Review & Photography Manny Manson for MPM
So, another miserable winters day gets colder as I head out towards Birmingham once more. The Sat Nav has given me a choice of routes so I obviously take the shorter option, knowing full well that its laughing to itself, as no sooner are we 5miles down the road than the ETA has added an extra 60minutes, ah, well such is life, a good job I left early.
This is another quick run out so brother Waldorf is once again absent. Work Hah! It pays the bills. The run is full of its’ usual delays for roadworks and stupid road lay outs, the A38 and its ability to alter the number of lanes going in each direction is a curse, as we head into Birmingham.
Six lanes feeding off an already over-crowded spaghetti junction, slimmed down into only 2 has meant the motorways have tailbacks reaching back several miles. The 6lanes coming away from Birmingham are virtually empty, oh and the broken-down car, blocking one of the two lanes probably doesn’t help matters.
Anyways I reach the venue with minutes until doors. The road has a layer of ice over it as I found out when I braked to turn around in a junction and sailed on by, yip winter has come Jon Snow.
I wait for the queue to go down before joining the back off it, its showing -2C when I left the car, thankfully there is no wind chill as some of the crowd are dressed for a day on ‘Fistrel’ Beach, shorts and a vest? Really? The temperature is due to drop further so I hope they haven’t far to go home.
Inside the venue its only slightly warmer, it’s a crinkly tin roof with side doors open for the smokers amongst us. It’s an early doors but there is a decent enough crowd in but the collective are mostly wrapped up and have yet to raise the temperature any.
Bang on 19:30 we get the Leigh Harline and Ned Washington classic Disney tune, ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’. Originally sung by Cliff Edwards but made famous by Disney’s Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio, ( it was recorded in 1939 and won the Academy Award for best original song in 1940, Disney’s first Oscar, there you go, a bit of trivia) the crowd stop there chattering and cheer out loudly as the support tonight hit the stage, a somewhat smokie and dark foreboding place. I checked the merch on the way in to find tonight it’s one of my favourite NWOCR bands, HOLLOWSTAR.
The volume is cranked up as this mighty four piece kick the night off with ‘Take it All’ the opening track from there 2019 long player, Hollowstar. The cymbals crash out as the intro builds into distorted guitars as Joe, his bass guitar thumping out hard, belts out the lyric to this thundering opener. Carl and Phil are riffing out somewhere in the smoke, did I say it’s a smokie one tonight.
Without a pause they’re straight into ‘Let You Down’, again from the same album. Another tight offering has the crowds, heads down and nodding along. A dynamic wall of sound crashes into the receptive crowd. Joe’s brother Jack is lost in the smoke as I try to capture his antics, to no avail.
A treat was to get to hear ‘Price of Fame’ a new song and a good sign of things to come. Distinctively Hollowstar, with its sing a long section, but also with a matureness that playing together has brought them. The sudden stop has the crowd cheering, excitedly.
Joe tells us that he is joining Phil in fatherhood in February, hence the reason for no new material and the lack of gigging. He mentions that his brother and Carl have just been getting drunk. ‘Invincible’ is introduced as finding someone you love, who makes you feel invincible and sticking with them. It opens with its distinctive guitar riff intro and thundering drums that has made it a favourite with fans, again it’s from the 2019 album. Joe ask Birmingham to make some noise as the break down grinds away, Phil’s solo rips away as the crowd scream in reply to Joe asking “let me hear Birmingham ROCK”.
Joe takes time to thank everyone so they can be on stage doing their job, he gets the crowd to practice being loud ready for the Bad Wolves, who are just behind the curtain.
The intro guitar riff starts for ‘Simple Man’ and instantly the crowd go silent as Joe laments. I’ve heard this song covered by plenty, including SHINEDOWN just recently, but the effect on the room tonight was stunning. Speaking with Carl later, he said they’d only practiced it a couple of times. Respect guys, it had me close to tears, something that’s only happened when I saw Skynyrd play it live, years back in London’s Hammersmith.
The crowd show their respect with heart felt applause. ”here’s something new” says Joe, basically about a goodie goodie who turns to the dark side. Called ‘Little Miss Innocent’, It’s a bouncing number that has a catchy hook and a meaty riff. Throbbing along, it again has the crowd’s heads bobbing and feet tapping. The solo is melodic and tuneful as the breakdown slows and Joe says” we didn’t steal this middle eight”, ‘Annie are you ok’ is repeatedly sang by the band as the beat builds and the song concludes with a concussive riff on the drums.
The crowd shout out play ‘feel the burn’ Joe replies “that’s an old one you must have seen us before” he carries on “This next track didn’t exist when the first album was written”, “in fact it was written and sent off, done”. ”The next day we got a text that one of our friends saying that one of their ‘group’ from school had got up in the night and ended his life”. The emotion in his voice is palpable as he tells the story, he goes on to relate his times of being in a dark place and his brother helping him, asking what can he do to stop this happening again. HOLLOWSTAR was born. He tells the crowd that from the darkest places happiness can grow, speak about your problems, latch on to the good and happiness will eventually follow. Wise words indeed. That gets a huge round of applause and cheers from the respectful crowd.
