In the Des Moines area where the appreciation for live rock music has seemed to wane, smallish venues have a hard time pulling in over 100 of the lukewarm Des Moines audience. Wooly’s has proved to be a premiere music venue, pulling in hefty crowds, even on weeknights.
This Wednesday was no different, with a nice sized crowd halfway filling the medium capacity (approx. 700) venue, mostly consisting of people in their 20s.
Emphatic took the stage first. The band has had so many line-up changes it’s head spinning. On this tour it was no different. When the tour began they announced that vocalist Toryn Green and guitarist Bill Hudson would not be joining them. Instead Grant Kendrick would take over on vocals and Lance Dowdle (former Emphatic member) would replace Hudson on guitar. Vocalist Green initially claimed to be coming back after the tour (via his FB page), “I am in NO WAY leaving EMPHATIC. Justin and I made a creative pact to take this thing straight to the top. My absence on stage is merely temporary as this RED tour is under a month from beginning to end. I love and appreciate you all for your patience, understanding and support. Just know that the EMPHATIC u all know and love will continue to rise and bring rock music back to where it belongs.” BUT that message was superseded when in early February Green officially left Empathic and again took to FB to offer this message: “Surrounding events have taken a toll on the creative bond that Justin McCain [founding Emphatic guitarist] and I have formed. Make no mistake, he is one of the most creative, talented, passionate, driven people that I have ever met, but we have different ideas on things that mean too much to me to overlook.”
Emphatic was mildly impressive considering they started this tour with two missing members. Because they are an Omaha, Nebraska-based band (only 2 hours from Des Moines), they are more like a local band to the Des Moines rock audience, and people get a little excited to see their return. But even so, they started weak before garnering more audience excitement by the time they played Put Down the Drink. They finished strong after their approximately ½ hour set, with lots of screams from the audience, proving Des Moines still plans to show them some love despite their inability to keep band members.
Gemini Syndrome was up next. Aaron Nordstrom, former guitarist of OTEP, and now frontman for Gemini Syndrome, was born with Albinism. The rest of the band had mostly dark longish hair with the sides of their heads shaved. They collectively had a bit of an eery look, and Nordstrom stuck out strongly because of his distinct difference to the other members in skin, hair and eye (red) color.
Their short ½ hour set started with Pleasure and Pain and finished with Stardust. Their Tool-like sound seemed less exciting to the crowd than Emphatic. Each song sounded very similar and hard to differentiate one from the other. But the crowd still exhibited some complimentary head bobbing, and of course they had a few fans in the crowd who appreciated their performance a bit more.
RED finished the show as the headliner, playing over one hour, their setlist primarily consisting of songs from their 2013 album Release the Panic. RED had some strong screaming vocals that made any listener take notice. Otherwise, their set was fairly uneventful.
Even though Emphatic gave off the appearance of a garage band initially, they were by far the most impressive option of the night.
It was a disappointingly lukewarm event. Nothing unique. Every band sounded generic, similar to any other rock band that could have stepped on the stage. Sure, all of the bands had some devoted fans in attendance which garnered the appearance it was special, but for example, when the bands used stage props, it was just a simple background drop cloth. They were missing flair. Even their stage presence was lacking. This show should make anyone with a critical eye ask the question…what happened to the rock stars?
At about $20 a ticket, the audience deserved better.
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