Photography by Molly Kinnunen
A variety of hardcore-lovers united under the roof of Bottom Lounge last week for one of the most anticipated lineups of 2019. The Pure Noise tour came to Chicago this past Thursday with bands: Year of the Knife, Sanction, Counterparts, Terror & Stick to your Guns. I was able to capture two of the bands in the photos below and it was an unforgettable night to say the least.
Sanction also released an album this past Friday titled "Broken In Refraction," which can be found via all media streaming platforms. They have a music video for the single, "Paralysis," linked below.
You can catch the remaining dates for the Pure Noise tour here:
Author and Photographer: Jonathan Stark (Stark Raving Mad Photography)
When the Rockstar Energy Drink Disrupt Festival came through Colorado I had the chance to sit down with Matty Mullins of Memphis May Fire. I’ve enjoyed Memphis May Fire for years and was honored to conduct a brief interview with Matty Mullins. This was my first interview in a sense and Matty was nothing but gracious and humble.
J: I’ve seen you guys play other shows and festivals in the past like Warped Tour. How does the Disrupt Tour compare with the Warped Tour? Is it the same format?
M: Not really. Warped Tour is it’s own breed; you know it’s its own thing and there will never be anything like it. So, this is completely different and it’s still awesome to have a summer tour to do in it’s place. You know, so less bands, less stages and the weather is still hot. But it's a great tour, man, and a really cool thing they are doing. I think it’s impossible to compare it to Warped Tour. It could never be the same; nothing will ever be Warped.
J: You guys are enjoying yourselves on the current tour?
M: Yeah, totally! Yeah, having a good time!
J: You’ve been doing this for a decade. In that time you have come together, staying together, making powerful albums, albums that speak to people. That gives you the longevity. In the decade plus that you’ve been doing this what are some of the most memorable moments you’ve had either on tour or just in the profession itself?
M: Man, I think that the things that really stand out the most... like just to be totally honest, shows can start to blend together. Like performing especially when it’s an amphitheater every day or a built stage every day, it can really start to feel like you are in like a day to day groove. The moments that stick out the most to us are when we get to interact with fans or just talk to people. When you're looking another human being in the eyes, another soul, and they tell you that your music had a profound impact on their life, there’s no better feeling, no greater honor. That’s why we do this. Those are the moments that really stick out to us the most. From American tours all the way to European tours where soldiers that are stationed there come out and talk about how we are getting them through what they are doing. Those are the greatest moments for us.
J: I thought that would be your response. I think your heart is for your fellow man.
M: It is, absolutely. The people, that’s who our songs are for. That’s what we tour for. So those are the moments that mean the most. I literally just came straight here from the merch booth where I was talking to people and hearing their stories. Those are the special moments for me.
J: So given those special moments, is there one of them you might share with me?
M: That’s tough man, that’s tough to narrow it down. There’s a dude in Detroit and his physical therapist had reached out to our management and given us his story and asked if he could meet us. We were like, "absolutely." We brought him backstage and everything. He was in a terrible accident a couple years ago and lost both of his legs. He had a completely normal life up until his mid-twenties and then got into an accident and lost both his legs and fell into a really bad depression, feeling like his life would never be the same again. Through listening to, I’m sure not only our band but some other inspirational bands in our genre, he found the strength to be like- I’m going to get back to not only who I was but better than who I was before. And he’s got these awesome electronic legs that he walks on now. He’s getting into drumming and like all this stuff and just has such a rad positive outlook on life. And so it’s been such a cool thing to be a part of a story like that. And there are so many of those and we get really lucky to be a part of that.
J: I’ve shot for Reach Records a few times, I know you did your recent song with Andy (Andy Mineo), how did that come about?
M: I’m just a huge fan of Andy’s music. When we had written that song (Heavy is the Weight) we had that little gap in the song that sounded perfect for a hip-hop artist to come in and do their thing. I naturally just wanted Andy on the song. He did not know who I was; we were not friends or anything like that. I was just a big fan of his lyrics, big fan of his music. So, we reached out and immediately got it sorted out and he was stoked to do it and everything. We let him write that verse and everything, and it turned out really cool. That song is on the radio now, dude. It’s like Octane is playing a song with a rap part from a Christian rapper. It’s just like sick to me, dude.