‘Good Man Gone’ is dedicated to the crowd, yet another from the belting 2019 album. Bass and drums carry this banging tune along. Subtle guitar licks add some light to this dark song that made its way onto the album as a tribute. Phil Haines takes centre stage as Carl and Joe walk off. His guitar screams out like a tormented soul in need of help, the band return, Carl gets on his knees and rocks out at Phil’s feet as his guitar swoops and soars. Yet again the crowd show their appreciation to this young band.
Joe asks the crowd to join in the HOLLOWSTAR tradition, he asks the crowd to make the noise so the next crowd can hear them coming. The crowd cheer enthusiastically as guitars riff in a southern style as Joe gets the crowd to reply ‘Bye Bye Baby Bye Bye’ he teases that Manchester were better and the crowd need to louder, Birmingham respond with a rousing return. ‘All I Gotta Say’ is the final song and has the crowd clapping from the get go.
It kicks in hard hitting the crowd with a wall of sound. The Bye Bye Baby part is sung back as the song gallops along, the heavy sections gets the heads nodding in time once again. Searing guitar licks and a crashing snare volley allow Joe to thank the crowd again as they sing along. The ending has the crowd cheering as Jack slowly beats the kit to finish. Pics fly into the crowd as the band once again thank the crowd.
What a cracking set. I’ve seen HOLLOWSTAR a number of times now, and each time, like the cliché, they get better and better. Whatever the future holds for them it’s got to be positive. If you haven’t seen them live yet then put them on your list as they’re definitely worth a punt. I’m looking forward to the new long player whenever that will be, another one for the collection.
The crew set about sorting the stage, the band are busy stripping down and carrying off their kit to make way for Bad Wolves, an American Metal band from L.A. who formed in 2017. Currently they have three studio albums to their name, Disobey released in May 2018, N.A.T.I.O.N. released in October 2019 and the latest album, the first with new singer Daniel ‘DL’ Laskiewkz, called Dear Monster. Guitarist Chris Cain left earlier this year and has since been replaced by Max Karon.
The stage is re set in minutes thanks to everyone’s hard work. The lights change to red which is appropriate as the set is filled with smoke. The music playing fades out so you can hear the crowd chatting amongst themselves. Bon Jovi’ Living on a Prayer pipes up and the crowd instantly join in, although it’s a tad half hearted, I guess they don’t want to be seen singing along to a Bon Jovi song, Me no such trouble I’m channelling my best JBJ dad voice!
The song finishes and the cheering starts, the submarine ‘sonar’ pings sound out as the BAD WOLVES make their way on stage. A fusillade of snare attacks strike out as the band get into the opening number, ‘Sacred Kiss’ from 2021’s album Dear Monsters. It also dropped earlier this year as an E.P. with an acoustic version alongside one featuring Aaron Pauley (from Mice & Men), and a third song, Up in Smoke. The lights strobe about as ‘DL’ introduces the band and adds that they’re from L.A.
Moving around the stage behind the wall of ‘fog’ the band thump out this great tune, full of growls and thundering beats. The partisan crowd are already helping with the vocals. The tune finishes with a round of Whoah whoah’s and a “god damn” from ‘DL’.
Swirling keys and thunderous cymbal crashes herald the third single from the 2019 album N.A.T.I.O.N. ‘Killing Me Slowly’ has the crowd singing along again. I’m still in the pit and the sound isn’t brilliant. ‘DL’s voice is lost in the mix but that’s to be expected with being at the band’s feet, I guess. The drums are killing it, they’re pulsing hard from the shadows, the cymbals cutting through with the subtlety of a chainsaw. ‘DL’ is right at the front of the stage as he asks for the crowd to get their hands in the sky. Crouching at the front, smiling he encourages the crowd to join in. He has the crowd in his hand as he raises the cheers to the cymbal finish.
‘Lifeline’ is another from the new album. Again ‘DL’ is on his knees singing to the crowd as the thundering wall of music continues. His voice is frayed in its delivery but that’s not detracting from the sound it’s a solid performance and the crowd are loving it.
‘No Masters’ from 2018’s debut album Disobey keeps the momentum right up there. I’ve had my three in the pit, so I’m now at the back of the venue to get a better feel of the sound. It’s a crunching number with a dark bass rumbling away, Kyle Klonkiel has his hair moving in the shadows, his neck is gonna feel that in the morning. The thundering kick drum cuts through as I stand with Carl from Hollowstar. The stage is awash with lights strobing around the smoke-filled space, backlighting the players, as the wall of sound threatens to cave your head in. It’s a better sound back by the sound board but the cymbal crashes are still threatening to cut you in half. Joe Boecklin is certainly hitting them hard!
So far tonight they have alternated older tunes with ones from the new album. ‘DL’ croakily shouts out about how quiet the crowd are asking if it’s a library reunion as the band strike up into ‘House of Cards’ he again asks for some fun. The band slam into this one, the kick drum is marking 16th notes as it powers on. Lots of trash and crash cymbals splitting the air as ‘DL’ growls his way through the song. Distorted guitar and a nasty solo give this an almost Scandinavian metal feel. The growling finish has the crowd on their toes cheering away.
