Pop Evil digs through the Trenches in Kokomo

\"PopThere aren\’t many full blooded rock bands around these days. Pop Evil, however, is one of them and their latest album, Onyx, is making all their hard work pay off.

Pop Evil have been through the ringer and they’ve continued to work their asses off and they’re getting toward the top now, which is what rock and roll is all about- hard work, putting a middle finger to the world and showing them determination will get you where you need to go.

Onyx has featured some of the strongest rock anthems of their career and they’re just getting started, with a headline tour which hit Kokomo, Ind.’s Centerstage Bar and Grill recently and, though the show didn’t sell out, showed Pop Evil leaving it all on the stage and taking nothing with them.

Kicking the show off were two local cover bands- one of which was solid, featuring some 80’s thrash classics and another cover band who was your stereotypical cover band- over the top stage presence, bass player leaving the stage to go into the crowd (whom wasn’t into the performance to say the least), a frontman who resembled Jack Black’s stage presence (over exaggerating and acting like the rockstar he isn’t), and butchering the lyrics to songs they were butchering playing. Point being- it was painful to watch.

After the final cover band finished up an atrocious cover of Stone Sour’s “Absolute Zero,” during which almost no lyrics were right, Indianapolis’ own Eyes on Fire took the stage and torched the place.

When going to a show there’s always gonna be some local talent opening up- this can be impressive or painful. Usually it’s painful but Eyes on Fire blew anyone away who wasn’t familiar with them.

To see a band who’s on a local, unsigned level own the stage with such command and authority was refreshing and, if Eyes on Fire get the right people behind them (not that they don’t right now- who knows), there’s no telling how far they can go.

After they wrapped things up it was time for the national acts to kick off their portion of the night and first up was Mindset Evolution, a band who’s been picking up a lot of steam lately and whose debut full-length album, Brave, Bold and Broken is one of the premiere debuts in recent memory.

They took the stage with extreme enthusiasm and energy and it was clear they weren’t gonna let anything stand between them and the crowd’s approval.

It didn’t take long until the crowd was into it and loving every minute of it- front man Rob Ulrich’s personal and dynamic stage presence was undeniable and it’s rare to see a band with as much appreciation for the crowd as Mindset Evolution. Look out for them because they’ve got the type of hunger for success that can be dangerous.

Finally it was time for Pop Evil to take the stage and the crowd was more than warmed up after Mindset Evolution left the stage.

They played a set that included a great combination of tracks from all three of their albums but really pushed Onyx, and rightly so- it’s one of the best albums of the year.

Frontman Leigh Kakaty got up close and personal with the crowd on more than one occasion and the rest of the band followed suit.

Their chemistry is impressive but when you tour nonstop like Pop Evil you’re going to form a type of chemistry that just can’t be duplicated or taught- and they were firing on all cylinders.

They know how to take a crowd on a journey, starting off with an explosive heavy number leading into some good rock numbers, followed up by a ballad or two and then finishing it up with some of the biggest hits- in Kokomo they wrapped it up with “Trenches,” one of the biggest hits they’ve had.

Kakaty took moments here and there to talk to the crowd, talking about coming from the Midwest and how that means something special, working blue collar jobs and telling the dads in the crowd to raise their kids on rock and roll, all of which the crowd roared with excitement and approval.

Choosing to throw “100 in a 55” and “Deal with the Devil” right in the middle of the set paid dividends for them as the crowd got louder and louder as the night progressed.

Finishing it up, Kakaty told the crowd they wouldn’t get an encore because they were ready to come into the crowd and party with them for the rest of the night, which they did.

It all comes down to this- these days we need rock bands that know what it means to work on an everyman’s level and be in the crowd’s position. Fans connect better with bands they can relate to and who show their true feelings, gratitude and appreciation. If you want all of that and one of the most energetic, uptempo and rewarding rock shows you can find, go check out Pop Evil and Mindset Evolution.

-Reggie Edwards