P.O.D. | 07.16.15

An-Intimate-Night-Out-with-Neon-Trees 75_2P.O.D. is above all else a rock band who plays with passion and purpose, to move you one way or another.

 


 

For anyone venturing to Pop’s from west of the Mississippi River, the downtown highway construction is a hassle. Because of ramp closures, getting across the bridg can be like a game of Pac Man. This is particularly problematic when Pop’s books a four-act bill for shows and bands start playing as early as 6 p.m.

My unplanned Google Maps-orchestrated game of Maze Craze notwithstanding, I made it in time to catch From Ashes to New. The bass frequencies were ridiculous, and could be heard well across the parking lot outside the venue. It was a dense wave of sonic force that, once I entered the venue, rattled my skeleton. When people say you feel the music and internalize it, I’m sure they had metaphorical intent, but From Ashes to New made the most of that concept figuratively and literally.

Six strong on stage with two lead vocalists, along with other members contributing background vocals or screamed parts, made for a dense, yet dynamic sound that seemed to occupy every inch of the room. The easiest comparison to make would be to Linkin Park, but one thing From Ashes to New has going for them is they incorporate some very contemporary elements in their take on what some might called modern rock, and others might call Nu Metal. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how they managed to muster the energy to be so intense for the duration of their set.

As far as the songs themselves, in some cases, the varying elements of a particular song might evoke ’80s goth, only to build to a crescendo that resolves with an industrial breakdown turned dub step drop, followed by screamo break over noise rock guitar. And yet everything flowed, and they pummeled the audience to the very last note of “Stay This Way.” From Ashes to New managed to meld just shy of 40 years of the darker, more brooding varieties of electronic-based music, and added a couple of nitrous tanks to the fuel system. It was a sight to behold.

Judging by the way Doug Robb commanded the stage and made it his personal mission, Hoobastank had dealt with and overcome the waning energy of aging crowds braving rock clubs to see the bands that got their blood pumping when they were in their youthful prime. Their approach to this was to lead the crowd by the collar, dragging them kicking and screaming back through time until they were off their seats and on their feet, singing along.

The only one moments of relief were saved for near the end of the set. Up until they hit that moment, Hoobastank was every bit of the rock band I find myself wishing many of their contemporaries had become or remained. Starting the night off with “Pieces” was precisely the wake up the call the audience needed after the break between bands. The change in overall sound added a wider range of dynamics, lending to being heard rather than felt. It made a big difference, and having that extra sonic room let the band breathe so Dan Estrin’s guitar and Jesse Charland’s bass stood apart with their interplay over Chris Hesse’s drumming. Something about this no-frills lineup brought out the best in the band with Doug Robb sounding fantastic and relentless, and the band’s material sounding as vital as ever.

The set provide enough twist and turns stylistically to keep it interesting, with “Inside of You” bringing out a funky side of the band, and “Running Away” being one of their earlier tracks that displayed how well they could execute a no-frills rock song in waltz time. Largely, they kept things up-tempo and in 4/4 time, with “Out of Control” serving as a peak from which they would fuel the rest of the roller coaster ride that the latter half of the set constituted. “This Is Gonna Hurt” followed by “The Reason” definitely typifies the push-pull dynamic of the end of that ride, which had the audience eating out of their hands. They closed with “Crawling in the Dark,” which achieved their goal to get the crowd worked up to a fever pitch for P.O.D.

 

Seemingly the least loud act of the night, the impact of their songs was phenomenal. Say what you will, but P.O.D. is above all else a rock band who plays with passion and purpose, to move you one way or another; two decades in, they have mastered their art. They hit the stage hard and heavy, opening their set with a new song sans introduction. This being a pre-release tour for their new album The Awakening, some new material was expected, but not right out of the gate. The thing about a great pitcher is the ability to keep batters on their heels, and strike them out while they’re looking as the heat zips past him. Tonight, that’s exactly what happened. P.O.D. was not to be derailed, in spite of issues with the monitor mix leading to an extended jam at the tail end of “Boom.” The issue was resolved for the most part by the time they went into “Murdered Love,” which came off extra potent given the moments of frustration earlier. The impact of its mechanical pulse and grind was to be outdone by “Lost in Forever,” one of their best singles following right after it, lightening the tone without letting up on the throttle.

 

The thing about P.O.D. is that they are a band that seems to have a knack for creating the sort of hard rock anthems built for high-velocity action sequences or extreme sports footage. It’s the stuff of adrenaline and inspiration, and a testament to the power of Marcos (guitar), Wuv (drums), and Traa (bass) as a band, with credit to Luis Castillo providing keys and a lot of vocal work throughout the night, especially with Sonny suffering vocal fatigue from heavy touring.

 

Given the passion and fury of the material, the vocal wear-and-tear was not apparent, and as a whole their set was a glorious example of the knack for writing these hard rock anthems. It felt like an ultimate playlist, with a nod to the lost art of fronting a band in the business of sharing music, Sonny made sure to announce the titles of songs before the band played them. The first single off their forthcoming album, The Awakening, “This Goes Out to You,” tailor-made to be sung along to, sounded more driving and energetic live, less fenced in sonically, giving it a punch the studio version doesn’t immediately convey. It was definitely flattered by the live presentation. Following with “Will You” was a game changer, because the crescendo of the latter is hard to top, especially for someone with a voice that’s going out.

 

Between Luis and Marcos providing the most visceral parts of many of the vocals, P.O.D. got the crowd worked up enough to inspire an old-school swirling mosh pit. “Set It Off” and “Babylon the Murderer” were responsible for the swell in adrenaline, which was quelled by a special performance of “Youth of the Nation” that featured Sonny’s son coming on stage to play conga and celebrate his birthday. That moment settled the crowd if only briefly. Next, they went straight up hardcore punk with “Revolucion,” another new song, which set the mosh pit on overdrive and led to one concertgoer being helped to the rear by venue staff for medical assistance—which, of course, he rejected for the sake of wanting to rock out regardless of injury. When Marcos began the intro to “South Town,” which I first heard as the sound track of a Hardy Boys highlight reel on Sunday Night Heat back in the glory days of the WWF, I fully understood why the fan didn’t want to leave. They knew which moments of communal catharsis were yet to come, in one massive wave triggered by “South Town,” surging through with “Panic & Run,” cresting with “On Fire,” and ultimately breaking with “Alive.” At that they closed out the show, inviting fans to meet and greet afterwards. No encore, but also no protest. The guys of P.O.D. gave their all, and no one doubted that and felt need be to ask for more. | Willie Smith

 

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