Disobeys ‘Hear Me Now’ follows on with its gentle intro, this is a banger from 2018, and was the third single to be released from the album. The release featured DIAMANTE on vocals along-side Tommy Vex. It’s a cracking tune, showing the song writing skills of the band, proving that they have subtlety in their arsenal. ‘Never Be the Same’ turns the heat back up with pinched harmonics and fast feet. The beats are once again slammin’ hard, as, guitarist, Max Karon goes on walk about through the crowd, reaching right back to the soundboard. I have removed my ear plugs to get a better feel of the sound, to be fair it is a lot ‘fuller’, the new earplugs certainly work, although I hope ‘DL’s voice lasts it sounds like he’s gargling with gravel.
The band have been touring with Volbeat recently, in fact I’m covering the Volbeat show on the 19th in Nottingham so I’ll be interested to hear his voice then.
‘DL’ asks how the crowd are doing which is replied with a full-on cheer to the affirmative, just as twin distorted guitars and a steady drum beat crank up the heat. ‘No Messiah’ from 2019’s N.A.T.I.O.N. threatens to pulverise all of us in the room as the growling break down and nasty guitars from Doc Coyle and Max Karon rip into the night. The crowd have their hands up again, as they bounce along to this older tune. A tasty solo rides out over a backing tape of keyboards, (I didn’t see a keyboard on the stage). Frayed growls push ‘DL’s voice as he asks the crowd to clap along, before he drops back to a harmonised vocal. The bass is rumbling away with flat bends, it sounds great as yet more screaming brings the song to an abrupt finish.
Dropped in early October 2021 prior to Dear Monsters end of October release, ‘Wildfire’ is up next. It has a gentle keyboard intro as ‘DL’ softly croons over the top, at times his voice is low in the mix, I can’t see if its microphone placement or the soundboard mix. However, ‘DL’ shouts to the crowd “are you with me” which is definitely heard as the crowd cheer back.
The guitars soar around the ever-present drum beat full of concussive snare cracks. The keyboards swell and lament as the song finishes.
‘DL’ asks for “hands in the air”, “ront to back and side to side”. As the crowd do so, the guitars are howling gently in the back ground, waiting to be unleashed as ‘If Tomorrow Never Comes’ slams across the crowd. The lighting for this one is great, it reminds me of the crowd scene, when the saucer lands at the end of Close Encounters, the bright light beams silhouetting the crowd.
The crowd are enjoying this one as they start clapping along, ‘DL’s voice is loud before it drops back down to a level equal to the band, I’m not sure what’s happening, as my un plugged ears are ringing with the volume. There follows a round of shouts and screams from the crowd ‘DL’ asks for a pint of what he’s drinking.
He then asks who’s seen Bad Wolves before, he teasingly tells those who haven’t to get out! He continues “You know what time it is if you have” he says “ put your cell phones on and light the room up” “ this one is for Dolores O’Riordan, God bless her” “if you know it sing along”. The Cranberries classic ‘Zombie’ is up next. Dolores was so happy this was going to be recorded by Bad Wolves that she offered to ‘guest’ on the release. Sadly, she passed away on the morning of the recording. The band, however carried on and released the song as a tribute to her, the money raised from the single went to her three children. Respect guys. And the crowd killed it singing the full song from start to finish, brilliant! Obviously the stand out song in the set.
I nip to the merch desk and ask Carl from Hollowstar if Bad Wolves play an encore, he says there hasn’t been on the dates they’ve covered. I replied thank God for that! My ears are broken, as I walk back in to listen to the final song of the night. ‘I’ll Be there’ from 2019’s N.A.T.I.O.N. Thundering drums and scorching guitar rattle the senses for the final time. Growls and heavy bass crash around the room. The crowd clap and then jump on command as the band give this final song the beanz. Concussed is an understatement as the crowd cheer wildly. ‘DL’ tells the crowd that they are maniacs as he thanks them and leaves the stage to rapturous applause.
I head back to the car, my ears are ringing, but I have a contented smile on my face. I bump into Joe Bonson from Hollowstar who is posing with Phil for photos outside, with fans. I tell him ‘Simple Man was sublime and his heart felt speech about his ‘demons’ was truly inspirational. Being careful not to slip on the ice, I get into the car and head for home. 9:47pm and I’m pulling on to the M6, an hour later I’m parked on my driveway. That doesn’t happen very often, its usually gone midnight before I get home.
Tonight, has been a great, I’ve not seen Bad Wolves before, and although I struggled with the sound, especially ‘DL’s vocals at times, it didn’t take away from a fantastic performance. I’m looking forward to their set on Monday night. As for Hollowstar, wow they smashed their set as they always do, it’s always great to see these boys play live, get that new music out there we’re ready for it.
Bad Wolves you killed the Asylum and my hearing, I thank you!