Make the Nutcracker a part of your holiday festivities this year. I’m not talking about Tchaikovsky’s ballet, which you could probably find performed in about a dozen theaters around town during Christmas time. I’m talking about the one and only 93X Nutcracker which annually features many of today’s hottest rock bands. The 2019 Nutcracker features 311, Highly Suspect, The Glorious Sons, and BRKN LOVE on Saturday December 14th at the Armory in Minneapolis. Doors open at 5:30 for the 7pm all-ages show. Tickets (and maybe discounted 4-packs) are still available HERE.
311 was formed in 1990 in Omaha, Nebraska by singer/guitarist Nick Hexum, singer S.A. Martinez, guitarist Tim Mahoney, drummer Chad Sexton and bassist P-Nut. The band now resides in Southern California. 311 mix rock, rap, reggae and funk into their own unique hybrid sound – and have developed a reputation as one of the most entertaining & dynamic live bands in the U.S. 2019 marks 20 consecutive summers for 311 to headline the US. Their celebratory live shows & incessant touring schedule have earned them a massive grassroots following nationwide.
The band’s 13th studio album, Voyager, debuted at #1 on the Billboard Independent Albums Chart when in was released in July 2019. Following 2017’s Mosaic, Voyager is the second to feature production work by both Grammy-nominated producer John Feldmann (Blink-182, Panic! At the Disco) and Scotch Ralston, who produced 311 albums Transistor, Soundsystem and Stereolithic. 311 have sold over nine million albums in the U.S. alone. Their last 10 consecutive albums reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Top 200 Album Charts and they’ve had nine Top 10 radio hits, including three #1’s. Their list of hits includes “Down,” “All Mixed Up,” “Amber,” “Love Song,” “Come Original,” “Beautiful Disaster,” “Don’t Tread on Me,” “Hey You” and “Sunset in July.”
A muscular, hard-hitting power rock outfit in the vein of Queens of the Stone Age, Band of Skulls, and Royal Blood, Brooklyn’s Highly Suspect rode a series of indie EPs and years of touring to a pair of Grammy nominations for their 2015 debut. A year later, their follow-up delivered another hit in the Grammy-nominated single “My Name Is Human,” setting high expectations for their third outing, November 2019’s MCID, which stands for “My Crew Is Dope.” The single “16” from the album reached #1 on Billboard’s Modern rock charts without the use of guitars on the song. The popular new album definitely crosses many genres and features several guest artists.
The band formed in Cape Cod in 2009 around the talents of Johnny Stevens (guitar, vocals, synths) and twin siblings Ryan (drums, vocals) and Rich (bass, vocals) Meyer. After working regionally as a cover band, they relocated to Brooklyn and began recording original material, resulting in a pair of EPs, First Offense (2009) and The Gang Lion (2010). They continued to establish themselves with one more EP, The Worst Humans, in 2012 before heading into the studio with producer Joel Hamilton (Black Keys, Elvis Costello) to record their debut long-player. The resulting Mister Asylum, which featured the fiery single “Lydia,” was released via 300 Entertainment in 2015. Their debut received critical praise and two unexpected Grammy nominations, leading to an extensive supporting tour. Off the road by early 2016, they immediately returned to the studio to record a second full-length, The Boy Who Died Wolf, which saw release in November of that year. The album’s lead single, “My Name Is Human,” topped Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart and earned Highly Suspect another Grammy nomination for Best Rock Song.
THE GLORIOUS SONS
The Glorious Sons were right in the thick of a wild and triumphant arena tour when they realized it was time to record their next album. “There was an energy surrounding the band at that point that I’d never experienced before,” says frontman Brett Emmons. “We felt this mania, almost like we were invincible or something. I didn’t know if it was healthy, but I did know that we needed to capitalize on it and carry that momentum straight back into the studio with us.” The resulting record, A War On Everything, is The Glorious Sons’ most exhilarating release yet, a taut, timeless blast of rock and roll that marries confident swagger with penetrating insight and reckless abandon. Produced by Frederik Thaae (Kate Nash, Atlas Genius) and recorded in the band’s hometown of Kingston, Ontario, the album is both reflective and raucous, meditating on materialism and meaning in the modern age as it grapples with love and loneliness, purpose and perseverance, anxiety and alienation. The arrangements are suitably eclectic and wide-ranging to match, hinting at the classics while forging a distinctly 21st century sound that veers from explosive, radio-ready bombast one moment to tender, fingerpicked intimacy the next, always with just a hint of danger and darkness lurking right beneath the surface. Broad as its sonic palette is, A War On Everything still manages to retain a deliberate sense of cohesion throughout, a feat accomplished in no small part thanks to The Glorious Sons’ unwavering commitment to grit, guts, and honesty in everything they do. “Even though we’ve been playing bigger stages lately, we had no interest in glossing things up or trying to make a slick arena rock album,” explains Emmons, who wrote much of the new record on the road. “In fact, our approach was just the opposite. We went into the studio with the intention of trimming the fat whenever possible.”
To say The Glorious Sons have been playing bigger stages these past few years is a serious understatement. Since the release of their 2015 debut, The Union, the band has shared bills in North America and Europe with everyone from The Rolling Stones and The Struts to Greta Van Fleet and Twenty-One Pilots. Their headline shows, meanwhile, have grown at a breakneck pace, with the six-piece graduating from clubs and halls to arenas and stadiums on the back of their breakout 2017 sophomore album, Young Beauties and Fools, which racked up more than 40 million streams on Spotify, scored the band their first Billboard #1 in the US, and nabbed them the prestigious Juno Award for Best Rock Album in their native Canada.
Recording A War On Everything at home in Kingston allowed Emmons and his bandmates — guitarists Chris Koster and Jay Emmons (Brett’s brother), drummer Adam Paquette, bassist Chris Huot, and keyboardist Josh Hewson — to take their time and broaden their approach to recording, working slowly and deliberately over the course of a month. Where Young Beauties and Fools was all about leaving space for vocals, A War On Everything invites the music do more of the talking, and the record’s deftly intertwined guitar parts and explosive rhythm section provide much of the weight behind its potent emotional punch. The band also opened up the studio doors to friends and family for the first time, which resulted in a constantly rotating cast of characters popping in and out to offer support and encouragement.
“Even though we were working fourteen hour days sometimes, the whole thing felt like a month-long party,” says Emmons. “At one point we had thirty of our family and friends all singing gang vocals on a track. It just created this invigorating, communal vibe that we’d never experienced in the studio before.” That sense of invigoration is immediately apparent on album opener “Panic Attack” which absolutely crackles with an electrifying mix of punk snarl and pop energy. Like much of the album to come, the track is both deeply personal in a literal sense (Emmons has dealt with crippling panic attacks for years) and broadly relatable from a metaphorical perspective, with Emmons’ lyrics doubling as call to arms for survival in the face of doubt and disappointment. “I want to wake up and feel loved / Will you look me in the eyes and tell me I’m not dying?” he pleads, singing with a full-throated delivery that’s nearly as raspy as the sea of distorted guitars it slices through.
Life and death are often the stakes in Emmons’ writing, and his characters frequently find themselves questioning the meaning of each. The narrators of the ragged “Wild Eyes” and pulsating “Kick Them Wicked Things” both take hard, unflinching looks at their lives in the mirror, while the protagonists in the sinister “One More Summer” and darkly humorous “A Funny Thing Happened” grapple with surrendering to their own worst instincts, and the subjects of the melancholy title track and dreamy “Pink Motel” contemplate the ways our society’s insatiable appetite for material possessions has left us emotionally stunted. Perhaps no track sums up the record’s philosophy better than the anthemic “Kingdom In My Heart,” though, which finds Emmons proudly declaring, “You can build your kingdom in my heart if you want / Life will rip us to pieces, but we’ll just laugh it off.” In the end, there may always be conflict brewing inside of us, but with A War On Everything, The Glorious Sons offer a potent reminder that there’s always love brewing, too.
Lines still stretch around the blocks at clubs, warehouses, and theaters on a nightly basis worldwide. Amplifiers still blare out of suburban garages everywhere. Guitars, drums, and bass still translate the emotion and energy of a generation better than anything. No matter what prevailing opinion may be, rock music still maintains its foothold just behind the pop culture curtain—as if in the wings waiting to return.
BRKN LOVE carry on this tradition, while evolving it. Toronto singer and guitarist Justin Benlolo envisions a fresh future for the genre on the band’s 2019 full-length self-titled debut for Spinefarm Records produced by Joel Hamilton [Highly Suspect, Pretty Lights]. “When I first thought about starting a band, it needed all of the elements of rock ‘n’ roll that I respond to—big guitars, big drums, and big vocals,” he explains. “I didn’t want it to be too complex. It had to be something everybody could digest in a short and sweet format. It’s alternative, but it’s also heavy. I try to get right to the point. There are so many of these kids still showing up to shows and moshing to real rock music. That’s refreshing. There’s still a place for something authentic. That’s what I want to provide.” The first four songs released from the upcoming album definitely embody all of those things. Check out “I Can’t Lie”, “Shot Down”, “Flies In The Honey”, and “Papercuts” and you might have just found your new favorite band. Make sure you are in the Armory in time for their 7pm set.