“Violent Pornography” and a Crowd Surfing Jesus? It must be a Sugar show!
Sugar and Strength Beyond Strength Rock The Underground for All Signs Point To The End Show
All plans for a quiet Saturday night at home were put to rest when I decided to hit up the Underground for the All Signs Point To The End show featuring Sugar: Charlotte’s System of a Down Tribute and Strength Beyond Strength: A Tribute to Pantera. Despite another day of saturating rains and a real threat of severe storms, there was no place I’d rather be. Music, especially metal music, speaks to my soul and allows me to forget about the “adulting” that comes with everyday life as well, an adult.
I arrived in between bursts of rain and made it safely and dry into the venue. There was quite a crowd starting to build already and the mood was definitely “party” and of course, “mosh!” In fact, a group of fans sporting “Pit Crew” tee-shirts were already getting into the spirit of the evening leading a heavy metal conga line around the floor of the Underground in anticipation of what was to come. First up was Strength Beyond Strength, a Pantera tribute band from Durham, NC. And well, what can I say, you simply can’t go wrong when your goal is to tear up the stage with a set of Pantera classics. I mean, it’s Pantera and it really doesn’t get much more metal than that. The band hit the stage quietly before proceeding to go balls out to open the night with “Fucking Hostile.”
Everyone in the crowd was headbanging away and the mosh pit was going non-stop throughout the set. Here’s where I will give a shout out to metal fans everywhere. The pit was kept fun and nobody got hurt with everyone looking out for everyone else, just another reason to love metal as metal fans are the best! Vocalist Fish Schneider was all over the stage, running and jumping while belting out all the notes. Guitarist Patrick Moseley is definitely a skilled player and kept the sick riffs cranking while bass guitarist Shawn Pretzer and drummer Jay Kenefic drove the pace. It was an awesome set and if you’re a fan of Pantera, I highly recommend checking out these cowboys from hell.
After a short break, the area’s best SOAD tribute band blew the roof off the Underground with both skill and style. Lead vocalist Max Johnson is a perfect fit for Serj Tankian’s vocal style and drummer Jim Saj is practically a Charlotte music legend. Their sound is polished yet raw and if you can’t get to a SOAD show, Sugar is by far the next best thing. The crowd surfing began in earnest during “Aerials” and continued all night long with yes, even Jesus taking to the air, leading Max to comment about how that’s one religious figure he could actually follow.
The band had a great stage presence and interaction with the fans making it more of a personal party than a rock concert. Guitarist Todd Langdon was superb, providing all the energetic leads the crowd could handle and lending his own vocal chops to the mix. The evening also happened to mark the one year anniversary of bass guitarist Pablo Castillo joining the band. He mentioned to the audience that one year ago today, he was out in the audience and decided that he needed to be up on that stage. Fans, friends, and family responded with the chants of “Pablo! Pablo!” to show their appreciation.
A few days before the show, the music world was rocked with the news of the death of one of the greatest drummers ever to grace the stage, Neil Peart of Rush. Jim took a few moments to acknowledge Neil’s legacy and after joking that they weren’t going to play a Rush song, he urged anyone who wasn’t familiar with Neil’s music to get educated and find out right away. Although, I’m pretty sure that everyone in attendance that evening was already very familiar with Neil and his body of work with Rush. Sugar was putting on the show of a lifetime and the crowd was having the time of their lives listening to all the SOAD classics. Max joked asking the audience if they liked pornography and when the cheers began he asked what about “Violent Pornography,” in reference to the SOAD song of course. Alas, all good things must come to an end and Sugar appropriately closed the night out with their namesake tune, “Sugar.”
Leaving the venue, I realized it was storming once again outside but nothing could compare to the metal onslaught that the bands brought inside. This show may have been All Signs Point to the End but it certainly felt like more of a renewal proving that if you play great music and play it well, all can be right with the world, even if only for a night.