ACL Live experienced a lot of firsts last week when “The Gamechangers Tour” rolled into town. The newly opened venue saw its first horde of scenesters, its first performance where screaming is considered a valuable skill and its first wall of death. It was also the first time for the bands – A Day To Remember , Bring Me The Horizon, Pierce the Veil and We Came As Romans– to play the venue.
We Came As Romans opened up the show with an exciting, energy-filled performance that left no one in the pit standing still and got the less-fortunate fans with seats on the second and third levels on their feet and singing along. The band’s performance of their pop-infused metal songs like “Beliefs,” “To Plant A Seed” and their latest single “To Move On Is To Grow” was flawless and pumped up the audience for the following three bands. It was also really great to see Joshua Moore back on stage with WCAR after recovering from a battle with bacterial meningitis earlier this year.
Following WCAR, Pierce The Veil bounded onto the stage like wild animals that had been caged up for far too long. PTV started their set off with a bang by opening with a hardcore version of Wiz Kalifa’s “Black and Yellow” and leading straight into the fast-paced “Besitos.” The PTV guys kept up the excitement throughout the set with antics including lead singer and guitarist Vic Fuentes scaling and jumping off the tallest amp stacks and guitarist Tony Perry whipping his guitar above his head by its strap like a lasso.
Although many people complain PTV sound too poppy, the best thing about PTV is that their live shows are always so much harder and more action-packed than you’d expect. Case in point was the band’s cover of the Far East Movement’s “Fly Like A G6,” which the PTV guys transformed into the perfect hardcore song, complete with thrashing guitars and sharp screams. The only disappointing part of PTV’s show was the final song, “Caraphernelia.” While the actual performance of the song was great, I was pretty let down that A Day To Remember’s Jeremy McKinnon, who provides guest vocals for the song on the album, did not join PTV on stage to perform his part. Seeing as the two bands are on tour together, I don’t see why they didn’t take the opportunity to perform the song as it is on the album.
After PTV, British metal heads, Bring Me The Horizon took the stage. The band started the set with their single, “It Never Ends,” an appropriate choice seeing as soon as the first note was played, the entire crowd erupted into a giant mosh pit that didn’t let up for the rest of the show. BMTH also played other fan favorites like “Anthem,” “Alligator Blood” and “Diamonds Aren’t Forever,” during which lead singer Oly Sykes led the crowd in a massive chant of “We will never sleep ‘cause sleeping’s for the weak, no we will never rest ‘til we’re all fucking dead.”
Arguably the hardest band on the whole tour, BMTH knew exactly how to get whole pit to go insane. During one song, Sykes took a break from singing and demanded the whole crowd separate on either side of the venue for one big wall of death. Then he counted down 3, 2, 1, and the crowd ran at each other while the rest of the band went into one of the slowest and most brutal breakdowns I’ve ever heard. At another point in the show, Sykes held up his hand with a tattoo reading, “High Five?” and said he wanted everyone in the pit to crowd surf up to him and give him a high five. After those words, the crowd went absolutely insane with a constant stream of crowd surfers kicking and crawling their way to Sykes.
As soon as BMTH finished their set, the entire staged was cloaked with a big black curtain as the A Day To Remember crew set up the stage for the headliners. Finally the curtain was lifted, revealing that the stage had been transformed into a recreation of the “What Separates Me From You” album cover. The stage’s backdrop was the same building scene from the album, complete with windows that lit up when the stage went black, and there was even an elevated cobblestone street that wrapped around Alex Shelnutt’s drum set.
ADTR undoubtedly put on the most adrenaline-fueled, exciting set of the night. The band started the set off with the hard-hitting “Sticks & Bricks” and kept the buzz going by playing aggressive song after song like “You Be Tails, I’ll Be Sonic,” “Monument” and “I’m Made Of Wax, Larry, What Are You Made Of?” It was obvious, though, that the fan favorite was the song “2nd Sucks,” which had the whole crowd jumping in unison, punching the air, and moshing in the largest pit of the set.
One of the other most crowd-pleasing events of the night was when lead singer Jeremy McKinnon climbed into a giant bubble and had the crew throw him into the crowd. Then during the entirety of the song “Homesick,” he ran around on top of the crowd with the support of fans’ hands and heads.
ADTR wrapped up their set with an encore performance of the band’s most touchingly poignant song, “If It Means A Lot To You” that included two acoustic guitars, McKinnon’s perfectly gruff voice and the backing chorus provided by the whole audience. The band ended the show with “The Downfall of Us All,” a perfect choice as it’s not only a great hardcore song, but with everything from the opening “Da da da da da da” to the group chanting to the powerful guitar riffs, it’s also a really fun song. As one last hurrah, the song ended with an explosion of confetti, decorating the sweaty crowd with millions of colored pieces of streamers.
(A Day To Remember performed at ACL Live in Austin, Texas on April 12, 2011)