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William Control and Justin Symbol continue tour in Indy

It was a lesson in the emotional ups and downs of touring when William Control’s Punishment Tour made a stop at Indianapolis’ Emerson Theater recently. Less than 24 hours after playing a packed show at The Subterranean in Chicago the bands found themselves looking out into a mostly empty room, now tasked with taking a rag-tag handful of fans and somehow creating an incredible show under less than incredible circumstances, which is far easier said than done.

Shock-rocker Justin Symbol opened the show, taking the stage to face the small crowd. Even though the crowd was small a good portion of the audience was already familiar with Justin and totally engaged in the show, which helped take away the awkwardness that could’ve been present otherwise.

Justin Symbol is something you have to experience live to really get a grasp on what they do. Justin Symbol is almost like a kinkier version of Marilyn Manson in his early years, minus most of Manson’s signature vocal grit. “Control,” off 2014’s Voidhead was a big hit with the audience with a chorus that’s part middle-finger-to-the-man, part nursery rhyme fans immediately latched on and sang along. Before they left the stage the band warned fans to never take candy from strangers before tossing out handfuls of Starbursts across the room.

The California goth-pink band Requiem was up next. Although a handful of people had shown up between sets the crowd was still small, but this didn’t seem to bother the members of Requiem. Lead singer Steve Juliano recognized a fan in the audience from the previous night’s show almost immediately and began a conversation, eventually realizing that half the crowd had travelled down from Chicago. Indianapolis’ show may have been small, but the fact that so many fans were willing to travel three hours to see the show back-to-back had to have been encouraging.

Requiem played a strong set chock-full of high-energy tracks from their 2014 release The Unexplainable Truth.

Noticeably absent from their live sound was the female vocals that are scattered throughout the album. Guitarist Jacklyn Paulette was recently replaced by Angela Peyton, so it remains to be seen whether the lack of female vocals is a temporary thing as Angela gets adjusted, or if perhaps they’re gone for good.

The tracks are also accented by gut-wrenching screams provided by guitarist Ryan Heggum. Hopefully the female vocals make a return, as the vocal weaving of Juliano’s singing, Heggum’s screams, and the higher female vocals made for a real treat and would add another layer to their already robust live sound.

Their set was equal parts rock and roll and comedy show as Juliano engaged in a good amount of on-stage banter. Although his comical comments probably stemmed from frustration over the small turnout, he always remained genuinely light-hearted, and never turned negative. Juliano and crew took advantage of the situation and interacted with all of the fans one-on-on, talking about hairstyles and giving high-fives to everyone gathered around the stage during the set. Small shows are never easy, but Requiem made the absolute best of a less-than-perfect situation, and undoubtedly left a fantastic impression on everyone in attendance.

At long last, headliner William Control took to the stage in his signature snazzy dress apparel, a stark contrast to the kinky outfits Justin Symbol and crew performed in.

William Control is an enigma of sorts. With his perfectly coiffed hair Control can almost resemble a young Elvis Presley, and if you stripped away the industrial sound there’s a strong Morrissey influence to his vocals.

With these aspects William Control has a timeless quality to him, but his music pushes the envelope in every other sense that it often feels as though he’s at the very front of some yet-to-be-discovered musical territory. It’s an exciting place to be, but it’s also evident that, at least for now, there’s a relatively small group of people who really get what Control is doing. With each album being a concept record Control’s material is a bit less accessible than his previous band, Aiden, but the daring move seems to be paying off, as the fans who are responding are reacting in overwhelmingly positive ways.

Opening with the pulsating “Adore (Fall In Love Forever)” off 2014’s The Neuromancer Control played a good mixture of old and new material. “Beautiful Loser” off 2008’s Hate Culture was the highlight of the night, as the majority of fans sang and danced along as William Control paced the stage.

After closing out the night with “I’m Only Human Sometimes” William Control hung out at the merch booth, making sure to personally thank each person for coming out to the show.

Small shows are undoubtedly a frustrating aspect of touring, but they often take on a magical quality as everyone, band and fans alike, are able to interact on a one-on-one level. Each fan walked away having had a totally unique experience, and ultimately it’s experiences like that which push casual show-goers into being die-hard fans.

-Ashley Adcox

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