Pop Evil The Versatile Tour with Zero 9:36 and Brkn Love Concert Review
The Castle Theatre
August 4, 2021
Live concerts in a post-Covid 19 world are coming back but there is not a lot to choose from. Fans have to go to a huge venue, festival and have to travel hours away if you do not live in a major city. So many bands are choosing livestreams or to just continue working on their music at home. While livestreams are better than nothing, they are not the same as singing along in the dark with a drink next to your friends.
We have to extend our gratitude to everyone who is choosing to perform live music and the venues that survived. So when my favorite local venue puts on a rock show, I am going to attend.
Thank you Pop Evil for bringing the shows to the smaller markets. Pop Evil is a band that grinds the concert circuit and gains their devoted fans one small town at a time. Their sixth studio album, Versatile, was released on May 21, 2021. Versatile features their hit song “Breathe Again” which was an The band is from Muskegon, Michigan and was formed in 2001. In that time, they have had hits with “Trenches”, “Monster You Made”, “Deal With The Devil”, “Torn To Pieces”, “Waking Lions”, and “Breath Again”. They always bring stellar bands on every tour. This year they brought BRKN LOVE and Zero 9:36.
BRKN LOVE is the band created by Toronto singer and guitarist Justin Benlolo. Band members consist of Canadians and New Yorkers. The band released their eponymous debut album in 2019 for Spinefarm Records. When Justin was thinking about creating a band, “It’s alternative, but it’s also heavy. I try to get right to the point. There are so many of these kids still showing up to shows and moshing to real rock music. That’s refreshing. There’s sitll a place for something authentic. That’s what I want to provide.” ~Spotify Posted by BRKN LOVE
The band sounded like pure rock music. The singer, Justin, screams with the best of them. Some of the guitar riffs reminded me of Hendrix. There has been a resurgence of heavy rock in the past few years with bands like Joyous Wolf, Dirty Honey, Them Evils and now BRKN LOVE. Their stand out song is “Flies In The Honey” and the track is a standalone hit. The crowd was ready to rock and the band gave the crowd what they wanted.
If you are rock music fan, I know that you have probably heard the song “Adrenaline” by Zero 9:36. The song is almost an anthem of those who suffered in isolation during the Coronavirus pandemic. Zero 9:36 is Matthew Cullen from Langhorne, Pennsylvania. He is a rapper but firmly trenched in rock. Listening to him rap, his voice is reminiscint of Eminem. Someone even mistakenly thought Eminem was a guest on one of his songs but it was actually Zero rapping.
Zero 9:36 was only partially known by the fans in attendance. The crowd was older for a Wednesday night show. Many of the songs the band performed were decidely rock based. There was only a little rapping and the setlist was pretty short. Regardless, the final song performed was “Adrenaline” and it reminded us that we are coming out of this pandemic. Zero greeted fans after the show and many were lined up to buy his merch and take a picture to post (including myself).
Pop Evil always puts on an energetic show. The stage was set with the drum kit on a pretty large riser high and center with stairs up to each side for different band members to go up and stand next to the drum kit. The backdrop is the artwork featured on the Versatile album cover designed by Pedro Correa. Their name Pop Evil appears across the bottom of the riser with VI in red to highlight that Versatile is their sixth studio album.
Right before the tour commenced, long-time bassist, Matt Dirito, left the band.
On Instagram, he writes, “So long, but not goodbye.”
“The time has come for me to part ways with Pop Evil. The decision has been made that I will not be joining them on their upcoming tour, or any future tours. Walking away from something I’ve helped build is not easy- but it is the best thing for the band, myself and our respective futures.”
“Pop Evil will continue on and so will I, just not together. The details surrounding my departure are only known by a few people, and respectfully it will remain that way. Having the opportunity to meet so many fans across the world is something that has made a lasting impression on my heart. I would have loved to play for you all one more time, and I am sorry that it did not work out that way.”
“I would like to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your endless support and love. I wish Pop Evil nothing but success in all of their future endeavors and I am thankful for the time (2007-2021) that I was able to be part of it.”
Even though his presence was missed, the talented bassist Joey “Chicago” Walser of Devour The Day has joined this tour. The show must go on.
Due to immigration delays due to Covid, the drummer, Hayley Cramer, had just joined the band a few days prior this show. Bloomington fans was lucky to be able to see her play after she finally was able to travel United States from the United Kingdom.
The band started the show with the high energy “Deal With The Devil”. This was the first hard rock show in the area and the crowd was ready to rock. The band went on to perform “Let The Chaos Reign”, “Torn To Pieces”, “Survivor”, “100 in a 55” and “Footsteps”. Hayley on the drums was ferocious. Leigh sounded strong and the rest of the band sounded great together.
They only performed one cover song for the evening, “For Whom The Bell Tolls” (Metallica) and were joined by BRKN LOVE singer, Justin Benlolo. Their rendition put an operatic quality to the song and was pretty amazing.
Vocalist, Leigh Kakaty, told us the story about meeting Dave Grahs in a women’s dressing room about thirty years ago. He told Leigh he needed better clothes if he wanted to be a rock star. Tonight he did not need women’s clothes to be a rock star. Dave was sporting a large Mohawk and reminded me of the indigenous peoples tribe of the same name. The guitarist was dressed all in black and looked the part of the rock star.
The night continued and the final song was “Breath Again” and everyone sang along because they felt that sentiment in their souls. After the pandemic and with the Delta variant threatening the livelihood of so many, people just want to go back to normal. They want their live music!
p.s. One way to support live shows is to buy the merch if you can afford it. The prices have gone up but the bands cannot continue without your support. They get paid a nominal amount to perform in the smaller markets but the best way they earn a living is through the merchandise or album sales.