Where have I been the past couple of days you may ask? Well, when a favorite band of yours announces back-to-back shows in your area where they will play through two of their full albums, you drop everything, throwback another energy drink, and go. So that’s where I’ve been and honestly, my heart hasn’t been this full in a long time. I toyed with the idea of writing two separate reviews, one for each night, but, with both nights having the same line-up, it just seemed like it would make more sense to wrap both nights into one review so here you have it!
Kicking off the Sunday and Monday night shows at Amsterdam Bar & Hall in Saint Paul was 200 Stab Wounds. Hailing from Cleveland, OH, 200 Stab Wounds was the sole death metal band (although every band on the line-up was brutal so, if you don’t really get super into your metal subgenres, you may have not even noticed) on the epic five-band line-up but they fit in so perfectly. They absolutely knew how to get the crowd going and leave a lasting impression with everyone in the audience whether you were a death fan or not. Their epic guitar parts and blasting drums got the blood pumping and the audience moving. Even though their set on both nights seemed incredibly short, they packed a punch with the time they had and I absolutely expect to see this band’s name more and more in the near future.
A little punk, a little hardcore, and a whole lot of energy, Dying Wish was the next band to grace the stage on both Sunday and Monday night. I know it’s an obvious thing to mention but I just have to mention it, the vocalist of this band, Emma Boster, was the only female to take the stage either night (other than the stage divers from the audience) and it made my heart so warm. I won’t go down the rabbit hole about why it meant so much to me to see a female absolutely slay it on stage on such a powerful line-up but I just feel like it needs to be mentioned that it meant so much to me and every other female in the audience. Okay, but back to Dying Wish. Holy heck this band packs a punch. Beyond their sound, which is absolutely flawless, is their undeniable stage presence. This band had a way of getting the band excited before even jumping into their first song. Although it was clear on both nights that some of the audience members were trying to save their energy for the rest of the line-up it was really hard to just stand still and let Dying Wish’s set pass you by.
Much like how Defying Decay opener up the Atreyu show on Saturday and left me completely lost for words, Orthodox was the third band to grace the stage on Sunday and Monday and I honestly couldn’t even tell you what happened. I’ll be honest, I think Orthodox stole the show both nights. That’s not to say the other bands weren’t great because they were, more there was just something about Orthodox’s set that really stood out to me and it happened both nights. There is something threatening about vocalist Adam Easterling’s stage presence while there’s also something so familiar and almost friendly. He has this intense stare and these weird movements on stage that make you fall for Orthodox’s music one word at a time. Although my eyes were glued to him throughout the sets, the rest of this band did not just fall into the background. All of the members refused to stay still and the rest of the audience seemed to mirror that. It felt like the audience just couldn’t contain their excitement anymore as Orthodox took the stage on both nights and just erupted into what can only be described as a sweaty mess of limbs flying everywhere. That mixed the intensity of the music created a set that will not soon be forgotten and a new favorite band of mine. Although Sunday and Monday nights shows were my first introduction to Orthodox, they surely won’t be the last time I see this band and they will definitely be one I search out and travel for in the near future.
That energy that seemed to explode during Orthodox’s set both nights was only magnified as Kublai Khan took the stage next. On both nights, this band brought an undeniable sense of power and energy to the stage that, like the rest of the bands on the line-up, the audience seemed to eat up. With a little bit more of a hardcore influence reigning supreme throughout their set when compared to the other bands on the line-up, musically, they were my favorite on the line-up both nights. Although everyone’s sets sounded flawless, something about Kublai Khan’s overall sound came off as absolutely perfect. Every cymbal hit came with the perfect tone and every word somehow soared over all of the heavy instrumentation with ease. Kublai Khan’s set on both Sunday and Monday was around a dozen tracks long but that clearly wasn’t long enough. You could feel a sense of disappointment both nights as the band left the stage but that disappointment quickly changed to anticipation as the stage was set for the headliner.
The Acacia Strain has been at the top of their game for years. Formed all the way back in 2001, this band has released ten albums and there’s clearly no stopping them. Although all of the albums they have put out are amazing, ‘Wormwood’ from 2010 and ‘It Comes In Waves’ from 2019 seem to really be the monumental albums from this band so being able to see the band power through both of these albums from front to back on Sunday and Monday night respectively was absolutely a dream come true. Although the band admitted that album playthroughs aren’t the easiest as they are forced to play songs that they may otherwise not perform live, the audience was so appreciative of every song… even the more b-side tracks on these albums. We didn’t just get the two albums, we also got some super old tracks from The Acacia Strain after they wrapped up ‘It Comes In Waves’ on Monday night and that was just the icing on the cake.
During both the Sunday and Monday set from The Acacia Strain, the audience was beyond active but it was definitely the Monday night set that really took the cake. An almost constant stream of stage divers made taking photos of the band a task but in the best way possible. There are just no words to describe the feeling you get when standing on the side of an always growing and shifting pit while trying to keep an eye above you for any flying bodies. It sounds dangerous, I know, and, at times, it definitely comes with a price of injury but it’s so exhilarating and seriously gives me a sense of life and energy that I will never get sick of. The music was great, don’t get me wrong but I think that I was more wrapped up in the overall vibe of the show and the undeniable energy and aggression that was felt so strongly in the air.
Vocalist Vincent Bennett gave a little speech about the importance of mental health during the set on Sunday that really stuck with me. Beyond just trying to take the stigma off of mental health, he also reminded people to live in the moment, breathe the air, and just do things that make you happy. If you don’t like someone in your life, cut them out. If you don’t like your job, find a new one (although he admitted this can take time but you should still do it). Mental health gets talked about a lot at shows but it never gets old to me and never becomes overstated and hearing it come from such a monumental and heavy band like The Acacia Strain definitely meant the world to a lot of people in the audience.
There were moments from both Sunday and Monday night’s shows that will definitely stick with me. From catching Orthodox for the first time to seeing a person in a gorilla suit crowd surf around an epic pit and making it all the way around almost two times– it was smiles all around even when taking blows to the head and body from the people in the pit. I saw ten heavy-hitting sets in the past 48 hours and my body and ears are absolutely paying for it this morning but I wouldn’t change this feeling for anything in the world.