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In The Clubs
The Used, Atreyu, The Bled, and The Bronx
10/29/04 - The Orbit Room -  Grand Rapids, MI

By Mark Hensch

The age-old conflict between old, purist fans of a certain band and newer fans enticed by said-band's recent success is an ongoing struggle that thankfully I have been far removed from for a long time. That long abstinence from concerts by bands that I have cherished and since have gone on to mainstream success was ended by last night's October 29th concert headlined by Utah screamo act The Used.

As someone who has followed the career of the Used since literally the start, I was very interested to see what my first Used concert in almost two whole years would amount to. Would a plantinum-selling debut, several Warped Tour sets, and a new album recently peaked on Billboard's #6 spot (and still selling fairly well) corrupt the live experience that I remembered last time as intense, intimate, and totally insane? Having met the band after that show, so long ago, I wondered if that outgoing friendliness would have remained, or if fame and fortune would have warped (puns relating to corporate rock tours not intended) their original mantra of hard-work and honest music.

I'll answer those deep questions somewhat later, but I can say that the band hasn't let an MTV spotlight blind them to the convictions they hold dear in terms of good music. The groups opening acts were all serious road-vets, all non-radio, and all serious in terms of their styles.

Though not generic in a rock station on the radio sense, opening act The Bronx was definitely nothing special. I cannot bring myself to remember even one song title, and beyond that, it almost made me feel better that this was the band I was missing while languishing a hour after door-time in a Disneyland ride like-line. The general consensus of several people around me seemed to reflect these sentiments. The band played a simple blend of basic hard rock and screamo, whipped up a lackluster pit or two (a general theme throughout the night for almost all the bands), and left after about four or five songs (though I'm sure they played more when I was waiting in line).

After this, the evening took a severe left turn into hardcore realms with The Bled. Probably the wildest act of the show, the act played their blend of strange hardcore to a crowd sorely needing some energy. And what energy it was. Launching into their Pass The Flask album catalog, The Bled played crazed hardcore that would never be considered easy to swallow to mainstream rock fans. The pathetic mosh pits of earlier were cleared as several fans along with myself began the hardcore dancing for the evening. The various noobs to such heavier styles of music cleared it the heck out of there, and it wasn't long before The Bled gave us a spastic soundtrack of good songs. "Red Wedding," "You Know Who's Seatbelt," "We are the Industry" "Spitshine Sonata" and "Sound of Sulfur" were just a few highlights to a wicked set that ended with me getting my glasses uppercutted off and a large bruise to the back of my head.

With my lenses scratched for the remainder of the show (and the days to follow), many others nursing sore limbs, and a lot of calories burned, I was prepared for the next act to follow through and take the stage with aplomb.

I was left confused as to whether or not that energy was equaled by quasi-metal act Atreyu. If you haven't yet heard of Atreyu, you will be soon. They (for some crazy reason) have catapulted to the fore-front of the metalcore masses by mixing in nice solos with more generic hardcore drums and goth undertones. I listened to most of Suicide Notes & Butterfly Kisses, just when the buzz for Atreyu was growing, and was largely middle-of-the-road on it. It was good, but not too good. After seeing Atreyu play live, this was something I still felt was "middle-road." The good stuff was amazing; live, songs like "The Remembrance Ballad" and "Right Side of the Bed" are awesome...especially when the guitarists enjoy jumping around on their amps and spinning guitars like crazy. The not-so-good stuff was just alright though; Atreyu's earlier stuff came across as a little weak, and for the amount of respect these guys currently have, it seemed kind of odd as they are talented, but not amazingly so. It will be interesting to see if Atreyu can continue to evolve and outlive the current hype surrounding them.

After Atreyu, it was time for the main act to at last take the stage. At least that's what we all thought, before in sadly typical rockstar fashion, The Used took  about an hour and a half to take the stage. However, once they took that stage, they made it theirs. The Used proceeded to lambaste us with "Take it Away,"     the current single of course, but an entertaining rocker none-the-less. The flashing lights and effects also added to the tune. The Used then proceeded to mix almost equally songs from both their self-titled debut and the newer In Love & Death. Bouncy jangles like "I Caught Fire" and "All That I've Got" were thankfully balanced by heavier tunes like "A Box Full of Sharp Objects," "Listening," and sole-encore song "Maybe Memories." There were plenty of awesome moments; frontman Bert McCracken's spoken intro to "I'm a Fake" was amazing live due to his face being bathed in purple lights shifting and swirling, and ballads "On My Own" and "Blue and Yellow" are always awesome softer tracks.

All in all, this show was a little conflicted. With the exception of The Bled (who came across as much more experienced then what they are in putting on a concert), all of the bands suffered a tad from various things that dulled each band's musical performance edge. For The Bronx, it was pretty much getting  people to enjoy their music. For Atreyu, it was a performance that showcases obvious gaps in styles between albums, all of which are large and glaring. For The Used, it was surprisingly crass and lewd commentary, long set-up times, and occasionally flat vocals from Bert. Despite these thankfully minor flaws, all-in-all, this was an excellent concert. I'm also pretty excited already for the next one; The Used promised to come back to town in February.

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