Andy Mineo performing on the Unashamed Forever Tour in Tampa, FL
J: I know that you’ve done cooperatives (features) with other artists like For Today. Do you like to get involved with projects with other artists?
M: Totally, yeah! I mean I’m kind of picky about what projects I feature on; just because I want to make sure it’s in line with my beliefs and my core values. But if there’s something that I’m really passionate about, I’m always down to do it. Especially if it helps out a younger band. I’ve done a couple of those recently that have been pretty cool. But yeah, man. I think features are awesome for us and for me doing it for other people and all that.
J: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me, I know that you are busy and also need time to relax.
M: Yeah, man. Thank you.
Matty Mullins and I talked a little bit afterwards. He gave me a hug and I stepped off the tour bus. As I walked back to Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre, I thought about what an interesting experience that was, about how badly I possibly screwed up, and about what an amiable guy Matty Mullins is. It was a good day.
Rockstar Energy Drink Disrupt Festival Fiddler's Green Amphitheater Greenwood Village, Colorado 7/17/2019
Author and Photographer: Jonathan Stark (Stark Raving Mad Photography LLC)
Rockstar Energy Drink puts on a killer festival and gets some big names into the roundup of performances. You’ll recognize the names of many: like Sum 41, The Used, Circa Survive, Atreyu, Four Year Strong, Juliet Simms and Sleeping With Sirens. I knew who I was excited to see: Hyro the Hero, Memphis May Fire and Thrice. This festival did not disappoint, and I found a few new bands to listen to as I’m sure many in attendance did as well.
Citra started out the day as the winner of the Denver Battle of the Bands. They had the local faithful singing along and bobbing their heads. Moments after Citra cleared the stage, Hyro the Hero exploded to life. Like a shot from an A.E.D to the hearts of those who arrived when gates opened, those lucky enough to be in attendance were rewarded with a jolt of electricity rocketing out from the stage. Hyro, the lead man on the mic, had some high-flying shenanigans. I told one fan that I hadn’t seen jumping like that since my time at N.A.S.A.
Juliet Simms was a surprise to me. She did an excellent job playing to the audience. She played and sang with a lot of feeling and a tinge of cloudy skies. Speaking of feeling, I was feeling Lindsay Martin’s drumming. What a fantastically expressive drummer.
Memphis May Fire was up next. Love those guys; everything was on point. It was an absolutely outstanding performance from “Heavy is the Weight” to “The Sinner.” Every note made me want to start a pit of my own. (Honestly, I tried, but was justly shut down by security. The staff did a great job and served with a smile.) Did you know that Matty Mullins’ vocal prowess and harmony is as flawless as his hair? Well, it is. Kellen and Cory’s stringed majesty was seamless and of course, Jake Garland was phenomenal on the drums.
Four Year Strong was the capstone to the front half of the festival. They are such a strong mainstay and are both entertaining and professional. For some reason I felt that we should have been listening to them on a beach in Florida. It could have been the hats and glasses. Anyone else feel that way?
Sleeping with Sirens started the second course. They were very energetic and got the five o’ clock crowd into the show. There was a bunch of movement on stage and they left it all behind.
Atreyu were a total surprise for me. I both love and hate the fact that I had never listened to Atreyu prior to hearing them perform on this tour. Around two decades of excellent music to their credit gives me and you a ton of listening enjoyment. A commanding stage presence and musical proficiency exemplified what I was experiencing. With such a vast cannon of music to choose from, they played through one stellar song after another. Vocally this band excels. From Alex Varkatzas’ unclean vocals to the contrasting crisp, clean sound of Brandon Saller’s coming from behind the drum kit… my word, what a combo.
The Used was another band that surprised me. They owned the stage and the crowd. Also having almost two decades of experience under their belt, it showed. Their stage setup was outstanding. It was very impressive how quickly the Rockstar crew was able to set up and tear down each band’s stage.
Thrice is one act I’d been waiting to see live for quite some time. They were amazing and well worth the wait. Dustin Kensrue’s stage presence, vocal ability and musical talent are more than stellar. Eddie, Riley and Teppei formed the cohesive unit with Dustin, moving from song to song as one. From “Artist in the Ambulance” and “Only Us” to “Under a Killing Moon” and “Deeper Wells,” the lights and sounds of Thrice provided a sensory satisfaction akin to the first time you saw “Life of Pi.”
