The Hellpop Tour II
June 18th, 2016
Seven Flags Event Center
Sunflower Dead, Shaman’s Harvest, Hellyeah, In This Moment
What does HELLPOP mean to you? Is it just the name of a tour? Is it only an amalgam of words? Is it a way of life? Does it perfectly describe your state of mind? Is it a new genre of music?
It’s more than a new genre of music. Hellpop is a way of life. Hellpop is family. Hellpop is a support system for those of us who feel as though we have nothing. In a world full of prefabricated, auto-tuned, Grammy award winning musicians who’ve never picked up an actual instrument, Hellpop is more than just a mash-up of words. With their second installment of the Hellpop Tour, In This Moment have given us, their fans, a chance to feel accepted in a world that we feel rarely understands us.
In This Moment had taken a break from touring since playing The Rock Allegiance festival in October of 2015. Since then, there’s been a few shake-ups and scares within the band for their fans. First was the news that founder and guitarist Chris Howorth was diagnosed with acute arthritis of the neck, causing the tour to be delayed during his healing process. Second was the departure of drummer Tom Hane. Howorth’s downtime gave the band a chance to find a replacement for drummer Hane. Kent Diimell of Blackfall was chosen as Hane’s replacement, and introduced to the fans through the band’s official Instagram account by a photo of vocalist Maria Brink and Diimell with the caption “What have I created?” A second teaser photo was also released with the caption “Do you think I’m pretty?”
With Horworth able to tour again, and Diimell ready to take his place behind the drumkit, it was now time for another round of Hellpop.
After weather forced the band to cancel their show the day prior at Sioux City, Iowa’s Battery Park, Des Moines, Iowa’s June 18th show would be the tour’s first official stop. Was Iowa ready for Hellpop? Without a doubt.
Cutting their collective teeth on the national touring circuit, Sunflower Dead was chosen as the tour’s opening band. Hailing from Long Beach, California, Sunflower Dead features Jamie Teissere of Droid, Michael Del Pizzo, Leighton ‘Lats’ Kearns of Memento, In This Moment touring percussionist Jimmy Schultz and Jaboo of Two Hit Creeper. Having decades of combined experience between them, the members of Sunflower Dead were a great addition to the Hellpop family. The band filled their opening slot with their heaviest material and did a fantastic job churning the crowd into a frenzy.
Making their return to the Seven Flags stage, Shaman’s Harvest took the crowd’s energy that Sunflower Dead’s performance stirred, and built it to a fantastic level. The rock band from Jefferson City, Missouri has been a favorite of Des Moines’ music scene for several years, and their stage show is are always eagerly welcomed. Bassist Matt Fisher, singer Nathan “Drake” Hunt, and guitarist Josh Hamler founded the band in 1996. Lead guitarist Ryan Tomlinson joined the band for their 2009 for their album Shine.
Co-headlining The Hellpop Tour 2016, Hellyeah are also touring in support of their Fifth studio album, “UNDEN!ABLE”, which was released earlier this spring. For the past decade, Hellyeah have fought tooth and nail to overcome the moniker of “supergroup” and forge their own collective path. Consisting of Mudvayne vocalist Chad Gray, former Nothingface guitarist Tom Maxwell, bass player Kyle Sanders, guitarist Christian Brady and former Pantera and Damageplan drummer Vinnie Paul, Hellyeah have one goal: Make great music. With the release of “UNDEN!ABLE”, the band continues to grow and musically. Hellyeah’s set, with tracks selected from 4 of their 5 albums, focused on the band’s two most recent releases. While the tracks performed were the heaviest from the band’s catalogue, they weren’t solely chosen for their aggressive vocals and mosh worthy sounds.
Hellyeah smashed through X, Demons in the Dirt, and Sangre por Sangre before taking a breather.
“I’ve made mistakes before,” Gray told the crowd, “but they don’t define me. We’ve all made mistakes but we’re hear today. This life is yours. Take it!”
Moth, Cradle to Bier, and Human followed and spurred the crowd into thrashing and moshing fits. Gray would say after the show that there were a few bugs in their set, but we didn’t notice them. “You wouldn’t,” Gray posted on Instagram, “because we’re pros.”
Before unleashing War In Me on the crowd, Gray urged the fans to enjoy these moments. “It won’t be too long before you look back on these memories. Enjoy them now. You’ll think to yourself, ‘Was I standing on the sidelines, or did I get in the pit?'”
Hellyeah finished their set with Say When and a blistering crowd sing-a-long for their debut track Hellyeah!.
It wouldn’t be too long after Hellyeah left the stage that the venues lights dimmed and Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing played over the loud speakers. Cellphones and lighters burst to life and illuminated the arena floor as a few thousand people sung every word.
It wasn’t long before the fog covered the stage, and the lights burst to life. As The Infection began to play, the Blood Girls stepped on stage and heralded the return of In This Moment to Des Moines. Lead guitarist and co-founder of the band, Chris Howorth was first band member to walk on stage. Bassist Travis Johnson, drummer Kent Dimmell and guitarist Randy Weitzel soon followed. Dimmell took his place behind his drum kit and struck the first pounding hits of Sick Like Me as Howarth, Johnson and Weitzel cued up their own thrashing and drew the fans into their music. As the Blood Girls swayed and danced, Maria Brink, wearing a wide brimmed hat and long black trench cloak ascended the stage stairs and on to her platform.
Having had years to practice, adjust and perfect their stage show, In This Moment work together as one to unite the crowd and draw them into their performance. With the band guiding them, the fans truly become the show.
Brink’s outfits were updated also. Her white bodysuit, worn during the 2014/2015 touring cycle, was replaced by a red sequined one piece. The brilliant stage lights bounced off of her and sparkled during Sick Like Me. Brink donned the nurse outfit and blasted the crowd with her fog cannon for Black Widow.
