Some bands have a strange, almost cult-like following. I love it. I love finding myself at shows amidst the die-hard fan base and being a bit of a fly on the wall. I love the conversations I hear about who has seen the band more times and who’s tattoo representing the band is more original. It’s very easy to see how much a band at a show like this truly affected many of their fans life. It sounds cheesy, but Rise Against is one of those bands that many people credit for saving them from the edge when they were going to give it all up. I definitely have some of those bands for myself but Rise Against is not one of them. That being said, being able to witness fans sing along to the songs that truly saved their lives is an experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything on the planet. And I got the chance to do just that at the Skyway Theatre last Saturday
The show started with Canadian based punk band White Lung. They were clearly the unknown on this bill but the quickly growing crowd seemed to be struck by the four piece as soon as they walked into the giant theatre-like room. Singer Mish Way-Barber seemed the mesmerize the crowd as she clutched the microphone stand and powered through the bands’ quick set. With four albums out, White Lung is not a new band but they seemed to be new to majority of the audience. Whether the crowd listened in for just a couple of notes before going back to their conversations, or they tuned into the entire set, White Lung had everyone in the palm of their hands at some point. Their sound was a unique and refreshing blend of punk and garage rock. The energy that Mish brought to the table was more than enough to have me sold on White Lung. You could feel the anger and frustration that was put into the songs but you could also feel a sense of delicacy that she put behind her vocals. I don’t know if many people noticed her attention to detail or the way the rest of the band seemed to fall by the wayside and let her tell the stories through her movement and energy, but I did and I loved it.
Following up White Lung was Pierce the Veil, a San Diego based rock band with a sense of energy that you would expect from a metal band. This was not my first time seeing this four piece so I kind of knew what to expect. They have a very polished sound when they perform live yet they somehow keep an element of fun in their live show. Singer and teenage heartthrob Vic Fuentes had the females in the crowd in the palm of his hand. The girls in the audience swooned as Vic stormed across the stage and frequently hopped onto the steel risers that lined the front of the stage. Although most eyes seemed to be on him through the band’s set, there’s no ignoring the other three members of this powerhouse of a band. All of them bring a sense of energy to the table that can not be ignored. Although their set didn’t even hit the ten song mark, Pierce the Veil seemed to leave a lasting impression on the younger portion of the crowd and, as the lights came on and the stage was being turned over for the headliner, all I could hear were words of praise for the young band.
As soon as Rise Against took the stage, the crowd erupted into a sweaty mess. The young crowd had been pushed out of the middle of the floor and a bunch of middle age guys immediately started opening up a pit as they pushed and shoved people out of the way. I instantly felt out of place as I found myself to be one of the few people not screaming along to every word of this Illinois based melodic hardcore band. As uncomfortable as it made me feel, I was loving being a bit of an outsider. I always seem to be the one freaking out over seeing bands and I leave my friends on the sidelines to just watch me but tonight the shoe was on the other foot and I loved it. People had tears flowing down their faces and their arms stretched as high up as they could. They were amidst a truly religious experience and there I was just taking it all in like a breath of fresh air.
Rise Against’s message is something I can definitely get behind. They speak of politics, peace and mental health which is clearly one of the reasons they have this cult following. Listening to singer Tim McIlrath perform with an unbelievable sense of passion and care behind his voice made me instantly recognize why this is one of those life-saving bands. It was the way Tim instantly jumped from the stage to the fence that kept the crowd at a safe distance within the second song. He reached out and gave a high five to anyone who he could reach and was doing so with a genuine smile on his face. He had this unspeakable connection with his fans that was matched only with the connection the fans had back to him and the band. It was truly a beautiful sight to see.
The band powered through their eighteen song set with a sense of fury and love. Even when the band came back out for their one song encore, the crowd seemed to be left wanting more. With eight albums that span their eighteen year career, there was no way the band could play everything that the crowd wanted to hear but they truly seemed to do their best.
Was I one of those people that was screaming along to every word of Rise Against’s set? No. Would I call myself a huge fan of the band? No. Would I say that last night’s show affected me in a way that not many shows can? Yes. It doesn’t matter if you’re a die-hard fan of a band or not. Get out and go to a show. They can make you feel something you didn’t see coming and it can be the best feeling in the world.