Review: Hail The Sun Supports Legendary Supergroup at Concord Music Hall with an Energetic Performance

Super-group The Sound of Animals Fighting started its tour this month with a short schedule of only 13 shows throughout the United States. This tour is in support of APESHIT, a four-song EP released in December, a long-awaited release for fans as their last release before this was in 2008. The legendary post-hardcore group originally consisted of 12 members belonging also to Rx Bandits, Circa Survive, Chiodos, Dispatch and more. Vocalist Rich Balling of Rx Bandits formed the band and in their active years between 2004 and 2009, they only played four live shows. They toured briefly in 2014 and 2019, often using animal masks to hide their identities, which they did not employ for their appearance at Concord Music Hall on Tuesday evening.

As expected, The Sound of Animals Fighting had a dramatic entrance, the members trickling in slowly with “Wolf” off APESHIT as their intro. As soon as Anthony Green (Saosin, Circa Survive, L.S. Dunes) stepped on stage, fans lost it. He beckoned the audience to come forward and they pushed up against the barricade, holding their hands up to his. Anthony connects with his audience fantastically no matter what band he plays with. I recently attended an L.S. Dunes show in Los Angeles at an intimate outdoor venue where the entire attendance was at his mercy, completely enthralled by his stage presence and vocal talent. At Concord Hall, he brought a stage prop, a dim-lit lightbulb on a long cable that he held to his face and swung it wildly around himself as the band powered through their new EP’s namesake, “Apeshit” and the rest of their hour-long set.

Openers earlier in the evening included Concrete Castles, a rock-band reminiscent of Paramore and Hey Monday in vocal styling with a sprinkle of EDM and heavy metal influence. Kitty also joined TSOAF at Concord Hall, an electronic dream-pop artist formerly known as Kitty Pryde who, maybe surprisingly, is included in my specific and extensive knowledge of very few genres. I found Kitty Pryde in 2012 through a series of perfectly timed clicks on the internet. She was a girly internet-rapper who went semi-viral. I had honestly forgotten all about Pryde for years until I saw her on the bill for this tour, but I fell in love with her music back then, including a song and video she made with rapper Riff Raff before he blew up. Instead of playing house music between sets, an artist called Wasted Youth played electronic tracks from a small DJ-booth on stage right. It warmed my heart to see TSOAF giving stage time to up-and-coming artists including female-fronted performances, all of which were very different than TSOAF, however the fresh energy on stage was totally welcomed.

Direct support for The Sound of Animals Fighting is a band close to my heart, Hail The Sun. The group of four from Chico, California, have made a name for themselves amongst the post-hardcore, progressive rock and math rock scenes over the past decade. I have personally been a fan of Hail The Sun for many years, we are all from the same area in Northern California. I remember seeing them pop up around 10 years ago playing with some of my favorite bands at the time—Dance Gavin Dance (DGD), A Lot Like Birds, and I The Mighty. Even as a teenager I knew how special and unique they were within the saturated genre in Northern California circa 2005-2017. I got especially excited about Hail The Sun in 2014 when they released their sophomore studio album Wake under DGD’s guitarist Will Swan’s record label Blue Swan Records, though they are currently active with Equal Vision Records.

Donovan Melero of Hail The Sun is one of the most interesting and high-energy lead vocalists in the genre. At Concord Hall on Tuesday night, he took the stage by storm—wielding the mic stand above his head, throwing and pulling back the heavily taped-up mic mid-air as he spun, kicked, and jumped around on stage. Melero’s voice is one of very few that I believe sounds better live than recorded. To paint a contextual picture, similar vocalists that come to mind are Claudio Sanchez of Coheed and Cambria and Anthony Green. Melero’s emotion and talent shine in person in a way that can’t be captured even in live recordings. His vocal styling has always been eccentric, meshing gloriously with chaotic tempos, dissonant chords, and angular melodies. During their set, die-hard fans of Hail The Sun pressed up against the barricade keeping the band’s energy flowing as they put on a truly energetic show.

Guitarists Shane Gann and Aric Garcia absolutely shredded their way through fan-favorites such as “Slander” off New Age Filth, “The ‘Fun’ in Dysfunction” off Culture Scars, and “Human Target Practice” off Wake. Bassist John Stirrat and drummer Ahh-Ceh confidently drove the math-infused intricacies that include different time signatures throughout each song. Donovan records drums on Hail The Sun’s albums; he took over on the drum set for a few songs during their set while continuing to sing lead vocals as well. On the day before Hail The Sun started tour this month, they released “Mind Reader,” their newest single and video since New Age Filth in 2021. The new song was a huge crowd pleaser, catchy enough to sing along full-force. At the conclusion of their set, Donovan grabbed a cymbal from the drum set behind him and rode it like a stick-horse before raising it triumphantly to the audience, saying farewell and enjoy The Sound of Animals Fighting!

All photos by Shaela Johnston

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Shaela Johnston

Shaela is a West-Coast born freelance photographer and writer, relatively new to Chicago as of 2021. Specializing in live music photography, Shaela can be found attending concerts several times a week when she isn't traveling or working on her Bachelor's degree. In her free time she listens to metal, hardcore, hip-hop, and likes to chill at home with her hairless cat named Soup and wife Courtney.