Words and Photos by Karum Cooper
I very much anticipated this gig. Not just because it gave me a chance to witness true post-hardcore/emo royalty lay down how it should be, but funnily enough because it gave me the opportunity to see one of my favourite bands live for the first ever time. I’ve been listening to Silverstein‘s tour support band Hail The Sun since aged 13 and the fact they were making their UK debut at a Wales venue only 45 minutes from my place of residence was absolutely superb.
Based on the previous paragraph alone, it’s obvious that I had extremely high hopes for Hail The Sun’s live set. Their studio material is absolutely sublime and their severely unique and quirky style of ‘Progressive Post Hardcore’ drew me in from day one. Their newest EP ‘Secret Wars’ explores many more territories than before and I’m interested to know if they serve justice as a live band – You can stream ‘Secret Wars’ here.
From the get-go, drummer and frontman Donovan Melero was the obvious driving force. His absolutely impeccable stamina allowed him to scream and sing the heartiest of vocal hooks all whilst keeping the tempo and groove of this neo-technical post hardcore outfit pumping throughout. The live energy and performance from lead guitarist Shane Gann did extremely well at portraying the style and sheer ‘quirkiness’ of Hail The Sun’s material whilst bassist and rhythm guitarist Garcia & Sirrat do well to hold the songs together and keep the crowd’s interest and attention. What I was surprised to see was three songs in when Donovan invited guest/live drummer (whose name they mysteriously did not announce) to complete the rest of their set. Unfortunately I was rather unimpressed by said guest drummer’s performance and much preferred Melero’s style despite him doing a superb job of commanding the crowd from front of stage and proving that not only is he a kick ass drummer but an excellent and dedicated frontman too.
The difference in crowd anticipation and involvement in the time between Hail The Sun departing off stage and Silverstein beginning their set was astounding. For a band that’ve been together for the same amount of time I’ve been alive (just shy of two decades) I can’t say I set my expectations low.
Touring off the back of their latest studio album ‘Dead Reflection’ – Silverstein performed a medley of materials new and old. Crowd pleasers and crowd shockers. As an observer and music enthusiast sat side of stage, it was obvious to me which songs were which. What I rather impressed to discover, however, was that I could not pin down this same assumption based solely off crowd reaction. The crowd loved every single second of that set. From the slower ballad types to the hardcore moshpit bangers – I could feel the dedication in the air. If there’s one thing I can congratulate Silverstein on, it is their ability to command and successfully entertain a room full of fans from all ages! Largely down to frontman Shane Todd’s terrific audience engagement – the guy seemed to know exactly what the crowd wanted and where. The rest of the band followed his lead and went equally as hard – a recipe for success.
It’s always rather hit and miss watching bands that have been around for awhile in our ever changing music industry – it’s always either love or hate. It’s too easy to tell the difference between bands that sincerely and honestly enjoy performing and bands if that are simply doing their rounds in order to keep up appearances and support their latest record just like the manager told them to.
With Silverstein, however, it was different. It was obvious to me that these blokes absolutely loved it. Band members were playing pranks on each other on stage, making the most of their wireless guitar systems by playing from opposite sides of the venue and engaging in purely adorable tongue and cheek ‘banter’ that only happens between true friends. I commend the band for this alone – it made their 95 minute live show truly enjoyable to watch.
Aside from the live show, the bands versatility and songwriting talents are worth commendation also. Having only listened to a handful of Silverstein’s top hits and skimmed through the latest record; I was very impressed by the variety in songwriting styles, techniques and musical persuasions. Although keeping quite tightly to their post-hardcore roots, Silverstein performed stadium sized sing along choruses, heartfelt of ballads, and newer material featuring riffs that went HARD. REAL HARD. Drummer Paul Koehler drove every piece home and for a hardcore drummer was impressively particular and intricate with his playing (much to my surprise).
With sing-a-longs, chants, fists in the air and synchronised crowd-bouncing, I couldn’t help but compare Silverstein‘s’ set to that of a stadium sized band – luckily for them, they also had the sound to match! With both guitarists sporting modelling amps and two FOH engineers, every tone was crisp and gutsy and every chord audible and bold.
Silverstein really did put on a stadium sized performance in a 350 capacity venue and I was truly impressed. With the humble, down to earth and supportive attitudes to match – I’m very confident in saying these guys are going down in Hardcore history – with Hail The Sun not far behind.
Hail the Sun’s latest EP ‘Secret Wars’ out now via Equal Vision Records
Silverstein’s latest album ‘Dead Reflection’ is out now via Rise Records