New Years Day was originally supposed to play in the Twin Cities on July 15th at the Fine Line in Minneapolis. But when Godsmack asks you to open for them on short notice, for July’s East Coast swing of their tour, you rearrange things to make that happen. After just completing those tour duties July 26th in Connecticut, the band returned to their own Unbreakable Tour with this show and its rescheduled date and place, July 29th at the Amsterdam Bar & Hall in St. Paul. An intimate setting for a full headlining set is just what New Years Day fans craved, after their favorite band was limited to a half-dozen songs as the first opening band (followed by In This Moment) for Halestorm’s December 8th show at the Minneapolis Armory.
The first opening band tonight, Time Keeper, kicked off things loudly at 8pm. These metal rockers were founded in 2017 in Minneapolis but have not been content to just play locally, taking their show on the road a few times already. While the Hall was still filling for the show, Time Keeper’s devout following packed themselves close to the stage to hear the hardcore band power through their opening set. A strange sight at an indoor metal show, beach balls were being bounced about in the crowd. Screamo singer, Billy, got their fans jumping along with the band during one song and flat out told the crowd he needed to see a circle pit, even if was just a few folks. He told the audience that the band has a new self-titled EP out and just dropped a video for “Titan.” This might the only video by a metal band filmed on a golf course, with the band slamming into each other in a sand trap. The band begins a 22 day tour beginning in Des Moines on August 2nd, and heading as far west as California before wrapping up in-state in St. Cloud on August 23rd.
PLAGUE OF STARS
Another Minneapolis band, Plague of Stars, was the next band up. Band members all wore black make-up masks to define their look. They also offered a version of metal, far different than the loud screamo rock of Time Keeper. Like New Years Day, they are fronted by a female singer. Beyond that, they are quite different. Striking singer Melissa Ferlaak’s vocals gives the band their unique symphonic-metal sound. During a single song, she may migrate from sweeter, almost Disney-like singing, to opera, to more furious lyrics. This produces an out-of-the-ordinary experience separating themselves from more generic metal bands.
Ferlaak is a New Years Day fan herself, telling the crowd that her favorite song is an older one, 2012’s “Murder”. After asking us what our favorite song is, she had us yell it out at the same time for an indistinguishable blur of various titles. She told us that they were just happy to be here and vowed she would be out moshing with us during New Years Day. As far as their own band goes, they just released their new album, Daedalus, one month ago. Ferlaak welcomed us to stop by their merch table to buy a CD or get a sweaty hug. Based on a quick poll, very few in the audience had seen the band before. “So lots of new faces,” she surmised.
It was the first time they played a new song, “The Divisive Essence”, live. This song did contain some of those opera-like vocals combined with some cool guitar work to create one of my favorites of the set. All but one song they played was from the new, “heavier” album they are so proud of. That one other song, was “Sense Control,” born during their formation back in 2012. The closing song was of course the title track from their new album, “Daedalus.” You may recognize this name from Greek mythology as the creator of the labyrinth in which he was later imprisoned until escaping with his invention of wax wings. FYI.
NEW YEARS DAY
The stage turned pitch black and prerecorded music preceded the entrance of New Years Day. Singer, Ashley (Ash) Costello appeared in her distinctive half-red, half-black hair. The 34-year-old singer seems ten years younger both in appearance and enthusiasm and announced the opening song, then thrashed her long hair about. It was “Come for Me”, the first track off of their new album, Unbreakable. She then climbed onto the tall, hand-railed, metal step that allowed the petite singer to tower over fans. “We are going to have some fun tonight,” exclaimed Costello and she meant it.
Next for “Kill or Be Killed”, the first track from their previous album, Malevolence, the spunky singer demanded to see those headbanging skills. As it got started, she gave a big hug to a front-row diehard fan, and would continue to reach out and touch as many of her fans as possible the rest of the night. After their popular cover of Kehlani’s “Gangsta” (from the Suicide Squad soundtrack), Costello said she needed to stop the show a second. “I know you can be the best crowd we’ve ever had. Everyone, I need your horns up. I will find the one guy not doing it!” The band made it consecutive covers with their version of Pantera’s “Fucking Hostile”. I was rewarded for having my horns up, at the side of the stage, with and extra-long grab of my hand from the lovely lady who turned more fierce in screaming the ending to this heavy song.
Next it was my personal favorite off the new album, ” Shut Up”. This one is the perfect example of the band’s effort to “write the poppiest metal album, or the most metal pop album.” While some diehard goth-emo fans might not be enamored with the shift towards mainstream, its right up my alley. Their first release from the album, “Skeletons”, immediately followed and Costello led the crowd in swinging hands side to side. With fans cheering loudly at its finish, the exhausted singer asked, “Can you do me a favor and keep screaming so I can take a break? I hate awkward silence. And awkward spaces.” She was referring to a few pockets of empty floor that she demanded be filled before proceeding with the concert. She then continued, “So many bands don’t take time to talk with their fans.” This was not the case for Costello as she chatted for some time with the few hundred “fellow nerds” before telling herself what her bandmates were likely thinking, “Stop talking Ashley.”
Costello has said that “New Years Day was really born when our EP Epidemic came out.” The next song was “Epidemic” and she taught fans the chorus, “We’re so, we’re so contagious,” and ordered fans to sing it during the song. She was impressed, saying, “St. Paul. Holy f… You guys are one of the loudest shows, and we’ve played some arenas. But now I need you to move back. I’m serious. If we are going to come out there and dance with you we need some space .” First it was the other musicians and then mid-song, even the lead singer made her way to the floor. Soon she was surrounded by fans as she embraced as many as she could while finishing “Scream”. Continuing to stoke our egos, she told us as she returned to the stage, “Holy shit. You guys are so much cooler than all of the other places.” But I’m not sure these other places didn’t receive the same praise.
After telling the crowd they needed to give their guitarist, Austin, back, Costello thanked their crew and introduced the band. First it was long-time bandmates she referred to as the Terror Twins: Frankie Sil on bass and Nikki Misery on guitar. They each played a short solo with Misery grinding his guitar against the step-railing while Costello asked how many strings he broke. Then it was their newest guitarist, left-handed lead guitarist Austin Ingerman who was introduced. He demonstrated his versatile abilities before Costello joined him in a short rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” “I always wanted to do that,” she said. After their latest drummer showed off his stuff, Misery grabbed the mic and announced, “The one, the only, the half-black, half-red, Ash!” The lead singer took over from there saying, “While it’s quite, I want to say thank you. We started this band thinking no one would care.”
With just one song left, she tried something completely different, requiring those near the front of the stage to go to the back and for those way in the back to come up near the stage. After executing her “switcheroo” she exclaimed, “It looks like a totally different show. Thanks to 93X (she visited the half-assed morning show earlier in the day) for playing this song.” Following “Defame Me”, the band huddled around the drums as fans chanted, “One more song.” “Should we give them one more song,” asked their fearless leader. “OK, but I mean it this time. This is the last song.” After some technical difficulties with the backing track, the encore song was “Angel Eyes.” After calling the band back onstage for a photo with the fans, Costello said, “I don’t want to leave, but we have to.” And that was it. A great show. A touching show.
Note: You can also find Costello featured in A Trigger Within’s latest single, “Become The Ghost,” for which a video just was released. Jimmy Trigger is Costello’s fiancée.