The capstone of the evening took place when Sum 41 took the stage. Playing a litany of hits from their seven albums spanning almost two decades, Sum 41 set the crowd ablaze. The photo pit, pit and amphitheater went crazy. What an exciting performance they brought to attendees. The crowd was with them until the last.
Big thank you to Rockstar Energy Drink for putting this festival together and thank you to Big Picture Media for all of your assistance. I hope you enjoy the accompanying gallery of shots from the festival and thank you for reading.
Interview and photos: Josh Justice
Bonus Gallery: New Years Day
wsg Savage After Midnight and Rivals
at The Intersection in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Author and Photographer: Jonathan Stark (Stark Raving Mad Photography LLC)
Alright, this was the moment…. A big moment for me, for a ton of fans, for The Ogden Theater in Denver, and the punk loyal of the metro area. Bad Religion performing a litany of their greatest songs in front of an eager, mildly insane, sweaty and committed audience. It was a sing along from the first note of “Them and Us.”
I’m going to pause right there for a moment to tell a short story. It’s a bit of my story, which is not unlike many fans in attendance. At one point, a long time ago, I was a boy mowing my parents’ lawn listening to a cassette tape of “Suffer.” That’s right, a cassette tape, on my yellow Walkman. Shut up. Listening over and over and over again. That album sealed my love for punk music indefinitely. Bad Religion has continued to put out stellar albums and are now on their 17th studio album, “The Age of Unreason.” Which is the catalyst for the current tour.
Back to it… the tension was built as the opening performance by Dave Hause and The Mermaid teased the headliner to come. Interesting tid bit- Jay Bentley’s son Miles plays bass with The Mermaid portion of Dave Hause and The Mermaid. Come on people, Jay Bentley plays and has played bass for Bad Religion since… I don’t know when. I can’t absolutely confirm that Miles was playing with them in Denver, but Wikipedia said it’s true, so therefore. They played on a professional level, with poise and energy. It was a pretty good showing and fans could be heard in the audience.
As aforementioned, “Them and Us” was first up on Bad Religion’s list and it was less them and us, as it was just us. As it should be at any great show, punk or otherwise, everyone was singing. Well perhaps not the multitude in the pit, but most everyone else.
Lead man on the mic Greg Graffin was the same as always. I’ve seen them kill it since the 90’s and his onstage mannerisms haven’t changed a bit. His voice hasn’t either, power and wit. Greg and crew steered the ship like a phone booth through time. What, too old? Like a hot tub through time. Better? No? Ok, like they had the Time Stone. They weaved in and out of the fabric of time, touching bits of hits from every era. The history of the band as an organic whole, the current and former members, the sound and the message have influenced generations. Regardless of if you believe wholeheartedly, partially or not the slightest in the messages of Bad Religion there is something special in the sound and energy they bring to the stage. It’s always been that way.
From “Stranger than Fiction” to “End of History” and “Generator” to “Paranoid Style” the songs just kept hammering away at the audience. Fans let go and gave themselves over to the Ooos and Aaahs, to the sound of Jay Bentley’s popping bass, Mike Dimkich and Brian Baker’s expertly executed strumming, and Jamie Miller’s pounding rhythm. Man, do those guys work well together or what?
Another side note, Mike Dimkich can chew some gum. The unassuming guitarist is not only an avid gum chewer and a pro on the strings, but also a serious bike rider. I believe he was able to get in some time on the two-wheeler while visiting Colorado. He fit right in with the Golden locals; hats off to him to bike at high elevation.
The highlight of the evening came when “Sorrow” was performed. Everyone went crazy. You could feel the excitement and energy shift. As excited as the crowd had been throughout the evening, the enthusiasm was now so thick and rich you could have slapped it between two slices of toast and sold it on the corner for a late-night snack. Then, as if that was not good enough, Bad Religion poured out a whole cup of delicious encore. I won’t mention the songs to protect your surprise, but you won’t be disappointed.
This concert was incredible. Do yourselves a favor and check them out as the tour passes through your locale. And hey, thanks for reading through until the end. I hope you enjoy the accompanying gallery of shots from the show.
Interview and photos: Josh Justice
Bonus Gallery: Sublime with Rome wsg Soja and Seranation - Michigan lottery amphitheatre, Sterling Heights, Michigan
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