Not the type of band to simply put on the same show over and over again, In This Moment switched up their visuals for the Hellpop II set. Adrenalize was given an even more provocative choreography as Brink sat in a chair on center stage with the Blood Girls at either side of her. The sexual tone of the song was heightened by Brink and the Blood Girls visuals. As each of the Blood Girls, wearing black bunny masks similar to Brink’s, wrapped a long black scarf around Brink and pulled and swayed her into a submissive stance.
Howorth, Dimmell, Johnson and Weitzel’s stage worn costumes were even more apocalyptic in their visuals. Wietzel’s skeletal war paint was more brutal in its details. Dimmell, this being his first official show with the band, had a lot of expectations to live up to, and spent the entirety of the band’s set proving that he’s more than capable for filling the slot left by previous drummer Tom Hane.
Brink’s pink and blue podium was placed center stage for Sex Metal Barbie, but instead of beginning the set wearing the ugly face mask, Brink waived it around at the crowd while pink and white balloons were tossed into the auditorium.
Burn followed Sex Metal Barbie, and found Brink, again center stage, using her long flowing cape to envelope the Blood Girls who seemed to cower at her feet begging for protection. Brink waived the cloak around herself, seemingly keeping the demons of the song’s inspiration at bay with the flowing wings the cape created.
The highlight of my evening would come as Brink took the stage solo for a heartbreaking rendition of The Fighter. The track, occasionally playing during the 2015 touring cycle, took the place of Into The Light for the Hellpop II tour. As Rise With Me played as The Figher’s introduction, Brink took her place and began the song a capella, perfectly highlighting her vocal control before the quiet piano chords were played and proved that In This Moment’s music isn’t all heavy metal. Brink sat solo center stage, with a gossamer like shawl draped over her shoulders. The sheer fabric blowing int he breeze and the stage lights danced all around her. The track has quickly become a fan favorite, especially with the raw emotions that the song urges out of Brink. The urgency of the track built to a pinnacle when the band joined in during the 2nd chorus and the crowd screamed their approval.
As the band gathered themselves, Brink took the time to introduce her companions, and address the crowd. Brink’s message was one of community and love.
“These are crazy times that we live in,” she told thousands of the Blood Legion who stood in attendance.
“We need to take care of each other,” Brink continued. “We need to love each other.”
Bare in mind that only a week before, Florida’s LGBT community suffered the largest mass shooting on U.S. soil.
Having said her peace and continuing to inspire the crowd, Brink disappeared behind the back of the stage, and the guys shredded Fallen Heroes, an instrumental medley of tracks from Pantera, Metallica and other bands that have inspired the members of In This Moment.
To close their set, In This Moment chose 3 of their heaviest, most inspirational tracks. At the metal cage was hauled on stage, Brink took her place in it, with the wolf-masked Blood Girls on either side of her. Stage lights flared as fog poured on stage and the first chords of Big Bad Wolf were struck. The mental and emotional struggle that Brink expresses during Big Bad Wolf is one that many of us are familiar with. We all have those bad voices in our heads, for some of us though, its a constant struggle to keep the mental wolves at bay. As Brink sings during the song, we “become which animal we chose to feed”. To me, that’s the message behind In This Moment’s music. We are responsible for our happiness. Misery for the sake of being miserable is pointless. If something is in the way of our happiness, it’s our responsibility to work for our happiness. We all have our own Demons, and it’s ok to ask for support from our friends and family, but ultimately it’s up to us to find the hope for a better life.
That message led directly into the next song. As the the lights faded for Big Bad Wolf, a plain wooden stool was brought on stage. The introduction for Natural Born Sinner played, and heralded the anthem that thousands of people had been waiting the entire night to hear; Whore.
Maria Brink has has taken a word used to disavow a woman’s self-esteem and turned that word into a strength and power. The meaning behind Whore’s lyrics are layered, but it’s message is one of courage and power. As the band thrashed around the stage, and the Blood Girls danced, Brink used her yard stick and dunce cap to entice and encourage the crowd. It’s a wonderful, amazing talent to have: To use one’s music to inspire and empower your fans is a brilliant gift, and In This Moment are determined to not waste that gift.
For the last time of the evening, the stage lights dimmed and Brink disappeared back into her changing room. The band’s final song was about to be played, and the crowd was ready. As the sirens blared, the crowd chanted “Blood! Blood!” and the band would not disappoint their fans. Brink’s final costume for the evening was her most stunning; a floor length, blood red sequined fishtail gown. To enhance the not-so-subtle tone of the song, Brink wore a red mask that topped with flaring crown points. With the Blood Girls at her side, and the guys thrashing all along the stage, Brink swayed from side to side, urging the crowd to release their inner Demons and surround themselves with the music one last time for the evening. The strength and courage that this band inspires in their fans in galactic. They empower us. The inspire us. That, my friends, is something all bands should aspire to.
The first date of the Hellpop II Tour was a stunning success. While I do miss hearing tracks from the band’s debut, sophomore and third release, it’s a season that has come to pass. The fans will always have those memories to hold close to them. While the Blood touring era of the band featured tracks throughout their catalogue, the Black Widow era began to focus on the band’s current direction and has evolved into the Hellpop era.
For the past decade, In This Moment have continued to tweak their stage show and allowed live performance to evolve as much as their studio releases. The band continues to strive for the perfect mix of music and visuals in a live setting. An In This Moment concert isn’t just a performance; it’s gathering of strangers who choose to unite as one family of music lovers. Each of the band’s shows is visually extravagant, and the band’s fans don’t just experience the show, they become the show.
In This Moment set list:
Sick Like Me
Sex Metal Barbie
Rise with Me
Big Bad Wolf
Whore w/ Natural Born Sinner intro