Pop Evil set their legacy in stone at Mercury Ballroom Dec15

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Pop Evil set their legacy in stone at Mercury Ballroom

It’s been a hell of a year for Islander and Pop Evil. Islander has had one of the most impressive and eventful years for any band coming off the release of a debut record and Pop Evil are winding down the tour cycle for Onyx, unarguably their most successful album yet, which spawned three no. 1 singles and a top 10 single.

So what better way for the two bands to celebrate the huge 2014 they’ve had? Easy- put together a tour together with support from two kickass bands, and that’s exactly what they’ve done in the current Set In Stone Tour, which sees the two on the road with Red Sun Rising and Letters From the Fire, who kicked things off at the Louisville, Ky. stop at the Mercury Ballroom.

If you’re not familiar with Letters From the Fire, you better get acquainted real quick because they have the hunger that made Pop Evil and Islander so successful and you can just feel it emanating from the stage.

They had a few technical problems before the second song when the guitar amp stopped working and, though it took a few minutes to get it working again, the band rebounded beautifully.

Their stage presence is impressive and they’re one of the more impressive new bands you’re gonna see on the stage. Vocally and musically they have what it takes to go a long way and they won’t stop until they get exactly what they want.

Islander took the stage next and it was just two months ago they were in Louisville last with Pop Evil as part of the inaugural Louder Than Life Festival so the metal faithful in the city were already familiar with the band and knew exactly what they’d be getting from Islander’s live show.

With JR Bareis from Love and Death now on guitar for Islander, the band puts on an even stronger live show, now featuring a kickass dinosaur tail sported by Bareis. Add that to frontman Mikey Carvajal’s exhausting-to-watch stage presence and you have a home run of a live show.

Carvajal didn’t waste any time getting up close with the fans, body surfing, standing on the crowd and making them part of the show. Fans who were up front got more than they bargained for and definitely got their money’s worth.

It did give Carvajal a chance to talk to the fans, letting them know he was glad the technical problems happened because so many bands, he said, use backing tracks and lip synching but when you see Islander, you don’t get that- you get them.

He went on to say that rock and roll is supposed to be a reflection of life and life isn’t perfect. Rock and roll isn’t perfect, he said. “And I’m so glad to be part of a band who’s real, and who doesn’t play perfect,” he said before the issues were resolved.

Though Islander also had some guitar issues at the start of the first song, they rebounded quickly and by the time they kicked into the second song, it was forgotten.

After Red Sun Rising put on a set that blew the roof off the Mercury Ballroom and had fans yelling louder than the band was playing, Pop Evil took the stage to finish off a night that saw a sold out crowd begging for more rock and roll.

They opened with “Flawed” from Onyx and played a set that catered exactly to what fans wanted to hear. You could tell they meticulously plotted out what they were going to play on this tour and the set was divided into two or three phases.

After “Divide,” the middle of the set included some of their strongest and more popular ballads- “Somebody Like You,” “100 in a 55,” “Monster You Made” and “Beautiful,” which saw frontman Leigh Kakaty performing a capella with the fans, making for a more intimate feeling and was a perfect decision.

This led into “Boss’s Daughter” and “Last Man Standing” before finishing up the set close to midnight with “Deal with the Devil” and “Trenches.”

Kakaty knows exactly how to engage the fans and the rest of the band does just as well, getting as close as possible, pointing out specific people in the crowd and doing exactly what a rock band should do- rock so hard they demand the crowd get involved and they didn’t settle for anything less than total and complete commitment from the fans.

Not to mention drummer Chachi Riot is a complete beast and a man possessed behind the drum kit. I challenge you to find a drummer more impressive and entertaining to watch.

The Set In Stone Tour is one of the strongest rock tours of 2014 and shows all four bands at their absolute best. With all of them riding high into 2015, it should be a fun year for all of them and if you want a rock show that’s gonna give you your money’s worth, this is the one to check out.

-review and photos by Reggie Edwards

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Post-show interview with Islander vocalist Mikey Carvajal: