Job For A Cowboy, 3 Inches Of Blood, and The Faceless at Pop’s
By Matt Albers
It’s no secret that St. Louis has been getting the shaft from metal tours for at least the past few years. Bands and tours across the board, whether small club tours or bigger festivals, often skip over St. Louis while either stopping in Chicago, Kansas City, or the Missouri college town of Columbia to make up for the Gateway to the West. If fortunate enough, a band or two may stop in St. Louis on an off-date of a larger tour. When this happens, it’s not rare to see multiple local venues compete to book bands. However, it is rare when more than one venue books off-date shows of the same tour featuring different bands, on the same night. While this tends to be much more rare for this area as opposed to larger cities, such was the case on Thursday, April 12, 2012.
In early 2012, the second annual Metal Alliance Tour was announced. This year’s edition of the tour was set to be headlined by DevilDriver, with supporting bands The Faceless, Dying Fetus, Job For A Cowboy, 3 Inches Of Blood, Impending Doom and Wretched. This bill was quite different than the inaugural tour one year earlier, in which headliners Helmet were supported by Saint Vitus, Crowbar, Kylesa, Red Fang, Howl, and Atlas Moth. St. Louisans did not find themselves surprised when both years of the Metal Alliance Tour skipped over the town. However, in February 2012 it was announced, both by the venues and the bands, that there would be two off-dates of the 2012 Metal Alliance Tour in St. Louis on the same night at different venues. While Job For A Cowboy and 3 Inches Of Blood were booked at Pop’s, DevilDriver and Wretched were booked at Fubar, each to be supported by local metal bands.
Needless to say, this came as much as a surprise to local metal fans, especially considering the apparent long-standing positive relationship between DevilDriver and Pop’s. Booking Job For A Cowboy and 3 Inches Of Blood over DevilDriver indicated that Pop’s either wanted to change up their reputation and take a risk with trying something new, or to some extent had given up on DevilDriver after producing very less-than-sell-out crowds at the venue. This split of an off-date that could have easily been combined, if not warranted a St. Louis date of the 2012 Metal Alliance Tour, divided St. Louis metal fans to choose between either one of two shows. While one group would see DevilDriver and Wretched nearly tear down a cramped, dank hallway of a club at Fubar, others would see Job For A Cowboy and 3 Inches Of Blood (as well as The Faceless, more on that later) explode in a much more open but equally dank venue. This is the story of the latter.
The first of the two local acts to play for the show at Pop’s was a younger, more deathcore sounding band called Days Made Visible. While this group appealed to a more modern audience, the second local act, Age Of Awakening, appealed to a slightly older audience. Having also opened for DevilDriver and Skeletonwitch at Pop’s in 2011 along with local group Parallel 33, Age Of Awakening’s thrashy groove and low, crunchy tones were reminiscent of southern metal the likes of Down or even Pantera. While both bands appeared a tad rough around the edges at times, either in their live sound or their stage presence, each group also added a touch of diversity to the evenings live music, which would be further expanded by the first national act.
In the months leading to the night of the show, it was believed that Job For A Cowboy and 3 Inches Of Blood would be the only touring bands playing Pop’s. However, the day of the show, Pop’s announced on their Facebook page that The Faceless, also touring on the 2012 Metal Alliance Tour, would be playing at the venue that night. This news seemed to bring out a sizeable crowd to the venue just to see this band, as a nearly half of the patrons left after their performance. The Faceless were booked as the primary direct support to headliners DevilDriver on the Metal Alliance Tour, and for good reason as their audience in St. Louis alone was proof that they had the success and popularity to draw their own crowd. In retrospect, it may have been a better plan to have The Faceless perform last to ensure more patrons stuck around longer. Regardless, The Faceless’ technical, spacey, cosmic experimental/progressive death metal proved captivating and enjoyable, especially with the added quirky onstage antics of guitarist and backing vocalist Michael “Machine” Keene and current lead vocalist Geoffrey Ficco, who constantly chanted “Hail science!!” and enthusiastically displayed the Star Trek Mr. Spock “live long and prosper” hand gesture.
After The Faceless finished their set and most of the crowd left, Vancouver, Canada’s defenders of traditional heavy metal, 3 Inches Of Blood took the stage and performed a solid set with tight musicianship that sounded just as good live as on their recordings. Minus, of course, vocalist Cam Pipes’ minor alterations to his constant falsetto singing, which undoubtedly must be difficult to maintain for even the most seasoned singers of his vocal type. When not on percussion duties, drummer Ash Pearson made sure to jump up off his throne with his fists raised to incite a crowd response. Guitarists Justin Hagberg and Shane Clark played off of each other flawlessly, and Hagberg also handled rough and backing vocal duties strongly as well. 3 Inches Of Blood dedicated about half of their set to songs from their latest release Long Live Heavy Metal as well as old staples such as “Deadly Sinners,” “Trial of Champions” and “The Goatriders Hoard.” If there are two great things about 3 Inches Of Blood, it’s that A.) they are able to transform from regular guys offstage to larger-than-life metal persona’s onstage, and B.) that they always add at least one song per set that you would not see coming. On this particular night, it was “God Of The Cold White Silence” from their 2007 masterpiece Fire Up The Blades.
The return of Glendale, Arizona’s Job For A Cowboy to St. Louis at first seemed to be rather sub-par, as even the smaller capacity side stage of Pop’s seemed unfortunately rather empty by the final band of the night. Fortunately, this did not seem to faze the band at all. Saying that Job For A Cowboy “brought it” that night would be an understatement. Their sheer and utter brutality and technical precision seemed to pummel the audience of fortunate metalheads who soaked up the extreme, modern death metal like a sponge. The guitar work from Al Glassman and Tony Sanicrando were huge, epic and fun to witness, and all the members worked the stage and crowd with more energy than anyone seemed to anticipate.
Playing songs from their albums Genesis, Ruination, and their latest release Demonocracy, the band’s enthusiasm and pride for their music started out strong, brutal and extreme, but then surprisingly took a dramatic turn, but not for the worse. After the halfway point of their set, all three string instrument players decided not only to jump into the crowd and unfortunately open pit while still playing, but bassist Nick Schendzeilos went even further and climbed the steps into the balcony to run around and play for the fans sitting on the upper level
of the venue, with the glowing green fret markers on his bass neck shining unmistakably. At this point, it was clear that the entire band was having a blast. Whether this turn happened organically or they saw a small crowd and made lemonade out of lemons, either way the result was so fun and fulfilling for all in the venue that even vocalist Jonny Davy had to drop his mic after missing some of his vocal duties from laughing so hard.
While St. Louis metal fans at Fubar may have been treated to a small, intimate show with DevilDriver and Wretched, the lucky few at Pop’s who stayed after The Faceless to see Job For A Cowboy and 3 Inches of Blood at Pop’s were able to say that they left the venue fulfilled, satisfied, and maybe even still smiling. A brief note, The Faceless was originally booked to perform at Fubar as a headliner with Metal Alliance tourmates Dying Fetus providing support, along with Goatwhore, Volumes, and Last Chance To Reason in March 2012, just before the Metal Alliance Tour would begin. However, The Faceless was unable to make this date, so their playing at Pop’s surely made up for not making that concert one month prior.
Still, the fact that so many various bands that were all booked on one national touring bill actually did want to stop in St. Louis to play a concert does show that metal bands have not given up on this city. Furthermore, since two different venues showed interest in booking these metal shows, all of these factors should indicate that St. Louis does indeed still have a strong metal presence that could grow even larger if given the chance. But having the community and population that this city has, it should be easier to book quality metal shows at a single venue to provide more people the opportunity to see more bands without having to choose one show or another on a given night. It would seem that this would also yield stronger turnouts and therefore higher ticket sale revenue as well. One can only hope that the particular incident of the two separate off-dates of the Metal Alliance Tour could only be an isolated incident that occurs only once in a blue moon…