‘Cowabunga’, ‘Can’t Take This Away’ and of course, ‘Hostage At A Beach House Party’.
Despite Scholl’s finest efforts to get the crowd moving by yelling different mosh call-outs, their seemed to be hesitation to mosh from the crowd for the vast majority of Avoid‘s playing time. This didn’t deter the band from demanding a wall of death toward the end of their set, which was quite sizeable and eventually turned the dull crowd into a lively bunch of heavy music fans, who all of a sudden were chomping at the bit for their next opportunity to mosh.
Scratching that mosh desiring itch, Matthew Cullen aka Zero 9:36 jumped on stage to a reasonably busy music venue and began quickly and impressively rapping through ‘II X Two’ in a manner that is extremely reminiscent of rap legend Eminem. As the song built in momentum, both a drummer and a guitarist joined Cullen on stage and the trio began blasting through their fusion of rap, industrial nu-metal and rock sounds. Despite having instrumentalists performing alongside Cullen on stage, it was apparent that a bassist was missing from the stage and that the backing track filled in for the missing instrumentalist.
Zero 9:36‘s unique styles are brought to life by Cullen’s awe inspiring talents. The vocalist effortlessly switches between various different vocal techniques, including rapping, and both clean and unclean singing while stalking the stage from left to right as if to say ‘are you f*cking listening?!’, which of course the answer was yes. The trio’s guitarist also enjoyed a few moments where he was able to flourish in the limelight while performing a number of guitar solo’s, which were perfectly executed, creating a thrilling experience for the punters. The crowd seemingly responded well to this set with countless circle pits and a number of wall of death’s, earning their short respite from their burning desire to mosh before our international headliners were due to walk on stage.
Finally the moment had come for U.S metalcore heavyweights Wage War to hit the stage in front of the packed out music venue, kicking their set off with ‘Relapse’ , I instantly became profoundly impressed with just how perfectly executed the world class lighting production was, this aspect of the show complimented the band’s performance beautifully. The mosh area quickly became a violent slew of bodies being thrown around, however, all of those who enjoyed the performance from the mosh area did so with a smile on their face. I took a moment to look around at the heavy music fans that I was surrounded by and in every direction I looked, their was a sign of pure joy. Everyone around me seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves, which enhanced my experience tenfold.
The prowess of vocalist Briton Bond is unmatched by most, the projection of his voice while performing both clean and unclean styles is magnificent in all aspects. Equally as impressive behind the microphone is guitarist and clean vocalist Cody Quistad who manages to fulfill the highest of expectations with his vocal duties, particularly on tracks ‘Low’, ‘Slow Burn’, and ‘Circle The Drain’. With that being said, Quistad proved that he is no one trick pony, in fact his flair as a musician is outstanding, both his on-stage fluidity and technicality leads me to believe that he is amongst the best in the world at what he does.
The quintet performed like a well-oiled machine, without one member outshining another. On a few different occasions during the set Bond grabbed and held the drum’s cymbal between each ferocious strike from Stephen Kluesener, resulting in a cleaner, crisper sound from the drums. Each member knows each other’s next move and they act accordingly which was utterly brilliant to behold. Towards the end of the set vocalist Bond took a moment to thank the crowd by saying “It doesn’t matter who you are, what your religion is, or what your skin colour is, we love you. Thank you for being here” which felt genuine and heartfelt in every sense. At this point, the group walked off the stage before having performed fan favourite ‘Manic’. Chants from the crowd emerged within seconds with ‘Manic! Manic! Manic!’ deafening those nearby. The group returned but only to play a stripped back acoustic version of their track ‘Johnny Cash’ which was a surprising, yet pleasing twist. At this point, it would have been fair to assume that the group would break out into perform ‘Manic’, however, once again, they departed the stage and as a result, the crowds plea for ‘Manic’ began again. To the crowds approval, the group then returned with grins on their faces to perform ‘Manic’, capping off their impressive nineteen song long set.
This performance was so perfect that when I woke up the next morning, I questioned as to whether it had actually happened or whether it was a dream. Wage War are amongst the up and coming leaders of this genre and if they can hold on to their ability to maintain their high performing standards, tour after tour, they will further push themselves on their upwards trajectory.
Gig Review by Adam Rice
Me Against Myself
If Tomorrow Never Comes
Circle The Drain
Johnny Cash (Stripped back)