Home Gigs GIG REVIEW: Jared James Nichols at The Vixen in McHenry, IL

GIG REVIEW: Jared James Nichols at The Vixen in McHenry, IL

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Photos & Review by Greg Hamil for MPM

I have photographed shows in McHenry, IL before, but all were outdoor events during the summer. This was my first trip to The Vixen in downtown McHenry, which only takes an hour or so to get to.

If you are going for the first time, you must look twice to make sure you are in the right place. As you walk in, it looks like any small-town bar. But, as you walk past the bar, it leads you to a hallway where you take a quick right turn and enter a multi-level theater, with a VIP balcony that appears like it would hold 1,200 to 1,500 if jammed packed.

As the crowd began to file in, Normundy hit the stage. Based out of Indianapolis, IN, the band draws its influences from many genres including, rock, rap, and EDM. They already have a following as a decent group of people have gathered around the stage, cheering them on and jumping around.

The energy is infectious as the crowd opens a mosh pit at the command of the band. To make sure that everyone is engaged, the two singers even jump off the stage to participate as they continue to sing their songs.

It is a short set that includes the song, “Stride”. An intense number with a beat that you can either dance or mosh too. The crowd that is still gathered at the stage pounds their fists in appreciation as the whole band is either jumping up and down or running back and forth across the stage. As the short set comes to an end, I have to say that even though I had not heard of them before this show, I will have to dig a little deeper into Normundy as they seem like a force to be reckoned with.

Next up is Cage Willis. Another artist that I wasn’t familiar with before this show but watch out; he is going to catch on very soon! His debut album, “Who Am I” was produced by Black Stone Cherry’s Chris Robertson. It has a southern rock sound with a twinge of outlaw country that should appeal to fans of both genres. It doesn’t hurt that in addition to this tour with Jared James Nichols, he has also been featured on Foreigner’s farewell tour as well.

Listening to his stories throughout the set, he seems like a very, down-to-earth and humble person. He taught himself how to play the guitar at a very young age and it shows in his playing as there is a hard edge and passion to his style.

The further he got into his set, the more I appreciated his and the band’s musicianship. Even though I didn’t know the lyrics, I still wanted to sing along as much as I could. If you ever see the name Cage Willis coming to an arena or club near you, I would highly recommend checking it out. I won’t be disappointed.

Even though it was a smaller crowd that I anticipated (could have been because it was going into the holiday week), those in attendance hurried to the bar during the break to purchase the last drinks of the evening so as not to miss a second of what was coming next.

Jared James Nichols burst onto the stage with an energy that would set the tone for the night. Every time I see this, I am taken back to 1979 when I first saw Ted Nugent. Hair flying, an evil grin, and a screaming guitar riff as he launched into “Easy Come Easy Go”. The crowd was made up mostly of people who had seen him before, but there were some newbies mixed in as well. But, old or new, everyone responded with fists pounding in the air to the beat of the song.

The blues-rock show continued as the band played “My Delusion” and “Down the Drain”. Nicholsintroduced the band, Louis Collins on bass and Ryan Rice on drums. The crowd responded with enthusiasm for every solo break. Collins encouraged everyone to clap along as Nichols unleashed a frenzy on the fretboard.

As the set progressed, Nichols amped things up by playing a couple of heavy hitters in “Hard Wired” and “Threw Me To The Wolves”. Nichols dedicated the latter to Tom Leighton of Wolf Jaw.

As the night moved on, the set progressed with a barrage of songs alternating between heavy rock and smooth blues with songs that included “Shadow Dancer” “Bad Roots”, “Skin ‘n Bones”, and “Good Time Girl”. Interacting with the crowd between songs, and in some cases during. Mixed in was a decent drum solo from Rice! The crowd remained engaged throughout the entire set, never really settling down at any point. Collins stole the spotlight with an incredible bass solo that drew cheers and applause from everyone!

To close out the set, the band launched into “Keep Your Light on Mama” which for some reason reminds me a lot of Whitesnake, with its gritty vocals and screaming guitar riffs. The last song of the night (or is it?) was “Nails in the Coffin” which was a perfect end to the set.

After a brief pause, Nichols re-emerged and blasted into Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs”. The crowd was as loud for this as it had been all night but became even louder as the show closed with a scorching rendition of Alice in Chains “Man in the Box” that blew the doors off The Vixen leaving everyone in the crowd wanting more.

Even though it was a Sunday night, and the next day would be back to work for most of the crowd. Everyone still seemed to be as happy and upbeat as if it were a Friday or Saturday show. As I packed up my gear for the trek home, there was still a murmur of excitement as a good number of people were still hanging around talking about the show and how great the performance was. Jared James Nichols delivered another knock-out show and sent the people home with a great memory!

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