This past Tuesday was one hell of a busy a night for mosh enthusiasts in New York City. With Bad Religion playing at Terminal 5, A Day to Remember at The Best Buy Theater, Handguns at The Studio of Webster Hall, and my choice for the night, The Ghost Inside at The Gramercy Theatre, hardcore, punk and metal fans came out in droves.
The security at the Gramercy this night was simply not ready for what was about to be unleashed. When I arrived at the venue, I was excited to hear that the show had sold out. As I set up to photograph the opening band of the new night, Rotting Out, there was only one security guard attending the barrier. Right from their first song, the poor security guard was faced with a constant barrage of crowd surfers floating over the barrier. By the third song, he had back up of two more security, but even three would not be enough for the remaining bands of the night.
The next band in line was Long Island’s Stray From the Path. When front man Drew York took the stage, the screams and cheers from the audience showed a majority of the people in attendance made a trip to the city to see their hometown heroes. With guest vocal appearances from not only Jesse Barnett of Stick to Your Guns, but also Jonathan Vigil of The Ghost Inside, everyone at the Gramercy was on board with SFtP’s intensity. Ripping through Rising Sun, new brutal punk rocker Landmines, and ending with Drew diving straight over the barrier from the stage to the crowd, it proved Stray From the Path has both intensity and guts when it comes to their performances.
Less than 15 minutes passed before Stick to Your Guns took the stage. Just when I thought things couldn’t get any more wild, StYG made the already rowdy crowd even crazier, jumping straight into new songs, Diamond, and Against Them All. One thing I quickly noticed was pressed up against the barrier were a ton of female fans, which always are a great sight to see for a genre that has been male fan dominated for years and years. At one point, Drew York jumped up on stage, joining in with Jesse Barnett for a wonderful scream filled duet. StYG’s guitarists Josh James and Chris Rawson both must have killer quad muscles, because I counted them jump not once, not twice, but as many as 7 times in a row, multiple times during songs! We’re not talking little hops either, because these guys can go full legs up, at least 4 feet in the air! The amount of skill oozing from Stick to Your Gun’s set certainly filled everyone with tons of excitement for the headliner.
A little background information: The Ghost Inside have been touring extensively in support of their newest album, Get What You Give, an album that personally was one of my top selections of 2012. Hailing from Los Angeles, the band has been together in one form or another for roughly 8 years now, and through constant perseverance, has become larger and more loved with each show they play and each album they write.
As TGI took the stage, the crowd just exploded. Not a single person in the sold out Gramercy Theatre stood still, and bodies flowed constantly over the barrier. With the initial great reactions Stray From the Path and Stick to Your Guns had, I was a bit worried those in attendance had their fill for the night and perhaps could be a little worn out. However, within the first minute of the song Outspoken, those worries quickly faded away.
After pummeling through Between the Lines, the band played their first new song of the night, The Great Unknown, which brought a massive reaction. Following Faith Or Forgiveness, the band took a short break as front man Jonathan Vigil addressed the crowd. When he mentioned how he is a huge LA Kings fan, it brought some boos from those in attendance, followed by heavy chants of “Rangers! Rangers! Rangers!” He then mentioned that he was a bit of a Philadelphia Flyers fan also, the team that was playing the New York Rangers that night. Luckily for us, the Rangers won against the Flyers 5-2 that night.
Once the cheering and jeering was finished, Jonathan quickly said, “This is a fast one!” as the band sprung rapidly into another new song, Slipping Away. Circle pits were formed while metal horns and fists were raised without much request from Jonathan, as the intensity of the music spoke for itself. Before cracking into Chrono, he explained, “This is a song about how when I was younger, all I wanted to be was older. And now that I’m older, all I want is to be a kid again.” This was followed with a very similar circle pit reaction from the crowd.
Following Greater Distance and Shiner, Jonathan again thanked the crowd, saying “I’ve gotta say New York City, this has been the BEST show of the tour so far. The LA show was great, but you guys have beaten it. I think it’s because of the hometown band, Stray From the Path.” He then dedicated the next song, This Is What I Know About Sacrifice, to his friends in SFtP, saying that it was an honor to be playing a sold out show with them and for their fans.
Outlive had almost everyone in the Gramercy singing along, something not common or easy to do with hardcore songs. Thirty Three received a similar treatment, with Jonathan first explaining, “This is a song about how the bands, the lyrics, and the albums I listened to when I was younger, made me who I am today. Because of this hardcore, punk, or metal scene, whatever you want to call it, I learned more about honor, friendship and trust than any textbook could teach me.” He dedicated the song to Stick to Your Guns, saying that they are the epitome of everything that is right with the hardcore music scene.
As drummer Andrew Tkaczyk and guitarist Aaron Brooks played a soft, melodic intro for White Light, an ode to Jonathan’s recently departed brother Ryan Vigil, I couldn’t help but see his eyes begin to swell up. Showing that lyrics with personal meaning will always have not only the biggest impact with the performer, but with the audience as well, Jonathan crouched down during the last minute of the song, pouring his heart into the lyrics, “I was so lost at sea, Ryan, shine the light for me!“, which the crowd sung each and every word to. Once the song ended, the rest of the band temporarily left the stage, leaving Jonathan sitting in a crouched position, facing Aaron’s guitar amps. It took almost a minute for Jonathan to rise back to his feet, facing the crowd once again, explaining the meaning behind the song and saying, “That song means a lot to me, and when we wrote it, I never thought it would mean so much to so many people.”
Once the rest of the band returned to the stage again, they played their final song of the night, their biggest hit, Engine 45. A song that Jonathan very clearly stated, “is one of the most important songs we’ve ever written.” The song is about how drug and alcohol addiction can hit “like a freight train” and it caused every single person left at the Gramercy to erupt. Bassist Jim Riley sung the clean vocal line for the song, which had every last person from the barrier all the way to the very top seats singing along. A beautiful end to an intense show.
The one great thing about this tour, is how clear it is that these bands are not in it for the money. Instead of being “a few musicians performing music for people”, it’s a tour of “a group of friends, playing music with and for their old and new friends.” This was evidently clear with the front man of each band sporting a different band on the tour’s shirt on stage (Jonathan Vigil wore a Stray From the Path shirt, Drew York had on a The Ghost Inside shirt, and Jesse Barnett sported a shirt from the opener, Rotting Out). Between the constant energy in the room and frequent surprise guest vocals on stage, it was one of the most exciting and entertaining shows I’ve been to in quite some time.