Monster Energy’s Outbreak tour has always specialized in having its finger on the pulse of the bands that are just about to break through in their respective scenes. In the 5 years since it launched, the Outbreak tour has introduced crowds across the country to artists such as Iggy Azalea, Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore, and Asking Alexandria; an envious track record, to say the least.
2016’s lineup for the Outbreak Rock Edition promised to continue that strong legacy by bringing out Night Verses, ONE OK ROCK, Crown the Empire, and this year’s headlining band, Issues.
Night Verses kicked the night off with a bang. Vocalist Douglas Robinson is an explosive force on stage, hopping and pacing around like a caged animal recently released. In many ways drummer Aric Improta stole the show. During the band’s first song “Time Erases Time” Improta played at dizzying speeds, laying down a foundation jam packed with a generous serving of double bass and impressive fills, all while managing to keep perfect time. For younger bands the balance between passion and perfection can be difficult to find, but Improta proved that he could easily accomplish both.
Next up were Japanese rockers ONE OK ROCK returning to Indy for the third time in the past year. Despite the risk of oversaturation the band seemed to draw even more excitement than they did when they played in that same room almost exactly on year prior with Yellowcard. The group’s set remained mostly unchanged from their Fall 2015 show, but fans didn’t seem to mind.
One of the biggest highlights of the night occurred during their third song, “Decision,” which they re-recorded for their recent album 35XXXV. The new version features guest vocals from Tyler Carter of Issues, so midway through the first verse Carter walked out on stage to join the band for the song, eliciting a massive shriek of approval from the crowd. The chemistry between Carter and the guys in ONE OK ROCK was immediately apparent and made for a memorable performance.
Metalcore mainstays Crown The Empire brought the brutality back when they hit the stage and opened with “The Fallout,” a track that truly shines in a live environment. Between the crunchy guitars, blasting drums, and the tension created by the overall rise and fall of the song, the energy in the room was electrifying. After a slowed-down melodic bridge there’s a brief moment of silence before the song unleashes a final burst of brutality, and it was clear the crowd knew just what to expect. In that moment of silence you could’ve heard a pin drop, but with perfect timing fans exploded right alongside the band when the music started back up.
Finally, headlining group Issues started their set off with “Love Sex Riot,” off 2012’s Black Diamonds, which features vocalist Michael Bohn and the aforementioned Tyler Carter weaving their clean/dirty vocals throughout the song. The crowd, which had remained somewhat tame for the majority of the night instantly turned their energy up to 11, with kids coming over the barricade every few seconds, often managing to score a fist bump from Bohn or Carter.
The undeniable peak of Issues’ set was the performance of the band’s most popular song, “Mad At Myself,” where, at a few points during the chorus, the crowd easily overpowered the band as they sang along.
Issues is one of those unique bands that seems destined for eternal “below the radar” success. The band’s sound is comprised of so many different elements, taking bits and pieces from EDM, rap, rock, hardcore, and more that it’s difficult to imagine them having much radio success when radio is so often chasing the safe/straightforward/easily marketable option. That being said, the band easily managed to fill a room with die-hard fans that sang nearly every word to every song. This could be frustrating for many groups looking to break through to the mainstream, but for now it seems Issues is content with being the big fish in the small pond.
Issues’ new album Headspace will be released through Rise Records on May 20th and The Monster Energy Outbreak tour continues on through the end of April, giving fans a few weeks to see this powerhouse of a lineup before the groups head their separate ways for festival season.